Through a Jungian Lens

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Staying in the Arms of the Mother

with 6 comments

A mother and child in a small shanty community on the edges of the Costa Rican town where I am spending the winter, are getting ready to join others in this micro-community as they receive new teeshirts from a Christian missionary group.  The mother isn’t much more than a child herself.  In the poverty of this hastily thrown together community, childhood doesn’t last long at all.  Girls soon find themselves in the beds of rich North Americans who have come for the easy access to drugs and women.  And like this girl, female children become mothers before childhood years have passed.

This is quite different from what occurs in many modern communities where wealth and opportunity present themselves.  It isn’t unusual to find that the children remain at home long past the age where adulthood should have started.

“It is not  possible to live too long amid infantile surroundings, or in the bosom of the family, without endangering one’s psychic health.  Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call because of childish laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis.  And once this has broken out, it becomes an increasingly valid reason for running away from life and remaining forever in the morally poisonous atmosphere of infancy.” (Jung, CW 5, par 461)

This seems to be a growing problem in our society.  We don’t want our children to have to suffer the way we did.  We rationalise that it would be better for them to stay at home until they have finished all of their studies and have landed a job worthy of their talents, a well-paying job.  As parents, we disable our children by holding onto them too long.  As parents, we disable our children when we abandon them when they are children.  Our job is to nurture, protect and encourage them toward being independent and them push them out the door with an invitation to come back to visit from time to time.

I see too many damaged men and women, people who never have grown up or else have had to grow up too fast.  I fall into the latter group.  There is a story there to be told someday, somewhere.


6 Responses

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  1. I, too, was in the latter group, having to grow up from about age 8; however, that’s a pretty long story. Here, at midlife, it has been a struggle as that child has sought to assert itself and be heard.

    I would certainly agree that our culture has certainly turned towards trying to make it easy for children, too easy. I look at it in the way that if they cannot use their ‘muscles’, they will become atrophied and I’ll have to keep supporting them.

    Another interesting thing that I found when I went to Jamaica: I was talking to a Jamaican man and he told me how their girls, 14 years and up, are exploited by American and European men. Easy prey, I guess.

    Paul L.

    March 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    • There is so much to say about both topics, about growing up too soon and about the objectifying of women (and in the process, the men who do this). Thanks, Paul, for your contribution here.

      Robert G. Longpré

      March 11, 2010 at 9:35 am

  2. I fall into the former group of people who have never fully grown up which seems to come with its own set of challenges..


    March 11, 2010 at 12:06 am

    • J, you are so right when you mention that each of us has our own, individual challenges to face. Whether one grew up too soon or too late or at the expected rate, the fact remains that one MUST face challenges in order to become conscious. Thanks.

      Robert G. Longpré

      March 11, 2010 at 9:39 am

  3. As a society we are lengthening childhood, particularly through continued education. By extending the education process for 15 to 20 years, we ensure economic dependency in those people who would have formerly been working, contributing to society and making their own decisions. The lack of financial independence infantalises people, and gives those that they are dependent on a continuing power.

    The challenge of growth and independence is much more difficult when the ability to earn and control your own finances is reduced.


    March 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    • I agree that the roots of the problem are also being built in by modern western culture. That said, the individual still has his or her own authority and choices once the real age of reason arrives. It is possible to leave the arms of the mother while still involved in education. It isn’t only about physically leaving home. Thanks, Deborah.

      Robert G. Longpré

      March 13, 2010 at 6:49 pm

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