Relief, balance & compassion brought to the difficult issue of parenting
Nearly twenty-one years after delivering my first baby, I can look back on the whole parenting experience through an unprecedented filter of new knowledge and understanding of the human condition. My first pregnancy was planned and built upon a strong 15-year relationship. My husband and I prepared as thoroughly as any other modern western couples do – we read books like What to expect when you’re expecting, attended pre-natal birthing classes, prepared our home, talked about baby names, spoke with other new parents and prepared a natural birth plan.
Part way through my pregnancy, a friend recommended that I read Jean Liedloff’s book Continuum Concept. This book made me think quite deeply about the inadequacy of child raising practices in western culture and about my own upbringing. Whilst the principles advocated in Liedloff’s book were quite confronting, I also strongly felt them to be true. The observations made by Liedloff about a South American tribe seemed to make a lot of sense to me in light of what I knew about Jeremy Griffith’s Love Indoctrination theory (fully explained here) about the significance of nurturing in the maturation of our species and in our own lives. From the Continuum Concept website (www.continuum-concept.org/cc_defined.html. Accessed 20/01/2013) it reads: ‘According to Jean Liedloff, the continuum concept is the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings–especially babies–require the kind of experience to which our species adapted during the long process of our evolution’. Where Liedloff refers to our ‘exquisitely precise instincts, expert in every detail of child care’, Griffith refers to our ‘loving, co-operative and integrative past’. Having absorbed Liedloff’s principles and knowing Griffith’s theory on the human condition to be true, I started out as a new parent very idealistically but (with hindsight) somewhat naively. In essence, I had high (and very unrealistic) expectations of myself as the primary care giver.
Despite my early optimism and considerable effort of applying all of my new understanding about nurturing children, parenting didn’t always come easily or naturally to me. I quickly realised my own inadequacies at fulfilling an unrealistic agenda. And more importantly as I became more familiar with Griffith’s explanation of the human condition, I began to understand the whole situation much more clearly; sure, some people like Liedloff have bucked the system and tried to point out that nurturing is in fact one of the most important if not the most important activity in our society (which is really a very obvious thing), but in the main we humans have tried to block the whole issue of how fundamental nurturing is to our psychological wellbeing out of existence, due to the massive confrontation that discussion of it brings into focus, namely our complete inability to do it properly. Why are we unable to nurture our children properly? Try bringing that up at your next dinner party and see if you don’t have an all-in-brawl on your hands after five minutes. The problem was that until we could compassionately explain our human condition and the unavoidable dysfunction and upset that it causes in all humans’ lives, any discussion or thought about nurturing and our inability to do it properly could only ever bring on unthinkable depression.
As Jeremy Griffith explains in Part 4:4F of Freedom: Expanded Book 1:
“As described in Part 4:4D, and this will be more fully explained in Part 8:4B, it was nurturing that allowed our primate ancestors to develop an instinctive orientation to living unconditionally selflessly and thus cooperatively. We humans still naturally carry instinctive expectations of receiving the amount of nurturing that all children received during this time when we did live in a totally cooperative, all-loving state, but since the battle of the human condition emerged obviously no child has received that amount of nurturing and, as a result, all children today are variously compromised/hurt/damaged/corrupted by that lack of reinforcing unconditional love. Not surprisingly, it follows that this truth of the importance of nurturing has been unbearably condemning for virtually all people today who haven’t received adequate nurturing in their own upbringing, and for virtually all parents who have been trying but failing to adequately nurture their offspring. As one parent acknowledged, ‘The biggest crime you can commit in our society is to be a failure as a parent…people would rather admit to being an axe murderer than being a bad father or mother’ (Sunday Life mag. Sun-Herald, 7 July 2002).”
So how can I admit that nurturing my children was of extreme importance, but at the same time admit that my ability to nurture my own children was flawed? It is this question and many, many other similarly confronting questions that understanding the human condition now finally answers.
As I have become more familiar with Griffith’s work I have learnt that the human condition is so much bigger than me and my ability to nurture my children. I can understand the process of Love Indoctrination and the crucial role that nurturing has played in the overall development of our species, but also that there is a very, very good reason why I can’t nurture my children as much as I would like. There is a 2 million year history of upset and pain and until we understood its source we couldn’t hope to be able to nurture our children adequately. All parents have tried their very best to love and protect their children just like I have but there has been this battle of the human condition raging around us. With this bigger picture of understanding in place, I have learned to relax as a parent with this defence available to all humans now and accept my own limitations. Like every generation of my ancestors I am also afflicted by the human condition – I am a product of my own upbringing. My parents did the best job they could of raising me but they were also products of the experiences they had as children and so on….. How brave have we all been—as Griffith says our human journey “is the most heroic story ever told, the story of us, the story of the human race” and “we had to be prepared ‘to march into hell for a heavenly cause’; we had to lose ourselves, suffer self-corruption, in order to find ourselves. Upset was the price of our heroic search for knowledge” (Freedom: Expanded Book 1, p.21, p.67). (Also see Freedom: Expanded Book 1, Part 3:9 The awesome courage of the human race.)
In the Continuum Concept, Liedloff does recognise how our increasing levels of alienation have overwhelmed our natural instincts but without the complete context of the explanation of the human condition it could only lead to greater confrontation with our/my lack of ideality. I came to realise that despite my best efforts, our children would not be free of hurt, as I had idealistically hoped, but Griffith’s rock solid defense for humans is what allows all parents to take the pedal of guilt off themselves and not get overly insecure about our present inadequacies as nurturers. He explains that:
“With understanding of the human condition we can now at last explain and appreciate why the nurturing of our children became so compromised and neglected during the last two million years of humanity’s insecure adolescence, the time in which the human race was fighting desperately to establish its goodness and worth against all the indications that it was an evil blight on the planet. Since fighting and loving are opposing forces, nurturing was always going to suffer under the duress of the human condition” (Freedom: Expanded Book 1 Part 8:13 Nurturing now becomes a priority).
Understanding the human condition has been the most precious gift imaginable because it has brought so much relief, compassion and balance to me as a woman, wife and mother.
Really, in the end, I know that it is knowledge and explanation of the human condition that will save the world and allow the upset to subside and nurturing to become the focus of our species as it was for the 5 million years leading up to the development of consciousness and the outbreak of the human condition, but this time we will do it with understanding. I love my children with all my heart and soul but the bottom line is that the explanation the human condition is what is really going to save every child in every corner of the world. Parenting books, sleeping arrangements, feeding and nurturing will all be incredibly easy to get right once humans as a species have been able to hear and adjust to Jeremy Griffith’s explanation of the human condition. As he says:
“Now with explanation at last available children will no longer have to die inside themselves in a sea of silence, superficiality and what is to them lies. Children will be able to be told why we are the way we are … This means they will stay alive inside themselves and we will soon see adults appear having all the happiness of young children.” (Free: The End of the Human Condition, pg. 40).
As a student of the human condition and mother of two, I have such optimism for future generations who will have more innocence, energy and self-confidence to nurture their children as they expect to be nurtured. It will be heaven on earth.