Hear the Calling

I have come to be convinced that the parental fallacy itself has harnessed [a] Father's spirit to a false image, and his daimon turns demonic in kicking against the traces. He is trapped in a construct called fatherhood, a moral commandment to be the kind of good guy who likes Disneyland, and kids' food, gadgets, opinions, and wisecracks.

This bland mode betrays his necessary angel, that image of whatever else he carries in his heart, glimpsed from childhood into the present day ... The man who has lost his angel becomes demonic; and the absence, the anger, and the paralysis on the couch are all symptoms of the soul in search of a lost call to something other and beyond.

And so his absences - physical, mental, spiritual - call him away from the cage of delusions that crush the angel's wings. Without inspiration, what's left is bare, aimless ferocity. Without the desire for an ideal, what's left is lustful fantasy and the seduction of free-floating images that find no anchor in actual projects.

Present in body and absent in spirit, he lies back on the couch, shamed by his own daimon for the potentials in his soul that will not be subdued. He feels himself inwardly subversive, imagining in his passivity extremes of aggression and desire that must be suppressed.

Solution: more work, more money, more drink, more weight, more things, more infotainment, and an almost fanatic dedication of his mature male life to the kids so that they can grow up straight and straight up the consumer ladder in the pursuit of their happiness.

... the parental fallacy has trapped the parents also in providing happiness, along with shoes, schoolbooks, and van-packed vacations. Can the unhappy produce happiness?

Since happiness at its ancient source means eudaimonia, or a well-pleased daimon, only a daimon who is receiving its due can transmit a happy benefit to a child's soul. Yes, I am saying that "care of soul," as Thomas Moore has written, may thereby help the child's soul prosper.

Should the onus of soul-making in the parent shift to making the soul of the child, then the parent is dodging the lifelong task set by the acorn [their "calling"]. Then the child replaces the acorn. You feel your child is special, and you care for it as your calling, seeking to realize the acorn in your child. So your daimon complains because it is avoided, and your child complains because it has become an effigy of the parents' own calling.

Parents' deficient attention to the individual call they brought with them into the world and the hyperactivity of their distraction from this call betrays their reason for being alive. When your child becomes the reason for your life, you have abandoned the invisible reason you are here.

Any father who has abandoned the small voice of his unique genius, turning it over to the small child he has fathered, cannot bear reminders of what he has neglected. He cannot tolerate the idealism that arises so naturally and spontaneously in the child, the romantic enthusiasms, the sense of fairness, the clear-eyed beauty, the attachment to little things, and the interest in big questions. All this becomes unbearable to a man who has forgotten his daimon.

[James Hillman]
The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, p.82, 83, 84, 85

Men became neurotic at the mid-point of life because, in some sense, they had been false to themselves, and had strayed too far from the path which Nature intended them to follow. By scrupulous attention to the inner voice of the psyche, which manifested itself in dreams, phantasies, and other derivatives of the unconscious, the lost soul could rediscover its proper path.

[in reference to middle-aged patients suffering from depression] Such patients are often people who, because of the demands of their careers and families, have neglected or abandoned pursuits and interests which, at an earlier point in time, gave life zest and meaning.

If the patient is encouraged to recall what made life meaningful to him in adolescence, he will begin to rediscover the neglected side of himself, and perhaps turn once again to music, or to painting, or to some other cultural or intellectual pursuit which once enthralled him, but which the pressure of life's business had made him abandon.

[Anthony Storr]
Solitude, p.191, 192, 194

I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life [...]

[...] Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears. For that reason the idea of development was always of the highest importance to me.

A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them [...] Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.162, 307

Jung thought that the cause of neurosis usually lay in the present [...] When the natural course of a man's development through life was held up, either by misfortune or by his failure to face life's obligations, his libido became turned in upon himself and reactivated the attitudes and feelings of childhood which would normally have been left behind him.

Jung believed that there was a natural and proper path of development for each individual; and that neurosis might actually be a valuable signal which indicated when, through intellectual arrogance, a false set of values or an evasion of responsibilities, a person was straying too far from his own true path.

Just as pain might make a man realize that there was something wrong with his body, so neurotic symptoms could draw attention to psychological problems of which the individual was unaware.

[Anthony Storr]
The Essential Jung, p.17

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