exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
Children and Family
"A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting and when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him. He will assume control of your cities, states and nations. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities, and corporations. All your books are going to be judged, praised or condemned by him. The fate of humanity is in his hands."
Editor's 1-Minute Essay: Children
Editor's Essay: Will Childless Lovers Of Our World Be Able To Have A Family In Summerland?
Will Rogers: "Your mothers get mighty shocked at you girls nowadays, but in her day, her mother was just on the verge of sending her to reform school."
R.W. Emerson: "There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him asleep."
Milton Berle: "If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?"
Eckhart Tolle, The New Earth
how parents attempt to make children feel guilty
PARENTHOOD: ROLE OR FUNCTION?
Many adults play roles when they speak to young children. They use silly words and sounds. They talk down to the child. They don't treat the child as an equal. The fact that you temporarily know more or that you are bigger does not mean the child is not your equal.
The majority of adults, at some point in their lives, find themselves being a parent, one of the most universal roles. The all-important question is: Are you able to fulfill the
function of being a parent, and fulfill it well, without identifying with that function, that is, without it becoming a role? Part of the necessary function of being a parent is looking after the needs of the child, preventing the child from getting into danger, and at times telling the child what to do and not to
When being a parent becomes an identity, however, when your sense of self is entirely or largely derived from it, the function easily becomes overemphasized, exaggerated, and takes you over. Giving children what they need becomes excessive and turns into spoiling; preventing them from getting into danger becomes overprotectiveness and interferes with their need to explore the world and try things out for themselves. Telling children what to do or not to do becomes controlling, overbearing.
What is more, the role-playing identity remains in place long after the need for those particular functions has passed. Parents then cannot let go of being a parent even when the child grows into an adult. They can't let go of the need to be needed by their child. Even when the adult child is forty years
old, parents can't let go of the notion I know what's best for you.”
The role of parent is still being played compulsively, and so there is no authentic relationship. Parents define themselves by that role and are unconsciously afraid of loss of identity when they cease being parents. If their desire to
control or influence the actions of their adult child is thwarted – as it usually is – they will start to criticize or show their disapproval, or try to make the child feel guilty, all in an unconscious attempt to preserve their role, their identity.
On the surface it looks as if they were concerned about their child, and they themselves believe it, but they are only really concerned about preserving their role-identity. All egoic motivations are self-enhancement and self-interest, sometimes cleverly disguised, even from the person in
whom the ego operates.
A mother or father who identifies with the parental role may also try to become more complete through their children. The ego's need to manipulate others into filling the sense of lack it continuously feels is then directed toward them. If the mostly unconscious assumptions and motivations behind the parent's compulsion to manipulate their children were made conscious and voiced, they would probably include some or all of the
“I want you to achieve what I never achieved; I want you to be somebody in the eyes of the world, so that I too can be somebody through you. Don't disappoint me. I sacrificed so much for you. My disapproval of you is intended to make you feel so guilty and uncomfortable that you finally
conform to my wishes. And it goes without saying that I know what's best for you. I love you and I will continue to love you if you do what I now is right for you.”
When you make such unconscious motivations conscious, you
immediately see how absurd they are. the ego that lies behind them becomes visible, as does its dysfunction. Some parents that I spoke to suddenly realized, “My God, is this what I have been doing?” Once you see what you are doing or have been doing, you also see its futility, and that unconscious pattern then comes to an end by itself. Awareness is the greatest agent for change.
If your parents are doing this to you, do not tell them they are
unconscious and in the grip of the ego. That will likely make them even more unconscious, because the ego will take up a defensive position. It is enough for you to recognize that it is the ego in them, that it is not who they are. Egoic patterns, even longstanding ones, sometimes dissolve almost miraculously when you don't oppose them internally.
Opposition only gives them renewed strength. But even if they don't, you can then accept your parents' behavior with compassion, without needing to react to it, that is to say, without personalizing it. Be aware also of your own unconscious assumptions or expectations that lie behind your old, habitual reactions to them. “My parents should approve of what I do. They should understand me and accept me for who I am.” Really? Why should they? The fact is they don't because they can't.
Their evolving consciousness hasn't made the quantum leap to the level of awareness yet. They are not yet able to disidentify from their role. “Yes, but I can't feel happy and comfortable with who I am unless I have their approval and understanding.” Really? What difference does their approval or disapproval truly make to who you are? All such unexamined assumptions
cause a great deal of negative emotion, much unnecessary unhappiness.
Be alert. Are some of the thoughts that go through your mind the internalized voice of your father or mother, saying perhaps something like, “You are not good enough. You will never amount to anything,” or some other judgment or mental position? If there is awareness in you, you will be able to recognize that voice in your head for what it is: an old thought,
conditioned by the past. If there is awareness in you, you no longer need to believe in every thought you think. It's an old thought, no more.
Awareness means Presence, and only Presence can dissolve the unconscious past in you.” “If you think you are so enlightened,” Ram Dass said, “go and spend a week with your parents.” That is good advice. The relationship with your parents is not only the primordial relationship hat sets the tone for all subsequent relationships, it is also a good test for your degree of Presence.
The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again.
Martin Mull: "Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain."
Paul Reiser: "People often ask me, 'What's the difference between couplehood and babyhood?' In a word? Moisture. Everything in my life is now more moist. Between your spittle, your diapers, your spit-up and drool, you got your baby food, your wipes, your formula, your leaky bottles, sweaty baby backs, and numerous other untraceable sources--all creating an ever-present moistness in my life, which heretofore was mainly dry."
Leo J. Burke: "People who say they sleep like babies usually don't have them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson: "A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic."
Dennis Fakes: "Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he's in trouble."
George Bernard Shaw: "Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family."
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray: "Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them."
Leo Tolstoy: “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
John Rockefeller; an account by Matthew Josephson, Robber Barons: "[Rockefeller's father said this:] I cheat my boys every chance I get, I want to make 'em sharp. I trade with the boys and skin 'em and I just beat 'em every time I can. I want to make 'em sharp... Once when [his mother] found out that she was punishing him for a misdeed at school of which he was innocent, she said, 'Never mind, we have started in on this whipping and it will do for the next time.' The normal outcome of such disciplinary cruelty would be deception and stealthiness in the boy, as a defense... This harshly disciplined boy, quiet, shy, reserved, serious, received but a few years' poor schooling, and worked for neighboring farmers in all his spare time. His whole youth suggests only abstinence, prudence and the growth of parsimony in his soul. The pennies he earned he would save steadily in a blue bowl that stood on a chest in his room, and accumulated until there was a small heap of gold coins..."
Sam Levenson: "The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy."
Abraham Lincoln: "Marriage is neither heaven nor hell. It is simply purgatory."
James Baldwin: "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."
Carl Sandburg: "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
Samuel Goodrich: "How many hopes and fears, how many ardent wishes and anxious apprehensions are twisted together in the threads that connect the parent with the child."
Robert Byrne: "Learning to dislike children at an early age saves a lot of expense and aggravation later in life."
Sherry Cartwright, quoted in Focus on the Family: "My daughter taught my 3-year-old grandson to be polite. After her friend gave him a haircut, she prompted Tyler, 'What do you say to Wes for cutting your hair?' Not liking the buzz cut, Tyler hung his head and said softly, 'I forgive you.'"
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780: "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, The Tunnel and the Light: "In our society the only people usually who give us totally unconditional love are the very old people: Grandmas and Grandpas. In a society where every generation lives all by themselves ... most children miss that aspect of growing up. And that gives the children their first problems in [their emotional] development ... [because] between the ages of one and six ... [children] get all their basic attitudes that will mark them for life. Our children need to be raised with unconditional love and firm consistent discipline, but with no punishment [that is, there must be no spirit of hostility when our children are corrected] ... it is possible to dislike their behavior and still love them. If you are able to do that, the children develop a very beautiful intellectual [capacity] at around the age of six, they love to learn and going to school is a challenge, not a threat... If you have lived with unconditional love early in life, things can get very bad later in life, and you will still be able to cope with it. If you have experienced unconditional love once, it will last for your whole life-time. It does not have to be from your father or mother who may not be capable of giving it because they themselves have never received it."
Mark Twain: "Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century."
Socrates: "By all means marry. If you get a good wife you will become happy, and if you get a bad one you will become a philosopher."
Dr. Gary E. Schwartz, U. of Arizona, The AfterLife Experiments: "The Harvard Mastery of Stress Study was originally conducted in the early 1950s with 126 healthy male Harvard undergraduate students. Each student received a physical and psychiatric exam, and filled out an inch-thick stack of pencil-and-paper tests... [included] fourteen questions that rated the men's perceptions of their mothers' love and caring, and fourteen that rated the men's perceptions of their fathers' love and caring, based on criteria such as how loving, fair, just, and kind the parents had been during the men's childhood and adolescence. Could these simple ratings of perceived parental love obtained in college serve as a predictor of their long-term health thirty-five and forty-two years later? When we calculated the scores and entered them in the computer, the results were clear cut-and startling. The findings indicated that perceptions of parental love in college did indeed predict long-term physical health in later life. We created four possible subgroups based on their college ratings: (1) father and mother both rated high; (2) father rated high, mother rated low; (3) father rated low, mother rated high; and (4) father and mother both rated low. For those men who rated both their parents high in love and caring while they were in college, about 25 percent had a confirmed diagnosis of physical disease thirty-five years later. The diseases included cancer, heart problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, and asthma. However, for those men who had rated both of their parents low in love and caring, 87 percent had a diagnosed disease thirty-five years later. Not surprisingly, of men who rated one of their parents high and the other low, approximately half had a diagnosed disease in midlifie. The higher their perception of parental love, the healthier their lives. And we found that these patterns were independent of family and genetic history of disease, death, and divorce history of parents, as well as the smoking and marital histories of the men themselves. None of these familiar, well-established risk factors could explain the findings obtained. What did these strong data suggest? Since the men who perceived themselves as coming from the most loving parents had the lowest rates of physical disease, this implied that love might be acting as a buffer, protecting a person from the deleterious health consequences of risk factors-even such significant factors as genetic predisposition, divorce, and cigarette smoking. (The results of this study were reported by us in a 1997 article in the Journal Psychosomatic Medicine .)"
Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, Jewish scholar: "Your son at five is your master, at ten your slave, at fifteen your double, and after that, your friend or foe, depending on his bringing up."
Abraham Lincoln: "No man is poor who had a godly mother."
Michael Corleone, The Godfather III: "The only wealth in this world is children."
Donald G. Smith: "The family seems to have two predominant functions: to provide warmth and love in time of need -- and to drive each other insane."
Theodore M. Hesburgh: "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."
Martin Luther: "There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage."
Garrison Keillor: "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted."
Khalil Gibran: "On Children: You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts; you may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."
Dr. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth: "...marriage is recognition of a spiritual identity. If we live a proper life, if our minds are on the right qualities in regarding the person of the opposite sex, we will find our proper male or female counterpart. But if we are distracted by certain sensuous interests, we'll marry the wrong person. By marrying the right person, we reconstruct the image of ... God, and that's what marriage is... I've been amazed at the number of my friends who in their forties or fifties go apart. They have had a perfectly decent life together with the child, but they interpreted their union in terms of their relationship through the child [not] their own personal relationship to each other. Marriage is a relationship. When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you're sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship... You're no longer one alone; your identity is in a relationship. Marriage is not a simple love affair, it's an ordeal, and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one."
Arthur Schopenhauer: "There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head, if only you begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity."
Herbert Spencer: "The ultimate consequence of protecting men from the results of their own folly is to fill the world with fools."
Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), The Bridges of Madison County: "I gave my life to my family."
Groucho Marx: "I was married by a judge -- it should have been a jury!"
Diefendorf & Madden, 3 Dimensional Wealth: "Studies have shown that too much money, especially in the hands of very young adults, can do more harm than good. Often there is a lack of self-esteem that goes along with inherited money... of guilt and shame... [and] the lack of humility that accompanies an opulent life-style... Lack of initiative and drive can be a result... Warren Buffett puts it this way: 'I want to leave my children enough so that they can do anything they want but not enough so that they don't have to do anything at all.' ... If money alone is left to children, without being left in a wrapper of personal wealth (wisdom) and social wealth (values), more often than not your children will end up with financial problems..."
Robert E. Lee: "As a general principle you should not force young men to do their duty, but let them do it voluntarily and thereby develop their characters."
Anna Quindlen: "I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."