Tag Archives: parenting

No Worries!

Who put that cloud there?
– Art by Jan Ketchel © 2018

My father was a chronic worrier. He worried about everything! It drove me and my siblings crazy! He could not let anything go. He’d nag and natter about a thing he’d decided to worry about, usually something minor that he just could not let go of, until he’d spun it into a massive worry storm, leaving us all exasperated and exhausted.

Once, when I was in college, he called me at 3 in the morning, waking me and my roommates from a sound sleep to ask me if I had eaten. I had made an off-the-cuff remark about not having any food in the house as I headed home after a holiday visit, saying that I would have to shop once back in the city. He only heard the part about having no food in the house and his worrisome mind spun that tiny remark into a whole devastating story. By the time 3 AM came around he had decided that I was starving to death!

I was so angry at him that I didn’t speak to him for weeks, but during those weeks I could feel his worry hanging over me like a dark cloud, dragging me down. When I finally spoke to him about it we joked, but I talked honestly about how frustrated and drained I was by his constant attention on me. I told him to lighten up, that I could take care of myself, that I wanted to live my own life and to please leave me alone. His worry energy actually dampened my spirit and added a burden I didn’t need when I had so much else going on in my life.

I now understand this dynamic between parent and child as the archetypes of the parent/child relationship, the structures and dynamics that every parent and child must contend with as they go through life, as the child seeks to individuate and become independent, and as the parent seeks to let them go.

As a parent myself I have had to learn the lessons I tried to teach my father so many years ago. My own experiences with him have helped me to back off and let life take my children onward without me, but sometimes it can be very hard. When we see our children struggling our first reaction is to jump in and help, but that may not be the best course of action to take. The same can be said for any relationship.

To underscore the dilemma, I had a dream the other night. I was carrying large chunks of construction debris, huge lumps of concrete. I stood on the edge of a vast landfill, looking down into a vast pit filled with similar debris. A man stood on the opposite side of the landfill, a foreman. He yelled at me to throw the debris into the pit. I worried that it was wrong, that it would hurt the earth.

“Nah,” he said, “it’s how it’s done. Just throw it away!”

And then I wondered just what the heck I was doing. The concrete was clearly useless and clearly burdensome. It wasn’t toxic material either, it was just heavy, cumbersome old building material.

“Let it go!” I yelled, and then I threw it into the pit and walked away unburdened, lighter and freer than ever.

“What am I carrying around inside me?” I wondered when I woke up. “What concrete thing, idea, or issue am I attached to?

As the day went on the dream stayed with me. I thought about it, seeking to analyze its message and purpose. I determined it was not about memories. Those have all been recapitulated, so it was not anything from my past. I finally realized it was worry, the worries of everyday life, the worries about others, the kind of stuff that keeps you awake at night but is just empty chatter in your head, stuff you can’t do anything about and if you tried you’d have no luck at all.

As I thought about it I discovered that those worries had no real meaning or necessity in my life. They were not building blocks to something new but old construction materials that were no longer useful. I was right to chuck them into the landfill where they would soon be covered over, bulldozed into the earth to disintegrate and become part of the landscape.

Just as I had asked my father to let go of the burdensome archetypes of parent and child, so too did I have to let go of such archetypes within myself, along with the concrete ideas that I have to do and be the end-all for someone else. In letting go of the archetypes we are allowed to each grow and mature in our own ways, taking responsibility for ourselves and the decisions we make, for our present and future issues, and for our own joys and freedoms in life too.

Just because I might want to give advice, I realized, it isn’t always helpful or wanted. I have to take my own advice that I gave my father so many years ago and step back and let life resolve life. In the end, we have to let things go so things can proceed as they will and as they must.

I learned from my father that if you put your attention on another person they will sense you in some way, and you may actually be harming them, even if you think your worry is justified and you only want the best for them. The best for them is to send them positive, self-motivating, and loving energy that sends them off on their own journey through life under their own steam, rather than burdening them with your guilt, worry, regret, resentment, or good intentions. As I learned from my father, it’s just not fun having those kinds of energies hanging over you, having to bear another person’s unresolved issues while you are trying to figure out your own life on your own terms.

My father never did fully remove his worry energy from me. It followed me right into adulthood and he remained a solid worrier right up to the end of his life. But he taught me how not to do what he did, and as my dream points out it’s a lesson that never grows old.

I have had to remind myself to remove my worries about my own kids’ lives countless times, so as not to burden them with a cloud of my worries hanging over their heads! After being the lifelong subject of someone else’s worries, whether justified or not, I know that it’s just not a nice thing to do to someone! Even if I may want to give valuable but unasked for advice, I also know that the best advice I can give myself is to remember my young adult self telling my father to just step back and let me live my own life.

Life itself is the best guide. We all have to go out into the world and learn how it really works. It’s how we learn and how we grow. The happiest people in the world seem to be those who have had to work hard for what they have, and there is no greater satisfaction than having done it on their own. And no worries either!

A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

Soulbyte for Tuesday March 14, 2017

Be your own mother and father now, parents to your inner child, kind and generous when appropriate, but equally tough and demanding when that is called for. Develop this inner family of love, strength, and wisdom so that you may guide yourself through the trials of life to fulfillment of all your dreams. For yes, that’s what it’s all about too, fulfilling your dreams. So dream big and enjoy every minute of it. What do you have to lose? Only your childish fears and reluctance to really grow up and take responsibility for yourself—good things to lose! And remember, you are the the only one who can take this on. It’s your life and your dream after all!

-From the Soul Sisters, Jan & Jeanne

A Day in a Life: Parent Child Dreaming

Getting lost in the confusion... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Getting lost in the confusion… – Photo by Jan Ketchel

I dream. I am with a father and his son, meeting at a busy intersection where two highways intersect. We have to walk a long way to get where we are going. The child is young, about four or five, and I’m aware that it’s too far for him to walk. I find an old metal lounge chair on wheels in a ditch, pull it out, and set it up for the child. I intend to push him. The father wants to lie down and be pushed. “No,” I say, “it’s for the child.” Every time he attempts to lie down on the chair I yell at him. “No, stand up! It’s for the child.”

Next I dream that Chuck and I are at a restaurant with a young couple who have two young children, ages two and four. We have taken the kids to the bathroom and are just returning to the table with the two kids, now naked. As soon as the parents see the naked kids they reject them. “That’s not my kid!” the mother says. “He’s not mine. I don’t want him, he’s not my kid.” She is adamant, as is the father who also pipes up, “Those aren’t our kids, we don’t want them.”

I am stunned when I hear this because of course the kids belong to them. I also see that the two kids are deeply affected by this rejection by the parents. They are hurt, but they also don’t understand. How can they not be acceptable to their own parents? What have they done to deserve this? Nothing; they are innocent. This rejection is painful to behold. I see that the pain of the children is deep. “I don’t care what you think,” I say to the parents, leaning in close. “Even if you are going to reject your children, don’t ever let them hear you say that!” The parents are unaffected. They will not accept their children. Chuck and I stand there wondering what we’ll do now, but try as we might we just cannot convince the parents that these are their very own children. They continue to deny them, speaking loudly so that all in the restaurant can hear. The two children sit at the table looking lost, confused, and clearly in deep pain. These are inner world dreams, confronting the roles and dynamics of the inner parent and the inner child, how to be fully adult and accepting of our true innocence without fear and judgment.

Our role as responsible inner adult may have to go through several phases of development. And just as our childhood asked most of us to withstand some kind of rejection and confusion from our own parents, and from life itself, so does our inner child have to endure the same from us. We might have to be a rejecting inner parent before we can become the gentle and loving parent we are capable of. We might have to become a stern, judging parent before we can become a totally accepting nonjudgmental parent. But no matter what our process entails, in order to become wholly reconciled beings, we must achieve balance between these two personalities that dominate our inner world.

The process of achieving balance will most likely entail something like the dynamics in my dreams. We must accept that we are both the parent and the child. If I were a child, would I want to be treated like that? What kind of parent do I want to be?

We must keep in mind that the child, at its core, is innocent, unaware of the greater world and so what happens to the child is largely a mystery and a puzzle that must somehow be coped with and made sense of. With its limited capacities and knowledge of how the world works, the child will not necessarily have the resources to understand and so conclusions may be misconstrued or downright false. Ruled by feelings and emotions the child seeks only to return as quickly as possible to a state of equilibrium and safety, skewed though that state may be. And so the child is protected by its innocence in one way, but its innocence also makes it extremely vulnerable as well.

We must keep in mind that the parent, at its core, is just trying to figure life out. As adults we know that we had to find our way in the world all on our own. For no matter what kind of upbringing we had, we each had to go out into the world and encounter and live our own separate lives. We had to learn to be responsible for ourselves in a world that was often rejecting, judgmental, and unkind. We had to learn what it meant to be an adult. When we had children of our own we had to learn what it meant to be a parent. Life does not come with an owner’s manual, it has to be lived to be learned. Whether we have birthed our own children or not, does not matter, we all have an inner parent inside us somewhere, just as we all have an inner child inside too. We have all experienced childhood and we have all experienced adulthood first hand. For true reconciliation of our inner world, we must all become our own parents, both our own mother and our own father.

Inner and outer world are equally real... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Inner and outer world are equally real… – Photo by Jan Ketchel

The inner parent must be held accountable for its position of responsibility if we are to heal and evolve, if we are to achieve wholeness in our lifetime. The inner parent must be like the adult I was in my first dream, and say, “No, this is for the child,” as we protect and care for the inner child, appropriately attending to its real needs. When we slip into childish behavior and neediness, our inner parent must speak up and say, “You are the adult, so be one!” I saw clearly in that dream that the child was unfit for the long walk and I found appropriate means to remedy the situation. In my maternal role, however, I encountered the father who sought to be taken care of like a child, when another caring adult arrived and took over. Perhaps I should not have remedied the situation for him, but made him responsible for taking care of his own child to begin with, but my dream did not go that way. It was showing me something else. When someone outside of us takes over, we may very easily fall back into a regressive place, ignoring our own inner child’s real needs, abdicating our parental role of responsibility.

Just as acceptance of our innocence is crucial in achieving wholeness, so is the adult role. The adult self must be firmly established as the one who makes the decisions, fairly and judiciously, with the child’s interests in mind. Even those who have never had the joys and pains of parenting in real life, must face the same dilemmas that all parents face when presented with their inner child. Parenting is a daunting and frightening task and we all want to do a good job. We only have so much time to pour all we wish for our real children into them before they go out into the world. Our time with them is relatively short. The inner parent child relationship, however, has the advantage of longevity. We are together for a lifetime, perhaps even many.

At some point we must face our dual roles as our own parent and our own child. We must do the work of raising our inner child by becoming the loving and compassionate parent that we are all capable of being. We have the opportunity to get it right, even if our own parents didn’t get it right, for having been a child we know what the child needs and we know what we would like in a parent.

In the second dream, the parents reject their children outright. This does not bode well, but I am gifted with the child’s innocence in this dream, for I experience it quite palpably. The child’s reaction to the rejection by the parents is clearly felt, so easy to read. And so we must ask ourselves: Am I as rejecting of my inner child as these heartless parents are? Again I have an adult role in this dream, observer and teacher, and once again I call the adults to the carpet. “Be good parents, even if you have to fake it,” is really what I’m saying. “Just because your children are naked, their innocence exposed, don’t reject them.” Don’t reject your own innocence, in other words, for that is where the deepest issues lie, in what our innocent child self has been bearing, or baring.

These two dreams contain many more sublayers, but my point today is to impart how critical it is that as evolving spiritual beings we reconcile our inner dilemmas. We must be loving adults and parents to our inner children. We must be able to decipher the difference between regression states and states of innocence and real need. Our inner children may present us with just as many difficult situations as our real children do, and so we are asked to be good parents in our inner world, just as we are asked to be in our outer world.

Sometimes we must be firm before we can be soft. Sometimes our inner child must scream to be heard. Sometimes we must fail before we can make some progress. It’s just how life is, inner and outer life.

The inner world is as real as the outer world, as impacting and as important to our lives now as in the future. And so, if we continue to go deeper into our inner world, and resolve the issues of reality there, then our outer world issues will naturally resolve as well. And don’t forget to look closely at dreaming life, for dreams are part of the inner process, offering very personal, as well as universal, nightly guidance.

Seeking balance, parenting and innocent too,