[I wrote this essay on June 25, 2013 — and probably didn’t publish it until now, six months later, because of the intensity of the ideas. I guess I wanted to make sure I agreed, over a decent period of time, with what I wrote. And I do.]
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1) You’ll traumatize them one way or another
That is, you’re not ready to have kids because you will screw up their lives. Chances are you are not healthy enough to avoid somehow depriving them of their emotional needs, and to deprive children of any of their emotional needs is to traumatize them. Yes, there are endless self-help and psychology books and theories out there telling you how resilient children are and that children need to have some of their needs deprived in order to become independent and to avoid becoming spoiled, but…they’re wrong. Yes, some people become strong and independent in very unique ways as the result of overcoming their adversity (I, for example, am one), but how much stronger would they (and I) have become had they never been traumatized in the first place? There is no excuse for traumatizing a child. And if you think you won’t traumatize your future child, well, my life experience leads me to believe that you are wrong, unless you’re fully healed of all your own inner wounds, and are a fully self-actualized person (neither of which I’ve ever seen in anyone, as in reality even the healthiest people I’ve met, myself included, are still fairly screwed up). Where people have not resolved their issues, and especially when they’re not even conscious of their deeper issues, which most people aren’t, they will pass on their issues to their children. Sadly, from what I’ve observed, it’s a fact of life.
2) There are too many people in the world already
Um, overpopulation. How do people not see this? It baffles the mind. Humanity, despite its beautiful sides, has become a cancer. I think most people who can’t see our species’ massive overpopulation are either: a) too self-centered to have integrated this knowledge into their lives or; b) they’ve lived for so long in clustered population centers like towns and cities that overpopulation is simply normal, and thus not troubling, to them or; c) they simply haven’t traveled enough to realize how much people have screwed up our world. If you really love nature — that is, the natural, nonhuman world of plants and animals and forests and deserts and oceans — you can’t consider having children without having a hell of a guilty conscience…
3) You’d probably serve the world better by healing yourself more
Many people think they’re contributing to the world by having children. But if you think that your future, unborn child will contribute more to the world than you yourself can do then what you’re really saying is that you’re hopeless about yourself and have more faith in a completely unborn being, a projection, a fantasy, than you do in your own actual life. And what a horrible thing to consider: that a child would have to have a parent who is hopeless about his or her own inner process. My suggestion: do more inner work. Lots of it. That’s what the world really needs. Not more kids. Doing inner work is hard. Making children is easy. And fantasizing about how great your kids will be is even easier. It’s time to wake up!
4) Your relationship with your partner is probably not as rock-solid as you think
I’ve spent a lot of years studying couples in relationships, and I’ve found only a few whom I think are fairly healthy. But how healthy are they? I still have never seen one that is really, really healthy — that is, even close enough to the point of being healthy enough to be really top-notch, excellent parents. And most of the couples I’ve met do not even come close to this. Their relationships are more often than not fairly shallow and based on lots of denial, projections, fear, underlying sadness and disappointment, fantasy, and distraction. And these are just the inside problems. To make matters worse, most couples are under too much external stress to be great parents either. Many have to work too hard to be devoted parents, have too little financial stability, and, perhaps worst of all, live isolated in a world without a great, broad community of deeply mature allies. Both parents and children need a great external community of healthy people. And from what I’ve seen, this (profoundly) does not (yet) exist. But it might someday…
5) Having kids will likely knock you off your life’s path
I believe that the real goal of our lives should be to heal our childhood traumas. This is done best when people are not encumbered with profound external responsibilities — children being the most serious one of life. Yes, I know many parents (mostly mothers, actually) who credit their children, or credit having had children, with pressuring them to clean up their inner world, grow up, become a lot more mature, that is, to work through their childhood traumas. But is this fair for the children? I hardly think so. Yes, parents who become more mature become better parents, and they deserve credit, but the real fairness for the child is the parent who does this before he or she has children. No child deserves to be born to even slightly screwed-up parents who, in the best the child can hope for, have to spend years working through the hellish grieving process. But even this is highly unlikely for most people. Most people use kids to avoid growing. And they do it totally unconsciously. And kids are convenient for that: they demand a lot of attention…
I’ve stumbled upon your essays while searching views on dissociation and spirituality (how they connect in different ways).
I found this idea of not having children if one still has some issues with their own inner wounds etc. frankly quite limited and rigid.
Now I found a quote from Gabor Maté, who has developed compassionate inquiry. The quote clarifies my intuitive refusal of your idea. The quote speaks not about parenting, but it’s totally related to that too by analogy. Here it is:
“CJ:You talk very openly about your own life and how your drive to help others was driven by your own need for healing. You talk about the ‘rush to symptom control’, when a therapist is unable to sit with a client’s pain because they haven’t dealt with their own. Should the unhealed healer not be practising or can the unhealed therapist work with their wound or scar tissue, without it harming their clients?
GM: If I had waited to be perfectly healed, I would not be talking to you right now! I would not have written any books, conducted any programmes or counselled anybody. You can’t wait for that complete healing, even if it is possible. But, if you don’t recognise that you are wounded and that you need to keep working on it and that, whenever there is a block in the therapy, you had better look to yourself, then you can create a lot of problems. It’s not a question of waiting for some state of perfection; it’s a question of being alert to one’s own wounding and how that shows up sometimes”
This is thought provoking. It also seems incomplete in an argumentative sense. I understand your reasoning for wishing to put a halt to procreation, yet I wonder what you see to be the alternative. That is, do you believe that human life is a mistake in itself? Do you think humans are not just like a growing cancer, but perhaps that they are actually cancer? If everyone living today adopted your mindset, human life would come to an end fairly quickly. Is this the ultimate goal in your mind? Or rather, do you believe that most people shouldn’t have children and only a select few, the near-perfect-fully-actualized-emotionally-healthy humans, which probably are scarce, should carry the responsibility of continuing the human race? Or, do you think we should be more mindful of reproduction and that we should limit how many people are born?
What has been suggested here sounds to me like an ideology that leans toward what I see to be somewhat of a dystopian future. This essay leaves me with nothing but questions. What is life for? Are we meant to live without trauma of any sort? We can’t have the light without the dark. I’m not advocating for child abuse or child trauma. I think about the parent-child relationship often and I am perplexed by how it is, almost by nature, a recipe for abuse. Though, reproduction is at the root of life.
So, I guess my ultimate question is: what is your solution? What does your parent-child utopia, or lack thereof, look like? I’m not being condescending. I’m really curious. I think you have intelligent thoughts.
I see that you wrote this essay a few years ago. I am curious if your position on the subject has changed ever since. In your essay, you advocated the position that having children prior to healing yourself will have detrimental consequences for the well-being of children. In principle, I agree with your arguments. There is a lot of research on inter-generational trauma, and I can see how my own life was shaped by the traumas my parents and grandparents endured. My question for you is as follows. I think you said elsewhere that one’s inner work is never complete. As humans, we are a work in progress. So does it mean that people are not supposed to have children at all?! It sounds like a pretty high standard to hold the society up to. Do you regret not having children? You sound like someone who would be a good, conscious father. I apologize if this question is too personal. I am just curious. I have never met anyone who would have such a radical position on the subject. Personally, I am going to have children even though my inner work is far from being complete.
So I think we’re saying something very, very similar, just coming at it from opposite ends. I’m convinced it’s also possible to look at it this way, that guilt is simply the internalized fear of punishment or reprisal. Guilt is what it feels like when we’ve been conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs, to expect an automatic, inevitable punishment, if not from Mom or Dad, which ceases to be a worry at some point, then from God.
And people have internalized this need for punishment, that was originally conceptualized as coming from God. Many people have shed the metaphysical foundation that spoke of a God who punishes, but very few understand that there is a physical side to this, which is formalized into the secular system of justice and law that we now have, since days long past. The justice system we have is really a form of reactionary justice, which is no justice at all. To act justly is a prime imperative, not a secondary response to unjust behaviour. People punish to “right wrongs” but all they do is keep the pain alive. They think humanity and its flaws can be fixed by the threat and fear of punishment, but it never changes us, it never improves us. Instead, it keeps us bound to a false belief in our own unworthiness as human beings, as beings in every sense. Punishment is one of the core elements of the egoic consciousness. Together with guilt, and many other aspects. It goes too far to name everything here. Suffice to say that you are on to something, when you say that punishment keeps us mired in misery.
You’re like the only one who ever got it – and I called you a psycho. I’m an asshat.
I’m simply enlightened. When you fully realize all the elements of the ego, it ceases to exist. That is why ‘the truth will set you free’.
And you did nothing of the kind. You merely spoke your truth as you saw it. You now see a different truth, /because/ you spoke it. And besides, enlightenment is akin to insanity. You have to be pretty out of your mind to believe the stuff that I believe, which I can’t even tell you.
My enlightenment was reached in large part through an understanding of what we just spoke about. I realized that punishment prolongs time and at that point I realized that punishment would never visit me again because time has ceased to exist for me. Not that much in my daily reality has changed (except everything) but I have a much different relationship to time now. Punishment can only visit those who already feel guilty. The consequences of this are massive and will change everything, particularly in the area of sexuality (you can’t even imagine).
Basically, we will stop killing each other and we will start fucking, a lot.
There is much more to be said, but I will leave it at this. Please don’t speak negatively about yourself, it is also my self you are talking about ;-).
Enjoy your day or your night, whatever time it is there.
it’s about 9:00 pm now, and I am signing off of the interwebs before I get into anything that winds my brain up, I’d like a good long sleep tonight.
OK, no more bad self-talk.
A good night or whatever to you too.
What If you are a parent who really does want to look at the ways you’ve unconsciously traumatized your children and want to love the true being that they are and somehow make amends, i.e. listen to their pain, empathize with their trauma, have the courage to meet this work, develop deeper connection and understanding, allow them to distance themselves if they need to…Do you feel that it’s possible?
hi Veronica — i think wanting to do all these things right by one’s child is a beautiful thing……but i think it’s just the very beginning. i think there’s a big difference between wanting to do these things and actually being able to really not traumatize one’s child…….though again, i think wanting to not do these things is a big start……..
all the best,
Thanks for the prompt reply Daniel. I have always been interested in critical feedback. My kids tease that my idea of fun is to have penetrating conversations in which we’re seeking to more fully understand motives, behaviors, origins of needs…to understand why we’re here and what our responsibility is as human beings inhabiting this planet. I’m telling you this because although I’m sure that the work of understanding childhood trauma is painful, I’m up for the challenge. I have four children, ranging from 16 to 25. Our 23 year old son is hearing voices and is paranoid. The voices are sometimes ours. When he shares what they are saying it sounds to me like they are subconscious messages from his childhood that are judging him as inferior and incapable. He is in so much pain and all I want to do is take it away. You talk about this work but where does one find therapists that help with a schizophrenic diagnosis (and is self medicating with marijuana and sometimes alcohol) for a person who is tormented by constant voices and can be violent. Where are the practical resources for an urgent situation with very limited resources? Now that the unconscious act of having children is done, how does the powerful work of healing begin? We have always been alternative in our health practices (kids born at home, no vaccinations etc.) and my son is an organic farmer. He can’t understand the antipsychotic medical approach yet isn’t able to maintain a reasonable conversation about what else to do. Any suggestions in the Sacramento area would be appreciated.
i was actually in sacramento for the day about a month ago, oddly. i know a good therapist in san francisco if you are interested. he does a lot of work with psychosis, and had an intense experience of psychosis himself when he was in his early 20s. he’s a lovely guy, very skilled, named matthew morrissey. he and i wrote a book together: http://wildtruth.net/a-way-out-of-madness/
his website is: http://morrisseymft.com/
if you email him he would be much more likely to know a good local therapist, if one exists…. often most therapists (when it comes to psychosis) are the pits!!! sad but true…….ugh.
all the best, veronica,
Thank you so much Daniel…I’ll do that. What do you think of narrative therapy? Might it be helpful with psychosis? Have you found a connection between parents doing personal self-therapy and its effects on their children?
i don’t know so much about narrative therapy. i hear some good things about it. as for parents doing therapy — well, if they grow it often helps the family system….though sometimes it can cause a bit of chaos too…..
Thank you so much Daniel for your quick and thoughtful responses. Chaos sounds a bit like what we’re living with now…it would be soul-satisfying if something new were to grow from it…even if it meant the sad sacrifice of allowing these lives that we brought to earth to find more full expression of their highest selves away from us.
I’m a little bit shocked about your opinion about having kids or not.
I think it’s very courage to have children although you have been traumatized.
It’ s a chance to do something better- and to be “good enough”!
I have children , I’m a Single-Patent mother and I had a traumatic childhood.
It’ s very hard to NOT repeat the trauma, but its not impossible!
My kids are happy although I’m not perfect!
As I’ve said, choosing not to have children because we are inferior beings or because life would be too cruel for them, is a covert wish to “end life”. It is the wish to just end human civilisation. It is a nihilistic, self-destructive tendency. But instead of ending your own life (you don’t have the guts for that) you will chose to end the life of your unborn children, since they are easy victims and don’t have a say in whether they will live or not. If you were really so serious about this, you would simply end your own life, then the question of whether or not to have children would become irrelevant. But people who want to end human life never start with themselves. There is a word for that, it is called being a hypocrite.
this is the definition of “hypocrite” that includes all dissent, and any attempt to change a system from within. It’s basically “America – love it or leave it.” You need a better word than hypocrite for this.
Also, a vasectomy would do the trick, suicide may be a little over the top.
No, a hypocrite is someone who advocates one thing and does another. In this case, the advocacy is to cease birth. The basic argument behind it is that “the world is too cruel to live in.” That is Daniel’s reason for wanting to cease birth – it is cruel to our children to have them be born. But if the world is too cruel to live in, it is also too cruel for ourselves. Saying the world is too cruel for our children but not for ourselves, is a clear double standard. Ceasing birth is ceasing life. It is a way to discontinue life. That is what it is. If you really want to end life, if that is REALLY what you want, then you should start with yourself, not with your children. If you are given a million dollars, you would not distribute it around a city of strangers, leaving none for yourself. No, you would pick yourself as the one who should most benefit from it. If you are given a delicious burger, and you are hungry, you would not give it to someone you don’t care about. That’s because you really WANT these things. But people who want to cease life, always start with other people. In this case, they start with their children. Likewise, people who advocate suicide never start with themselves. George Carlin was a comedian who thought it was really cool if a lot of people committed suicide. But himself, he had a cop out. He said life was too interesting to him, human idiocy was too interesting to him, to want to commit suicide himself. So suicide was not REALLY what he honestly wanted. Likewise, if you kill your unborn children (so to speak) per a vasectomy (as you mention) because the world is too cruel to live in, but you don’t lay the hand on yourself, then you are being a hypocrite, because if ceasing life was really what you honestly wanted, you’d start with yourself, not with someone else. We can conclude that this is not really what you want. You do not want to end your own life, and therefore you do not really want to end human procreation. But still you say you do. Advocate one thing, do another. Hypocrisy. George Carlin was a hypocrite, and Daniel is being one here too. Sure, all covered in noble ideals. “We are doing it for our children, we don’t want them to face the same fate we did.” Well, if you are serious about removing people from this horrible fate called human life, you can start with yourself. I’ll give you the gun and the ammo. But I don’t think you will, because life is what you want, after all.
Like I said, there are a million good reasons for choosing not to have children, but “it is too cruel to have them be born in this world” is not one of them. “I will traumatize them”. Oh, goodie. Disclosure: people have been traumatized since the beginning of what we call civilisation. There was a pre-egoic period, we are now in the egoic period, and there will come a post-egoic period. Your job here is to work through your trauma, through your pain and your misery, and reach a state of being that eliminates suffering. This job is worthwhile. It is equally worthwhile for everyone that comes after us. You have no right to decide for anyone else whether they should live. You have no right to deny them life only because YOU think it is not worth living.
This nihilistic ideal we are discussing will never change the system “from within” because it is hypocritical and most people will see or feel the hypocrisy. If you are serious about changing “the system”, come up with something positive. And, by the way, I am not an American. So “America – love it or leave it” doesn’t come even close. I am not challenging the idea of changing the system from within. I am a moral revolutionary if I ever knew one. I am challenging a very, very poor idea on the grounds that it is a hypocritical double standard if there ever was one.
If you want to change reality, you must start with yourself. You must question your ethics, your morals. This idea to stop procreation for the reasons mentioned actually puts the focus on your children. It is now their life you are trying to fix. In this way you are avoiding having to look at your own life. It’s a cop out. You are now trying to heal trauma in some other place than your own self. You are trying to heal it by preventing it from ever arising in some other human being. That is not healing. It just allows you to avoid having to face your own problems. You must process your own trauma. Do not worry about your children. Your own life is enough for you to handle; let them handle theirs. Stop trying to make choices for other people as a way to avoid having to make choices for yourself. Their life is not your responsibility. You may not make decisions on their behalf. It violates a sacred law of the universe. Therefore, you will pay the price for this transgression, if you make it. This price you will pay comes in the form of disempowerment. By interfering with someone else’s life, you lose power – the power to be yourself and to know yourself. You end up a lesser being.
Now, many parents interfere with the lives of their children. This interference is a lack of respect for the autonomy of another soul. Children are bound up by rules and restrictions that are alien to their own nature. Parents try to decide what their child should become. Usually, what they want their child to become is a copy of themselves. They want their child to copy their ethics, their morals. They do not allow the child the freedom to discover its own ethics, its own morals. These parents try to decide how their child should live.
Deciding for your children that they should not live AT ALL is the ultimate form of trying to decide how the child should live.
Therefore, while you may think that you are acting to ESCAPE trauma, you are actually doing the exact opposite. That is because you cannot escape from life. You cannot run away from your problems. And you cannot cancel them out by trying to prevent them from being passed onto other beings.
Good Lord, sorry I spoke! Look I don’t espouse what Daniel said either, and I am making an effort to change the system of child-rearing too – I have my own theory, part of which is that everyone fixing their own problems and their own traumas is not going to happen. Few even try, and of those that do, few succeed.
That is holding people to an unreasonable standard. You seem very logical, even overly so, perhaps a little fundamentalist or psychotic – probably not, I’m not trying to call you names, but by those terms, I mean to say perfectionist, I mean to say overly literal, and holding people to a ridiculous standard. All you have to work with from daniel on this is a few words, and as much as the analytical mind likes to do it, the universe cannot be deduced from the few words Daniel has given us.
You know, if some people don’t reproduce, that’s not going to wipe us out, quite the reverse, too many people breed, mostly unconsciously.
Logical, psychotic, perfectionist, those are all good words.. 😛
You seem like a sensible man and so does Daniel. But Daniel is no expert because he has a lot of subconscious issues himself. The work we are doing here is also healing work. Any and all form of trauma can be healed through becoming more aware, by witnessing the truth of your being. From my experience I can say that trauma exists as an unconscious thought you hold on to that comes with a negative interpretation. For example Daniel’s thought might be “I am not healed” and the negative interpretation could be “And therefore I suck as a person, as a therapist.” This interpretation can be changed once we gain access to the thought and once it is changed the thought very quickly ceases to be true for us.
I bring no gift to anyone if I hide my truth out of courtesy. You do not have to either. Impertinent questions lead to pertinent answers. Jacob Bronowski said that, and he was right.
fair enough, Bart. I’m no pro, I haven’t had even a little therapy, I’m just a concerned citizen with a theory. Stated as briefly as possible, my idea is that punishment is identical to abuse in it’s effects, whether or not we do it for what seem to be good reasons. I think if we would just stop punishing, you therapists might have a much more doable job.
That’s an excellent idea! Here is what I would have you consider: punishment is guilt made real, and all trauma revolves around guilt. Every negative thought we have about ourselves is mired in guilt. And here is another thing to consider: punishment doesn’t change reality, it merely lengthens the time it takes us to let go of our guilt, to find and discover and create who we really are. Punishment prolongs this period in which we live by a mistaken identity. But since this mistaken identity is a lie anyway, it never had any effect on Who We Really Are. Therefore, punishment doesn’t change the reality of who we are, we cannot be damaged, and any damage we perceive is illusory. Punishment does function however to keep this illusion in place. Punishment’s function is to prolong time. It perpetuates the belief in a lie. The lie is that we are sinful beings.
I am no therapist either, I just cracked the code, I passed the barrier, I liberated myself and now I watch as all the guilt in my belly is starting to finally dissolve – right before my eyes.
Liberation requires nothing more than truth, and the idea that punishment is dysfunctional is a most excellent starting point!
Bart, I’m gonna start a new comment stream, this is getting narrow . . .
Bart, I’m sorry. I’d take that word back if i could. I treat these blog conversations like speech, though. Once I’ve said it, I’m not going to just hide the evidence, even if I knew you hadn’t seen it yet, I expect someone did.
Daniel, my apologies to you too. I was taking the sort of tone we use on another, less civilized site.
I agree to the main point of this essay but for my personal choice I would deny it. With being 21 i would not like to get any children. And I dont plan to get them for the next years. Im busy with my own growth, spending just one year with recovering from my past experiences and feeling a lot of internal pain. The more and more I heal, the more I love other people. Even though I know that most of them are “unhealed”. Still I just simply adore all kinds of personalities and my feelings are getting more and more intense. There are a lot of things to learn and Im also sometimes falling back in my destructive behavoiur (At the moment I struggle on early teenage age, this topic is quite unpleasant).
To get back to my point: I feel that not getting children would not by my way to be full recovered. Right now when I think about getting a child, there are a lot of fears coming up. To be like my parents, to be like every one and just to harm the child and creating a worser life. According to my view/feelings having a child means to be confronted with your forgotten past again.
Always when I have the chance to play with children (in all cities they are hidden, but sometimes I find them) I am getting aware of my own disability to let myself fall and just play with them. Sometimes I can make it. And I had some sweet moments e.g. three girls surrounded me in a small kitchen and I just listened them for one hour and they told me all their problems. As for me I sometimes think that this is the way I wanted to be treated as a child. That I dont have to be loveable and funny all the time. That my parents or someone else would come to me and just simply listens to me, with all my worries and fears.
What I want to show with this example is that I just through the contact with children am able to get back to my own childlike needs. Of course I dont want to utilise my children for this purpose.
But my logic tells me, that if there were no (traumatised) children (from traumatised) children anymore, then I could never progress in my grieving process anymore. I sometimes feel jealous when I see especially girls who are the exact the way I always wanted to be as a girl and who I simply never were. So meeting children means for me to go through all this feelings again. Jealousy, fear, hate. All the feelings I never spoke about because they were “evil”.
So as far as I see I have to get children. Because now in healing more and more I am aware that I will unconsiously put my children into roles. Roles they have to adapt to be loved by me. But I will know ait nd I need to remind myself a lot more. But for me my healing process now is one part of the “enlightment”. The other part it I can just “meet” if I am going to overjump me fear of getting children and to get into the second step.
I know that children wont give my life a neverending smiling happiness and on the other hand I disagree to the people here who are saying: “Raising children is such a hard job and a huge financial struggle”. And they always just refer to the “working time” of educating children. To this topic I have a lot things to say and its quite difficult to arrange them into a good argument. 😉
Acoording to my logic getting children after a longer healing process is the final step to meet my own past and to be in that parental role, I always liked to criticise a lot. And for those who totally disagree with this I would still advise to have permanent confronatations with children. This means: Just simply play with them once in a week.
Most of all, all people (especially in the so called western society) became so alienated from children, every one is inscecure and has fears to play with them. In general every one considers them as annoying and this is how parents treat them. For the weekend they are fun and entertainment but to be busied with their problems and fears is maybe the problem of someone else or the TV can solve it.
I dont want to criticise too much on society. It is as it is and I can just do my part for being satisfied with myself.
So the best greets to you Daniel from Berlin and I wish every one a great strength for his or her own grieving process. It is great to FEEL. Thats all I learned so far but for my part it is just enough for the moment.
Thanks for this website, in moments of desperateness I always have a look on here again and the only thing I always disagree with is the children issue.
thanks sandra! and everyone too! good to read this discussion. i wish i had a good chance to reply — but i’m hardly on the internet now.
wishing you all the best — and a happy new year.
Ah.. Christmas time.. Doesn’t it just bring up the deep deep stuff… Or in your case Daniel.. Release the stuff you wrote several months ago.
Having children.. Agree with a lot of what you say. Would not have kids now.. But at 62, that wouldn’t be happening..
Children sort of root you to the earth.. Create some other reality. That is hard to explain to non parents.
As we give birth. We also give death/ give pain/ to others. It’s very scary.. That felt responsibility.
Even if we were the most perfect parents, pain still comes.
But yes.. Way hard.. For all those reasons( and more), that you gave Daniel.
But my 5 children are here now. Living their lives. Finding some joy. Feeling their pains. And one day, facing their deaths…
Maybe this would be number six:
Thinking or saying “I want kids” should set off alarms in any sane person’s mind. Children are people, not objects or property. “I want children” is equivalent to “I want people” and should be heard like you might hear “I want a negro,” or “I want a pair of Vietnamese nymphets.” How quickly do we go from “I want the Hello Kitty purse” to “I want a baby?”
Sort of funny, but sad and true, right?
This is a thought-provoking piece, and I like it more than older statements about this topic. It feels less aggressive without being less clear and firm.
You communicate on at least two levels, the intellectual and the emotional.
I answer first on the intellectual level.
I agree that it is ethically wrong to traumatize a child. It should be avoided. But is that an absolute imperative? Or am I allowed to create a child with the expectation to traumatize him, if he prefers to have his damaged life over having no life at all? The approval of the kid doesn´t give me a free pass, but it also doesn´t absolutely bar me from becoming a father.
I work from my perspective: I have been traumatized by both my mother and my father and after a lot of work and time and money spent my life is still somewhat screwed up. But I am happy to be alive, I am happy to live this somewhat difficult life, I avoid my parents, but am still glad they made me and let me survive.
I think the deeper question here is: What are ethics for? Ethics is based on universalization, so we come to the conclusion that damaging a child is always wrong. But ethics is not life itself, it is not everything. The real thing is people living, shitting, fucking, hurting and doing stuff in the world. The whole catastrophe. And within this catastrophe ethics is a guide for people to resolve conflicts by assigning responsibility properly. Nobody needs to follow ethics, but the ethical consequences follow anyway. And if people (parents and kids) are ok with how things run, I don´t see how it makes sense to not create kids and answer truthfully to them about my choices with regards to their imperfect integrity and imperfect protection.
Now I come to the emotional level.
If I am right with my philosophical analysis that you are giving ethics too much weight in the wild process of life, the question arises, why are you doing that?
I suspect – utter speculation – that you have a problem with guilt and thence try to absolutely avoid it. You also seem to me to have a problem with the guilt of your parents. They messed your life up – but as far as I can see you seem to have a pretty decent life and seem to enjoy it. You seem to want to live – with the guilt of your parents that is part of the story. To me it seems only natural to accept the damage they inflicted, the guilt they bear and move on with life (with accepting, hurting, rejecting and eating, writing, building stuff and all the fun rest of it.) As I would accept the damage I did to my kids and let that be part of the whole story of my life including the reaction of my kids to it.
Nothing I said is meant to imply that I belittle any trauma – I know from experience what I am talking about. Trauma is severe and damaging and screwing up brain and psyche – yes, but it is part of life and we all live with it. The world would surely be a better place without it, but it is here to stay for some time. My goal is to dissolve it as best I can, but this goal is only one of my goals.
good to hear from you. i’ll have to think about what you write — digest it. as for guilt — well, i don’t think i have too much. most of it i’ve worked through — the stuff i’ve done. i actually don’t find myself thinking so much about my parents these days. moving forward…..moving onward with my life. but i’m definitely glad to be alive!! but i’m not avoiding having kids or creating them for the sake of avoiding guilt. i’d say i’m doing it (and basically advocating that others do similarly) for the reasons i provide in this essay…
wishing you the best —
You can ask whether it is not even more unfair to a child if it is not born at all. Suppose you could ask a ten year old child’s total awareness if it would have preferred not to be born at all. Do you think a majority would answer affirmative to that question? If not, it seems like you are intruding upon a sacred pact that involves the bringing of children into this world. Children want to live. Whether this world if perfect or not. They have the right to embrace this troubled existence and make the best of it. Humanity has the right to stumble and fall and get back up and try again. There is something sacred about this. What you are saying, Daniel, is in essence this: humanity is flawed and it has no right to exist in its flawed state. It has no right to live: to have children, to have joy, to have pain, to bring into being new generations that will try to do a little bit better. You are saying: first it must cleanse itself, then it will have the right to enjoy the basic elements of life. You are saying: first reach perfection, then you may start to live life.
By your arguments, even the slightest amount of imperfection should preclude people from having children. Even the slightest taint should prevent people from giving birth, because it would be “unfair” to the children to be tainted. Do the children have a say in this? What reason would they have to only opt to live in a perfect world? Are they not entitled to the same thing we have had? The same thing we have enjoyed? The pain, the drama, the hope, the despair, the love, the fear, the defeat, the victory, and the ultimate achievement. I think it is rather selfish of you to want to reserve life to those who are already living here. But it seems, Daniel, that you see life not as the great gift, but rather as the great tragedy, that we would not bestow, but rather relieve people of.
The classic argument is: I don’t want my children to live in this (horrible) world. You have merely found a new way to rationalize or express this argument. In essence, there is nothing new about the argument: childhood trauma created by bad parenting is simply a reformulation of the horrible world premise.
So we live in a horrible world. Would you forgo your life because of it? Would it have no value to you because it is not perfect? And if, despite its imperfection, it has value to you, should you not bequeath the same value to the lives of your children? Would you not allow them to conclude that their life has value to them as well?
So you see, there is a logic fallacy to your argument. If your life is worthwhile because you can heal it, then their life is worthwhile too and for the same reason. If your life is worthless, then you should commit suicide. Then the question of child birth becomes irrelevant. But you cannot in all fairness grant yourself the gift of life, yet deny it to your children. They have as much a right to it as you do.
Now some cults have gone so far as to reach the logical conclusion of mass suicide. It is clear however that their message has not been very inspirational. It goes against the instinct to live. But its precursor, the argument you present here, suffers from the same flaw. It is a call to withdraw (or reduce) life. You would not go as far as to deny yourself life, but you will deny it to your children, since they are an easier victim and as yet have no say in the matter.
If your life has value because you can heal it, then so does theirs, Daniel. And in fact, if there is any progress at all, they will be in a better position than you were. This depends primarily on how much time the parents have had to heal their wounds before they were required to start raising children of their own. This points to the problem in our cultures that involves the fact that people who raise children are often still children themselves. A 20-year old has learned very little about life and has not had time to find its own identity. It has been written that “child bearing was meant to be an activity of the young, whose bodies are strong, while child rearing was meant to be an activity of the elderly, whose minds are strong”.
Since there is – we can hope – some form of emotional progress in our cultures, the lives of our children should be less ‘tainted’ than our lives have been. By your argument, those lives would be worth more. It is then contradictory to conclude that they should be denied life, while we should be granted it. Rather, if anything, they should have a *greater* right to life than we did!!!
If you asked me if I wanted to have never have existed at all at 10 years old, I may well have said yes. I’ve always had this fascination with not existing, life being so much pain. It was not lost on me in my childhood.
I’m sorry to hear that.
As a mother and grandmother I don’t agree, even although my family experience psychoses or altered mind states as a “normal” reaction to life transitions and most of us have been given psychiatric labels of one sort or another.
Being a mother and bringing up my 3 sons was the best experience ever. I believe that I did my best and made a good job of it. I wasn’t perfect but who is? Life was and is an adventure. As my sons grew up we played football together, explored new places in the school holidays, kept diaries. They had the opportunity to learn various musical instruments – piano, clarinet, flute, accordion, drums, bass guitar, violin – and I enjoyed listening to them. We are still on good terms, keep in touch and support each other. Two of my sons have children.
Having children helped me grow up more, take responsibility and it changed my life completely for the better. I was 24 when I had my first son, then 26 then 32. Every one of them planned and wanted. Childbirth was painful as was the psychiatric treatment following births two and three but I recovered, got back on with living. As a family we have been targeted by psychiatry, as in “family history of … disorder” but it has made us closer, the shared experiences.
As a woman it was up to me to decide on whether to have children and I’m very glad that I did. If I’d waited until I was fully mature then I’d be in my old age, as now at 61. Too old for having children. Anyway I’ve never met anyone on this earth who had their lives totally together. We’re all of us screwed up at some point or another. That’s life.
I agree 100 %
I am reading all comments here and on Daniel’s webside and unfortunately they reconfirm me only what I see around me virtually and in the real live – adults miss empathy for children. One person wrote this:
..” You can ask whether it is not even more unfair to a child if it is not born at all. ..” – in my country, Poland, the recent statistics says that 60% of adults use physical violence in rising children and if we add to this 60% psychological, verbal and sexual abuse the % will change. So I think that children will answer: No, thanks I do not want such life. Then we add the fact that it will be not possible to fine healthy partner and friends so I think that all children will agree and say: NO! I want not be born! This is not life it is a hell.
In other countries the situation is the same. We live in such sick societies so there is no solution the only one is a law forcing people to not have children.
I am a mother but when I was 28 years old I did not know and saw all this stuff I know and see now. I was not thinking with my own head. Life in such a sick societies is a hell for traumatised people and is a hell for healed people who every day see around these suffering and must try to take distance from all these sickness to not become depressed.
It is up to you whether you want to see gloom or shine. There is so much wrong in the world, and you can spend a lifetime focussing on it. If you follow the news every day, you are bound to become depressed. All you can do is focus on the good things.
You can, for example, choose to focus on what’s wrong with people, or to focus on what’s good in people. Giving attention to all the “wrong” will make you see more of it in your life. A larger part of the things you perceive will be ugly. A bigger part of the experiences you encounter will be negative.
It does you no good to go all “oh this world is so horrible”. Or “people are so abusive”. It will only make you want to escape life. It will only bring suicide into your life.
If all people stopped having children, it would be the end of the human race. That’s simply how it is. If that is what you want, go ahead.
I have no TV at home, I do not read newspaper, I do not know what happen in my city, in my country, in the world .. I read only good news on internet in the real life I continue to looking for people, men and women, like me, healed with not problems and I can not find them 🙂 every new person I meet in my life, every new story I hear is sad. What I noticed is that people who have a lot of unresolved problems like saying that life is beautyful and want have more children. They have no time for the 1 they already have.
…”If all people stopped having children, it would be the end of the human race…” —- and? Who says that the human sick race must continue?
We are a young, primitive species. There are many things we do not know, we don’t know who we are. To see the worth of the human being, we must look at the future. You cannot judge an incomplete painting. But really, if there is no reason for the human to exist, then it is irrelevant whether that existence is a happy one or not. If we might as well die, then we might as well suffer. It is instinctive for us to want to live, and to save lives, as much as it is instinctive to wish your child to be happy. It is not an expression of the highest love to wish people dead, so why would it be an expression of love to want the Death of Birth of our species? You suppose the universe made a mistake when it created us?
Why do you believe you are sick?
“If all people stopped having children, it would be the end of the human race. That’s simply how it is. If that is what you want, go ahead.”
that is the least realistic worry EVER.
It is only unrealistic because it is not realistic to think that people are going to agree with the idea set forth here. If this basic idea would be worth spreading, then it would have the potential to become popular, and if it became popular, people would start to act on it, and if enough people started to act on it… And since that is probably not the outcome you want, you should wonder whether you should support this idea in the first place.
A good question to ask when considering any form of choice is: would I want people to follow my example, and what would happen if they did?
If people getting wild about this idea is a bad thing, then the idea is a rather bad thing in itself. You don’t really want this idea to become extremely popular. So why bother trying to spread it in the first place?
that idea could spread far and wide without wiping us out. And even if it did get close, I’m sure somebody figure out how to do it again. 😉
Would you not rather spread an idea that was capable of informing succeeding generations to live in a healthy, sane, and sustainable manner? If someone [else] is fat, you do not solve it by eating too little. The only thing you can do is eat healthily and sanely. Then, maybe, the obese person will be inspired by your example and follow it. You have your own life to live. You have your own strength to build, your own heights to attain. Focus on that. Do not worry about what other people are doing. If the “you” that you identify with is the larger community of which you are a part, you may choose [as a community] to inhibit your children-bearing such that you [the community] can keep a stable population. Or even shrink, if that’s what’s needed. But “you” do not solve this problem by unilaterally choosing to become a kind of martyr by killing of your own group such that it balances out the excess of the other groups. That won’t inspire them and it won’t solve the problem.
Oh, it’s all part of the same idea, improve yourself if you can, maybe breed less if you can’t..
That stuff about your group goes to the good old idea of fixing yourself first. Are we supposed to keep madly breeding because the other groups are, as opposed to setting an example and showing the others how it’s done? It sounds a little like you’re with the old Biblical injunction to breed, the attempt to out-breed and overrun the other groups . . .
You are misreading me. Setting an example is exactly what I am on about. But you do not set an example by not procreating at all. You set an example by procreating in a sustainable way. Not having children at all is not sustainable. Likewise, overbreeding is also not sustainable. You have to find the balance, as a group, as a community.
That said, among all the good reasons to not procreate, you being an inferior being is not one of them!
I think this “you must focus on the good” is just a wrong argument. In any situation you consider what is healthy and what is not and, out of that, you get the conclusion about how healthy is the situation. If one person is abusing another should the abused think “i am focusing on the ugly side of that person”? You have to consider the whole of each situation (including life itself), if not, you simple are not being realistic.
It was not really an argument. The person said “I only see misery around me, we might as well give up as a human race.” Well, that’s just not my impression. But it could be if I chose to focus on those things. Whether you want to give up depends on whether you have hope for a positive future. I know a lot of people are inspired by a philosophy of growth and they focus of messages of growth. Even if you are in an abusive situation it matters whether you see something worth clinging to, whether you have something that keeps you going, a little flame that you can kindle, and that you can feed by witnessing the same positive intention in other people. What you see in people really depends on what you focus on, what resonates with you. If you don’t see that light, things are going to be very hard..
Personally… I sometimes wonder whether it’s all worth it. I sometimes cry out in despair… but I still believe in progress and my faith is really strong. It is the strongest part of me. It makes me focus on events that confirm what I believe in. Daniel Mackler’s docu on Open Dialogue is one such thing. It’s hopeful, isn’t it? Even if psychiatry as a whole is bleak and sorrowful, there is still a glimmer of hope. Robert Whitaker’s work does the same.
There is always hope. And if your hope is strong, you may achieve. I believe the human race has a shot.
But if you give up now, you will never know whether our species would have made it through the dark era.
And you can’t say “we are a broken species, let’s stop having children until we have fixed ourselves.” If you are one of the few who are consciously trying to advance themselves, it would be unwise to consciously select yourself out of the gene pool. You are one of the healthy. You should have children.
that was my theory when I opted to reproduce – bt everyone thinks that THEY are doing their kids and the world good . . .
Personally I wouldn’t want to be a father (at this point) because I would do a very very very poor job. I’m sure there’s also scores of people who have not consciously thought about any of it and just want to have children because it will look good on them or because it is tradition to do so. Many might not have an awareness of their own limitations and inhibitions. Many just “want” a baby. Some want a baby because they think it will fix their relationship.
I didn’t say anything about giving up. My point is that one have to see the whole picture of a situation and, out of that, he or she will act more wisely. I don’t think that ideas like “you must focus on the good” or “there is still hope” are useful.
I think they can deny feeling “ugly” feelings that come up when one is facing a hard reality. And those feelings may be are the appropriate ones for that hard reality, the ones that allow you to go through the storm and, at the end, see the light.
I am not saying that is good to feel unpleasant feelings or that is what everyone have to do at every moment (maybe one is not ready for certain feelings and realities anyone have to be gentle with yourself) but, in the end, what is important for personal growth is to face reality as it is.
I agree. But that does not take away from what I’ve said. Facing reality is a function of observation. It would be very unwise to choose not to observe, that would amount to denial.