I am reading Living an Examined Life by James Hollis. Its premise is that parental and cultural unconscious programing causes thinking and behavior patterns that play out during the first half of life. This programing causes psychopathology, neuroses and complexes which must be examined and overcome in the second half of life. If we don’t overcome them, we will live in our parents shadow with small stuck lives without personal authority at the mercy of self destructive patterns.
I found the book very helpful in gaining insights. It also seems to ignore or at least downplay the positive gifts that our parents gave us.
My dad died when I was 16. Until middle age, I seemed to dwell on the negative stuff about him, the most significant of which was that he abandoned me. At about 50, I came to realized that I was not acknowledging his gifts. I wrote him him a letter, amidst many tears, expressing appreciation for his very courageous journey in life and the gifts he gave me as a father.
In the early 2000’s, my good friend Tom Oldham, Ken Kufner and I developed the Father’s Blessing Workshop which was designed for grown men to affirm and heal their relationship with their father. This was a place where men could talk about their father and write him a letter of appreciation for his gifts to them. We conducting the workshop several times. It was very moving to see men express their deep emotional connection, love and appreciation for their fathers, even with the negative memories.
My sister Gail and I used tell each other that our mother and father must have not done that badly. Look at us. By that I mean that we both have been good citizens, parents and led responsible lives, and have been pretty happy. We were encouraged to live our own journey in life without a lot of admonitions. We agreed that there has not be a lot of psychological trauma. Although we have our demons, we are good people with normal foibles and ups and downs in life. Here is a biography of my parents.
So as I examine my life, I can see the unhealthy patterns that might have been generated by my parents, but I can also see the positive stuff, particularly the values that they imparted. And, I am grateful.
How about you?
Do you fully appreciate your parents gifts to you?
Even the gifts that came from bad stuff?