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A New Lilith: About Letting Go

In the following, I refer to an article by Hans-Joachim Maaz: "The dark side of femineity - the Lilith complex" (1).

Lilith (Hebrew: "the nocturnal one") is the Adam's first wife, his God created, equal partner. Nevertheless, according to tradition Adam prefers another playmate: Eve who submits to him (Lilith is unwilling to do so) and with whom he lives patriarchally, but also outside paradise. Today Lilith stands as a symbol for emancipation and female autonomy, for self-determination and a pleasurably experienced sexuality - and for "the dark side of femininity".

Lilith's dark side: an unspoken anti-child attitude?

Maaz' thesis is that the latter, Lilith's dark side, is a part of the female psyche which has been put under taboo but lives on in all women today. He pinpoints the taboo as an unspoken anti-child attitude and refusal of maternity and identifies "the associated early disturbance of the mother-child relationship as reason for our increasingly neurotic society" (2).

However, why should Lilith be against children and maternity across-the-board? In the Lilith legend she demands equal rights with her partner Adam - no more and no less. Merely if these equal rights are not given any more she would have reason to turn against what she discern as instrument of her oppression: children and maternity.

Eva's dark side: a body without rights

Children and maternity are not instruments of oppression by definition. However, they are if the woman is denied her freedom of choice. Of which taboo are we talking? Maybe it is the famous blind spot of our own world view: women have still no right to fully decide over their bodies in most countries - what coencloses the right to abort. (3)

So it is probably subordinated and disenfranchised Eve (4) who didn't have a choice in the first place, who feels "murderous rage, abysmal hatred, piercing pain, vomiting disgust and heartbreaking sorrow" (5): about the fact that she is deprived of the right to decide over her own body and for power-political reasons for centuries has been degraded to a birthing machine. (6)

Motherhood and free will

...So I have the choice, full power. I can come into contact with the child, with myself, and perceive, which decision for me has internal accuracy. Then I can give room to my decision, consciously to let it grow, or not. If I no longer have the courage to do so, to take this responsibility, I no longer can teach the child to which I will give life to. What is a true MOTHER? One who gives a sure framework for the light and the darkness of life. One to which the child can entrust itself in the most helpless time of its life, because she, the true mother, includes "everything" in her framework of life. Then children could learn something very fundamental from us women, something fundamental for their lives, namely true spiritual respect and devotion to everything that exists. From a powerless mother, a sacrifice-mother, one cannot learn these fundamental spiritual attitudes, even if she tries to be as dedicated as Mary. Mary is too docile to give the child a sure framework, so this is often delegated to an authority-figure Father/God..." (7)

Maaz describes the Lilith complex as a lack of motherliness. I agree with him - however with a different prefix: A mother-against-her-will will never be whom we fancy under the archetypal ideal of a mother. Only a clear, self-determined "Yes" towards her child does it.

However, a clear "Yes" essentially requires the possibility to say "No". Maaz calls the latter - perfectly in line with the prevailing culture - "anti-child attitude". Nevertheless, this "No" to child and pregnancy is not directed against the child itself: it solely means that a woman exercises her right of self-determination.

Bonding disorder - or inability to let go of?

Early separation of mother and child through nurseries etc. is, according to Maaz, just another expression of a "lack of motherliness". However, I think what weighs heavier than a colorful bounty of psychological parents (thus a polyamournesic (8) network) is the mother-against-her-will‘s inability to actually let go of her child. She has sacrificed her self-contained identity to the unwanted child and by pregnancy and childbirth only became a factual mother without ever having consciously chosen this role.

Who is she without child? She cannot return to her prior role as an adult woman who is responsible for herself, because her life was forcefully pushed into a direction she never would have chosen voluntarily.

The only way a mother-against-her-will can ban her identity crisis is through imperturbably clinging to her child as her mission and purpose of being and keeping it dependent forever. All the possessive, encroaching, demanding, exhausting mothers are Eves - not Liliths.

Letting go: an inherent aspect of motherhood

I think that letting go is an inherent aspect of motherhood. Lilith releases her child in love so that it can become (just as herself again) an independent person. The original embryonic relatedness of mother and child is formally-materially dissolved through the birth act, resulting in emotional and psychic independence in the months and years that follow.

Lilith is not anti-child by definition. Her "Yes!" is a clear one towards child and pregnancy. And because she has retained her own integrity she is able to fulfill what true motherhood ultimately should lead to: letting go.

Love is the art of letting go. To allow something/someone to be who she/he/it is.
Because we are allowed to be who we are.

My language is vibrant color and line. by Karin Ulrike Soika
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