Parents must understand children are all unique beings with a unique purpose
By Patti Carmalt-Vener 07/24/2014
I knew I was gay since I was 7 and was so worried I’d be rejected when my parents found out that I decided to be perfect in every way and a really good girl so they’d still want me no matter what. I got excellent grades, never got into trouble and always did what I was told. My father always assumed I’d take over the family business and, because I’ve always agreed to that, I’m now majoring in business in college. In a way it’s worked because they accept my girlfriend (marginally).
One of my lifelong passions has been to be around horses and I finally realized this year that what I really want to do with my life is be a horse trainer or a veterinarian with large animals. I don’t know exactly which career path I’ll take, but I do know that I’m happiest when I’m focusing on horses.
When my parents heard my plans, they were furious. They’re not used to me defying them and assertively taking a stand for what I want. My dad says he has waited his whole life for me to step into his place. He’s now threatening to kick me out of the house and even hinted at kicking me out of their lives. They keep trying to start arguments with me, even though this issue is my personal choice and isn’t up for discussion. I’m OK, but this threat to kick me out of their lives is very hurtful, confusing and brings up my worst fear of being abandoned.
I understand it can be disturbing and even painful to face the possibility that your life path is different from your loved ones’ core dreams for you. Part of the natural process of becoming an adult is deciding who you really are and what you really think without being either compliant or reflexively taking an oppositional stance. It sounds like you’re trying to do that. While this may sometimes be a lonely journey, staying true to your rightful nature can lead you to discover your true potential. Likewise, ignoring “the self” can be emotionally unhealthy for years to come.
If you don’t already know of him, I’d like to introduce you to the ideas of Carl Jung, a famous psychoanalyst who was the first to define “archetypes.” This is the concept that each of us is born with a unique grouping of energies, traits and talents that make up our personality. Sometimes these archetypes are totally different from those of our parents. The archetypal personality of an athlete who yearns to be a football player may encounter disappointments, misunderstandings and relationship problems with his gentle poet mother and intellectual researcher father if he’s struggling to stay true to himself but still trying to please them.
According to Jung, there’s an innate need for self-realization that leads to the exploration and integration of various aspects of personality. The result is called individuation. It’s crucial for parents to recognize, understand and accept the individual driving forces within their offspring and let them be themselves rather than follow the life script expected of them. Children are all unique beings with a unique purpose; the parents’ role is to guide them to discover that purpose and enjoy a happy, fulfilling existence.
Do your best to explain to them that they need to see you as an individual who is separate from them. Calmly and lovingly explain that while you appreciate and respect their life choices, they also need to respect your choices if they truly want you to be happy.
The threat to kick you out of the house, or worse, kick you out of their lives, seems like a harsh reaction. I recommend professional family counseling to guard against such a serious falling-out. Individual counseling would be beneficial, too.
I’m so sorry you had to carry a secret from such a young age and always prove yourself, trying so hard in everything you did, not always out of joy or passion but in fear of being rejected. You’re still young and, for the most part, inexperienced. Be open to others’ wisdom but realize you need to stay in harmony with your own convictions in order to live a satisfying life. Become the person you want to be by listening to — and understanding — your true self. n
Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park.
Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com.