I’m not a little vexed by this quote today. First, I’m writing this later than I usually do because I
have get to be a mother first then a writer.
Welcome to Day 22 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.
If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.
Here is today’s:
“The greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.”
― C.G. Jung
Insert Bugs Bunny voice: “Aaaaaaaah Shaadddap!”
I’m Googling Right Now whether Jung had kids. Hang on…. here’s a bowl of Cap’n Crunch….
Ok. I’m back.
Turns out he had five. Five kids. I stopped at that fact because I wanted to not poison my brain and my naïveté (do you like that fancy umlaut and accent?) with any editorializing. The little I did happen to skim over (all in the link previews from the search) suggested Jung was unhappy in his marriage, he tried unsuccessfully to divorce his wife; he neglected his five children for the sake of his career; and that he lewdly announced to Freud one time that some random woman told Jung that it was her greatest wish to have a child by Jung.
EMPTY (i.e., no Cap’n).
I’m honestly trying to go after these quotes with wide eyes and an unvarnished perspective. I was not a psych major, I’m just majorly psychological. I dig lots of things lots of smart and clever people say, but this quote, I’m sorry. It makes me really mad. As if kids don’t have enough (swear alert) shit of their parents to deal with, this dude has to lump in a parent’s unlived life and imply that it’s the kids’ fault?!
My, how thick your wool grows, Jung. Baaaah.
Omaigaaad, he’s SO lucky he’s dead.
How about the projections and the transference and the “I coulda been a has-been” (mine) freakin’ vicarious living and the bullshit that kids have to endure? How about the cowardice of some parents to deal with their own adult-size problems and not heave them onto their children? How about the gall of some parents to maintain and/or increase their addictions or despondency because parenting (insert whiney voice) Is So Hard!? How about innocent children, who certainly didn’t ask to be born, having to deal with deadbeat dads or incompetent parenting? Are you freakin’ KIDDING ME?!
Unlived lives of the parents?
I am doing the best I can to get over my disappointments of my youth and not shove that back onto my parents and also keep it the hell away from my kids. I believe that’s called Living. Jesus… (sorry), I will die a very happy and fulfilled mother if my kids are happy and healthy and don’t become alcoholics (because I could’ve and the last time I checked I’m not dead yet, so there’s always that potential, but it’s unlikely) and find healthy mates, study what they love, live their lives satisfied and eager and believe in themselves and volunteer and help and serve others. It will give me that sense of leaving the planet in better shape than I found it: every parents’ dream.
But I know there are not healthy parents out there. Some are ancient and dying; some are young and messed up; others are middle-aged and depressed and angry. I know this. Are those lives unlived? Likely. But it’s not because those people became PARENTS!
The type-A’r in me suspects that Jung means “unrealized” (as in not a US senator, not an inventor, not a world-class whatever) when he says “unlived” but he said, “unlived” so that to me means “unlived.” There is plenty of unliving going on all the time. To me, that means “dead” and “dead” means asleep. But why whose schema or schedule to we compare any un-unlived results? It’s very subjective and I officially hate it. Another surprising facet is the popularity of this quote. It beat out some real doozies, which suggests to me that there are a lot of zombie parents out there feeling sorry for themselves.
I saw this quote about 23 days ago when I first found this list. When I saw it, I sort of agreed with it, looking back on my own parents and how they lived. My mom was a brilliant artist and she wanted to be on the stage. My dad was a shrewd newspaperman who was an Olympic athlete. She gave all that up and got married. He continued his work. She got to dabble a little with local stuff, but never saw her dreams of being on Broadway; maybe it was never in the cards, who knows? When he got married, he was past his Olympic prime and was ascending to his Next Big Thing. In between all that, they had four kids and three survived and here we are.
When I first got married I was about two years out of college and was beginning what would have been a likely successful career in internal and corporate communications. Then a merger, then a buy-out then I switched jobs, that next job was awful and I left it — that was when I decided to stay home with Thing 1.
So yeah, when I first saw that quote, I could sort of see where he was coming from; lots of parents don’t get to achieve what they feel is their Greatness; but I also know plenty of childless people whose lives are supposedly unlived as well: they are living in their parents’ basements depressed or unable to find work; or they found work but they hate it; or they found work and then they got laid off.
Some women out there want nothing more than to be mothers and to them, that is their life’s greatest honor and privilege. Would Jung be so assholic as to suggest that goal, that ambition is false? Who the what is he?!
There is no unlived life here. There is no unlived life ever. Life is what you make it, squandered or exhausted. This particular quote chaps my hide so much; Jung is clearly feeling sorry for himself here because some chippy wanted to have his baby; his wife wouldn’t let him divorce her and he had five kids he neglected. I also want to think that this quote also has a temporal aspect to it; that back in the 1800s when he might’ve said this that clearly things were way different for women, and the world…
So yes, my reaction to this quote goes back to the Day 2 of my 30 Days of Jung series: “What irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves,” and yeah, that’s true. I posited in that post that it can be a negative reaction (i.e., opposite and equal) between two people. Or it can be that I just think Jung is a jerk in this quote of his. This is the kind of garbage that Nickelback would write about in their music or maybe Taylor Swift when she gets knocked up. (I’m not harshing on Swift, but I am on Nickelback because they suck; nothing gives me a bigger case of agita than someone boo-hooing their choices when they had every opportunity to have NOT made that choice.)
So given my reaction to this quote, what is the understanding of myself I can take away? That life is for the living. That you can have a balanced life, you can encourage your children to do their best, like your parents might’ve done for you, but like all people, children are people and they don’t always do what they’re told.
All this leaves me thinking… how was Jung’s relationship with his parents?
I’m out of
gas Cap’n Crunch on this one. All I know is that we only live the lives we’re given when we Live The Lives We’re Given.
What about you? Do you have the chutzpah to blame your kids for your unlived life?