Mother figures in dreams: why do they appear and what does it mean?

Mother figures in dreams: why do they appear and what does it mean?

Mother figures in dreams may relate to your own (possibly complex) relationship with your mother, the way you feel about being a mum yourself, or it could be a more symbolic dream about what mothers mean to you in general. This could be about what the concept of mothering means to you, or even the idea of Mother Earth.

It can be helpful, before reacting to your own mum in waking life, to take a moment to consider what the idea of mother means to you personally, then reflect on how these attributes are relevant in your day-to-day life. You may have associations of love, responsibility, appreciation, support, protection, sacrifice, control, resentment, guilt, criticism, deep ambivalence or rejection. Each person’s relationship with their mum is unique, and there is no right response. The important thing is to examine your own feelings honestly.

Sometimes mother figures in dreams offer a chance to consider the relationship you have with your own mum and to gain some insight that may improve that relationship, or help you understand yourself and her a little better. When we are young, the way we see our mothers is through the eyes of a child. Our mothers may seem almost other-worldly; a mother as thing rather than a real human being. As we grow, we start to become aware of our mother’s failings, as well as her achievements, her fears and her desires. We see her less as a symbol and more as a real person. As our mothers age, we come to see her frailties. These changing seasons of understanding of our mothers can come with their own unique challenges. It can be hard at first to realise our mother may have made judgement calls we disagree with. It can be painful to realise our mother’s fallibility, and to recognise her mortality. As we experience these deep and often life-changing perceptions, mothers may appear in dreams to help us process these ideas.

Your mother may appear in your dream when you feel the need to draw on qualities that you feel she possessed. If you see your mother as patient, you may dream of her when facing a challenge in waking life where you can draw upon her example of patience to help you through. Perhaps your mother embodies affection to you, and therefore may appear in your dreams when you are seeking more affection in your waking life or are struggling to show it to someone important to you. Mother figures in dreams could consequently be reminding you that you have received affection before, you know what it is and you are able to find it within yourself to help you through loneliness or access it to share when required.

Most of our relationships in life are layered and complex. You may have felt at times that your mother’s love was stifling and restricted your freedom. This could mean that you are exploring, in your dreams, where in your life you might need to break free and fend for yourself and where you seek the safety and comfort of being cared for. Traditional roles have seen mothers as homemakers, but even in modern families, a mother may still take on a central role in domestic affairs. Your mother may appear in your dreams when domestic issues become pertinent in your own life, as you explore how much you wish to contribute to managing a household and family and how much you would like to challenge traditional roles.

If, at one stage, your relationship with your mother was negative, you may have unconsciously programmed the life lessons and language she has taught you into your own internal dialogue. The voice we often refer to as the “internal critic” may have started with a parent figure. Your mother may have been critical or a perfectionist and so you often criticise yourself in the same way she did. Perhaps your mother was aloof and uninterested in your life, which makes you feel that the things you do are not important and that no one will care about what you do. This kind of internalisation of the parent is unhealthy and unhelpful for a happy, independent adult. If you have had experiences like this, your mother may appear in your dreams to help bring into your conscious mind feelings you have kept hidden, to allow you to recognise, heal and ultimately move on from them.

It is not unusual for dreams of either parent to appear when you are becoming a parent yourself or when you face a difficult issue or have to make a choice regarding your own children. As children, we learn by mimicking those around us, especially our parents. What a mother does in front of and around a child becomes a model of behaviour to that child as they grow, not just of how a mother behaves but also of how a woman behaves, or even how adults behave. When children come along, it is no surprise that the subconscious brings out this template for parenting and runs it through the dream sequence to try to give deeply held beliefs the conscious consideration they deserve. At times like this, it is worth reflecting on what it was about your mother’s parenting you did like and wish to emulate. It is also worth considering the less positive experiences and what you could learn from those and change for the better. Most often, these ideas are interwoven and complex, but sometimes they can be conspicuously negative. If this is the case, breaking the pattern of intergenerational trauma is the goal and may require additional help and support. Taking the time to recognise this fact and noting the desire to change the pattern is the first vital step in the process.

In dreams, The Mother can also appear as an archetype; a symbol offering the possibility of reconnecting with the core aspects of what it means to you to be mothered or to mother someone or something, regardless of your own upbringing. Dreams such as these offer a chance for deep personal healing. As a symbol, the mother can represent nurturing, intimacy, attentiveness, gentleness, kindness, commitment and unconditional love. She may appear in dreams to guide and support you through difficult periods. The symbolic mother in dreams can also help heal troubled relationships by allowing you to reconnect to the noblest aspects of yourself. Mother dreams may ask you to consider where in life you need to give or receive nurturing.

Mother figures in dreams can also be symbolic of “The Great Mother”, as a sacred source of life. This may be the essence of creativity or even the ultimate Divine Source. If you feel your dream is not simply about A mother but The mother, this can represent a powerful symbol of feminine divinity that contains the opportunity for profound personal growth or spiritual insight. Such dreams may herald a time of great creativity in your life. Mothers in dreams may also allude to Mother Earth and the cradle of life that she supports. If you are affected by issues relating to the environment, Mother Earth may appear in your dreams. You could even receive practical advice in this type of dream that can help you to heal yourself, your community or even part of the Earth itself.

Sometimes mother figures in dreams appear symbolically as more than a human being. You may dream of mother animals such as birds, bears, cats, dogs etc. Each of these animals can be understood on two levels, both as a symbol of what the animal represents to you personally and as a symbol of what the idea of mothering, especially this animal’s version of mothering, may mean to you. You may dream of a mother bird building a nest when you are pregnant or decorating a child’s bedroom or nursery, as if you are “feathering your nest”. Perhaps you will dream of a fierce mother bear if you have found out your child has been bullied and your wild instincts make you want to protect your child at all costs.

Mother figures in dreams is often as complex as our relationships with our own mothers and may be exploring a range of issues and emotions. Ultimately, the symbol of the mother is one of creativity, protection and nurturing. If this has been absent in your life, you can access those qualities by integrating your own internal mother, in order to grow into the best of what it means to you to create and flourish. Any dream of a mother is an opportunity to consider the sacred role of female creativity and nourishment and how you may enhance and celebrate this, or how you may need to bring balance to areas where this aspect has been neglected, exploited or repressed.

It is important to remember that even though you may be dealing with an archetype, it does not mean you need to be confined to binary and restrictive conformist thinking. Mothers can be fierce protectors, bastions of strength, vengeful seekers of justice and dominating matriarchs — just as fathers can be gentle and playful, tender and sweet, patient teachers and insightful guardians. What we think about mothers and fathers can be as much a reflection of our own culture and upbringing as our understanding of traditional gender roles.

Dreaming of a mother or father who displays qualities different to what you experience in your normal waking life can be a chance to reflect on the standard roles you were taught or absorbed as a child. You then have the opportunity to question if these notions can continue to serve you, as an adult who is able to make up your own mind as you observe and experience the diversity of archetypes in the world.

Want to learn more about what your dreams mean? Visit our Dreams archive page.

Ella Palfreyman

Ella Palfreyman

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