There is so much confusion about human nature in our society. We all know deep down that we are innately loving, kind, curious and have our own unique intelligence and purpose in life. And for most of us this deep knowing is obscured from an early age by learned beliefs. We pick up a worldview from our parents and the community around us and adopt beliefs that become part of the fabric of our identity. As children and young adults we may be unconscious or only semi-conscious of these deeply held beliefs and our thoughts are influenced by the collective unconscious of the society in which we find ourselves. We may follow a pattern of compliance and “fitting in” to mainstream culture unless something happens to disrupt our lives and throw our beliefs into question.
I hit a major disruption in my life when I finally got around to having children at the tender age of 35. It wasn’t the first major disruption in my life, but it was certainly the most profound. In the midst of constant sleep deprivation and emotional overwhelm I discovered that lurking in my mind was a large bundle of beliefs about children and parenting. I had a barely conscious job description in my head of what a “good parent” should and shouldn’t do. I had a long list of responsibilities lined up for myself as well as some very high expectations of how a “good child” should behave and develop. Some of it was like a soft-focus fantasy of how things “should be” and some of it was bearing down on me and starting to make my life miserable.
The deep seated beliefs I had absorbed and taken on during my life included things like this:
- Parents must train their children to behave properly and relate to others in an appropriate way because children can’t learn this on their own.
- Parents are responsible for their child’s behaviour, learning, health and development and must control their child to ensure that everything goes well.
- Children can’t be trusted to make good decisions about their own lives.
- Children need clear boundaries, limits and discipline to be happy and secure.
All these beliefs served a purpose in my life and in our society. I am not saying that they are in any way “bad.” But as my two children grew and came into their own strong, unique personalities these beliefs generated increasing amounts of stress and conflict in my life and relationships. They got in the way of my own innately loving, kind and peaceful nature and drove me into yelling, controlling and worrying.
All sorts of “stuff” comes to the surface when we have children – the unconscious beliefs we hold and the unresolved feelings from our own childhood tend to come to into our awareness. The early years of my children’s lives were an immense and intense challenge for me. And through that challenge I have come to question most of the beliefs that I held and to awaken to a new knowing of my own true nature. This has brought me to a new level of trust in human nature and a deep trust of my children. I talk about all this in an interview I did recently with Matthias Arentsen.
Learning how to connect with my true self and question my learned or conditioned thinking has brought great freedom and joy into my family life. Wouldn’t you like to recover your trust in human nature too?