Friday, December 30, 2011

Raising children as psychotherapy and spiritual guides.

I learned to use a French Press a week ago. You fill a cylinder-shaped tube with coffee grinds and hot water, then shove a slightly smaller cylinder-shaped tube through the first, and it causes pressure that forces the liquid through a filter covering tiny holes on the far end of the first, larger tube. The liquid is forced out as soon as the smaller tube starts entering the larger tube, because of the push of air pressure, like an invisible force, before the end of the smaller tube even reaches the water-coffee grind mixture. But you keep pushing to get all the liquid rung out.

This serves as a nice visual analogy for how raising children evokes therapeutic events in parents. As my children grow older and move through different phases of their childhood, it reminds me of my own experiences at their age, spontaneously bringing up memories -- including traumatic memories. Or, sometimes, it does not bring up particular memories, but it does evoke feelings, almost like deep within us is the person we were at 5, at 7, at 9, at 15, etc., and as our children move through those ages, it resonates within us and gives power to those parts of ourselves and we find ourselves somewhat "possessed" by the person were were at that age.

This means if you were dealing with a particular abandonment issue at age 5, then when your kids reach age 5 you may not recall any particular event when you were 5, but you damn well are going to by more sensitive to abandonment issues in ways you may not even recognize, causing you to feel different, act different, and react different. It can cause issues with your spouse, with your views about life or your career.

So, basically, as my children age, they are evoking spirits within me of my past selves, which effects a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) transformation on myself. People are always transforming to some degree, based on outside influences, current-day experiences. But this is an added wrinkle and complication, a transformation evoked from within, and a transformation that in some sense can be called a regression. I'm not saying it is overpowering, or that we all revert to the maturity of a 5 year old when our kids are 5. It is not so simplistic or all-powerful as that. But it is a force to be recognized or, unrecognized, it can have more power than it otherwise would.

I see two main benefits of recognizing this phenomenon. First, as our children move through ages where we ourselves had some trauma -- anything from teasing in school, parents' divorce, an injury, death in the family -- and that part of ourselves gets "evoked," we have an opportunity to reflect upon it in a way we probably never would have done if we had not had a child pass through that age to evoke it within us. When this happens, our reflection can lead to coming to mature terms with that event, eliminating the skewed memories and flawed blame and/or guilt that attached to us when we first lived through those experiences. Basically, we work through the trauma and reach a healthier state of mind about the event, letting go of negative emotions that hold us back, and limit our current maturity. (As we mature, earlier traumatic events that have "stuck" with us can be like anchors or hooks in time that hold back our ability to spiritually or emotionally mature, which is one way you can get a 40 year old with the maturity of a 12 year old.) So, basically, raising children can be an unique therapeutic event, as our children evoke and transform us and give us unexpected opportunities to heal and mature.

A second benefit, perhaps more spiritual in nature, is that as our children pass through ages we have already lived, and evoke in us the spirit of our younger selves at those ages, it is sort of like we relive those ages on a level we could not otherwise have done. I see this as a form of immortality, or at least significant life-extension. People chase plastic surgery and medical solutions to help them stay young, trying to recapture youth, but none of it is ever so complete as the youth that is recaptured when you are bonded to a child who evokes in you your own youthful spirit.

I guess the point of recognizing all this is happening is that if we are ignorant of it, I think that makes it much less likely we will actually reap the benefit of trauma resolution and will, instead, simply act out the traumas of our evoked younger selves in ways that can be meaningless or even destructive.

I suppose people without children may find alternative paths to evoking their younger selves and resolving traumas from younger days, such as psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, etc. However, I'm not sure any of that can be as thorough or complete as the way my children, as they age, are effortlessly evoking from me the defining moments of my own childhood, the way the smaller tube in a french press thoroughly and completely pushes out the liquid from the water-coffee grind mixture in the larger tube.

Well, that's my view at the moment. My opinions are subject to evolution and revision, and bear in mind everything is relative.


1 comment:

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