Mothers & Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons

By Andrea O'Reilly | Go to book overview

11

ATTACHMENT AND LOSS

Janet Sayers

In his l95l World Health Organization report, Maternal Care and Mental Health, the psychoanalyst John Bowlby claimed that the secure attachment of sons and daughters to their mothers as babies is as crucial to their future mental well-being as vitamins are to their future physical well-being. On the grounds that babies therefore need to be with their mothers full-time, Bowlby's claim was used to justify the closure of day nurseries opened to enable women to work during the war. It was also used more generally to oppose measures aimed at securing women, as mothers, the same employment opportunities as men. As such, Bowlby's attachment theory-as his l95l thesis came to be known-was bitterly opposed by feminists.

Now, however, feminist theorists and therapists are more friendly to attachment theory (Orbach). This is in part due to evidence of the ill effects on men's mental health of prematurely losing attachment to their mothers when as children they are pressured to forge a male identity separate from, and superior to, that of their mothers and women generally. In this chapter, using examples of men's memories and dreams and two clinical illustrations, I will seek to highlight some of these ill effects, including men's stammering, recurring nightmares, self-division, schizophrenia, suicide, and manic self-glorification. Arguably each of these is a result, at least in part, of sons' early loss of attachment to their mothers.


Early Loss

In l968 the U.S. psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson argued that sons must detach, separate, and “dis-identify” from their mothers so as to achieve a

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Mothers & Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 19
  • Works Cited 20
  • I - Mothering and Motherhood 23
  • 1 - Who Are We This Time? 25
  • 2 - Mothering Sons with Special Needs 42
  • Works Cited 55
  • 3 - Masculinity, Matriarchy, and Myth a Black Feminist Perspective 56
  • Works Cited 69
  • 4 - Mothers, Sons, and the Art of Peacebuilding 71
  • Works Cited 88
  • 5 - In Black and White Anglo-American and African-American Perspectives on Mothers and Sons 91
  • Notes 116
  • Works Cited 117
  • II - Men and Masculinities 119
  • 6 - Swimming Against the Tide Feminists' Accounts of Mothering Sons 121
  • Notes 137
  • 7 - Feminist Academic Mothers' Influences on Their Sons' Masculinity 141
  • Works Cited 155
  • 8 - Lesbians Raising Sons Bringing Up a New Breed of Men 157
  • 9 - Can Boys Grow into Mothers? Maternal Thinking and Fathers' Reflections 163
  • III - Mothers and Sons: Connections and Disconnections 183
  • 10 - Raising Relational Boys 185
  • Notes 215
  • 11 - Attachment and Loss 217
  • Works Cited 233
  • 12 - Mother-Son Relationships in the Shadow of War 235
  • Notes 249
  • Works Cited 250
  • 13 - This is Leave-Taking Mothers, Signatures, and Countermemory 251
  • Notes 263
  • List of Contributors 265
  • Index 271
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