Science + Sacred and Maternal Mental Health with Annie Broadbent
Annie Broadbent, a holistic psychosynthesis counselor, shares how the medicalized approach to maternal mental health and wellness may not serve mothers as well as one might think. We explore what shifts / changes/ transforms when a psychospiritual lens is applied to a mother’s birth in matrescence.
Our conversation covers:
- Her understanding of the sacred and several archetypes of human interaction with the sacred
- The importance of bringing opposites and the resulting tension as opportunity for growth
- Why pathologizing mother’s struggles does more harm than good for maternal health
- Discussion of the labels we put on mothers’ experiences of the shadow of mothering
- Ways forward, both micro and macro, to shift the status quo approach to supporting mothers
Annie is a psychosynthesis counsellor specialising in grief and bereavement and perinatal issues and on the training team at Psychosynthesis Trust in London. She is also author of Speaking of Death: What the Bereaved Really Need and writes for a range of outlets, exploring life’s major experiences, from motherhood, to death and grief and spirituality. Annie is particularly passionate about challenging the medicalised approach to health and wellness, advocating instead a holistic and psychospiritual lens on the individual and humanity. Previous to training she worked in corporate wellbeing and she was also a singer in a band and toured Europe. She still loves to sing.
Drafted by AI. Please excuse typos.
Hi and welcome back to rewild mothering. Today I’m talking with Annie Broadbent. Any Broadbent is a psycho synthesis counselor specializing in grief and bereavement and perinatal issues and on the training team at psychosynthesis Trust in London. She’s also the author of speaking of death, what the bereaved really need and writes for a range of outlets exploring life’s major experiences from motherhood to death and grief and spirituality. And he’s particularly passionate about challenging the medicalized approach to health and wellness, advocating instead a holistic and psycho spiritual lens on the individual and humanity. Previous to training, she worked in corporate well being and she’s also a singer in a band that toured Europe and she still loves to sing. Our conversation explores the limitations of a medicalized approach to maternal mental health and wellness. We also explore what shifts or changes and transforms about our understandings of maternal mental health when we adopt a psycho spiritual approach. This is one of my favorite topics and I hope you’ll find a lot of wisdom for your mothering journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts particularly on the labels we apply to mothering experiences do you find them helpful, limiting both, and you can share that over on Instagram at rewild mothering?
The future relies on the wellness of mothers. Welcome to rewild mothering, a podcast about holistic maternal wellness for Earth honoring mothers to help us grow into the wild guides we envision for ourselves, our families, and our planet. Each week, we alchemize science and the sacred weaving together modern research, ancient wisdom and mind body spirit practices that will help us channel the transformative power of mature essence, the developmental period of motherhood. I’m your host, Dr. Allie Davis, a maternal mental health eco therapist, and a mother walking this path with you. Thank you for being here. Let’s reclaim mothering, as a wild initiation with Mother Nature as our guide.
And I’m so glad you came on the show today to talk with us about your understanding of the sacred Can you explore that a little bit with us and just share your definition or your understanding? Well, I
think the sacred is sort of indefinable. The sacred is unknowable. It’s what I would also call the trans personal, which might help to kind of put some language around it, that it is beyond just the personal, it’s a sense of connection to something greater, something untouchable. And I think the sacred, the sublime, the spiritual, whatever you want to call it is also it’s really important, to me anyway, that it’s also about humility and humanity, because I think there can be quite a lot of sort of spiritual snobbery, which we need to be cautious of anything can be sacred, and everything can be sacred, and everything can be sort of unsafe crud, and I think we can experience it in lots of different ways. It can feel frightening, and lonely. And it can also feel empowering and magical, can be addictive. It can be denied. In psycho synthesis, we often refer to it as the sublime. And we sort of look out for clients where they might be sort of hiding out in the sublime, which I would call like a spiritual bypass. And equally we can repress it and deny it. And those might be sort of split into different kind of archetypes of or sub personalities, as I would call them, of like the pragmatist or the mystic. They become become really over identified with one or the other. And working in a psycho spiritual way is about sort of integrating those two parts finding the sacred in pragmatic parts of our life. And vice versa.
One of my favorite authors on I’ll do calls that navel gazing spirituality, that kind of spiritual bypassing, not embodied in the material world and then she has this idea of spiritual activism of of when you’re always kind of inner and outer cycling and working with the collective That way.
Yeah, I totally agree, you know, the soul needs a personality to express itself through. And that idea of, of activism, I think so important and connecting to the collective. And I think it’s an unfortunate thing about the kind of spirituality movement is that on sort of first glance, people can easily see it as the navel gazing practice that is disconnected from activism or connecting to the collective. But actually, that’s sort of truest form, its essence is so much about making change, transforming, connecting nature. So I think there’s a kind of big education piece around bringing more more of the sacred into daily life.
So our goal on this podcast is to explore the paths and practices that mothers may find empowering in their mature essence, and really emphasizing the whole mother, so body, mind and spirit. And you mentioned your work in psychosynthesis, which is a psycho spiritual model of change. Can you talk more in detail about your work and the importance of bridging that gap between science and the sacred, or you talk about it in some different ways, in your work with mums?
Yeah, so psychosynthesis is a holistic model, working on different levels with mind, body, feelings, and spirit or self, whatever you want to call it. It also works equally with the kind of notion of potential and wounding views wounding as potential for growth, really. And I think that in itself is an example of the bridge really not necessarily between science and sacred but bridging attention for a split, which we see so much in society, this tendency to split between good and bad, past and present, pain and joy. So psychosynthesis, and the way our work is about kind of bringing those kind of opposites together and asking the question of, can we hold that tension? Can we sit with the possibility that something that might be painful might also be an opportunity for growth? When it comes to working with mums, that also looks like, Can I sit with the possibility that I want to be a mother and I also hate it, that I love my child. And I also hate them sometimes. And so in, in on every level, there’s this kind of this bridging and integrating and bringing together of opposites, was thinking about the different ways we have available to us towards Self Realization, or spiritual awakening. And the essence is, you know, one sort of example of that, but science can also be that to that, you know, Sciences is a way to the soul through reasoning.
What am I teachers says that we’re coming to a time when science is brought back into accountability with the sacred. And I think that that’s so beautiful, because just the way like you’re talking about, there’s all these different paths and reasoning is a big one for especially a hyper intellectualized culture, but to finding more of how to weave those together and make sense of that tension, like you’re talking about can be so productive, and in such a big shift. Why is it so important for mothers to take time to explore their psycho spiritual development? And what does this look like, especially when working with you from this model?
So I’m not sure I feel that it is really important for moms to take time to explore this sacred spiritual development as such, I guess, because what I’ve found is that we all have a different relationship to a different idea of spirituality, and seeing our psychology through a spiritual lens. And I think sort of exploring it can sometimes feel too proactive, almost or too active. I think I see it more as that it’s really important for moms to be open to it, to be open to the unanswerable which is what you know, so many mums find themselves confronted with in becoming a mother. And in being open to that we can sort of listen out for a call for something more and see that the birth of a mother is is an experience that sort of exceeds our usual limits, and takes us beyond our normal comprehension and some Sometimes this can happen in a really abrupt way. So mom has a really traumatic birth, for instance, or there’s a history of Reval mental health, within the kind of enormity of the experience means that the personality can’t quite sort of integrate it. And that can bring with it, this surge of is like influx of feelings and thoughts. And that might look like anxiety, or that might look like psychosis. And, and it can also happen more slowly, the sort of the spiritual emergence, for my kind of example I was describing, I would call a spiritual emergency. And I guess that psychosynthesis lens sees both as an invitation as an experience of the self or the soul, trying to reveal itself, if we ignore that invitation, then sort of more suffering can happen, that’s, you know, with depression and anxiety sort of can continue or emerge. So I think for that reason, as well being open to it is, well life enhancing and deepening, but also can be life saving, because it means that we’ll we’ll be able to listen to what needs to be heard, and what changes might need to be made. And what it looks like can vary massively. I think sometimes it can look like nothing and be quiet arrival, just a sort of a sense, or a background thought, and gradual change. And sometimes it can look like a complete sort of identity, change, new friends, new hobbies, new interests. And I guess there’s also kind of a middle way, a path that integrates both in a more sort of balanced way. I guess that’s where support is really important. You know, when mums find themselves suddenly, so destabilize the the kind of mature essence is completely deconstructed their whole sense of self. That’s really frightening. And without sort of adequate support, it’s hard to listen to what needs to change.
Last month, you share it on your Instagram community, dark side of the Mum, commentary about some labels, and you asked, Is it a mood disorder? Are you really sad and worried about massive change in your life? And I thought that was so interesting. And it feels like it connects here that there are some dangers of suppressing a call of the soul and not being open to that can have some difficulties maybe around that. Is that kind of what you’re referencing? Yeah, I
mean, I think in many ways, it’s the ignoring of the call of the self that brings people to therapy, that would be the sort of psycho spiritual lens, that there’s self with a capital S, or soul or spirit, or whatever, whatever you want to call it. But essentially, the part of us that is bigger than just our personality structure is the part of us that is connected to something beyond our own micro world, is always trying to reveal itself, it’s got this kind of eternal life force in it. And if it keeps being ignored and interrupted, then we start suffering. And it’s like, it sort of has to start banging on the door even louder. And the more we fight, the more we struggle. So, yeah, a lot of the work is about, well, first of all, looking at the problems that we’re facing in that framework, which is quite a big shift for a lot of people to not see the problems as things to just be got rid of. But see, the problems is something to be missing, too. And that can be even harder in new early motherhood, when you have a new human being to look after, and everything else that you’re experiencing in life, especially, you know, for new mums this year, it can be really hard to see what they’re experiencing with a kind of what I would call a bifocal lens, like both as a, as a problem that needs kind of addressing but also as, you know, a call of the self or something, some sort of aspect of, of their purpose. And I guess that’s why I feel really passionate about bringing more of this thinking and this kind of language and into the narrative around maternal mental health because I just don’t think it’s there very much. And it was very much part of my own suffering as a new mother is not seeing any kind of holistic view of medicines at all. So we get so just stuck in a cycle.
Can you explain that cycle a little bit more, or say more about it
is every time a new mom experiences what, you know, new moms feel, obviously in completely unique and diverse ways, but great psychological, physical, spiritual cosmic shifts in their being. And when they struggle with that, if every time they struggle and reach out for help, they’re met with a label, which might include in a language like some kind of condition, or disorder, or deficit or an offered medication and solution focused therapy to fix it, and not much else. Then, unconsciously, whilst that has its place, and it can be life saving, unconsciously it’s communicating a message that what the mom is experiencing isn’t, okay, isn’t acceptable needs to kind of be got rid of. And so that’s where the cycle continues. So the mom will internalize that message, and on some level, tell herself that what she’s experiencing is wrong, and not acceptable, and her fault. And so repress the kind of pain and suffering and work hard to ignore the kind of content that’s coming out of her psyche work hard to ignore this new staff, because she’s been told it’s bad and wrong, or, you know, dangerous or whatever.
Yeah. So the, it’s a hard edge, I think, to stay on. But you know, if you’re thinking is this postpartum depression or spiritual awakening, and you’re saying it’s both and that that tension is what is valuable to see it as an opportunity to, for the soul or the self, to come through and, and continue its journey,
you know, your kind of question of science and sacred and bridging the gap. And what we’ve talked about about, you know, sort of holding these tensions, this is exactly the territory because currently it is, the territory is to strictly in a particular form of science. And we need more of a balance. You know, I work with mums who have been diagnosed with postpartum depression or anxiety or, and they’re and the labels really useful for them and other mums who’ve been given life saving medication. And, you know, that isn’t those things aren’t a contraindication, to working with a psycho spiritual model. The key thing is, yeah, as you’re saying, holding both and having some sort of fluidity and flexibility, so that we can work with the complexity of the human being, which isn’t as simple as you know, a form with, you know, a list of tick boxes of symptoms, and much more than that.
Hi, it’s Allie, I wanted to pause the episode for a moment to tell you about my free mother mind meditation route into who you are and who you’re becoming by reconnecting with your own true nature. Download it at rewild mothering.com, slash mother mind. That’s it for now, let’s get back to our conversation.
your social media handle his dark side of the mom. And the moon is such a beautiful metaphor for the shadow. And I know that you do a lot of work around the shadow and motherhood. So can you talk about that work with the taboo and your approach?
Yes, I seem to always be drawn to taboo stuff, staff sort of started might with my inexperience of grief, after my mum died, and sort of noticed that there was a kind of fear and anxiety about talking about grief and death. There was something similar about it. When I when I became a mother that there was a kind of, there’s a sort of similar fear somehow of talking about the kind of messy side of motherhood and it really chimes with working with the shadow and psychotherapy is the shadow is sort of the part of us where we put all the stuff we don’t like or we’ve learned is unacceptable. I sort of love the concept of the shadow part of it. Because it immediately answers the question of who might not have a shadow, which is no one. Everyone has a shadow. Everyone has, you know, I think sometimes it’s described as the sort of the trunk or the bag, the bag that we keep all the bits we don’t like. Yeah, anything that we would consider not me would be in our shadow. So that might be anger or jealousy or hate. So typical ones, but it can also include You can also sort of have no love or affection, sexuality, because if there are things that we learned were not okay, then we we put them there. There’s a big shadow side to mothering. You know, we’ve got the supermom myth or the good mom myth that dominates the projection of mothers in society. And so cast in its shadow is the angry, hateful, resentful, regretful violent mom, and all mums, I would say feel many of those things, throughout their addresses and their mothering journey. And it feels really important to work towards bringing that staff bringing the contents of the shadow side of motherhood and mothering out into the light. And not just in my own sort of clinical work. But also, you know, in a sort of social media platform,
you’re providing a counter narrative that supports the whole Mother, you know, what we find unacceptable, and motherhood is defined by a whole life of socialization. And you speak a lot about the growing medicalization of maternal mental health. And that tendency to diagnose and pathologize rather than recognize the whole light, dark experience, you’ve spoken about some of the ways that this happens, but share some more ideas of how our dominant culture supports the pathologizing of the whole mother. Like, where do you see that?
I think it’s partly in the language that used so as we talked about before, you know, the reduction of mums experiences to labels. So mums will talk about feelings as something that they have, you know, I have this diagnosis. And there’s a kind of there’s a permanence to that. But I also think what’s sort of important to recognize is that this kind of taps into a bigger issue about the way society places the responsibility of raising the future of humanity, entirely on the mother, without adequate sustainable support for the impact of carrying that burden. So yeah, the sort of the attachment to fixing and getting better perpetuates that kind of patriarchal productivity obsessed culture, which in turn, perpetuates the kind of pathologizing of, you know, mother’s pain and suffering, so that there isn’t a kind of, there isn’t any, honoring and listening to the suffering and questioning of what needs to happen, and investigation into how those changes can be made on a societal level, to instead, there is sort of minimal effort into keeping the man the one who’s responsible for making ourselves feel better, temporarily so that she can continue looking after her children on our own.
Yeah, the myth of individualism works in unique ways with our Protestant work ethic to really just undermine any, you know, coping that mom has to throw into crisis in these different ways. Like a whirlpool.
wondering, what are your interventions? Or where do you think the shifts can be made to integrate and move from this good mother myth into something that’s more holistic on a widespread level?
We’ve got the micro and the macro, haven’t we? I think we’ve got to do both. I talked before about the language, which I think is really important. And I think that applies both in our own in the sort of personal level but also societal, that we, you know, need to kind of move away from classifying and measuring spiritual experiences. And sort of hold more loosely, this idea that there is a scientific truth about mental health, I think it’s also got to include work on a sort of more systemic level. It looking at the suffering of mothers on, you know, in all sorts of intersections, we can’t have a mothering revolution without also really biting the kind of systemic racism that’s going on and maternal health care and fighting for mums, in all communities. Think black mums are five times more likely to die in childbirth, which is, you know, unacceptable, and needs to be part of the fight. Makes me think now of Adrian, Rick, and she talks about the need for the mother’s battle, for her child needs to be everyone’s battle. And I think it’s also really important, you know, that every mother’s battle is everyone’s battle, because it’s very easy to discover that actually, the moms we’re talking about are the sort of, you know, white, straight middle class mums. So I don’t have a strategy for this revolution. But I think, you know, this work, the stuff you’re doing, the kind of bridging of science and sacred is really important for this kind of transformation and creating space for the emergence of human mother. Not the superhuman, the Superman, but the whole human mother. That includes the messy and the powerful parts.
Thank you for listening. The reweld mothering podcast brings together a community of Earth honoring mothers to tell the stories that mendon 10, the web of mothering support, I’d love to hear your reactions to today’s episode. Let’s connect on Instagram at rewild mothering and be sure to subscribe where you listen to get next week’s episode as soon as it’s live. Until next time, may we remember our place as a part of the natural world. May we reclaim mothering as a revolutionary act, and may we rewild the ways of caring for our human family and our living planet.