Archive for April, 2015

Freud’s Bad Rap
   Let’s face it, over the years Sigmund Freud has gotten a lot of bad press. Some of it deserved, as not all of his theories have panned out.  Much of it undeserved.  Stated by people who either didn’t understand what he was saying or didn’t read anything but the “Cliff’s notes” and extrapolated a very wrong conclusion.  Often those misinterpreted conclusions have been repeated by people who never read anything but the title of the theory, and then they proceeded to throw both baby and bathwater out.
   Sure theories about “penis envy” and other psychosexual based theories, if they were alone, would show a person in need of mental help.  However, his “iceberg” model of the human personality, discovery of the “subconscious”, ego, id, and super ego, and the “defense mechanism” that he identified, still hold as founding tenets of psychology today.  He often used terms that mean very different things today and to other people, that were poorly interpreted. For example, he uses the term “erotic” to describe things that are stimulating, exciting, and obscurely motivating.  Today, this kind of emotion is attributed solely to “sex”.  Which can be offensive when you are talking about “objects”. 
What Does Freud Have To Do With The Father Daughter Relationship? 
   The Oedipus complex is one of the misunderstood Freudian theories. Most of you know it as “Women are attracted to/ marry their fathers and men are attracted to/ marry their mothers”.  With such generalization, so much is lost in translation.  First most people immediately think “physical” and “visual”.  But Freud is not the “Father of modern visual style and biology”.  He is known as “The Father of modern Psychology”.  He wasn’t talking about what they “look like” (though physical appearance, as important and varied as it has become in our society) but rather what their personality type is expressed.  Another variation on this in our society is the your “emotional father figure” and “emotional mother figure” is not necessarily your biological father or mother.  We live in a society where 70% of the children born to women under 30 are born into single parent homes.  Divorce and unmarried couples that split are at unconscionable numbers in Freud’s time.  You can’t copy a pattern that you are never aware of.  A man can not learn to mimic his father if his father doesn’t exist.  Nor can he learn how to pick and treat a wife.  Likewise, a daughter who never knows her father, can not see her mother being attracted to him, nor she can not see how she should be expected to be treated by him. But the human mind NEEDS a pattern. So it will seek out an alternative way to acquire one.  
 Crude Pattern Recognition
   This topic is far too extensive to put in this post.  So you will have to accept the premise or go and validate it somewhere else (I recommend Dan Gilbert’s TED talk for starters). OR wait till I get around to writing a post directed at the subject.  But, basically, our brains are crude pattern recognition tools. We experience patterns with our senses, and then assign “feelings” to them.  Fear, love, hate, ignore, and other “associations” (think Skinner Box here) are made and reactions planned.  In a traditional healthy family, at birth, two parents start doting over us.  We have needs, they take care of them, we associate comfort, love, trust, and appreciation to them to the point of dependency.  Separation at this point is devastating.  Mommy and daddy really aren’t any different at first.  They establish their difference in the months to come.  To what extent depends upon the cultural and family practices. As girls grow into being girls, and boys into boys, they begin to identify themselves as one of those roles.  But, how are they to act?  For that, they mimic the patterns they see that they believe is most like themselves.
   Sadly in the US society, that image comes from a television, video game, a mother playing both roles, a rotating “father figure”, or a father that is more like a child himself.  Without this strong bond and unassailable sense of direction, girls and boys may look to teachers, religious figures, or the creepy guy down the street for that pattern to mimic.  They may just “try stuff” (experiment) and see how their friends and family react.  It has become such an unpredictable method of learning about the world. 
Tradition Once Broken Can Not Easily Be Mended
     The problem is “Being a good parent takes having examples of good parents.”  Too many generations have we given up our right/ opportunity/ role of being parents, of teaching ethics, morals, spirituality, philosophy to “the system”.  At younger and younger ages we are sending them off to the jungle of group education.  There they learn from other kids how to think and feel about sex, drugs, violence, and what it means to be “a good person”.  They loose trust in the parent that they don’t see very often.   The political environment has an indirect say, often passive-aggressive messages that may not be in line with the parents.  (For example forcing “transgender bathrooms” in middle and high school. This says to the child that an authoritative figure condones sex for pleasure and behaviors that surrounds it.  A child without direction may feel the need and the pressure to try it out.)    An example of accepting a behavior is the same as condoning it.  Parents, often so busy just “putting a roof over their heads and food on the table”, are absent with that voice.  Making it worse is the few times children see today’s parents, they are getting drunk watching sports and/ or screaming at the TV.  They try to shove parental responsibilities and “Being adult” children themselves into the same time space.  Assuming that their little onlookers are less observant and “stupider” than they are.   Lacking understanding of how to parent, they wrongfully believe that they can behave in ways in front of their children that they wouldn’t accept in their children.  Telling your children not to drink and smoke while you have a beer and a cigarette in your hand is more than pointless. They see a parent’s mixed messages, that makes the parent a hypocrite, thus, an untrusted source. Losing respect for the parent, leaves the parent only with the option of controlling them by use of fear.  This is why the common concept of beating your kids and negative reinforcement is useful as a tool, is so profoundly common in our culture. Sentiment such as “kids are bad today because they don’t get spanked like they used to” is far too common.  This despite all the research to the contrary. The voice that matters most, to any of us, is the one that the message never varies.  Often, for kids, that is the  kids they are friends with.  Don’t know  about you, but I don’t think a 14 yr old boy has the best message for a 14 yr old girl.  I never do anything  in front of my (now 8 yr old) daughter that  I would not want her to do.  Actions speak louder than words, by far. 
Be a Good Example of The Role You are Assigned 
   So, be the man you want your daughter to marry.  Be the husband you want your son to be. Be the woman you want your son to marry.  Be the woman you want your daughter to become. Show him what he is expected and can expect, where his strengths and boundaries are as a man.  Show her what is expected and what she can expect.  Teach her to settle for nothing less.  Teach them both that patience and slow moving in this society pays off big in the end. For god’s sake, “making choices” does not come natural to human beings!  Teach them both to be strong, make choices, don’t be afraid of screwing up, don’t be afraid to make a good choice.  Teach them that innocence can only be lost once.  Be it a true “innocence” or a relative one.  Once you give up enough, you cross the line and it gets harder to walk away.  “Where did you learn to let men walk all over you?!”  “I learned it by watching you, alright, I learned it by watching you!”  
And Obvious Problem
   Let’s say enough of us agree with this sentiment.  In fact, bad parenting is far from costless to our society.  This lack of good examples has been shown to increase chances of going to prison or being impoverished and in need of government subsidy.  What could be done as a matter of policy.  When I suggest parents being held more responsible, and thus held more accountable, for their children’s actions I am often chastised. If parents felt there was consequences to not being involved, would it not promote involvement.  What would such a policy look like?  I guess for me, simply saying “not being a good example is bad” is not enough.  How do we, as a society, address that issue? With the statistics of those in single parent homes, this is beyond an “epidemic”, bad parenting is a global crisis.