Madonna Complex Revisited

Rose On Wood BWAfter last week’s post on the Madonna Complex, I decided I needed to do some release work and healing around my relationship with Mother Mary. So I wrote her a letter. I share it with you here in case you find it useful.


Dear Mother Mary,

 I greatly appreciate the sacrifice you made on the part of all women, all mothers. That you gave of yourself, your life to fulfill a role you did not choose, as Mother of All. But I think society and religion have served you up on a silver platter to women of my generation. You see, we're supposed to be you. Virginly, giving, pure, nurturing, self-sacrificing, be-ing of service to everyone too we have nothing left. Women expect it of us. Men expect it of us. And sometimes, like you, we're punished when we're not.

I know in your time, that is in fact, what you did. Yet, I don't think you ever meant your life to be a legacy. I don't believe you wanted us to give of ourselves until we were empty, barren vessels. I think you thought that, as your son gave his life in ultimate sacrifice so that no one would have to do that again – that no woman would have to lose her son like that again – you thought that similarly your sacrifice of giving up your son to those who betrayed him would stop the sacrifice we as women had to make.

That hasn't happened. We don't call it being a Madonna in our time. We call it people pleasing, superwoman syndrome, or a Madonna complex (and if it's got the word ‘complex' tacked on the end, it's not a good thing). It's something that we don't necessarily aspire to be; rather, it's something we think we have to do as women. That it's our role, our sacrifice. And yet, unlike, or perhaps like, your sacrifice, we end up sacrificing ourselves and have nothing to show for it. We too have lost sons, daughters, husbands, grandchildren in the line of battle. Wars are fought and wars are won based on the ultimate sacrifice of human beings. Or, in reality, human do-ings, do-ing what they think they should do or what is expected of them at great cost to themselves as well as mankind. Each one of them believing their sacrifice will make a difference, make this a better world.

Sadly, that's not happening. Sacrifices only seem to give way to more – bigger and bigger sacrifices. And at the end of the day, we are sad. Women are depressed. (Insert stats) and, like you, we are tired of giving, sacrificing, serving. We want to make a different choice, but fear the consequences if we do.

Mother Mary, hear our prayers. Help us heal our world without sacrificing ourselves in the process. Help us heal our world by helping us heal ourselves. For healed grandmothers mean healed mothers and healed mothers mean healed daughters. And those healed daughters, mothers, grandmothers will heal the Earth, will create a path to peace, to abundance.

So tell us what to do. Let us know what happened, really happened in your time, and what you wish you had done differently. For you must know that your sacrifice was not the answer, not the end of suffering, of war, of pain. It's time to release the notion that self-sacrifice, that embodying the Madonna is the way to enlightenment or to improve our lives or the human condition. Let us then take this information and use it to heal ourselves and our world. For it takes far more than a sacrifice, no matter how great it is, to heal the world and too many sacrifices have already been made in an effort to change things.

Thank you, Mother Mary! I await your reply.


I asked for my answer to come in dreams, which I often do. I dreamed I was with my mother on an Indian reservation. I wanted to go off exploring the trails and she wanted to look at the dying rose garden. As we were looking at the dying, frozen roses, a group of teenagers came up to us. I then found myself in the mall trying to shop for clothes as these teenage girls looked in and scoffed at me for thinking I could fit in clothing their size. (By the way, I hate shopping in the mall.) I ended up waiting in line, holding a place while my mother shopped the busy store.

What does all of this mean? What is Mother Mary trying to tell me? A few things, I think. 1) it's okay to take a different path than my mother did, as her current path only leads to dying, frozen roses (I will stay frozen, stuck if I follow her path). 2) I am no longer a teenager. I don't have to abide by my mother's wishes anymore.

I clearly have some work to do, both healing work and release work. There is no anger here – at me or at my mother. Rather, it's an observation that if things are going to change, it must begin with me following my own path, going off exploring uncharted territory. It must be this way to avoid staying stuck, frozen.

So what is this new path, new way of being? Only time will tell, but I guarantee it won't look anything like my mother's path or that of the Madonna.

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