Multigenerational Consequences


Old folks love their grandchildren because they'll take revenge on their parents for them.
- Old Saying

The meaning of this saying isn't immediately obvious, but we laugh cheerlessly and fall silent for a moment while we remember another joke:

On a park bench, there sit several old persons: one sighs deeply, the other deeper still, the third lets out a painful sigh. A fourth one speaks up critically, "How many times have we decided not to talk about the children".

In these images, one may picture all the stages of the family cycle, which were described in the preceding chapters. The emptiness of one's life and the total identification with one's children and grandchildren is one of the worst options for old age.

Let us be honest, there is no painless way in the development of a family. Nevertheless, the sighs and anxiety noted above do not have to be that painful. The knowledge of the laws of family life, the ability to prevent the emotional hunger that all the participants of this dialogue encounter, reduces the level of need and emotional dependence from one's children. The preparation for this process takes place throughout one's life.

As soon as a child enters the life of his parents, they have to remember that he will grow up and leave them. The natural tendency to focus all one's strength, attention and energy on the child must be controlled to at least some degree. We cannot and do not want to reject the force of gravity since we rely on it; however, to reduce the load we can and must use whatever technical means we have at our disposal.

All one's life is full of contradictory dialectical processes much like the physical forces that keep us in some balance on the surface of the planet, that is, the gravitational force and "centrifugal force" of the earth. The force of gravity alone would flatten us against the earth; however, the "centrifugal force" (actually not a force at all but a result of mass and speed - like in a washing machine) alone - would send us out into space. Roughly speaking the difference between the two forces equals one "g" (the unit of earth's gravitational force). One can say that when there is more "g" in life, things are heavier, when there is less "g" then things are lighter. One can't get by in life without some amount of "g". In other words, whatever we do, we can find the balance within the dialectical contradictions if we understand the equations of this process.

Speaking of forces being exerted on us throughout our lives, we should turn our attention to the first weapons of control at the disposal of families and society, namely, feelings of shame and guilt. The proof that we are not born with these feelings lies in the completely opposite criteria for the feeling of shame, as it exists in different cultures. For most Europeans nudity is considered shameful. However, in Japan, for example, traditional communal baths were shared by men and women who were not ashamed of this process. Similarly bodily functions were considered normal and traditionally in villages, the bucket in the backyard functioned as a toilet and it was considered normal and natural. On the other hand the act of 'losing face', that is, to spontaneously express one's feelings for a Japanese would be the equivalent of a European losing his pants in a public place.

The group dictates the criteria for the development of feelings of shame. Soviet propaganda celebrated Pavlik Morozov, the boy who betrayed his own father to the authorities. And the hero of the 'Great Patriarchal War' Alexander Matrosov was revered for blocking a machine gun nest with his own body. Today we have an anecdotal 'new post-soviet hero': Pavlik Matrosov, who blocks the machine gun nest with the body of his father.

Feelings of shame and guilt are necessary for the individual to conform to the rules, which society and families develop for social control. Not unlike traffic rules. Within reasonable parameters these are crucial elements for one's upbringing; however, too often these feelings, being excessively used by the family, cause the individual to develop neurotic symptoms and turn into fears, insomnia, obsessive thoughts, low self-esteem and so forth. Severely strict harsh parents or caretakers facilitate the development of a closed, intimidated or, alternately, explosive and aggressive character.

From our point of view, the rules of the process of the development of the individual and the family cycle must be understood so we can try to free ourselves from neurotic manifestations.

Every course of treatment involves elements of training in the fundamentals of psychotherapy. This leads to the acquisition of skills based on one's own personal experience. We believe that the ideal starting point for acquiring this knowledge should come during high school. Driving a car involves acquiring a license and registration. Getting married and having children should be undertaken after training and acquiring qualifications. Ultimately it will probably come to this. Although somewhat superficial - there already exist courses for newlyweds which churches and synagogues require their participants to attend.

Let us hope that the instruction in the fundamental processes of human relationships will soon become a social necessity and a key academic subject in our educational system.

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