Parenting Ourselves: Growth and Self-discipline

March is about the stirrings of Spring, and things emerging into existence. Last month we learned a little bit about power and how we see it in ourselves, and now we start to learn how to use that power to make things happen in the world. This month also brings us to introducing the Emperor and Empress, the traditional parental figures of the Tarot. 

This raises the question again about the validity of referring to energies as "masculine" and "feminine," and how to discuss and apply those terms meaningfully if at all. Throw in any issues we have regarding our parents, and you've got a pile of muck at least as big as a Winter's worth of manure.

When we were little, our parents were everything to us; they were the ones who, if we were lucky, nurtured us, guided us, provided for us, and made things happen. Even if we were not so lucky, we are still all where we are now -- having to do these things for ourselves. The fool's journey is the path to wholeness and integration, and it doesn't matter where you start. In the end, your journey is yours and has its own value regardless of how long or short it is, or how hard or difficult.

You would think it would be easy to parent ourselves. We know exactly what we need and what we didn't get, right? But somehow it's not that easy; baggage and stuck energy from the past can muck us up and leave us parenting ourselves worse than our parents did! It's also confusing, given our rightfully evolving attitudes to what a mother does, what a father does, and ideas of what feminine and masculine should look like.

So let's start with understanding the archetypes of the parental roles, the "mother" and "father" energies, and seeing where they exist and where they are needed in our lives. Having that baseline, we can see what voices we overlay on these archetypes and choose to discard them or create new ones that work better for us. The goal isn't to politicize self-growth but to make our way to a healthier and more functional life.

The traditional "mother" archetype is all about nurturing, abundance, and fertility. No strings attached. What is your relationship to these things? How do you nourish your body, mind, and soul? Often we take care of other people but neglect ourselves. What are some things you can do to feel creative? Do you have a hobby that you pursue? Do you ever cook new things for yourself? When was the last time you took a long bath?

While the mother is the caretaker, the one who gives birth and nourishes that life, the "father" archetype is often shown as all about teaching us structure and self-discipline. The male energy is the one that tells you to make a shopping list so that you can have the stuff to cook yourself dinner, to plan your week ahead so that you can take that bath. It's what tells you it doesn't matter if you don't feel like exercising--you said you would, so just go do it. Its job is to keep things running smoothly and effectively.

Our culture is a little wonky about splitting these two in a way that has such emotional knee-jerk meaning, and the result is often women getting overwhelmed and unappreciated and men getting shut out and unappreciated in a different way. Really, these two energies are a team. The female, yin energy creates something, and the masculine, yang energy gives it form. Structure is not cold and antagonistic; it can also be warm, artistic hands molding clay on the wheel.

I prefer to see the Empress as Expansion or Growth, and the Emperor as Contraction or Form. If you expanded endlessly, you'd be just so much scattered stardust. It's the discipline of your atoms, held in your particular shape, that makes you you. You can be as creative as you want, but unless you direct and manage your energy, you're going to burn out or fail to accomplish anything.  If you wish to run a business, unless you have systems and  some kind of schedule, you won't get far. If you want to lose weight, you need to have an exercise plan, a diet, and a way to measure your progress.

Obviously, we each have these qualities within us. We may not have them balanced, however, nor know which one is appropriate at what time. We may also have their voices mixed up with the voices of our own parents, or with cultural and gender ideas that we may rail against. Ultimately, though, the voices of creativity and structure within us our ours, and if they are authentic they operate from love and integrity.

The key is to identify these authentic voices and learn how to respect them and listen to them.​