Tweetstorm: tai chi parenting

The taiji form is one leg that practice rests on. Another is meditation, but be cautious, go gently with yourself because meditation is like peeling an onion, it can make you cry!

If you’re like me, at a certain age, you begin to suspect you’re not who you think you are. So, you spend 10, 20, 50 years meditating, praying or whatever, and when you finally find yourself you wish you hadn’t started the search.

Part of it is seeing your essential animal nature. Like most other people: you’re riven with petty jealousies, obsessed with you own self-aggrandizement, defensive against criticism, hostile towards anything that threatens your worldview, a run-of-the-mill, garden variety human.

But there’s another important component. If you’re among the 60-70% who didn’t receive an understanding and loving upbringing, the defenses & hostility that you build as a child against abuse, rejection or neglect will lead you to behave like an asshole sometimes. I know I have.

Parenting is really hard. For the 60-70%, seeing the natural selfishness of your children-whether 2’s or teens-can lead to some uncomfortable feelings in the parent that are usually immediately diverted into corrective behavior, sometimes quite harsh.

And let’s not forget the other parents, the ones we pay an entirely insignificant amount to be surrogate parents for half of each day, the teachers, one of whom said to me in an unguarded moment, “my job is to make sure your children don’t grow up to be as big assholes as you.”

Ask people about their childhood and a shutter comes down. There’s no memory. But the hurt that a child feels over a thing that appears insignificant to an adult is the same in the moment as if that adult had gotten a divorce, or lost a job, or had their house foreclosed.

There’s a miasma that collects around the idea of childhood, one that filters the actual experience and colors it with Hallmark sentiments. The child learns to cover it up and carry on, but it’s still there inside, ready to defend against the next hurt that comes along.

And the reason we’re not talking about it is because it’s taboo to talk negatively about the family (unless you’ve made a principled rejection of yours and build your self view upon opposition to it, in which case you’ve tied yourself to it, but that’s another matter).

This taboo about speaking against one’s own operates in every group. Here, Larry Summers defines the dynamic in a conversation with Yanis Varoufakis in his book, “Adults in the Room”. Just substitute “politician” for “family member”.

“There are two kinds of politicians, insiders and outsiders. The outsiders prioritize their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders who make the important decisions….

…The insiders, for their part, follow a sacrosanct rule, never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do. Their reward? Access to inside information and a chance, though no guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes.”

This, by the way, is what I believe Deep State to be, not a grand conspiracy (or, if it is, it’s a conspiracy of dunces, to adapt John Kennedy Toole’s book title) but the convergence of lines of influence that work to this exact dynamic.

What’s at play here is rejection. Banishment, ostracism or the like would have meant death in early groups. So group cohesion was literally a matter of life and death. It’s no longer so extreme, but feelings still reign and rejection lies at the heart of so much mental suffering.

Rejections build up and create the armor that most of us wear for the rest of our lives. Rejection (or correction), because your parents couldn’t deal with the natural greed of a toddler, or because of reactions to the normal excesses of teenage years, or worse, add to the armor.

This should not be so hard to believe. The body stores trauma. Have a look at the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine emeritus, UMass Medical School, and Bessel van der Kolk whose CV too long to reproduce here.

Rejection in the pre-egoic phase is the most damaging. The Ferber method should be classified as a hate crime. There are millions of adults walking around out there in shock because they aren’t able to process the experience of being ferberized.

Rejection from peer groups is devastating to a teenager. For some reason their brains are a little turbulent and liable to go into a tail spin. If teens could be taught about the consequences of rejection, I think we’d save a few lives.

Of course, you can use the toughen-them-up approach, and firmness is absolutely required in parenting, but that kind of tough is brittle and rigid and breaks easily. And then they won’t be able to be soft when it’s needed. I like the poem by Carl Sandburg, A Father To His Son.

I bet some clever grad student could base their dissertation on how the leading lights of the neos (cons & libs) experienced rejection from their 60’s contemporaries. Norman Podheretz for example was fully invested in the New Left until round about the time he wrote “Making It.”

This admission of naked ambition got him hypocritically panned by his contemporaries and the rejection he suffered was the fuel for the ideological foundations of the current savageness of much Republican legislation.

There are some hopeful signs amongst millennials; a psychoclass is emerging that has been brought up with compassion and love and who have an emotional vocabulary, so they can talk about how they feel instead of being defensive and hostile.

This is why early childhood intervention is so important and why it should be the first thing to receive public funding. If you can point to female genital mutilation and say that this is savage, then we should be able to start talking about other maladaptive parenting methods.

I believe it is the dying convulsions of an old psychoclass that is the cause of the current conflict and polarization in the world, and the sooner we begin to talk about healthy, loving parenting, the sooner we’ll be free. So, maybe in a generation or two?

Thank you for reading.

Jack McHugh

#millennials #parenting #psychoclass #worldpeace #groupdynamics #meditation #worldpeace #taboo #family


  1. My goodness, this blog post is a master piece and a must read. You touch in so many important points – starting out with “meditation is like peeling an onion, it can make you cry”. We (western narrow-minded psychologists) have been recommending meditation to people without being aware that meditation can bring to surface a lot of unprocessed experiences: one of them being the realization that one has been an asshole among other dramatic reality-checks. People are then expected to deal with it quickly or put on meds… anyway this is a big topic for discussion. I’m with you and I want to believe that some millennials do follow the example of awakened baby boomers and of a few others that have preceded them, but I would also say that rejection of “awakened” millennials from “non-awakened” ones hurts like hell. Or in other words… maybe hate within a generation feels a bit worse than inter-generational hate, because it is “against” our social program that makes people favor and elevate their own groups in detriment of others…

    Liked by 1 person

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