Thou shall love no one else but me!
Iranians revisited: mother-son relationships
June 30, 2006
The mothers as covert lovers and the sons who cling to them as their own eternal saviors and undying icons of perfect love and divine security are countless in the Iranian culture. An overbearing mother’s characteristic signs are: feeding the son with excruciating guilt for making rightfully personal choices, interacting in a purely conditional manner as if every gesture of affection or kindness is being executed with some degree of effort and burden, interfering with the son’s matters of the heart; incessantly disapproving the son’s partners or significant others; having the “no one is good for my son” attitude, manipulating circumstances and situations to her own benefits and personal merit instead of considering the son’s ultimate happiness, individuation, and independence.
The list certainly goes on. The telltale sign of a mother as a covert lover is when she sets her son up for romantic failures by stealthily declaring herself as the ultimate prize, threatening to withdraw affection if the son begins to love another woman, and sometimes even overtly engaging in acts of rivalry with the son’s lovers. This type of mother will always make the son’s woman feel “less than”, “inept”, “ill-equipped”, and “insufficient”. No one will ever be a good fit for this mother’s family because any external love interest flags for an automatic divergence of the son’s attention from the mother towards his own psyche, individuation, and sense of self.
The characteristic signs of a son entrapped in a silently incestuous and emotionally intrusive relationship with an engulfing mother are: manipulating circumstances or people to make his ends meet and to achieve self-gratification since he has learned to always swerve his way around the mother’s overwhelming domination for a breath of fresh air, developing a narcissistic personality in compensation for the unconsciously profound insecurity caused by the mother’s covert or overt disapprovals, self-projecting behaviors evident in consistently blaming and accusing others (especially his lovers) of being “inadequate” or “flawed” since he will never be able to voice genuine objections or concerns to his mother, establishing a commitment-phobic foundation where an appropriate amount of intimacy to maintain a healthy relationship becomes almost impossible, bearing blind fidelity towards the mother by being absolutely stripped of any rationale or intellect to observe her in an objective manner, harboring a self-destructive and self-damaging view or attitude including but not limited to excessive alcohol and drug use, rebellion, and inability to create or maintain safe and secure relationships with partners, and at worse sacrificing personal values and objectives in accordance to the mother’s biases, expectations, and demands.
A great Roman myth (incorrectly known as a Greek one) which perfectly portrays the trauma of a lured and desperately ambushed son, an authoritative and incestuous mother, and the son’s lover who pays the price for falling in love with such tragic character, is depicted in Aphrodite-Eros (Cupid)-Psyche relationships. Aphrodite who is the Goddess of beauty deploys his son Eros to Psyche (soul) in order to lure her into falling in love with him. Accidentally, Eros (Cupid) loses his precise target and the arrow pokes him in the finger; so he falls in love with Psyche or “soul”. Psyche happened to be much younger than Aphrodite and also possessed a lot of beauty and vitality. Aphrodite could not stand competition and therefore went as far as jeopardizing his son’s life in this preposterous competition for lost youth. We could also give the enmeshment patterns between the mother and his son, the common term: “oedipal complex”, though I believe that there are more elements resurging and inter-playing here than just the son’s hatred towards his father and a bunch of unresolved sexual tendencies towards his mother (as Freud would vouch for here).
But why is the mother so irrationally and pathologically possessive of her son? Studies show that such mothers have had a common denominator of lack of paternal love and attention tracing back to their childhood and a partnership with a husband who was not particularly reciprocating their feelings of love and devotion. Therefore, the mother has been left hollow and devoid of “male” love and caring. To compensate for such tragic loss, the mother latches on to her son, molding him to an “ideal” lover, father, partner, and child she could ever dream of. By now, you have guessed right: It’s all about the mother.
The question is what should a son do when he comes to the awareness that indeed he has been an emotional puppet and a displaced object of affection and bondage in his mother’s hands? Well, the first step to any transformation is of course, awareness. Individuation, or breaking the bondage from others’ wishes, wants, issues, and complexes, and figuring out one’s own path/voice, takes tremendous devotion and diligence. A son who is entrapped to play such damaging and seemingly “award-winning” role, is not yet a man; he is not yet an individual; there are powerful and unique aspects of him that are still entrenched in the mother’s womb and have not been born and materialized yet. It is his quest to give birth to himself; as any human must on the path to individuation. Seeking guidance and outside help is a necessity; this is not a task that could be undertaken by any one without emotional and psychological support.
Now, last but not least, what should a woman who is involved with a yet-to-be-born man/child do in order to protect her own psyche from the poisonous dynamic between the mother and his son which will undoubtedly affect every aspect of her life? Realistically, there are only two possible ways to handle the situation: staying or leaving. Both appear to be less than pleasant options. Being that all matters are basically individual, it’s very difficult to unmistakably predict the potential and outcome of many relationships.
However, as studying entangled relationships where a man is still bound to his mother by an umbilical cord, there is usually not much hope that he may come to the awareness to break free from his enmeshment and divorce patterns of incestuous attachment. It has also been shown that many sons tend to carry the same degree of pathological attachment to their mothers even after their mothers pass away. This only goes to prove the profound influence of our primary relationships on our psyche and the fact that some chains in life are extremely hard to break. Though, this is by no means to make the claim that the mother-son bondage is unbreakable or eternal; it’s only to suggest that transforming such patterns takes conscious practice and an innate desire to detoxify one’s soul.
There are resources besides counseling and therapy which may help men trapped in a boy’s psyche:
1. Silently Seduced by Kenneth Adams
2. Mother-Son Incest: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Hani Miletski
3. Toxic parents: overcoming their harmful legacy by Susan Forward
My only hope in writing articles probing the general psychology and more importantly the predominate intergenerational psychology of the Iranian culture is to promote insight and to encourage all readers to not fear facing what they have lived with, but rather to call for personal change which requires the very first step of leaving the prison of denial. Comment