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Motherly Love and its Link to the "The Promised Land"

You likely have heard of this description from the Bible. "The Promised Land" is not only the geographic place God gave to his chosen people but also a theological concept that means by following God you will find a place of peace and rest.

In this post I use the same symbolism for something else - Motherly Love. As a therapist I naturally often work with the archetype of mother and father. They are after all the pillars of our life and so much of who we are today is based on what we got from them and what 'love' we received from them. In Systemic and Family Constellation work we go into the family system to see what happened that interrupted the flow the love with mother and father. Doing work like this gives the opportunity to see what happened before us that influences us so greatly today.

This summer I read a wonderful book: The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm. I highly recommend it, especially for therapists. In chapter 2 "The Theory of Love" he describes different kinds of love: Brotherly Love, Motherly Love, Erotic Love, Self Love and Love of God. There is a wealth of information and perspective in this book about each type of love and in this post I'll talk specifically about "Motherly Love."

Fromm describes Motherly Love as “unconditional affirmation of the child’s life and his needs.” He further explains that it has two aspects: 1.) The care and responsibility for the child’s life and growth. 2.) Going beyond providing for a child and having an attitude that instills in the child a ‘love for living,’ which in turn gives them the feeling of “It’s good to be alive!”

Fromm describes this further with the symbol of the “Promised Land,” since ‘land’ is a mother symbol. The promised land is “flowing with milk and honey.” Milk is the symbol of the first aspect of love, that of care and affirmation, and honey symbolizes the sweetness of life, the love for it and the happiness of being alive.

He goes on to say that most mothers are capable of giving “milk” but that only a minority can give “honey” too, because giving "honey" goes beyond providing only the “milk” and references a happy person that spreads the joy of living to her children.

“Mother’s love for life is as infectious as her anxiety is.” (Page 46)

This symbolism gives incredible perspective to what happens between mothers and their children, and mothers and their mothers if we look systemically. The symbolism provides a clear and simple way to see what happened and what didn't happen; it also gives a lens to be able to see and therefore be grateful for what mom could provide, Life and all that sustained it.

For Constellation facilitators, this beautiful symbolism adds richness to the Field. I recently used it with a client and sure enough the ‘milk’ was strong and present – allowing the client to feel grateful for what mother gave, while ‘honey’ wasn’t easily seen. The mother representative in comparison looked at honey and moved away, because that's where the pain was.

Mother gave us Life; she brought us to this land and planet. Often times mothers can't be fully available for their children, which has long-term consequences for Life and Living. A Constellation can reveal the story and then the healing journey begins where one learns to be their own mother. That's another subject all together but a few things related to that subject: being able to have and maintain relationships, discovering and working toward your own happiness and success, and being able to love yourself with all your virtues and all your flaws.

"Milk" was and is likely there as we eat and drink to survive. We have a roof over our heads and you have a computer or phone to read this post, but living with "Honey" adds a different dimension, the sweetness of life and the joy of life for us Now and for the next generations.

This symbolism is very rich for a ritual as well. In showing gratitude and acknowledging what you did receive, get a glass of milk and a candle. Honor your mother for all that she gave you, for your health and life today. And after you do that, put some honey alongside the milk as a symbol for what was missing or lacking. Here lies the pain and the mourning and now the inclusion of what wasn't there before. Connect with the pain and acknowledge it; then celebrate by adding more Honey to your tea and/or daily life. Consciously and intentionally add Honey to your life and that is part of the repair and healing process.


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