Wise Love and Original Sin

child-and-parents

Most of us come from a long line of motherless mothers. Women who were never mothered themselves, never learned from their own mothers how to nurture the imagination or creativity in their souls, were, basically, never encouraged to become the persons they were meant to be.

Psychically unprotected, emotionally harassed, and sometimes beaten into being good girls, many women today are still only accepted on condition that they behave well. And these scarred, scared women bare babies. They do their best to clothe and feed and care for their babies’ physical needs, but are often unable to cope with or understand the deeper spiritual longings of their children, their need to feel protected and initiated by a wise and soulful Mother.

This is what I consider to be “original sin.” The unresolved pain, emotional trauma, and childhood neglect that a person receives from his or her parents, which they receive from theirs, ad infinitum. Most of us as children, receive, sometimes violently, sometimes emotionally, most often unintentionally, the unhealed hurts that our parents received as children.

This pain that one generation carries after another is the “sin” that has deep-rooted “origins.” Sin in the sense that, by its existence within us, we betray ourselves and are unable to become full, creative human beings. The pain is “original” in the sense that it derives from our origins, that is, our parents. Without acknowledging, confessing, and healing our original sin, we inevitably remain separate from ourselves, each other, and ultimately from our Higher Self or God.

Most often, we carry the sin with us, only to inflict it, unconsciously, on our own children. Dr. Alice Miller, author of The Drama of the Gifted Child, states:

“The idealization of mother love is a taboo that has withstood all the current tendencies towards demystification.” [1]

woman-and-cradle

“The Cradle” by Berthe Morisot

She goes on to state that children need someone there who can fully accept, understand, and support their feelings. But as adults, most of us cannot do this, as we were never given this experience ourselves as children, namely because our parents also never knew what it was to have someone who is completely aware of them, takes them seriously, and admires them.

Consequently, as parents we turn to our own children to fulfill our childhood needs that were never met. Through their child, mothers and fathers can feel themselves the center of attention, impose their own feelings, and see themselves mirrored in the child’s love and affection. Everything missing from their own childhood!

I recently discovered some notes in Assagioli’s archives on this very topic. In one, he writes how mothers can often subtly misuse their emotional energies such as love to evoke “all kinds of attachments, prestige, and false values of many kinds. Even ‘love’ is not enough when it lacks wisdom, is oppressive, weak, [and] fearful (mothers).”

The child, in turn, loses her true self, true feelings, and understanding of her true needs. And for the rest of her life, she will look for substitutes to give her what she could not receive at the correct time—through teachers, partners, and/or communities, and inevitably her own children. As Assagioli writes:

The wise love, the generous love, the higher and pure love should lose every element and every pretense of possessiveness. Our children are ours because we gave birth to them, but they are not ours in the sense that we possess them. We do not possess them: they belong to themselves and to God.

We also should not project ourselves into them, identify ourselves with them, want them to achieve our ideals, to do what we do not know how to do for ourselves…We have the illusion of believing that we know what is best for them. Illusion! A mistake! They must go their own way, and their way is very different from our own.[2]

But we can be redeemed. The road is not an easy one, and requires humility, desire, devotion, and grace. As adults it is our responsibility to probe our own lives to discover the truth that lies behind what choices we are making. As Jung wrote:

No matter how much parents and grandparents may have sinned against the child, the person who is really adult will accept these sins as his own condition that has to be reckoned with.[3]

assagioli-on-mothers2

Assagioli’s note from his archives: “Other subtler misuses/Motherly love/All kinds of attachments”/”Prestige”/False values of many kinds –

Nearly all our present day anxieties, problems, and confusion are a direct result of our childhood neglect and suffering that we have yet to recognize and mourn. Plagued by guilt, we too easily deny the hurt, humiliation, and pain we experienced as children; we have learned only too well how to protect our needy parents and maintain our illusions of a happy childhood.

Once we understand the fear, loneliness, anger, feelings of inadequacy, negative attitudes or poor self-images that we inherited from them, only then can we move forward and become free to be who we really are.

But insight is only the first step in this most difficult and heroic journey which will last the rest of our lives. Next we must surrender ourselves to all the old emotions and pain that we have carried for so long, finally allowing ourselves to feel and release them. And then, we must grieve for all the love and acceptance that we needed but didn’t experience. Finally, we must be prepared to receive with thanks renewed life, positive change, and all the opportunities full of grace that suddenly present themselves to us.

References

[1] Miller, A., “The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Psycho-Analyst’s Narcissistic Disturbance,” Int. Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1979, pp. 47-48.

[2] Robert Assagioli., Assagioli’s Archives. Downloaded from archivioassagioli.org. (Undated.) Doc Ids: #5261, #6690, #7096. Translation by C.A.Lombard.

[3] Carl G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1981, p. 117.

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