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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Parenting?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Parenting

Birth, Essence and Personality

When a baby is born, it is pretty much all Essence or pure Being. Its essence is not, of course, the same as the essence of a developed or realized adult. It is a baby’s essence—nondifferentiated, all in a big bundle. As the infant grows, the personality starts developing through interactions with the environment, especially the parents. Since most parents are identified with their personalities and not with their essence, they do not recognize or encourage the essence of the child. After a few years, Essence is forgotten, and instead of Essence, there is now personality. Essence is replaced with various identifications. The child identifies with one or the other parent, with this or that experience, and with all kinds of notions about itself. These identifications, experiences, and notions become consolidated and structured as the personality. The child and, later, the adult believes this structure is its true self.

Good Mother, Bad Mother

At the beginning, in childhood, there is a relationship between the child and the mother, the parents, the environment. When the relationship is difficult or painful, the child deals with it by splitting the difficult from the easy, the love from the hatred. But to do that, you have to do it with your mind, because it is not real. You have to split your perception. You have to split your mind. You have to believe something that is not there. That is the beginning of mental structure. You have to split the reality into this and that, split mother into good mother and bad mother. Well, your mother is never all good or all bad. She is a mixture. So if you split her into good mother and bad mother, and you have to remember this and that, you are creating something in your mind that is not really there. In time, that becomes the mental relationship that you reenact in your life relationships. So there is the idealized mother, there is the frustrating mother, and there is the attacking mother. And your relationships with those three parts are what become reenacted in your life as mental relationships.

Mirroring the Soul

When we recognize that most parents are ignorant of their essential potential we see that they will have a difficulty seeing it, and hence mirroring or supporting it, in their child. The result is that the most fundamental part of the soul, her essential ground and its aspects, will receive at best a minimum of mirroring and support. The soul develops without integrating this fundamental dimension into her identity, leading again to her dissociating her experience of her essential nature. Instead, the soul integrates only the elements of her potential that her human environment could reflect and support. Thus the parents’ lack of self-realization is passed on to their offspring.

Parenting and Negative Merging

Negative merging is one cause of most individuals being cut off from, and unaware of, their Being. The mother's (parents') lack of contact with, and ignorance of Being is internalized by the infant, through negative merging. The child grows up completely ignorant of his true nature. The greatest and most devastating ignorance of humanity is perpetuated in the daily lives of families. Most of us do not want such knowledge or perception; it is too painful and frustrating to confront our fears and illusions. But our love for our children and for the human race might give us the courage to face these issues and allow us to look inward to find the true harmony of Being. Negative merging is a powerful force in the personality. It is the core of suffering, the basis and the fuel of all emotional conflicts, of all negative object relations. It is in the deepest core of the unconscious, in the merged representations, manifesting in the more superficial layers of the personality as the various conflicts and distortions specific to the later stages of ego development.

Parenting and the Ego Shell

Your parents’ failure to see your real nature does not mean that they do not love you. Even if they love you, are nice to you, provide for you, and even think you are wonderful, it is not the same as actually seeing who you are. Even people who have good parents will still develop this fake shell. The most original you, your center, your spark was not seen; it was not recognized, not responded to, and often it was disapproved of and rejected. If your parents don’t have their own center, their own deep sense of self, they can’t see you. They can see in you only what they see in themselves, regardless of how much they want the best for you and love you. Even if they were to glimpse the real center of you, they would have to defend against this perception, because it would make them feel their own lack. So we could call this phenomenon of identifying with the shell a social disease that has been transmitted through the ages.

Right Orientation of Parenting

A parent who is loving, caring, and supportive of the child helps the personality to grow more balanced and healthy and is less opposed to the beingness of the child. But this is still a far cry from actually seeing the essence, understanding it, and encouraging it to grow according to its own truth. Regardless of how loving the parents are toward their children, if the personality is the center of their life, the same will happen to the children. They will end up with the personality as the center, essence being buried. So the problem is not a lack of good intentions and good will. It is a lack of something much more fundamental than that; it is the lack of the right orientation, the right perspective, and the right understanding.

Supporting the Soul's Potential

Furthermore, the soul also requires a great deal of firm but loving support for her to learn about her potential, how to recognize and use it, and how to exercise, develop, and expand it. She needs guidance, instruction, modeling, and setting of appropriate boundaries by confident and attentive caretakers. Without such support it is difficult for her to securely integrate her unfolding potential. (See The Point of Existence, chapter 25, for a more extensive discussion of support and the soul’s need for it.) But when the environment, specifically the primary caretakers who are usually the parents, provides her with adequate mirroring and support her arising potential she can recognize it, value it, and integrate it into her sense of identity. She grows up with the implicit and confident sense that this is part of her. This secure establishment of her potential in her everyday experience is the actualization of it in her development. She develops by integrating her potential, as she learns, expands, and matures. This happens through the soul's identity being structured and patterned by her potential. In other words, the actualization of her potential is inextricably linked with the development in her identity of the ability to include the elements of this potential. Difficulties and issues in the development of identity are reflected in narcissistic disturbances and conflicts: intense and inappropriate need for mirroring, incessant and insatiable hunger for support, exaggerated or grandiose sense of self and its importance and capacities, and intense need for admiration and attention combined with lack of empathy for others and disregard for their concerns. This is because the difficulties in its development have left this identity weak, brittle, vulnerable, and easily disintegrated. So it constantly needs shoring up through an exaggerated, self-centered need for mirroring and support.

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