I would like to pick up on a conversational thread that I began with spiritual philosopher Tim Freke. During our conversation we spoke about the necessity of individuation as part of our journey towards spiritual and emotional maturity. Rather than negating the self we should fully express it and live it. This may involve finding a life purpose, following the threads of what we love, expressing ourselves creatively, having diverse experiences such as travel or moving in different social circles. This is the journey that both us and our children are on. As Tim put it, “Our children arrive as individuals and our job as parents is to allow them to blossom into the particular flower that they are.”
Carl Jung believed that part of this process of individuation is reclaiming and integrating the repressed parts of our selves which exist in the unconscious. In order to be fully self expressed we must allow our shadowy qualities. In my interview with Gavin from the groundwork we talk about the fact that without experiencing anger we also lack drive and passion, without grief and sadness we lack the capacity for deep connection and love. I am interested also in the idea that the more fully we understand ourselves the greater our sense of agency. Giving us a sense that we are in control of our lives and able to engender change.
A Strong Sense of Self
Something which I have found interesting within my own journey is that the more fully I individuate, the easier it becomes to let go of the self. Tim suggests that this is why we need to help our children build a strong sense of self. By becoming fully rooted in the self we are then able to begin transcending it, coming more naturally into a phase of service. In my experience exploration and expression of the self continue alongside a gradual letting go of ego. This seems to fit naturally with the phase of life I am in – having passed the midpoint. Living towards death rather than from birth. This doesn’t feel like a bad thing, in many ways it feels like a relief to begin this process of letting go and focusing on the bigger picture. In a similar way it can feel like a relief when your child is born to find that suddenly you care more about their life than your own. A softening into love.
Tim talks about the fact that he found it easier to drop into the service inherent in parenting because he had gone through a process of self expression and exploration before this. For many of us who had not as strongly individuated at the time of our child’s birth it can be harder to immerse into a period of intensive parenting.
My suggestion would be that it is important to continue the process of exploring and expressing the self alongside your child. This can help us to feel alive in our parenting and offer what we offer to them from a place of genuine desire rather than negation of the self. Our children pick up on subtle cues from us all of the time. One of the greatest gifts we can give them, therefore is us, full, whole and alive.