The Father World

There is a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions when it comes to the field of psychology. These issues often are compounded by misleading terminology that reflect the utter lack of self-awareness plus frankly a good deal of misogyny amongst the early psychologists.

This is especially true when psychologists refer to the psychological concepts of Mother and Father. Early feminists were correct to be suspicious if not all out hostile to the “blame the mother” brand of psychotherapy. Especially since those views were politically used to literally push women back into the domestic sphere.

But what was missing from the public discourse was the specific meanings early psychologists attached to the terms, Mother and Father. And although the early definitions were gender based, the deeper meanings were not intended to refer to one’s actual mother and father.

If we were defining these terms today, we would probably use terms like inner and outer, or domestic and cultural when referring to the differing spheres of influence.

The Mother world referred to the domestic realm, which included one’s family, along with possibly your close friends and neighbors. The Father world was the realm outside of the domestic realm, including your job if it was not a family business. Most institutions exist in the Father world, i.e. government and business. And depending on your cultural affiliations, your church, health care providers and entertainment could exist in either world. For example, if your primary form of entertainment was singing around the dinner table, it was Mother world. If you went to nightclubs, concerts and theaters, it was Father world. The doctor which cared for your entire family and made regular house calls was more Mother world. If the doctors at the local hospital knew all of your children names ... it was borderline.

Each of the worlds require a certain orientation, a way of handling oneself in relation to the requirements of each world. We learn these approaches from one’s parents or parental figures as a child. And this is where the confusion sets in. Either parent or parental figure can teach you about both worlds. But early psychologists assumed that mothers teach the Mother world portion and fathers teach the Father world portion exclusively -- and thus the problems with the nomenclature is revealed.

Mother world orientation provides lessons of intimacy, boundaries, how to care for oneself. Concrete skills include how to make your bed, brush your teeth, eat at a table, use a bathroom ... all the way up to how relate to others in ways that are loving and respectful. An astute reader will recognize the association with the lower four chakras. We can also see how and why this orientational training is so easily associated with our actual mothers. However we learn the Mother world skills from everyone involved in our upbringing which can include fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, babysitters and early teachers.

And depending on your cultural heritage, almost anyone in a parental role can be the source of Father world orientation. So what are concrete Father world skills?

Father world skills include things like how to create a budget, pay bills, dress for an interview, how to talk to potential employers, how to behave in a restaurant, knowing when you are not safe, knowing who to trust or distrust ... all the way up to how to show up to work on time and how to stand up for yourself. And here you will notice the alignment with the solar plexus up to the third eye.

I am simplifying the list of skills, but if you think about it for awhile almost anyone can come up with lists of what one should learn from each world.

I noticed that the differences between the Mother and Father worlds has been coming up in my spiritual counseling sessions a lot lately. And this is worth noting for a variety of reasons.

Most of us are acutely aware of the repercussions of a faulty Mother world orientation. We see people who cannot take care of themselves; hell many of us need remedial lessons in self care like getting adequate sleep, nutrition and playtime.

But the inadequacy of Father world orientation can come as a surprise to most of us. Almost everywhere I look, I see people who are missing key components of the Father world orientation. Culturally we can see whole portions of the national debate missing a basic understanding of simple maxims like, “give from your surplus”, “invest in your future”, “you don’t get something for nothing”, or “judge folks by their actions, not their words.”

Often Mother world maxims like “you will attract more with honey than with vinegar” are inappropriately applied to the Father world where the the maxim is closer to “treat a person with respect and you can gain a customer.” I cannot tell how many times I have walked out of a store because a salesperson refused to just listen to me, and instead put on a fake smile and tried to oversell.

Mother world orientational training is where you learn how to care for yourself and your family. Father world orientational training is where you learn how to be a responsible member of society. We have culturally been blaming women and mothers for over a century. I think it is high time we admit that the problem may actually be a neglectful and missing Father.

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Submitted by katrina on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 2:19pm.

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Recent comments

  • Nephthys (not verified)

    I've been with Firefly for a number of years, I recently left my position at The Firefly Community to pursue other dreams but to be clear how much I was involved before I address the statements made, I was a teacher, Priestess, member of the Inner Circle of the Council of Elders, Course Contributor, Clergy, Delegate and Divination reader so I was quite involved with Firefly on many levels.

    I am offended by your statement that Firefly is cultish. Given my involvement as listed above I can safely say that Firefly members are not cultish in behaviour nor is Firefly cultish in of itself. I am no longer involved with Firefly in any strong capacity other than that of a student so I can also safely say this is not coming from a blind faith position. I will be the first to admit that part of the reason I left Firefly was because I did not agree with some of the changes Lady Iris intended to make, that being said, I don't support the idea that abuse should be turned into a political statement.

    I don't know Sean and I am not close to Lady Iris (I live in a different country) and have not commented on the situation with her marriage but some of his behaviours are reprehensible. If a President did this he would be impeached and booted so I fail to see why it should be ignored and relegated to 'personal marital issues' when behaviour like this is indicative of larger psychological issues. If Sean Bennett is allowed to use and abuse women in this fashion, eventually he would work his way through the single ladies in the OHF and what would you be left with?

    2 years 3 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I for one have been pondering this question. Iris did highlight a valuable point - how are checks and balances established to prevent potential abuse and to air concerns. These are hard lessons that groups need to learn.

    Without denying people their agency, how do you set up a system that will prevent abuse by other members? How far does a group go to ensure the mental and emotional safety of the adult members?

    For example, I know with my disability (brain injury), I would deeply resent being told that the group is looking out for my best interests. It would seem to be paternalistic on the group's part to assume that I cannot fend for myself. But because of my disability, I can be easy prey for a con-artist. How do you solve a dilemma like that? Can this be encoded or is this sort of thing too nebulous to pin down?

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I have a traumatic brain injury.

    That being said, I got caught in the cross-fire in the Firefly Campaign, since I did not get with the program - i.e. Firemoon was abused by a sexual predator, who for the sake of the community had to be removed. I was shocked at how this mantra was repeated over and over everywhere it could be. I was shocked at how the Firefly folks did not identify themselves as they sought to achieve their goals. It left a poor taste about Firefly in my mouth since I started to regard them as "cultish", incapable of independent thought or discussion. Also it disturbed me how the Firefly folks who had nothing to do with DC, carried water in the campaign as well.

    Since I had lot of free time, I researched the consistent posters and everything I could find, and an disturbing picture arose. The one you described of a one-sided campaign to achieve a stated end, without proper identification or perspective.

    As for the brain injury - I got raked over the coals for making light of the issue from an avowed healer, who thought my injury was a ruse. That scared me into thinking that perhaps my impression of the "cultishness" of the Firefly group was true. (I know cult is a loaded word, but I cannot think of the word that would indicate a group of people, emotionally inflamed with one mission in mind, and not allowing any dissent.)

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)


    I am so sorry that we have not met yet since it so obvious from your comments that you are a close personal friend of Iris’s and know all there is to know about the situation from a front row seat. I mean, after all, one who has seen a woman four months pregnant, losing weight and physically appearing to not be pregnant would of course understand the emotional, and yes, physical stress she was under. But of course, since you were there I don’t need to remind you of that. So lets move on to the rest of the story, you know where her husband chose to have unprotected sex with someone else, who I am sure was a complete virgin and posed no risk to mother or child, and then husband went home to engage in carnal activities with his wife, confident that his unborn child was never at risk. Yes, I am sure that all of your female students understand why you are firmly in the husband’s court. After all, it’s always the woman’s fault when marriages go bad. Or at least that is what I seem to glean from your article. Yes, I am Firefly, and I was one of the one’s chosen to help this woman after she was victimized by this predator who seems to have persuaded the pagan community that it is acceptable to treat not one, not two but at last count four woman as though they were simply a means to his end. And BTW I know she attempted to alert the community to her situation and apparently no one felt it worth even a cursory investigation. Oh yes, one more example of us not wanting to rock any one’s boat. I will tell you that in response to her story, several other pagan women have come forward with similar stories of abuse reported to the male members of a community met with similar disdain and an obvious desire to hide this type of behavior. Do I believe it happened this time, yes; do I believe that this community is willing, no matter the cost, to hide this type of behavior, yes. No one wants to call attention to the pagan community because we already have an undeserved stigma. But that does not mean we should allow behavior none of us condone simply because we are afraid of controversy. If one of us needs be sanctioned, then we either stand and sanction or accept the stigma so many would place upon us. We need to “police” our own. When four and probably five women come forth and tell the same story of predatory behavior against women we either act or fold the tents and go home. So I suggest you talk to all of them before you post any more pontifications. I also realize you can never post this but we both know you will have read it.

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Cara Schulz (not verified)

    Hello Katrina,
    Although we know one another, mostly online but also when we met at Sacred Harvest Festival, for your readers let me note that I'm the Managing Editor of PNC-News and the Co-Editor of PNC-Minnesota. I was the primary author of the PNC-News statement that you are writing about.

    The persons who contacted me asking when PNC would cover this were not Firefly members. Most were not local to DC, but were Pagans and polytheists in other parts of the country who had donated to the Pagan community center in DC and naturally had an interest in it. Why would they contact me? Because I'm the Managing Editor and people often contact me to ask if PNC is covering a story or to request that we cover a story. That's how we get many of our articles - through our readers.

    As for why PNC-News put two different situations in one statement, it's because they are related in nature and both needed to be addressed promptly.

    If anyone has any questions, we encourage them to contact us and ask them.

    2 years 5 weeks ago
  • Kat, Emralde (not verified)

    Thank you for this perspective. I very much appreciate the voice of the elders as I struggle with my own (not-voiced) feelings about this situation and its outcome.

    2 years 6 weeks ago