He can teach them they are unique. No one exactly like them has come before or will come after. And so the child’s task is to express their possibilities in the world they inherit. A world where the contributions of many are already manifest and there to be used. One hundred years ago, air travel was in its infancy, the car industry was just getting on. Medical care was vastly more limited. Life expectancy much shorter. People didn’t think smoking cigarettes was a problem. The movies had yet to have sound or color and never mind computers and smartphones. It took the effort of many to get us where we are. A father can teach his daughter or son that the more developed world they’re inheriting, with all its problems, is both a gift from all who have come before, and a challenge to improve it. To answer the challenge, the child must discover what they are good at and which ability they enjoy the most. This search is crucial, for it will be the ability they enjoy the most the one where they will be the most productive. Committing to it, will make them less envious of others, for the child will be able to say, ‘I know what I have. You know what you have. I have my power. You have yours. I have my limits, you have yours, so let us do what we must.’ Some things the daughter or son will know to do intuitively. But if they have a little hesitancy, they may need to be gently reminded that achieving physical, emotional and sexual intimacy with someone they love is crucial to their wellbeing and overall growth. A father can teach their child to be kind to others. Everyone, but specially to those who, for one reason or another, have had difficulty realizing their possibilities. A father can teach their child how fundamental it is that they understand their emotions. Without such understanding we cannot have a full mind, for to have a mind is to have the capacity to reason while integrating our emotions. Which then enables the child to fully express their essence, which in turn leads them to embrace freedom. A life is not well lived if human beings cannot speak their minds. A life is not well lived if the person is too frightened to make clear who they are, to fully manifest the core of their being. It amounts to cheating yourself and the rest of us, choosing to simply pass through without leaving a mark. To be in hiding is to waste a life, to dishonor those who gave to us. A father can help his child not err in such manner. And should the father commit to the task, there are rewards for him, too, for seeing that he can influence another human being, he will find inspiration to fulfill what he has not yet. Give and it will come back to you in ways unexpected. A father can help deliver a daughter or son onto the world, but it will be up to the woman or man to come into their own. A word on fame or material riches. The pursuit of them without personal development, emotional and intellectual, will not let you appreciate them, for if you happen to hold them, they will slip through your fingers. It’s never too late to start.
Getting to know our emotional world well is a life long task. And it takes patience. But the benefits are vast. We have made and are making enormous progress in all branches of science and its applied disciplines and yet, by comparison, we are way behind in the understanding and processing of our emotions. We can build sophisticated weapons to destroy cities thousands of miles away, or satellites flying overhead. And yet, critical decision making can go wrong because of poorly managed emotions. There are efforts now underway to teach children about their emotional world while in school. And yet they have met with resistance. To not embark in the task of understanding ourselves is to severely limit our possibilities. In China, today, a regime has positioned itself into power by severely restricting its citizens’ emotional world. That’s what closed surveillance and limits on speech do. In Europe, Putin started a world because he felt threatened, he tells us. And he may well have but he had reason to be, for he had put severe restraints on what his citizens could and could not say or do. Any conversation we have treads on an emotional substrate. We feel pleased, not pleased or annoyed as the conversation proceeds, our emotions acting as the gauge that determines whether to continue or not, change tactic or switch topic. Given the central role of our emotions in our lives, we don’t treat them with the proper care. To enhance such care keeping a Diary may prove most helpful. This diary I suggest is not a document onto which notations need to be made every day. You make them when an idea, passing emotion or past incident catches your attention. What makes it unique is that it should be only for your eyes. No one should lay eyes on it. Not your spouse, your parents, your children, your God. It is only for you. Because it is only for you, you will be enticed to write down anything that comes to your mind, whether pleasing, shameful, cruel or absurd. And that is the start of the journey into your mind. (This idea has been around for a long time, in various forms) Having made a notation you can then return to it at your convenience, sit with the content and try to explain it to yourself. ‘Why am I ashamed of what I did? Did I lie? Did I take advantage of someone? Did I injure the person? Was I disloyal? Was I ungrateful? Was I petty? Was I violent? Why didn’t I behave differently?’ The behavior noted, it is then up to you to seek to understand it. One thought will trigger another. And once you start, the journey never ends. But such is the nature of emotions. You do the work at your own pace, when you find the time and inclination. You’ll know if you’re avoiding the work. You should be alone when you tend to your diary. Let your mind wander and make additional notes if you wish. The point is to review the matter, to turn it around, to look at it from different perspectives. You may or may not find it healing at first or find you’re not able to tolerate the emotion the notation has taken you to. If so, then you pause until you can review it again. If the emotions aroused prove to be difficult to manage, then get assistance. But for most people, the mind has protective devices that lead you to areas it thinks you are able to manage. Self knowledge is priceless. It lets us learn from our mistakes and helps us make better choices. Some will say that this diary is not for everybody. I say it is. That’s why only you gets to read it. You’re not competing with anyone but yourself. Understanding your emotions will keep you from being ruled by them. One other thing. You will learn soon enough, that to make progress you must forgive yourself. And others too. A Diary that is nurtured and cared for, will help you walk on firmer ground, and the fog ahead you didn’t think was there, will start to lift.
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Being a parent implies we guide our child as they take their first steps into the world. We brought them in so we owe it to them. It is a journey with an uncertain destination which makes it the more unique. Here’s my take on it. Guide the child in the direction of their finding their own power. It’s in them somewhere. They just have to find it. We can’t do it for them but we can have a hand in guiding them there. They will need all their power because the world can be a rough place to be in. Nature endows each one of us with a set of abilities. Helping the child connect to those abilities early on helps them find a reliable source of joy to offset the inevitable disappointments and failures. At the start every child is a big question. Yet what lies in them, when expressed, will have the capacity to dazzle, invent or soothe, discover or comfort, and so open the way for humanity’s betterment. We have a huge role to play in facilitating the process. Conversations with observant teachers, or anyone who interacts with the child, can be enlightening, for as the child is exposed to different situations their abilities will begin to reveal themselves. Some abilities may not manifest themselves early on because they need time to mature, but so long as the child is experiencing moments of joy in exploring their world, sooner or later they will move toward something dear to them and which hard challenges they will endure. Exposing the child to our interests is desirable, but they should not be imposed on the child. Interests that flow freely are the ideal. As we journey with our child we will come across envy. It is part of living, since nature scatters her gifts widely and entirely at her discretion, giving more to some and less to others. The world being so competitive, envy is part of our daily existence. Parents have a great deal to say as to how envy is addressed and managed. We should not shy from calling it what it is. Envy, the ‘painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage’ (Merriam-Webster’s) is a powerful emotion that is seldom mentioned. Think back on your own upbringing. How often was the word or sentiment expressed? And yet it was often the source of conflict, hidden or manifest. Introducing it in our daily vocabulary becomes essential. We learn to live with it by looking it in the eye, accepting it, then telling ourselves, ‘whatever the other has that I don’t have is their power. They found it. It is theirs. I must respect that. In turn I must focus on finding my own power. As I do I will better manage my resentment, and not let it fill me with hatred.’ If we say that, then we will be back on our own journey to find what gives us the most satisfaction. We’re on the right path if what we’re doing is making us stronger and wiser. That goes for both parent and child. Keep doing what makes us stronger and wiser and we stand a good chance of finding personal peace, while exciting our ambitions and capacity to love. Our children can’t live our lives for us. It is up to every one of us. It’s critical for the parent not to be envious of their children. Not to stand in their way. Their course in life is for them to set. We guide, encourage, assist, nurture, because that’s the agreement we entered when we brought them into this world. And yet the process affects the parent, too. The more a parent endeavors to recognize their own abilities and follow their own path, the more respectful they will be of the abilities of the child they brought into this world. To parent a child is to learn to better parent ourselves. Overcome the deficits we’ve had to live with and work with what nature gave us.
Envy, release me from your hold, Let my powers grow bold, For as they do, my freedom soars.
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What is to be well integrated as a person? It is to have a sense of direction in life and that one is on the way to reaching goals of one’s choosing. No easy feat. Most of us have to work for a living. Unless we’ve been gifted with a standout talent, we end up doing things that are not what one most desires. So we save our money and keep searching for that one activity which will be most pleasing emotionally and intellectually. We try this and try that. And sometimes get a little lost. Enter the importance of knowing our emotional world – in detail. For to know one’s emotions is to unlock the power of the mind. We start by acknowledging our flaws, each and every one of them. ‘Why did I do that, or this? Why did I react in such way?’ And biting the bullet. As in accepting ourselves as we are. Flaws come in different sizes, but the sooner we get on with it the easier it will be to handle them. ‘Why did I get angry with X or Y?’ ‘Why did I ignore that?’ ‘Why did I deny this?’ ‘Why did I not take a stand?’ ‘Why did I lie?’ ‘Why did I not show courage?’ Such dialogue frees up energies. For most us living in a free society, life is in our hands. What we think and feel makes a difference in what we do. Processing our flaws lead us to face envy and learning to manage it. We cannot eradicate envy. It is too strong a force. The best we can do is learn to manage it. Recognizing it. And checking it. ‘I envy this person or that one because they have this quality which I do not have.’ Accepting it. ‘Person B is excellent at this or that, how can I ever hope to reach the same heights?’ Try harder. ‘Person A has such ability to create wealth, I envy him or her. Why can’t I have that?’ Keep doing your best. All the while allowing for the possibility of our emotions coming back to us and saying, ‘that is not your path. Look elsewhere.’ And listen we must. To not do so is to pay a high price in anguish and time lost. We can be good at something and still not be properly integrated, but the more connected we become to our emotional world, the closer we get to embracing our uniqueness. A word of caution about the media in today’s world. Media outlets of all kinds, tend to overrate accomplished people in any field. They love hyperbole. ‘Such and such did this and that and now she’s a zillionaire. Look at their homes, their planes, their yachts!’ But do we get a peek into their emotional world? The superstars of our world deserve much credit but so do all those unnamed people who helped them get there. There’s no substitute for hard work. What we find most satisfying will always demand sacrifices. To become who we can and should become, we need courage. Lots of it. Where do we find it? In the journey itself. We just need to get started. Life is better lived when we give it purpose. And it is up to each one of us to find it and name it.
Once found, we’ll never lack the courage we need.
I went out for a walk after writing the draft for this blog. On the way back I walked past a corner where a homeless lady stays most of the time. She’s been at that location for months: the same raggedy clothes, the floppy hat pulled down over her head, the face mask. Sometimes she’s talking to herself or to someone in her imagination. Sometimes she’s lying on the bus stop bench, a blanket covering her. Once or twice I made eye contact but she looked away. The sad sight of her reminded me of how some people, like the severely mentally ill, don’t have the option of attaining personal integration. The pursuit of it is a privilege.
Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.