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Parental Fallacy - Aging Well With Marjorie
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Parental Fallacy

Parental Fallacy

Parents, especially mothers, tend to be blamed (or praised) for how children turn out, but James Hillman takes issue with this mind set. Of course they have a strong influence, but he claims it is a fantasy that “the primary instrument of our fate is the behaviour of your mother and father.” 

At some point in life, children need to stop blaming their parents, and instead become who they are meant to be, and the kind of person they want to be. As Hillman points out, “Yet all along a little elf whispers another tale: You are different; you’re not like anyone in the family; you don’t really belong.

Multiple influences

Influences on childAll kinds of parents beget all kinds of children. Hillman articulates that “…we are less the victims of parenting than of the ideology of parenting; less the victims of Mother’s fateful power than of the theory that gives her that fateful power.” And further, “This ideology traps women in the parental fallacy and children in mother-blame.”

Consider all the influences on our lives, not only the wide variety of people, but also the social and political times in which people grow up. We are free to emulate the behaviours and characteristics we admire in our parents, and avoid those that we don’t want in ourselves. We do not have to remain stuck with the effects they had on us.

Stop the blame game

It is helpful to keep this in mind if we have an adult child or children who take issue with how we raised them. They likely have valid points that we need to acknowledge, but we simply cannot accept their blame or praise, or anyone else’s blame or praise, for who they are today.

Reference:1997. James Hillman. The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. Grand Central Publishing, New York. 334 pp.

  • Pat K
    Posted at 14:51h, 23 June

    I do love Hillman and his book “The Force of Character”. I’m not sure trying to understand the influences that shape character always amounts to “blame”. At the time he was writing those books, we didn’t know what we do know about genetic inheritance and neuroplasticity. And we – medicine and science – better understand the complex combo of genetic and environmental influences that shape us. Now we know that we alter/amend a lot of that due to neuroplasticity just by living and that we aren’t stuck with it forever, if we’re lucky.

    • Marjorie
      Posted at 15:22h, 23 June

      Thank you for your ideas. I certainly do not think that “the influences that shape character always amounts to “blame” “, as you pointed out. Accepting praise for the way adult children turn out is also a mistake, I think, because of “neuroplasticity just by living”, as you so aptly phrased, and the multiple environmental influences that shape our character.