The psychoanalytic myth is a persuasive one. One aspect of this myth is how the mother affects the infant. As an infant, our mother is Cosmic. Without an ego, we have no sense of self or the Other. When our mother responds to our cries, tends to our hunger, and wraps us in her arms, she lays the groundwork for how we will feel about the universe. If she is cold, and distant, haphazardly feeding us, letting us cry in the darkness of our room, this too imprints on us and sets the foundation for how we will interpret life, God, and the cosmos.
She feels to us like the universe. She is the source of sustenance. Her arms completely encapsulate us, her breath is the rythm of nature. Her nipple is the ultimate fulfilment of infant hunger. This breathing, pulsating, nurturing giant sets the stage for how we will love; how we will love her, ourselves, friends, and the romantic partners we dance with through time.
It is only a myth though. But persuasive myths are what our civilization rests upon. Money, Empire, and Religion are the major myths of our time, but the Mother myth is important for understanding the ways we love.
(All quotations are from Dr. Seligman’s Authentic Happiness.)
What Type Are You? (Take before reading the post to get honest results.)
Take the “most reliable test of styles of loving and being loved”, at authentichappiness. Look for the Close Relationships Questionnaire.
Your “working model” of your mother gets deployed later in childhood when dealing with siblings and best friends, in adolescence it is superimposed on your first romantic partner, and even more so in marriage. Your working model is not rigid; it can be influenced by negative and positive experiences at these times. It dicates three different paths of love across a variety of dimensions. – Dr. Seligman
The Three Loving Types
The Secure Lover
Secure adults remember their parents as available, as warm, and as affectionate. They have high self-esteem and few self-doubts. Other people like them, and they regard other people as trustworthy, reliable, good-hearted, and helpful until sad experiences proves otherwise. Secure people strive for intimate relations with those they love and try to find a good balance of dependence and independence. They admit when they are upset, and they try to use their distress to achieve constructive ends.
This is a secure lover talking about her relationship;
We’re really good friends, and we sort of knew each other for a long time before we started dating — and we like the same sort of things. Another thing which I like a lot is that he gets on well with all my close friends. We can always talk things over. Like if we’re having any fights, we usually resolve them by talking it over — he’s a very reasonable person. I can just be my own person, so it’s good, because it’s not a possessive relationship. I think we trust each other a lot.
The Avoidant Lover
Avoidant adults remember their mother as cold, rejecting, and unavailable. They regard other people with suspicion, as dishonest and untrustworthy. They lack confidence, especially in social situations. Avoidant people try to keep their distance from those they love, and they put a greater weight on achievement than on intimacy. They don’t disclose. They don’t tell you when they are upset; they do not show or admit to anger.
Here is an avoidant lover talking about their relationship;
My partner is my best friend, and that’s the way I think I am to him. He’s as special to me as any of my other friends. His expectations in life don’t include marriage, or any long-term commitment to any female, which is fine with me, because that’s what my expectations are as well. I find that he doesn’t want to be overly intimate, and he doesn’t expect too much commitment, which is good. Sometimes it’s a worry that a person can be that close to you, and be in such control of your life.
The Anxious Lover
Anxious adults remember their father as unfair. They feel they have little control over their lives, and find other people hard to understand and predict, and so are puzzled by other people. They cling; they fear rejection continually, and they discourage autonomy and independence in the people they love. Anxious people flaunt their distress and anger, and when threatened they become too compliant and solicitous.
The Anxious adult’s relationship;
So I went in there…and he was sitting on the bench, and I took one look, and I actually melted. He was the best-looking thing I’d ever seen, and that was the first thing that struck me about him. So we went out and we had lunch in the park…we just sort of sat there — and in silence — but it wasn’t awkward. Like, you know, when you meet strangers and can’t think of anything to say, it’s usually awkward? It wasn’t like that. We just sat there, and we’d only met for about 10 seconds, so that was — straightaway, my first feelings for him started coming.
The secure lover trusts their partner. The Avoidant lover protects themselves by never allowing the Other close enough to hurt them (most of the people I know, myself included, are avoidant lovers by default.) Anxious lovers can not help but let the Other close enough to hurt them, but their fear makes them controlling, clinging, and manipulative. Studies find that any relationship with at least one secure lover has a high chance to work out long-term, but a relation with two non-secure lovers is likely to be a painful failure.
Side note: The book doesn’t mention this, but via my personal experience, I think we can grow into secure lovers by having healthy relationships. I was an avoidant lover all my teenage life but now I genuinely feel like a secure lover.
The bond we had with mom affects us now. Take the test and understand your type. Know thy self. Namasteezy.