It’s startling that, while we no longer use Freud’s theory carte blanche, the acceptance of a defining maternal instinct, or drive, has persisted. Psychoanalysis remains influenced by gendered presumptions, promulgating a lack of curiosity regarding the breadth and depth of the experience of motherhood. Like many fathers of his generation, Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, gave little thought to the experience of mothers. Seen simply as bearers of the next generation, mothers were relegated to the sidelines of psychological investigation—devoid
of subjectivity, silent and invisible. This presentation will explore the impact of the unthought known of the feminine imperative that mandates motherhood and is then passed through generations and introjected from our mothers.
Psychoanalytic theory and practice have placed great importance on the mother from the perspective of the ways in which mothering affects development—not as a developmental stage in its own right. The psychological and emotional processes leading to decisions about motherhood are almost nowhere to be found in psychoanalytic theory. Maternal desire and ambivalence are clinically hidden. This presentation challenges the tacit acceptance of “motherhood for all (women).” The psychological complexities of childbearing will be explored,
giving voice to the meanings and experiences of motherhood that lurk quietly below the surface.
At the end of this presentation, participants will be able to:
1. Apply techniques that can be used to encourage patients to verbalize their conflicted
thoughts and feelings about parenthood.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the developmental stage of motherhood.
3. Utilize knowledge about the subjectivity of mothers in their clinical work.
Atlas, G. (2016) The Enigma of Desire. London, UK and New York, NY: Routledge.
Balsam, R. H. (2019) On the natal body and its confusing place in mental life. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 67(1), 15-36.
Gentile, J. (2016). Feminine Law. London, UK: Karnac.
Grill, H. (2019). What women want: A discussion of “childless.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 29(1), 59-68.
Raphael-Leff, J. (2020). Absolute hospitality and the imagined baby. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. 73(1), 230-239.