The Unlived Life of the Parent
If you have not heard of Carl Jung let’s just say he was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and is probably right behind Freud in influence on psychological thinking. Most therapists have a Jung quote or two that they share from time to time. Here is one I recently ran across that carries a lot of weight.
"The greatest harm to a child is the unlived life of the parent."
That is a pretty heavy duty statement, especially if you are a parent and know that you have not fulfilled all your potential. Therapists, fitness trainers and many other people with high aspirations often talk about reaching one’s potential. Therapists call it self-actualizing. The army calls it being all you can be. No matter who says it, we all can most likely acknowledge that we have not fulfilled all our dreams. We haven’t reached all of our potential.
So does that mean that the part of us that is unfulfilled gets imposed on our children in both known and unknown ways? Could be. We all know of the parent who didn’t achieve a certain amount of success that pushes their child to fulfill their lost dreams. It is not exactly a winning formula for parent or child. But, hey, that doesn’t mean we all don’t do less than stellar things now and then. I think most parents will readily agree they have not done a perfect job and their children will agree.
I think Jung meant this to mean more than just a parent’s not making it and pushing their youngster to be a child star. I think he meant it along the lines of if you can’t accept and love yourself then you won’t be able to fully accept and love your child. If you are highly critical of you, chances are that carries over to your child. For you to make peace and be accepting of your child for his and her own successes and failures you need to make the peace with your own.
I imagine Jung would have you be less disappointed in yourself and your child and look for ways to support and encourage you both to be all you can be and accept yourself for you are and who you are not.