One of the more challenging tasks any of us takes on is to bring another human being into the world and raise this individual. Yet most of us approach this task in a way we would never approach our business life. For example, were we to head up a billion-dollar organization, we would craft a carefully considered mission. We would know our objective and how to achieve it. In seeking to realize our mission, we would be familiar with our personnel and how to draw out their potential. As part of our strategy, we would identify our own strengths and figure out how to capitalize on them, as well as identify our weaknesses so we minimize their impact. The success of the organization would be the result of strategizing for success. It’s helpful to ask ourselves, “What is my parenting mission, my parenting philosophy? How do I manifest this in my everyday interaction with my child? Have I mapped out a thoughtful, mindful mission, as I would were I running a major organization?”
Whether you are a couple, separated, or a single parent, it would be beneficial to think through your approach to parenting in the light of research about what works and what doesn’t. Many of us don’t consider how the way we parent affects our children, which might cause us to change our approach. Does our method especially include listening to our child’s spirit? Would we be willing to change the way we interact with our child if it became clear that what we are doing isn’t working? Each of us imagines we are being the best parent we can be, and most of us are indeed good people who feel great love for our children. It certainly isn’t out of a lack of love that we impose our will on our children. Rather, it stems from a lack of consciousness. The reality is that many of us are unaware of the dynamics that exist in the relationship we have with our children.
None of us likes to think of ourselves as unconscious. On the contrary, it’s a concept we tend to balk at. So defensive are many of us that, let someone say a word about our parenting style, and we are instantly triggered. However, when we begin to be aware, we redesign the dynamic we share with our children. Our children pay a heavy price when we lack consciousness. Overindulged, over-medicated, and over labeled, many of them are unhappy. This is because, coming from unconsciousness ourselves, we bequeath to them our own unresolved needs, unmet expectations, and frustrated dreams. Despite our best intentions, we enslave them to the emotional inheritance we received from our parents, binding them to the debilitating legacy of ancestors past. The nature of unconsciousness is such that, until it’s metabolized, it will seep through generation after generation. Only through awareness can the cycle of pain that swirls in families end.
TO CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILDREN, FIRST CONNECT WITH YOURSELF
Until we understand exactly how we have been operating in an unconscious mode, we tend to resist opening ourselves to an approach to parenting that rests on entirely different ideals from those we may have relied on until now. Traditionally parenthood has been exercised in a manner that’s hierarchical. The parent governs from the top down. After all, isn’t the child our “lesser,” to be transformed by us as the more-knowledgeable party? Because children are smaller and don’t know as much as we do, we presume we are entitled to control them. Indeed, we are so used to the kind of family in which the parent exercises control, it perhaps doesn’t even occur to us that this arrangement might not be good for either our children or ourselves. On the parent’s side of the equation, the problem with the traditional approach to parenting is that it rigidifies the ego with its delusions of power. Since our children are so innocent and ready to be influenced by us, they tend to offer little resistance when we impose our ego on them— a situation that holds the potential for our ego to become stronger. If you want to enter into a state of pure connection with your child, you can achieve this by setting aside any sense of superiority. By not hiding behind an egoic image, you will be able to engage your child as a real person like yourself.
I use the word “image” in connection with the ego intentionally, so I want to make clear exactly what I mean by “ego” and its associated term “egoic.” In my experience, people tend to think of the ego as their “self,” in the sense of who they are as a person. The word egoic would then refer to an inflated sense of ourselves such as we associate with vanity. Crucial to an understanding of this book is the fact that I am using these terms in a quite different way. I want to propose that what we regard as our “ego” isn’t our true self at all. I see the ego as more like a picture of ourselves we carry around in our head—a picture we hold of ourselves that may be far from who we are in our essential being. All of us grow up with such an image of ourselves. This self-image begins to form when we are young, based largely on our interactions with others. “Ego” as I’m using the term is an artificial sense of ourselves. It’s an idea we have about ourselves based mostly on other people’s opinions. It’s the person we have come to believe we are and think of ourselves as. This self-image is layered over who we truly are in our essence. Once our self-image has formed in childhood, we tend to hold onto it for dear life. Although this idea of who we are is narrow and limited, our core self—our fundamental being, or essence—is limitless. Existing in complete freedom, it has no expectations of others, no fear, and no feelings of guilt. While living in such a state may sound strangely detached, this state actually empowers us to connect with others in a truly meaningful way because it’s an authentic state. Once we have detached from our expectations of how another person “should” behave and we encounter them as they really are, the acceptance we inevitably demonstrate toward them naturally induces connection. This is because authenticity automatically resonates with authenticity.
Because we are so close to our ego, to the point we imagine it’s who we really are, it can be difficult to spot. In fact, other than the more obvious displays of ego such as boastfulness and grandiosity, the ego tends to be mostly disguised, which is how it tricks us into believing it’s our genuine self. As an example of how the ego masquerades as our true self, many of us are unaware that a lot of our emotions are ego in disguise. For instance, when we say, “I’m angry,” we imagine it’s our core being that’s angry. The reality may be quite different. It’s quite possible that at some level, we are actually resisting a situation that has arisen, preferring to attach ourselves to how we think things ought to be. If we then unleash our anger on others, it becomes a full-blown manifestation of ego. As we all know from personal experience, our attachment to anger or other emotions such as jealousy, disappointment, guilt, or sadness ultimately causes a feeling of separation between ourselves and others. This happens because, not recognizing our anger as an egoic reaction, we believe it’s part of who we essentially are. Masquerading as our true self, egoic attachments obscure our ability to stay in a state of joy and oneness with all.