The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood

Overview


Mixed feelings about motherhood—uncertainty over having a child, fears of pregnancy and childbirth, or negative thoughts about one’s own children—are not just hard to discuss, they are a powerful social taboo. In this beautifully written book, Barbara Almond brings this troubling issue to light. She uncovers the roots of ambivalence, tells how it manifests in lives of women and their children, and describes a spectrum of maternal behavior—from normal feelings to highly disturbed mothering. In a society where ...
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The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood

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Overview


Mixed feelings about motherhood—uncertainty over having a child, fears of pregnancy and childbirth, or negative thoughts about one’s own children—are not just hard to discuss, they are a powerful social taboo. In this beautifully written book, Barbara Almond brings this troubling issue to light. She uncovers the roots of ambivalence, tells how it manifests in lives of women and their children, and describes a spectrum of maternal behavior—from normal feelings to highly disturbed mothering. In a society where perfection in parenting is the unattainable ideal, this compassionate book also shows how women can affect positive change in their lives.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Just the thing for a gray and drizzly autumn afternoon. Drawing on her thirty-seven years of practice as a psychoanalyst as well as her own experiences as a mother, Almond leads an adventurous tour through the shadowy, secret parts of the mother's psyche. . . An oddly compelling read."--New Yorker

"Myth-shredding look at maternal ambivalence." --Ms Magazine

"First, let me recommend this engrossing study to every new mother, old mother, good mother and bad mother. Sons, husbands, dads and lovers might profit from reading this, too. 'The Monster Within' addresses what everybody knows, but almost nobody talks about: Even the best mothers among us will be or have been tormented from time to time by strong feelings of dread, fear, hatred and even revulsion at the whole process of motherhood, as well as experiencing downright murderous feelings toward our children."--Washington Post Book World

"A smart, cohesive read, and a welcome respite from perfect-mother guidebooks. Recommended If: The last book you'd ever pick up is one about motherhood."--Bitch

"Takes on the taboo of maternal ambivalence. . . . Almond, a psychoanalyst, offers an optimistic message about the roots of these mixed emotions."--The Washington Post

New Yorker

“Just the thing for a gray and drizzly autumn afternoon. Drawing on her thirty-seven years of practice as a psychoanalyst as well as her own experiences as a mother, Almond leads an adventurous tour through the shadowy, secret parts of the mother’s psyche. . . An oddly compelling read.”
Ms Magazine

“Myth-shredding look at maternal ambivalence.”
Washington Post Book World - Carolyn See

“First, let me recommend this engrossing study to every new mother, old mother, good mother and bad mother. Sons, husbands, dads and lovers might profit from reading this, too. ‘The Monster Within’ addresses what everybody knows, but almost nobody talks about: Even the best mothers among us will be or have been tormented from time to time by strong feelings of dread, fear, hatred and even revulsion at the whole process of motherhood, as well as experiencing downright murderous feelings toward our children.”
Bitch

“A smart, cohesive read, and a welcome respite from perfect-mother guidebooks. Recommended If: The last book you’d ever pick up is one about motherhood.”
The Washington Post

“Takes on the taboo of maternal ambivalence. . . . Almond, a psychoanalyst, offers an optimistic message about the roots of these mixed emotions.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520271203
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 823,968
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Barbara Almond, M.D., is a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice, a member of the faculty at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, and Emeritus Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University. She is coauthor of The Therapeutic Narrative: Fictional Relationships and the Process of Psychological Change.
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Table of Contents


Preface
Acknowledgments

Chapter 1. The Ubiquity of Maternal Ambivalence
Chapter 2. Motherlove: The Power of Maternal Desire
Chapter 3. The Subtle Ambivalence of the Too-Good Mother
Chapter 4. “Before the Beginning”: Women’s Fears of Monstrous Births
Chapter 5. Women’s Reproductive Fears: More Clinical Examples
Chapter 6. Rachel’s Story: Internalized Ambivalence and the Dangers of Hidden Guilt
Chapter 7. Whose Fault Is It? The Externalization of Ambivalence
Chapter 8. When Fears Are Realized
Chapter 9. From the Child’s Point of View
Chapter 10. Vampyric Mothering: From Stage Moms to Invasive Moms
Chapter 11. The Darkest Side of Motherhood: Child Murder
Chapter 12. What Happens Later: The Fate of Maternal Ambivalence
Chapter 13. What’s a Mother to Do?

Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 28, 2011

    Captivating and Provocative

    The Monster Within: the Hidden Side of Motherhood is a captivating and provocative book. The author, psychoanalyst Barbara Almond, argues that all mothers have monstrous feelings, that they "experience a mixture of loving and hating feelings toward their children." If we stop to think about it, we know this claim is true -- mothering can provoke feelings of anger, envy, even murderous rage, but we really don't like to think about it. Mothers have ambivalent feelings for their children and acknowledging hateful or aggressive feelings is largely taboo in our society. Dr. Almond shows that we pay a high price for our insistence on idealizing the mother. We burden her with unrealistic expectations for boundless maternal love.
    Interweaving intriguing clinical vignettes from her years of practice with fascinating examples from literature to illustrate her points makes this book an engrossing read. How can we better understand the internal world of a Tiger Mom or the murderous Andrea Yates? How could maternal fantasies help create such classic horror stories as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Dracula? This book offers detailed psychological understandings of the underlying motives of maternal behavior across a broad spectrum.
    As a mother myself, The Monster Within is a welcome acknowledgement of the emotional complexity of being a parent. The author illuminates how past experiences with our own mothers become part of our internal world and spring to life as we parent our children. Though we may struggle with shadows from our past, the book explains how parenting can also be a generative experience allowing for repair of old injuries and new growth.
    Seriously thinking about the pivotal role of maternal conscious and unconscious fantasies has been enormously helpful in my work as a psychiatrist. The many clinical examples make a compelling argument for the powerful influence our conflicted internal world has on our motivations and behavior. Dr. Almond takes us through the lifecycle and explicates how unrecognized or excessive aggression impacts the parent-child bond, starting from the contemplation of a baby through pregnancy, childhood and even into grandparenthood. Complex psychological theories are made accessible and understandable to readers at all levels of expertise.
    Rich and deep analysis of several literary works from the point of view of maternal ambivalence underscores the prevalence of these themes. Her analysis of Toni Morrison's Beloved is especially thoughtful. In her reading, the author examines the myriad ways in which slavery impacted the experience of mothering and familial bonds spanning many generations. This allows for a psychologically sophisticated understanding of the conflicts and motivations of the characters in this powerful book.
    In the end, The Monster Within is a plea for more reasonable expectations of mothers and for more support for families when parents struggle with the demand

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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