The unlived life of parents

The new parent who is unaware of their self or has failed their life’s deepest desire will extrapolate their unfulfilled lives onto their children. Thus a moral burden is induced in the ego of the children, who abandon their own desires in the pursuit of fulfilling the parent’s unfulfilled wishes. The abandoned desires find their place in the unconscious and start to produce a vicious cycle of suffering [1]. Noted by the famous psychotherapists of the 20th century, such unfulfilled desires are to manifest themselves in the form of symbols in the dreams. Maintaining a journal of dreams would help in identifying the pattern for a successful diagnosis.

Carl Jung, a famous Swiss psychologist captured this thought in this quote, “Nothing has stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” Jung’s observation was derived from several cases and he understood that the unlived life of parent has a significant impact on the psychological development of children. Sometimes such burden was induced directly by the parent (an ideal over-caring parent) or indirectly through their unconscious mind (a father who has failed to become a national soccer player pushes the child to become a world class player). Such actions from parents also have their genealogy in society.

For example, the society during my childhood held doctors and engineers in high respect and parents pushed their children to either become a doctor or an engineer. Today, there are abundant engineers and doctors graduating in India who have mindlessly chosen a profession based on their parent’s decisions [2]. Doubling down further, the reason for such high respect for certain professions has its ground in its salary. Hence the abundance of low-paid IT workers in India [3]. Such prejudices have robbed them of their individuality and neglected desires get thrown into the unconscious.

They want the child to be successful and be a highly respected member of the society. How can one condemn such a noble act from parents? The sacrifice of one’s life isn’t the highest virtue of all? Self-sacrifice has been considered to be the highest virtue in many mythological epics but they all had a reason and it wasn’t a pointless one.  “I worked hard all my life to provide you with wealth and opportunity but you won’t obey me? You ungrateful human.” That’s what happens when a child chooses to make its own decision. The child sees their parents in a god from the beginning, it learns and imitates them and who want to see the god angry? Who doesn’t want to obey the god? Such image of parents propagates into adulthood and persists even after their death.

People marry in their twenties(at least in Indian culture), most people I know of don’t know what they are doing in life, they strictly follow the established societal standards and believe it to be good. From my observation I would say it has done more bad than good, it has robbed them of their individuality and this has been propagated from one generation to another and we have an infinite loop at our hands.

Being born in such a society I have tried analyzing the people around me. My father wants me to marry someone inside of the caste (meaning, the person in our own group) and be a corporate leader, while my mother expressed her wish to see me as a doctor which she has failed to become because of her life’s circumstances. After my high school, I was excited to go to the outside world but they blocked my wishes, I protested but hey what one can do as a high school kid? The reasoning was I wasn’t ready for it and my analysis now is they didn’t want to get me into the unknown.

My initial years in college was commuting from home, take a bus early in the morning and take a bus back home (total 2 hours of travel with classes from 9am – 5pm). The last two years I was staying close to the university, it was only five minutes away from campus, had my own motorcycle and was surrounded by people from different culture, who were smart and intellectually superior to me. There was an initial shock but slowly I got accustomed to the new world.

Life improved at a fast pace, I learned the best from everyone I came across. To be honest I was exposed to pretty bad people but by being in such situation I was able to distinguish bad from good and was able to understand why any parent would be afraid of sending out the child to such a dangerous world. I saw it in firsthand how so many of my friends went down the path and got into drugs etc.,

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of life’s

Longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you

And though they are with you

Yet they belong not to you”

~ Khalil Gibran

This poem beautifully describes the ethics of the relationship between the child and the parent. A child isn’t a mere object to be sold. One might argue with the biological theory of procreation that the purpose of human life is to continue the existence of their species. But, humans aren’t just another animal (even though we have evolved from apes) we have the distinguishable attributes from other animals in terms of morality and the ability to distinguish good and evil.

Analyzing why would a parent want to harm the child by believing that they are helping the child is an interesting road to go down to. First, they can be unaware of what’s happening in their life and just like they learned from their parents they start being a similar parent to their child. Second, they believe what they are doing to the child is the right thing and don’t believe that the child is capable of making its own decision.

One highly possible explanation would be the uncertainty in delving into the unknown which will lead to chaos. We all want to order, it provides more control and everything is predictable. When confronted with uncertainty you don’t know what’s gonna happen, you cannot predict anything and most people don’t want to face that, they choose to remain inside of the space (.i.e home). Psychotherapists have been preaching about the negative consequences for a long time and Jung has suggested a solution through the process of individuation he says

“I will try to explain the term individuation as simply as possible. By it, I mean the psychological process that makes of a human being an “individual” – a unique, indivisible unit or whole man”

from a lecture at the Eranos Meeting at Ascons The Meaning of Individuation

In psychological terms, the shadow archetype of an individual becomes neglected and it should be individuated. The expression of any actions from one’s shadow is deemed to be not worthy of praise or considered to be bad. This repression of shadow doesn’t remove it from one’s psyche but it lives in the unconscious mind and slowly exhibits itself through the unconscious which ultimately gains more control over psyche than the conscious mind. An example can be seen with pornography and the consumption of it by certain individuals who are highly disciplined, well-respected individuals in society but don’t have control over their need to masturbate for image pixels on the screen. Society has normalized porn consumption by not talking to the family and most men are secretly ashamed of it.

The most important thing a parent can do to their child is not to show unconditional love but live life as an individual with the fulfilled life and you can ask me now, how do you know if you have lived to such a position in life? I don’t have an answer for that, an individual knows of it within themselves in their instinct. Bringing in the child after this age would make the best experience possible for the child and also to the parent

It doesn’t matter who you are when you are reading this, you have to find your life’s purpose and become conscious of this void of human existence before you decide to bring into this world another human life.

DISCLAIMER: You are reading this post at your own free will. I’m not a medical professional/practitioner. The author is not responsible for any interpretation by the reader. Unless otherwise noted with a written consent, all the material in this blog is legally copyrighted to Vasanthan Kesavan. 

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