30 Days of Jung — Day 22: #Parents #Angst #Potential #Squander #Fulfillment #Psychology


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!”

Really, Jung?

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.

Project much?

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?

Thank you.

11 responses »

  1. I read this quote more as parents should live their lives. When the parents do not live their lives the kids suffer. I mean, there is always compromise, but you can also choose to be happy even if your circumstances are not perfect, or find a new dream. There are things I can’t do because of my daughter, but there are so many things I can and have done because of my daughter. There is a tradeoff. The tragedy is moaning and groaning and acting like your life is over or ruined because of your children. All of that negativity trickles down in some way. Jung may have said this selfishly thinking of his own life. I don’t know, but that’s not how I interpret it. I see it more as a reminder that we impact each other and that living a good life is important, even if we are parents. Probably especially if we are parents because our moods and experiences can lift our kids up or push our kids down. Living is a big responsibility. Of course, we read these quotes from own personal point of view. I can see how I have come to this conclusion based on what I am experiencing right now as a parent. The weird part is we pay attention to a man with five kids who probably did very little parenting!

    • Your perspective is fantastic. You’re more an optimist than I am capable of being about this quote. I guess it’s (I hate to do this) because I heard all my life how much my mother wished she were on the stage or that she married my dad instead of going to NYC, and their union seldom seemed happy to me.

      Yes, we need to live our lives. I eager to see what sagacious Wayne has to say.

      I just resent that Jung went there: family. There are plenty of things, as you said, that parenting encumbers.

      But I do agree with you, I live with and because of my kids not in spite of them.

      • I think maybe your mom should have been on the stage. Why didn’t she join the local theater at the very least? She would have been happier. You would have been happier. She chose to not live and then blamed it on other people when really, it was her responsibility. I look at you and I know you want to be a writer…and you are. You are writing. You are living your life. That changes everything. The won’t carry that burden around with them or feel responsible for your unlived life…because you are living it.

      • sigh. thank you.

        she tried local theater and then decided to direct it! can you believe that!? she was never in a play again… i wonder if it was like this for her: “if it can’t be broadway, then it won’t be any stage…” so she sat in the chair with the beret and the megaphone and told other people what to do… the thing is: she didn’t bother trying to do that with us. sigh. not mine. i’m here now, i’m doing well, i have value and i participate; i follow through.

        thanks, lil. you’re tried and true.

    • I can’t help myself: “The greatest tragedy of the blogger is the unwritten book.” (Talk about reflective…) I am enjoying this series, but I almost feel like hanging it all up for awhile after this.

      Thinking about your blog hack yesterday and all the trouble we go through –free!– to whateverize about life …

      Where is the meaning in it?


      • I would say that the meaning is I am still in the game. Do I have a published work or earn thousands of dollars for my art? No, but I am making art and writing. I am working towards my dreams. My steps are slower, but I am building something. I haven’t given up even though I have wanted to several (hundred?) times. I guess that means something, right? I also know that these weird excursions we take that don’t make sense at the time sometimes play their part. I took a class on drawing whimsical faces just for fun and now I am using those skills to make faces on the pinatas I am selling. This is not what I expected, but it’s something. I think your yoga and even your pampered chef is all building towards your book getting written, edited and published. Maybe the money helps, or you meet different “characters” or you have a healthy mind and that helps you write.

      • this is true; i’ve thought of it that way too. every interaction, every moment has a potential to add character or dimension to other things; it’s up to us, really, to see those little moments as the miracles they are.

        my eyes are wide open for the yoga retreat.

    • I took it kind of the way Lily did: that it was tragic for the kids if the parents hadn’t fulfilled their “dreams.” Boys forced to play baseball when they want to take piano lessons, because dad took a job at a factory instead of playing minor league baseball. Or girls whose looks, weight, is under constant attack because mom the homecoming queen got pregnant and never made it to the Miss America pageant.

      When I got pregnant, unplanned and unmarried in college, I ran off to NY to be a writer and live a glamorous single mom life. That lasted for roughly 3 days before logic shifted my focus and brought me home to her dad and a more stable life. Hearing that story–not as a story of look what I gave up for you, but of how silly and spontaneous I was at her age–my now 19-year-old daughter said, “Mom, did you give up your dreams?” I didn’t, my dreams just changed.

      Funny thing: my daughter is an amazing writer (http://cloachrysanthemum.blogspot.com/), who was published before she was 16. I don’t think she suffered because my dreams changed; I think somehow my dream were transferred to her in utero.

  2. This is a puzzling quote for me. I think what he is alluding to is the parent’s regrets expressed as anger, depression, shame, etc. over missed opportunities and mistakes. I don’t see it as an judgement and accusation against their children, but then again I have not read the passage in the book this quote came from. Anyway, whether some woman felt that her greatest wish was to have a child by Jung may have happened. Transference possibly.

    • I guess it would help to have more context, as usual. I haven’t a clue as to where this was originally written. I can’t make heads or tails of it.

      It just seems to hang out there; there’s nothing anecdotal to support it nor any offering of this supposition based on any data.

      “The greatest tragedy of the family” …

      It all seems suspiciously reflective to me.

      • Maybe counter transference. This is defined as redirection of a therapist’s feelings toward a patient, or more generally, as a therapist’s emotional entanglement with a patient. A therapist’s attunement to their own countertransference is nearly as critical as understanding the transference. Anyway, all the early psychoanalysts as far as I can tell had major personal problems including Freud, Adler, and Reich. It doesn’t diminish their contributions toward understanding human behavior though.

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