In the movie ‘Miss Potter,’ Beatrix who has decided to move out on her own, is asked by her father, “Why do you find it necessary to leave your home?” She replied, “It is not a choice. … I must make my own way.” Indeed, we all must eventually leave both our physical and psychic childhood homes.
Parents play a key role in their children’s psychological development. Most adults do not take responsibility for their unconscious material, be it emotional capabilities (e.g., moods, expressing emotions) or coping mechanisms (e.g., addictions, control). Jung suggested that these unhealthy attitudes and behaviours “radiate out into the environment and, if there are children, infect them too.”
We were ‘infected’ indirectly as we instinctively adapted to our parents’ states of mind. Either we fought against it with silent (and occasionally vocal) protest or else we succumbed to a limiting imitation.
We may have received love only based upon our fulfillment of certain roles or behaviours. Most of us adapted and became ‘good girls and boys,’ acted how we were ‘supposed to,’ and gave up parts of our selves which were undervalued, perhaps even envied, by our parents.
As children, we may have been confused by chaotic and conflicting parental messages. We were not encouraged to express our feelings and opinions. We may have had to forfeit interests and beliefs and thus, were required to live a life based more upon the desires of our parents than our own.
Jung stated, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on … children than the unlived life of the parent.” For Jung, the parents’ unlived life is “that part of their lives which might have been lived had not certain somewhat threadbare excuses prevented the parents from doing so.” These unlived parts include academic, athletic, career and other venture choices and accomplishments, as well as certain personality traits.
Unconscious parental attitudes and repressed feelings were often introjected and internalized into our young psyches. These became those inner, oppressive voices (e.g., the Critic or Judge) that later seem to come from us yet originated with our parents or other authoritative sources.
The result of these actions is psychic wounding. Our parents’ seemingly innocuous (and sometimes, overt) actions obstructed us from growing into who we truly are. We were obliged to think, do, feel, decide and live not as we wanted, but as our parents wanted. We, as children needed, and now, as adults, need to have our own self-sovereignty.
Self-sovereignty does not blame or react to parents or past events. Rather, it involves understanding the dynamics underlying childhood adversities, feeling the feelings repressed from these woundings, and deciding how we are now going to live our lives according to newly discovered beliefs. In this way, we begin to unload our early burdens that were not ours to begin with. Thus, we can genuinely step into our own authentic selves full of acceptance, self-esteem and autonomy.