A good place to start is with the name of this website, Devouring Mother.
Mythology, psychology, and psychoanalysis recognize a dark side of the Mother figure, known as the Devouring Mother archetype.
The motif of the Devouring Mother is played out over and over throughout history, art, literature, and drama because it is a component of the human psyche—it’s inside of us.
It’s just one of hundreds and hundreds of observable, recognizable archetypes—archetype motifs you already know well: The king and queen, the sorceress, the wise old hermit, the warrior princess, the courageous hero, and so on. Again, you already know them because they’re a part of your psyche…and everyone else’s.
Probably one of the most well known examples of the Devouring Mother archetype is the Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa. A Gorgon, Medusa was one of three sisters with, as we all know, hair of venomous snakes. What comes to mind when you think of snakes? Sly, mischievous, cunning, deceptive. I’m reminded of another character from another story that took place in the Garden Of Eden.
To go deeper for a moment, I’ve come to realize that myths and religious texts of any kind aren’t stuffy, dusty old stories from a bygone era with no place in our science-driven modern world. Understand that thousands of years ago, people started figuring out ways to live properly and maintain families and communities. Because the alternative was to revert back to our more animalistic traits (the world that we came from) of tribalism, savagery, and slaughter. The components of these stories and myths came out of the human psyche in the form of archetypes and narratives, establishing moral values. The only thing that’s changed since then is our technology. People today are the same as our ancient ancestors. The problems they faced are the same problems we face—how do you raise your children well? How do you navigate life and tragedy? Why does evil lurk in some people’s hearts? They figured it all out…but in our modern times with our trinkets and technology, we’ve forgotten. We dismiss myth and religion. We even despise them. Our advanced technology and science can tell us about the world, but they can’t tell us anything about how to live in the world. Ancient myths and old texts like the Old and New Testaments are like messages in a bottle, cast in our direction from distant islands thousands of years ago. They’re trying to tell us things…things that are still relevant in our daily lives. They say to us, “The cost of being alive is suffering. Here’s how to go about bearing that burden, about how to navigate the world, how to live well,” and in our case here, how to overcome a Devouring Mother…
So, the Devouring Mother is nothing new. What’s happened to you and what happened to me is nothing new or unique. It’s been around since before humans could speak. So understand that the problem isn’t in you, the problem is within the person who’s been manipulating you—the sly, insidious snake in your life. Your Devouring Mother.
Which brings us to the subtitle of this site: You Are (Not) Alone. You aren’t. Narcissist Devouring Mothers are much more common than you may think. I put the word “not” in parenthesis, because up until now, maybe you felt like you were alone. Again, you aren’t.
Now, it’s important to point out that the Devouring Mother archetype is most commonly seen in a motherly figure. But the same characteristics might be found in a father figure, or from anyone in an authority role.
The Devouring Mother has attached her sense of self-worth to those she has authority over—her children. She consumes them both emotionally and psychologically. She demands total obedience from them, and won’t let them leave her. To prevent her children from becoming independent adults and leaving, she instills insecurity in them from an early age, using guilt, shame, and other methods of psychological manipulation to maintain dominance over them (which continues even after her children have entered adulthood).
Her children become archetypes themselves: The golden child, or the innocent child…that is, unless you don’t do as your told.
If you don’t do as your told, if you happen to be a child who’s blessed (or cursed, maybe) with critical, independent thinking, then the hammer is dropped even harder. Her dark, insidious manipulation and methods of control are hidden in the shadows, just out of sight. They’re invisible to everyone…except to the critically thinking child. Again, think of a snake hiding in the tall grass…stealthy…cunning. Towards everyone else, the narcissist Devouring Mother hides behind a veneer of wholesomeness and kindness. But to the critically thinking child, it’s glaringly obvious—even if they’re too young to articulate it yet.
For not doing as their told, the independently-thinking child is branded as being bad, mean, cruel, and anything else that may stick. And of course, what defense does a young child have against that?
As time passes and children grow older, the critically thinking child becomes the family’s outsider, the deplored, the scapegoat, the black sheep. And all the family’s problems are placed squarely on them. If only they’d stop using reason and asking hard questions, and instead simply ignore the problems created by their Devouring Mother and love her by doing everything she demands…
Worse, because of her kind, gentle, wholesome veneer, she easily persuades anyone who’ll listen to her emotional pleas about just how harmful and selfish this free thinking child of hers is. Relatives, friends, and siblings all become her allies and supporters, who she then sends to convince the black sheep to stop being so selfish and to “do the right thing.” To come around to doing what the Devouring Mother demands. After all, “family’s so important,” and “I love all my children unconditionally,” and “If you loved me you would.”
She (or he) is a snake in the grass, preying on the black sheep who refuses to blindly fall in line. The snake seeks revenge on the black sheep for daring to question her (or his) authority…and will make the black sheep suffer long and hard for their defiance.
That black sheep is you. That black sheep is me.
And because I hold so strongly to critical thinking, reason, facts, evidence, data (aka: The Scientific Method) on the one hand, and personal accountability, responsibility, and doing the right thing on the other hand (that’s the myth / religion side), that drove me to research, discover, and determine just exactly what I was dealing with. The truth, no matter how harsh, no matter how painful, must be known. And once I discovered what it was…
…I was liberated.
That thing that hides in the shadows that no one else saw but me, the snake, the dark side of my mother figure…it took me twenty seven years to articulate it, and thirteen years prior to that before I even knew something was up. It took that long to drag it out into the light, to crumble that veneer, and to have irrefutable proof—undeniable evidence—complete with witnesses, that this thing actually exists.
“That thing…that RIGHT THERE that I’m pointing to…right in front of our eyes! THAT’S what I’ve been talking about for almost three decades!” My witnesses were aghast, their jaws literally on the floor in disbelief.
And in that moment, my Devouring Mother fell on her own sword…
…and I was set free.