The Modern Medea: Motherhood, Infanticide and Transmutation
I have been working with and contemplating the state of motherhood in the U.S, specifically the postpartum crises such as infanticide. I’m interested in presenting a paper at the 2023 International Conference that examines the act of infanticide as a protest against the patriarchal mandate of motherhood. I imagine this topic may be a good fit for Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Emotions, as it is the emotion of a mother, like Medea, that drives a mother to transgress conventions, breaking free of inertia. Whether she is in the throws of postpartum psychosis, rage or dissociation, it is an emotion so intense that she has fully identified with it. As Jung points out, when a person is in a fragile state an archetype can swallow them whole, such is the case with the death mother archetype.
It is worthwhile to examine the basis and context of maternal infanticide as not a singular crime, but as a comment on today’s society and in particular the construct of motherhood. The death mother archetype, the one who needs to kill her child, is a strong negative energy buried in the shadows of our collective psyche; infanticide is the attempt to bring it to light. By bringing attention to it, we might transmute that shadow energy into not only a changed woman, but a changed concept of womanhood and motherhood in our society.
Brooke Laufer is a Clinical Psychologist who has been in private practice since 2010. Brooke began her clinical work in psychiatric wards with the severely mentally ill, then in schools with adolescents and their families, and currently she does Jungian psychotherapy in her private practice. After having her first child Brooke had a disturbing Postpartum OCD experience, which inspired her to begin researching, understanding, and specializing in the treatment of perinatal mental illness. She now works as an expert witness for women who have committed a crime during a postpartum episode. Brooke has two wild children, along with a wise little cat named Coco; they all live and work and play together in Evanston, IL.
- Brooke Laufer (2021) Medea as the Modern Mother: Infanticide, Motherhood, and Transmutation, Psychological Perspectives, 64:2, 222-239,