A devouring mother is someone who doesn't want you to be able to independently exist without them and wants to inadvertently control you.
Navigating parent-child relationships can be a complex journey fraught with the inevitable mistakes that come with being human. However, within this realm, there exists a subset of mothers who not only make mistakes but also actively cultivate toxicity in their relationships with their children. In psychological terminology, these individuals are known as "devouring mothers." Content creator and licensed therapist Jim Brillon—who goes on TikTok by @jimbrillon—recently delved into the signs that may indicate the presence of a devouring mother, or possibly, recognizing such tendencies within oneself.
He says, “It is an analytical term referring to kind of the shadow side of the mother archetype. It's somebody who consumed their children psychologically and emotionally, instilling guilt in them for leaving or becoming an independent, autonomous human.” This personality pattern is often observed in individuals who suffer from borderline personality disorders or narcissism, according to Brillon. Unlike most mothers, a devouring mother doesn't encourage her children to explore the world and develop their identities independently.
Brillon adds, “It's the shadow side of the mother archetype and there's also a shadow role of the father archetype. A consuming mother is somebody who's afraid of being alone, and who will infantilize their children to keep them dependent so that they never leave.”
In essence, she aims to "devour" her offspring, preventing them from achieving autonomy or establishing their unique identities. In his words, “They'll often sabotage family therapy and child therapy, pray on their children and family and even friends, and exert control to meet their own emotional needs. They're overprotective, controlling and highly in the mesh.”
Sigmund Freud, the pioneering psychoanalyst, referred to the devouring mother as the Oedipal Mother. This archetype portrays a mother who becomes excessively close to her children, meddling in their lives with the intention of safeguarding them. This syncs with Jim’s statement as well, when he says, “They might not allow a child or a teen to have their own friends. They don't want them to become independent.”
He adds that it is “a very devastating archetype of what a mother can be.” He concludes his video by mentioning, “We often see this in personality disorders, like borderline people and narcissists.” Brillon's analysis of the devouring mother archetype resonated with many TikTok users who shared their own personal anecdotes. One user, @anjuplays said, “This is my mother. I eventually fought back. I left at 18 and I'm still enduring the terrible aftereffects at almost 34. I fight a war every day.” Another one, @thegravy****machine spoke about the more maliciously manipulative side of a devouring mother and shared a personal story stating: “My mom pushed me to get a job and for two years went behind me and rejected every offer/rescinded every application. for two years.”