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P36 Parenting Intermission and “Should”


In this fourth and final intermission episode, I try to answer the seemingly simple question: “Amy, do you agree with Daniel – that unhealed people should not have kids – or not?”

Perhaps the most concise answer would be “I wouldn’t use the word ‘should’.”

Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with Daniel’s opinions or approach (or use of the words “should” and “shouldn’t”), I still feel that the heart of his message is very important and far too rare.

And I continue to be grateful for his perspective, passion and courage.

Plume Giant – a “retro folk trio with no frontman, just guitar, violin, viola, and three voices” gives us our musical treat today, which is lucky for us.


5 comments to P36: Parenting Intermission and ‘Should’

  • kara tennis

    I really agree that Daniel’s unequivocal message about children and parenting is much-needed medicine in a screwed-up world. I get and in most ways appreciate his drum-banging about the necessity for radical healing. And I’m minutely aware of my own varied transgressions, now and in the past, against my precious children.

    I also feel moved at the moment to elaborate on my agreement with your point that consciousness IS evolving.

    I have detailed, intimate experience–as well as encyclopedic memories–of my mother and her mother, and of my daughter and her daughter, (and also of myself of course). Four of us are still living, and the differences in consciousness over the five generations are phenomenal.

    I am the pivot point in the middle, and my intensive long-term journey of healing toward radical self-possession feels like it has THOROUGHLY turned consciousness forever in a new direction, at least for our family.

    All four of my grown children would agree that amazing waves have rippled out from the changes that have happened inside of me. It seems clear to me that “important” growth and evolution of the psyche can sometimes take place BECAUSE of having had children, that couldn’t have happened in any other way, and that didn’t unconscionably wreck the kids .

    Anyone who knows me knows that my assertions about my family do not come from denial or a sense that I’m a great parent. Rather, I’ve been agonized, humbled, humiliated, grieved and pulled through the wringer by my ongoing processes in relation to all of them.

    I think that what I’ve been through and am talking about is outside of Daniel’s experience, and I know some other people who have been on a somewhat parallel path to mine. This isn’t to gainsay his super-cogent points, but just to add something to the picture that I think he has missed.

  • Joss

    I think that “should” is okay to be used for morality. Like, I think it’s okay to say, you should not murder. It’s a should because it is objectively bad.

    If Daniel associates unprocessed childhood trauma with the inevitable abuse of your own children, it seems fair to me to use the word “should.” After all, child abuse is objectively wrong.

    Then again, is it possible to resolve ALL your trauma? I think it’s unlikely. I think even the best parents probably act out on an extremely unconscious level. If it’s only a small aspect of the parent’s personality and the parent accepts the behaviour and makes a commitment to change, then I think that could be okay.

    Like if the parent was really good, the child would feel comfortable expressing pain to the parent.

    The paradox here is the idea that if a parent is unconscious to the trauma, they will be unable to empathise with the child. So, it is a tricky one. I’m not sure. I definitely think you need to seriously work on yourself before having kids. The key here is that every time you abuse a child, you create another trauma in yourself that needs to be processed and you make it that much more difficult for yourself to connect with the original pain. At least, that’s what I think.

  • Paul

    I think that the prescriptive nature of Daniel’s perspective is evident in his critique of Alice Miller where there are perhaps indications of the basic disagreement that might be said to exist between his perspective and that of Amy and Kara’s.

    For example, at, Daniel writes: “Take page 252 of For Your Own Good (1980), a book in which she [Alice Miller] offers detailed descriptions of parents who sexually abuse, physically torture, emotionally humiliate, and utterly abandon their children:

    ‘…because I do not place blame on the parents, I apparently create difficulties for many of my readers. It would be so much simpler to say it is all the child’s fault, or the parents’, or the blame can be divided. This is exactly what I don’t want to do, because as an adult I know it is not a question of blame but of not being able to do any differently.’

    Not being able to do any differently: the classic rationalization of the abusive parent!”

    It seems to me that Kara and Amy’s view, and perhaps my own at the time of writing, is that it is true that we can’t do differently than we do in the sense that everything we have done up till now cannot be done again differently and when we act in a certain way we do so for reasons that are determining our behaviour at the time. If we could act differently from how we do act in the present moment there would have to be a different set of motivating reasons available to us at that moment. Since each moment has its own set of motivating reasons, whether they be conscious or unconscious, there is no way that we can act differently from how we do act in response to those reasons. To act differently would require a different set of reasons and it is only possible to have different set of reasons in a different moment, not in the same one.

    That is not to say that, for example, by reflecting on our behaviour and the reasons behind it, we cannot change over time and act in different ways in the future towards similiar situations than we had done in the past, but insofar that we are able to do this is because of the changes in the motivating reasons that take place as a result of this reflection, and this reflection itself can only come about due to previous changes in motivating reasons over time. In this sense, we are not wholly in control of how we behave in a given moment.

    Therefore, I do not see Alice Miller’s remarks regarding not being able to act differently as a defence of certain harmful behaviour, but rather as reflecting her insight into the apparent truth of the utter unavoidability of acting in the way that we act.

    To conclude, I think that while Daniel is brilliant in vigourously encouraging us to examine the reasons for our behaviour for the sake of beneficial change over time, he is asking the impossible if he is asking us to act differently than how we are actually acting in the present.


  • Paul

    I will go on to say that insofar as we do ever act differently from how we would have in a given moment, it is perhaps through the abusive coercion from outside that Daniel and the rest of us are perhaps fighting against.

  • Paul

    Of course, such interventions into our own course of action could be helpful ones, e.g. a parent grabbing a child by the arm who is about to walk onto a busy road. I would suggest that these are usually if not always physical rather than psychological coercions.

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