Imprecation of Parents (Breaching of Parent Taboo)

In her book “Beyond Taboos” Alice Miller describes how the taboo on passing judgments about the parents of patients in therapy can result in even analyses that go on for years remaining, in the end, unsuccessful. Miller argues that therapists should accompany their patients through the therapeutic process in an overtly partisan spirit, so that children can be liberated from that tolerance vis-à-vis their parents that tends to be imposed on them.[1] She must count as the first author who has dared to breach the “parent taboo”, inasmuch as she has argued in her books for the idea that it is a necessary prerequisite for any therapeutic success that parents be brought to book for the suffering that they have brought into the world. One key aim of the present handbook on antinatalism is precisely to contribute to our ceasing to think of the heteronomous nature of the beginning of the existence of every child as a true but trivial circumstance concerning no one but the individual thereby coming into being and of parents as the responsible parties only for a psychological suffering that may well be removable by appropriate psychotherapies; rather, the present work advances the view that parents must be looked on as those who have made possible all other forms of suffering as well: suffering which can only be put an end to by thinking and acting in an antinatalist spirit.

 

Carl von Hohenhausen (1816–1834)

It is in the Letter of Farewell to His Father composed by Carl von Hohenhausen, who, as an àExistential Protestant, ended his own existence with a pistol-shot in 1834 at the age of 18, that we encounter a secularized reproach against the initiators of existence which goes on, however, in a second step, to at least partially excuse the reproacher’s own human progenitors:

“What should one be grateful to one’s parents for? For the fact that they yielded to their natural drives and created a life the fortunate or misfortunate fate of which did not lie within their power? […] This is also why I have never been able to persuade myself that I owe gratitude to God, my father in a remoter sense or at least have never been able to adopt the belief that I have a duty to bear life even were it to become unbearable.”

After he has repudiated all obligation to gratitude vis-à-vis both God and parents he accords to his parents, though not to God, a nativistic absolution. The parents are absolved of all subjective guilt, although von Hohenhausen demands in return that his parents make no posthumous reproaches to him for having committed suicide:

“Without you, my parents, I would not have been a suicide! But I do not accuse you, I only accuse Fate, not to say God. You are short-sighted human beings, but God…!! […] But truly, just as you are without guilty as regards my suffering, so am I without guilt as regards yours.” (Hohenhausen) Von Hohenhausen subtly brings to expression here the notion that, if no subjective guilt weighs on his parents, there nonetheless weighs upon them an objective one. They are objective àAccomplices of the àConditio in/humana.

 

 

Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989)

In the work of Thomas Bernhard, profoundly shaped by antinatalist sentiment, the imprecation of parents makes its appearance freed of all the inhibitions passed down by tradition and the world takes on the aspect of a parentally perpetuated penal colony:

“We spare our parents, he said yesterday, instead of charging them our whole lives long with the crime of having begotten human beings. (…) They begot me without asking me and they oppressed me by begetting me and by casting me into the world in this way; they committed, upon and against me, both the crime of begetting and the crime of oppressing.” (Thomas Bernhard, Alte Meister)

[1] See Miller, “Beyond Taboos”, p. 80 at: http://www.alice-miller.com/content/de/E-book_Jenseits-der-Tabus.pdf. The notion “parent taboo” is actually to be found in a text on Miller’s work accessible at : http://www.anis-online.de/1/ton/18.htm.

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