Archive for December 12th, 2010
I was fortunate to get this photo of a Chinese couple as it is atypical of most such couples that I see in China. They are holding hands. I imagine that they are grandparents. I also imagine that they are parents, likely of more than one child as they are old enough to have had their children before the introduction of the one-child per family policy was adopted in China. My three children were all born before this policy was introduced, and I think I am younger.
I remember the concern with overpopulation that existed in North America in the late sixties and early seventies, a time when “Zero Population Growth” was chanted frequently by young activists. In 1970, I wrote a newspaper editorial on this topic in favour of limiting population growth. It’s an issue that is still relevant as the world population numbers continue to spiral upwards. That said, being a parent is both a biological and psychological imperative. I can honestly say that I am glad that I took the path of parenthood versus the path of zero population growth.
I wonder how much the complexes we have regarding our own parents has influenced our choices. Does one get married and stay married? Does one have children? How many children? How do we raise these children? Heavy questions that we think through. Yet, in spite of our conscious intentions, we do much as our parents did and unconsciously wound our children.
“How can we see beyond our complexes, beyond the limits of personal biography? Is there ever a time when the image may be witnessed with neutral affect? Probably not, for whatever one experiences of father or mother remains the central complex, that is, the primary, affectively charged imago of one’s life. They were there at the beginning, they were the mediators of all experience with the larger world, and diffused or intensified the inherent trauma through which this life is experienced. Even when one seeks objectivity, pulls back from the affect and solicits reason, does not the complex form the very lens through which one sees the matter?” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 43)
Yes, this I understand. One’s lens and the filters on that lens. Accepting this kind of understanding, one can begin to forgive oneself and perhaps almost as important, forgive one’s parents. Perhaps, one can be better parents, with better understandings as our children become parents themselves. Parents are flawed, must be flawed. It would be an intolerable situation to have perfect parents.
I can accept the differences in the parenting practices of my children. I can’t claim that they are wrong or that what I did was right. I know I hurt my children, that I wounded them in ways that I will never know. Yet in spite of my unconscious wounding of my children, the bonds of parent and child remain strong. I am lucky, my children still want a bond with proximity. I can’t say the same in terms of my relationship with my own parents. It was easy to be away without contact. Yet, in spite of that “distance,” the way I was “father,” the way I remain “father” is a result of the parenting I received. My complexes influence both my conscious and unconscious acting out of the role of “father.”