Healthy Parenting – The Role of Rage (Part 1 of 2)
This essay explores the following: "Why are some more easily able to reach self-actualization than are others?" and "Is there an essential bottom line rule to healthy parenting? If so, what is it?"
According to Maslow, children must have basic needs met. Though expanded and often contested in later years, his perspective was focused on the positive. That is, if deprived at any stage of development, the individual is compelled to satisfy these needs on his/her own in order to achieve self-actualization. I embrace the suggestion of empowerment of the individual as I agree that responsibility should be shifted from blame of the parent (for either overindulgence or failure to fulfill the child's every desire), to self-reflection by the offspring, once the age of independence is reached.
The idea that each is born as a blank slate (Aristotle, Locke, Skinner), suggests raising children should be a simple, straightforward task. If it were, all libraries and bookstores would carry the same book of instructions designed to work for everyone across the board. Great. Parenting issues solved. Right? Not so fast.
We know that several children raised in the same household of either deprivation or overindulgence often take very different lessons into adulthood. Both deprivation and overindulgence might serve to either facilitate or block self-actualization, depending on the young personality exposed to either; thus, one child might grow up and achieve self-actualization, while another might remain stuck in a life of self-destruction. The third, fourth and so on may fall anywhere along the developmental continuum - and all might point to their upbringing.
Some credit the early years; others, blame them. If one accepts that people are born with unique personality characteristics which may be hard-wired into the brain, it might follow that, as unique individuals we each have special needs and different reactions when faced with challenges. Based upon our invisible hard-wiring, we each use personality tools to build a life once we emerge from the environment we were raised in. There is no place for shame or guilt for erroneous past choices as these distract from self-reflection and growth. How do they distract? Both shame and guilt feed fear of honest self-reflection, preventing us from owning our history - steps and paths taken and avoided which did not serve us well.
If we consider, as an example, an analogy of nature - we understand that fish swim, while frogs swim and hop. How can the fish feel shame or guilt for not hopping? What if the fish tried to hop, landed on dry ground, and felt suffocation until a frog knocked it back into the water? The frog was the miracle for the fish who needs to swim on - recalling the error and resolving to avoid the bank. There is a proper place for frogs and fish, since all around the pond and in The Meadow, serve to balance the Universe - but only once they find their proper place. As with creatures of the meadow, some find their joy in the water; others on dry land. The story "Tadpole and Fish" touches on this in the book Illusion:Redefined.
Human siblings are often like tadpoles and fish. Though siblings might appear the same at first while raised together, once the tadpole sprouts legs, individuality is expressed. The legs represent the next level or, stage of development. In this case, the tadpole becomes a frog. What of the brother - the fish? Did it fail because it has no legs? No. Is the frog wrong to climb the bank, leaving the pond to seek dry air to breathe? No.
Life is filled with stories of abandonment, frustration, grief, identity crisis and then finally, if lucky, resolution and healing. The strongest come through tremendous challenges, heal well, and then go on to inspire others. I never met or heard of a truly motivational, inspiring mentor or role model who didn't have personal experience with pulling him or herself up by his/her own bootstraps. Finding your way out of a toxic pit of negativity to go on to inspire others is a blessing and a gift.
When considering Maslow's theory of basic needs: physiological (food, water, warmth, rest), and safety (physical security), one wonders how either overindulgence or deprivation during key stages impacts the development of the dependent youngster. Would both extremes pose equal threat to self-actualization? (click here to continue to Part 2)