For everything we choose, some other thing is unchosen. Sometimes, especially during childhood, decisions are made for us by parents and circumstances (e.g., relocations, deaths). Other decisions (e.g., choice of partner, career) are seemingly made consciously by our adult selves.
‘Seemingly,’ because as children 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 imitating it.
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 by our parents.
Further, 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 parent’s 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, and career choices, as well as certain personality traits. How did your parents’ unlived lives influence you?
The result of these early experiences is psychic splitting. 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 parents or past events. Rather, it involves understanding the underlying family-of-origin dynamics, fully feeling the emotions repressed from these woundings, and deciding how we are going to now live our lives according to newly discovered beliefs.
What is unlived, yet still has some voice or presence, in you? Start by being aware of sensing as if there is another part of you – a better part – full of greater potential, energy and purpose. What were some of the paths or opportunities you did not take?
Often, this part is projected onto our ‘better half’ or others that we admire or may even envy. We may even be looking for this part of us in that phantom ‘soul mate.’ Identify the qualities you project onto others and honestly note how these do or do not show up in your life. What talents and abilities do you not acknowledge or do not use? How would your life change if you owned these traits?