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'The Mother-Wound', Part 1: The Desire to Escape and The Need to Die

Updated: Feb 5

'The world breaks everyone...'

—Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

When a boy reaches a certain age and begins rebelling against the control of his mother, he is subconsciously expressing a desire for a kind of ‘death’—a death of childishness, a death of selfishness and selfish pleasure—and a desire to be ‘born again’ and join the world of his father. The world of the father is spiritual, not material; and a man needs to ‘die’ to his addiction and all the ways of pleasure that the feminine world of the mother offers, in order to rise again as a man who has put childish selfishness aside, and is able to follow the masculine ‘pattern’ of his forefathers.

If a boy spends too long in his mother’s embrace, and is not ‘rescued’ by the masculine, by being made to ‘die’ in order to rise again as a man, he may remain feeling trapped by her—and later, by every woman who plays the role of his mother in his life—and may struggle with a burning desire to ‘escape’ or ‘leave’.

I myself remember how—while in the early stages of my journey of freedom I was becoming aware of these dynamics—whenever I had a serious argument with my wife, i would feel utterly ‘worthless’ and ‘good for nothing’: those were the expressions that always floated up into my mind. Then—whenever I managed to resist the temptation to sedate myself with the obvious pleasures I was craving—the most overwhelming desire that would come next, was the desire to destroy myself. Indeed, a few times, and to the utter horror of my poor wife, I would hit myself on the head, or in the face, with my fist, in an attempt to show her how she ‘made me feel’—or, actually, how I was already feeling deep inside—about myself. 

I wanted to die. I felt worthless, like a boy in a man’s body who was trapped there, and had no way out, and could only lash out at the feminine presence who was the only thing closest to him. I wanted to die.

I remember how, as a teenager who was fiercely desperate for independence, I had parties in the upper floor of my childhood home. I would invite my friends, boys and girls, and we would drink and listen to music in an environment that I was portraying as solely mine. After all, my parents had their living space downstairs and had no need top ever come upstairs, where I reigned as king over the four bedrooms between which I moved as I pleased, making this or that one ‘my room’, and using the space to bring my friends in at any time I wished. But I will never forget the feeling of being trapped and unable to escape my mother’s clutches, that came to me every time when, at a whim, the corridor door would open, and my mother would walk in. She would then greet my friends absent-mindedly, and proceed to collect a few empty glasses from the table—the pretext of her visit. A sense of embarrassment and helplessness would come over me at those moments; and a longing to escape…

After a few short years, I did indeed escape, living and studying three hundred miles away; so I could never really experience that feeling again…until I got married, and there was nowhere to run. Then, I was forced to face that feeling and, however painful it was, to feel it at its roots—the roots that I had managed to avoid by moving out of my parents’ house at nineteen, thinking I was dealing with the problem. Not knowing that the problem was already deep within me, and would one day be taken into my marriage…

And what has always been terrifying to come face-to-face with, was the deep, underlying desire to break free by taking my own life.

Having listened to countless lectures and talks on this over the years, I remember once hearing someone say that the desire to die is not in itself wrong—for a boy feels that he must indeed die, in order to be reborn as a man—but men often act on this desire in desperation, and in the face of such despair, choose physical death rather than a spiritual one.

Let me tell you a story. It is a story I haven’t told before, but a story I feel I nevertheless must tell. It is about a freedom-loving, brave, big-hearted boy.

He was only nineteen when we met, during one wild night, and we quickly became friends. He was not my oldest friend, but quickly became my best friend. He did not partake in vice as I did, and—unlike me at the time—did not wish to lose his soul. He remained ever sober, present, and noble. He believed in goodness, even when there was little of it in the world around him. He feared no-one and loved me deeply. Together, we had many adventures. We played with danger; we fell in with the wrong crowd; we risked our freedom and even our lives; but he never, ever, lost his soul.

Unlike me, he didn’t make much of the fleeting pleasures of life, and always sought solace in stories of valour and brave deeds. A big, tall, handsome and athletic guy, he watched over me and protected me; he never lost the power of his presence—while I was busy seeking to waste whatever little of it I had, and run from my inner pain by burying myself in pleasures. I will never forget his watchful eye as I partied, drank and wasted my voice and desires in a cocaine-fuelled frenzy of words and actions that meant nothing and achieved nothing. He disapproved of all that, but loved me anyway—isn’t that what a friend does?

He had one very puzzling habit, if I may call it that: he always went where the biggest danger was. He needed no money—his family was wealthy and he himself had much, and was generous beyond measure—yet more than once we found ourselves talking with some sinister character about some scheme he was inviting us to take part in. Once, like the nameless thugs that Don Corleone sent to exact revenge upon his friend’s enemies in The Godfather, we took on a ‘job’ from a wealthy woman whose teenage daughter had been harassed by a classmate. The poor boy—who we couldn’t catch but managed to scare to death by jumping out of a car and chasing him through a dark alley—was probably looking over his shoulder for the next six months. Another time, he got involved with a girl who was a mistress to none other than a local mafia boss—and all the while girls were throwing themselves at my friend!

There are many, many other examples of how my friend pursued danger, but I think the picture is clear enough. My friend drank very little and took drugs only once in his life (and to my shame, I admit that I was there). As far as I could see, he had two major vices: the first was his reckless pursuit of danger. The second was not something I could see at the time as being abnormal or wrong: it was the fact that every single girl that my friend found himself seriously involved with, looked like a carbon copy of his mother…

His mother was a woman who had quite a bit of influence, and indeed, power, in the family. My friend was very close to her. His father was a good man who was very soft; and for some hidden reason my friend despised him. He always made fun of his father, even to the father’s face; and although he had many serious arguments with his mother, he never, ever made any fun of her. He took his mother very seriously…

His mother was very, very involved in my friend’s life…

She never seemed to approve of his girlfriends, and that caused my friend much heartache. I still find it hard to believe that each one of those girls—I am thinking of at least three—looked so much like his mother. Even their personalities were very similar to hers…

In the recent years, my friend and his mother seemed to argue a lot more—mainly about his life-choices and the girls he dated. He frequently mentioned—in jest, most of the time—that he wanted to ‘get out’ and ‘get rid of everyone’ in his life. Once, when I was visiting him, he came into the room in a gloomy mood. Jerking a thumb toward the corridor where his mother and his older sister were, he murmured, ‘just get me a gun so I can clear all that rubbish out’. 

He had been arguing with them, and I could feel the tension and depression in him. But he was often in a gloomy, brooding mood; and I had taken this to be a part of his personality, as indeed it was.

After making the joke about the gun, he then laughed, and we went out. At the time, in our circle of friends, it was not unusual to joke like that. We always joked and spewed much nonsense, in worse ways than that. But this was a more recent occurrence.

Another time—and this was even more recent—when I was already living abroad, I had posted a photo on social media, of myself with a giant snake around my neck, during a trip to South Africa.

I will never forget what he wrote in the comment section… 

‘Send me that snake, brother! I need it around my neck—maybe it will squeeze me hard enough and I will finally be free!’

Taking the nature of our shared jokes over the years and the typical for the Bulgarian humorous morbidity that permeated much of the folklore and the way people joked with each other, I laughed at the joke. But I have no doubt that he was referring to some recent incident around the pressure he was feeling around his family.

Looking back on it now, he always lived in very close proximity to his parents. Even though he was very capable, strong and self-sufficient, he did not move out of his parents’ apartment until he got married.

He married a girl who seemed to have a very strong personality…

Some of the details of this story will remain hidden. They simply must.

Now, let us continue.

Whenever I spoke to my friend—perhaps once every six months or so—since the wedding, he sounded more and more gloomy and depressed. Whenever I asked him about how married life was, he quickly said that everything was ‘perfect’, and moved on to other things. When I last spoke to him, another global crisis was unfolding in the world and the news, as always, was busy broadcasting it. Speaking of it then, he said that there were ‘very hard times’—but I cannot shake the feeling that he was not referring to what was going on in the world at that time. At that time, he was already living with his new beautiful bride in a large apartment that had a stunning sea-view, marble floors and furniture made of antique wood and wrought iron. I was truly happy for him and, having already had a lot of experience in the work that I now teach and write about, had no doubt that we would one day sit and chat about the things that I suspected were bothering him on a deep, soul-level.

But that was not to be… 

Not too long afterwards, an old childhood friend called my home in the sleepy Sussex town where I was just getting ready to go to bed. He told me, clumsily, that he had some very bad news, and wanted me to hear it right away.

He then proceeded to tell me what had happened…

My good, loyal, brave friend, who once loved to live fast, had a heart of gold, and possessed a mysterious taste for danger, had done something heartbreakingly tragic...

One day, using his own keys, he had made his way into his parents’ apartment while they weren’t there. Then he had proceeded to press a pistol against his chest—against his heart—and killed himself.

It was the heart, that he had aimed to destroy—I can only imagine the unspeakable pain—and he chose to do it in his parents’ home…

Perhaps he was sending them a message. Perhaps he wanted to show them how broken his heart was, how hopelessly bound and tied—to the point that only death could bring it freedom. Perhaps he wanted to punish them for the pain he was feeling.

His death was an unexpected tragedy that shook a whole city, and left many lives broken and empty.

He was only thirty-two years old.


'The Mother-Wound: Cut The Unseen Strings That Control Your Masculinity' is available here


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