A Jungian Psychotherapist & Suburban Life, 4: Family
A Jungian case studies who didn’t take into account the impact of family would have a pretty distorted picture of suburban life.
There’s all kinds of material out there focusing on family dynamics, the importance of good parenting, and having a good marriage. There’s much less on the impact of the family on the life of the individual in suburbia.
Two Parents, Two Cars and the Requisite Number of Kids
There’s a collective ideal of marriage and family that underlies suburban life, even to this day.
There is an expectation in suburbia of how families should look and function — an image. While that has changed somewhat over the last 50 years, it’s not really that dissimilar from the vision of family life held out to people in early suburbias like Levitttown in the late 40s and very early 50s. What’s more, it doesn’t fit the reality that many people live.
When Your Life Doesn’t Fit the Pattern
A Jungian case studies is well aware that, if the structure of an individual’s family is atypical for suburbia, it can sometimes be demanding to live here. Single parents in a suburban situation often know this. Often, so does the family with a member who is differently abled, or suffering from serious illness. Or the family that has lost a child, or suffered a serious economic setback.
All such experiences take persons out of the everyday awareness of suburbia, and bring them into a new consciousness concerning very difficult situations. This is true for families, and even truer for the individual.
Family Has Meaning: So Does Individual Life
Family is meaningful, and has a great importance for the vast majority of people. As Jung notes the archetypes that underpin family are some of the very most significant in human life — they powerfully affect us.
Yet, the clinical experience of the Jungian case studies shows that, even if a person has an extremely meaningful, loving family life, the question still remains: “What is meaningful for me, as an individual?”
Family and Identity
Suburbia can pressure the individual to find meaning in life solely in terms of family, but that is often insufficient.
Individuals may respond to such pressure by floating above family life in disengaged ways, never really investing in the supposedly key relationships in their lives, like the relationship to a significant other, or the relationship to kids.
On the other hand, the individual may totally succumb to straitjacketing family roles, and avoid the necessity to individuate in fundamental ways.
Avoiding both of these dangers requires creative relationship to others — to letting in their needs and the individuality in empathic ways. It also necessitates creatively taking the inner journey and exploring our own unique needs and individuality. The work that the Jungian case studies does with individuals concerns itself in depth with the call of life to become and remain our individual selves in the midst of suburban life.
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)