originally published on NourishingtheMother
As a psychologist specializing in disordered eating for several decades, I have learned how to view “mothering” as an archetypal force and to recognize how those who struggle with eating and food are actually starving for “archetypal mothering.”
Archetypes are concepts that cross all cultures and all time. For example, if you could go back in time, you could find the concept of “mother” and if it were possible to go into the future, you would probably find the concept of mother. You can find the concept of mother in any culture on the planet.
Think about “mothering” as a verb, which means to soothe, comfort and nurture.
We often confuse the “energetic” of mothering with the object of mothering (our biological mothers) or the concrete, physical symbol of mothering (food). Many who struggle with disordered eating confuse physical nurture and comfort with emotional nurture and comfort. This is not surprising, given that for most of us, our very first experience of being soothed and nurtured was with food — either at our mother’s breast or from a bottle.
This is why we use the term “comfort food.” At some level we understand we are reaching for food when we want to be comforted. But we don’t consciously understand that the food is simply the symbol of the mothering we want, and can never really completely fulfill that need – just as someone wanting more freedom cannot get it by collecting American flags. The flag is the symbol of freedom, not freedom itself.
While is not unusual for those struggling with disordered eating to have some struggle or frustration with their own mothers, this does not mean that their mothers are at fault or the cause […]