Parenthood is one of the many roles as adults we “play.” I wrote an article some time ago called “Your Authentic Self” and it spoke about how we identify with our roles and wear masks, well that is pretty much what most of us unenlightened adults do with our parenthood role.
I read section of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose and it dealt with how we confuse parenthood as a role or function.
He pointed out that 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. This stems from the fact that the adults temporarily know more or that they are bigger, so they don’t see the child as an equal… as another being.
The majority of adults, at some point in their lives will find themselves being a parent. 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 do.
The problem lies when being a parent becomes an identity, i.e. instead of it being a function, something you do, it starts becoming who you are…it starts to define who you! So 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 over protectiveness 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 who define themselves by that role 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 resisted, 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 even believe it, but they are only really concerned about preserving their role… their identity.
A mother or father who identifies with the parental role may also try to become more complete through their children. The parents’ ego takes over and the need to manipulate others into filling the sense of lack it (the ego) continuously feels is then directed toward them. If the mostly unconscious assumptions and motivations behind the parent’s need to manipulate their children were vocalized, they would probably include some or all of the following:
“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 know is right for you.”
Does any of this sound or feel familiar? Is this what we have been doing?
Now when we look at them, we immediately see how absurd they are, the ego that lies behind them becomes visible, as does its dysfunction. The beautiful thing is 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.
So today, right here, right now, let’s perform our parental functions and not be wrapped and identified by it, this will help us raise more conscious and well-adapted adults!