Trusting the Acorn

I came across some notes on James Hillman's "Acorn Theory," from his best-selling book, "The Soul's Code," some of which I used for a class I taught on childhood development. It's good stuff.

Even though much time in therapy is spent on the effects parents have on a person's ultimate state of emotional health, I've always been aware that there is an X-factor, something that exists beyond, or more accurately "before," childhood experiences, and also beyond genetics. In that quest, I came across the concept of "soul ages," which I've written about a lot, but yet there is still something else that seems to drive the uniqueness of an individual, something that seems to imply that a unique, formed soul is within us from birth, shaping us as much as it is shaped. While this is not a new idea, it is generally rejected by our culture, the possibility that we are fated, that each person comes into the world with something to do and to be, or is called into life with a uniqueness that asks to be lived.

Here's Hillman:

"Our culture has no theory of this at all. Our culture has the genetics and the nature theory. You come into the world loaded with genes and are influenced by nature, or you come into the world, are influenced by the environment, and are the result of parents, family, social class and education. These theories don’t speak to the individuality or uniqueness that you feel is you. The story of the acorn is that you have your own destiny, and that your parents’ tasks are to provide a place in the world where you can grow down into life and to help make it easier for you to carry the destiny you have, which as a child is hard to carry."

Yes. So few parents take into consideration the reality that each child has its own destiny, what others might call a "seed plan," and that the parents' main job is to provide safey and security, to make it easier for the child to become themselves.

Hillman continues on the importance of adults in a child's life other than parents:

"In addition to your parents, you need fantasy figures. You need strange people who excite your imagination, who may release an image of your calling. You also need mentors or teachers. The mentor/teacher is the person who sees who you are, sees your beauty, falls in love with it, helps and inspires it, giving it a chance to bloom in the world. The mentor is not concerned with your well-being, making sure that you have food, shoes and a roof over your head. That’s what parents do. Parents keep food on the table and make sure that you have protection, but they may never see who you are. Many people complain that their parents never saw them. They may have looked in the wrong place for recognition. It’s not necessarily parents who can see you. They have other destinies and eyes for other things. They may see other children and not you. In extended families, adults often see things in another’s children. Just because your parents don’t truly see you doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Their form of loving is taking care of you, making sure that you sleep and have clothes. It doesn’t relieve them of responsibility, but it unburdens them of carrying the child’s destiny. Their responsibility is to make the world a receiving place so children can grow up and follow their destinies."

I have tried so hard to get good parents to see this, that their job is not to control their childrens' destinies or influence their values or decide for them what arts or sciences or sports they should pursue. No. Be good, consistent, loving providers, establish necessary boundaries for health and well-being, then stay out of the way. Let their souls, their "acorns," take over.

Likewise, I have tried to help individuals realize that their parents not seeing them, while painful and demoralizing in childhood, does not have to be devastating. It can even be liberating. It's why James Lipton on the Actor's Studio takes note of the fact that so many enormously successful people come from childhoods in which a parent was lost to death or divorce. In other words, in terms of allowing the acorn to turn into the oak tree it is destined to become, less parenting can be more.

There is much more to say about this subject. It's a powerful one, and a worthy one to have. To read more of an interview with James Hillman, you can go to:

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