Mothering, Breast Cancer and Selfhood
This three-part story illuminates an introspective process in coming to terms first with breast cancer and mastectomy and then gradually with the long-term subjective components underlying the disease.
Part I documents my first attempt to make sense of breast cancer. I show how I dealt with the diagnosis and treatments, payng particular attention to the nature of my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fantasies. I show how, amid the terror, anger and sadness, my creative self-expression in journalling, active imagination, poetry, ceramics and colored drawings made a positive difference.
Part II asks the questions, What was going on in my life in the months prior to the diagnosis that would predispose me to breast cancer? How was I living my life? Were there warning signs? Drawing from minutely recorded details in my journals, I explore my breast cancer experience in a larger context. I show that, in ways fairly typical of our society, I inadvertently participated in the disease process by way of compulsive attention to others and inadequate consideration of myself. My journal exposes a sordid picture of alarming dreams, warped inter-personal patterns, distorted self-evaluations and chronic psychological and somatic disturbancesin my life, all signaling danger for this late 20th century woman. What better metaphor than breast cancer to represent habitual self-defeating patterns of mothering, running madly out of control.
What does it take to fully come to terms with breast cancer? What does it take to illuminate the disease of the soul? In a final attempt to make sense of breast cancer, I follow the metaphor to its source-to the nature of mothering and being mothered. Does the compulsion to "mother" the world and neglect oneself arise from excess or deficiency? What are the implications of selfessness? How does it arise? Part III reconstructs my childhood steeped in my parents' Jungian milieu. It offers a rare and intimate look into the influences of intellectual and psychological immersion on early childhood development. It exposes the precariousness of generations of women in my family who have been, in one way or another, motherless. It remembers my relationship with my overpowering but vulnerable mother who was too much with me-yet still missing. It recognizes the life urge to differentiate from the biological mother and connect with the great, life-affirming Mother spirit. This candid story of consciousness building and psychological reconstruction will appeal to adult readers who are searching for meaning in illness and adversity.
This is not a book on definitive causes of breast cancer. It is not a book on how to have breast cancer and be happy. It is not a guidebook solely for breast cancer patients, though they will likely be guided and inspired by what I tell. It is the tapestry that honors the complexity of life, the intra-psychic, interpersonal, and archetypal worlds rolled into one. The psychological perspective I offer invites the reader to own and embrace the shadow at work in the psyche. It provides a mirror for serious self-reflection, written in accessible language.