In my extended family there exist a few psychological professionals (“shrinks” as they are commonly, and affectionately, termed) and they all have children – for better or for worse. I remember one summer day, when a few of these adult family members sat around happily talking about their respective children as we played in the pool within earshot. Their conversation was less parental boasting or bitching, and more akin to a run down of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. From what little I picked up from the audible parts of the conversation, one of my cousins exhibited some standard personality disorders, while the other seem to be suffering from an extended bout of separation anxiety and possibly some developing signs of obsessive compulsive disorder. No wonder common consensus deems children of shrinks as some of the more messed up individuals roaming the earth.
Author Micah Troub tackles the subject of how children of psychologists adapt to the world around them in his book, Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks. Unlike the cursed children of behaviorists J.B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, Troub paints an honest, but decidedly reverent, portrait of two parents, who just happened to be devoted Jungian therapists. Troub’s parents were enthusiastic about employing their Jungian practice in their parenting technique, which included dream analysis and indulging a sort of “active imagination.” One notable moment in the book is when Troub’s mother encouraged him to “be” and erection to encourage him to overcome a bit of teenage impotence.
But seemingly, Troub made it through his childhood with his head solidly planted on his shoulders and a deep regard for his parents. This runs counter to the pervasive myth that children of shrinks are notoriously maladjusted and riddled with self-doubt. To be fair, not all therapists bring their work home, or subject their children to their therapeutic stance, but is it really easy enough to separate what you know (psychology) from what you practice (parenting)? Is this idea of the well intentioned, but severely damaging therapist parent simply just a myth? Is an overly involved therapist parent any different from any other intrusive parent? Does the fact that they have more of an awareness and education make them more or less understanding or compassionate? Children of therapists and parent therapists are strongly encouraged to share their feelings!