A Masculine and Feminine Dyad
A few days ago, we defined triangulation; a couple days ago we provided an example of how triangulation can impact a romantic relationship; and yesterday we looked at the triangle that impacts us all, for our entire lives–the father-mother-child triangle. Today, we’ll discuss how this granddaddy of all triangles can be used in the favor of the child, if the parents are consciously aware.
Parents who understand how triangulation impacts children can actually use their respective masculine and feminine energy to grow a child up into a solid, secure individual, who has internalized the respective energy of his or her parents. Fathers tend to operate with primarily masculine types of energy and mothers tend to operate with more feminine varieties.
Strength and Tenderness
Of course, fathers can and should be able to be tender and nurturing and mothers can and should be able to provide strength and structure. In some families, the masculine and feminine energies are provided in a non-traditional configuration–the father providing more of the tenderness and the mother providing more of the strength.
Who offers these respective energies is less important than that the child experiences both, and that his or her parents appreciate and support the energy provided by the other parent. The father-mother-child triangle is adversely activated when the masculine and feminine energy of the parents becomes a source of contention, rather than a source of solidity, growth and support for the child.
An (Un)healthy Balance
In days gone by, masculine energy was more highly prized than feminine energy in our Western culture. The masculine values of discipline, productivity, responsibility, merit and competition were dominant, to the detriment of empathy, compassion, care and concern. These days, a huge number of children are growing up in mother-only homes, where Mom tends to provide an overload tenderness and nurture, without a healthy balance of structure and strength.
Parents who understand and appreciate their own contribution of values and the respective contribution of their partner, which is sometimes in direct counter to their own, work as a team to provide the child with a solid internal sense of both tenderness and strength, that the child can then internalize and continue to draw from in his or her adult life. For parents to strike this balance together is a monumental challenge, to be sure, especially when different children need different combinations of masculine and feminine energies at particular times and in various circumstances.
Working together for the various real needs of each child–not the needs the parent might imagine the child to have, based on the parent’s own anxieties and unresolved issues from his or her own father-mother-child triangle–requires conscious awareness of one’s own process and the process of the others in the family system. As psychiatrist and family systems pioneer Dr. Murray Bowen said, “The [highly] differentiated person is always aware of others and the relationship system around him” (In Family Therapy, edited by Philip Guerin, p. 73).
The Gift of Differentiation
Done well, parenting is by far the most difficult job on the planet, I would argue, and parents who pull it off together reflect a high level of consciousness, intention and differentiation. In doing so, they equip their children to be highly conscious, purposeful, differentiated adults, who will then choose partners with a high level of consciousness, purpose and differentiation, as well.
As we’ve noted before, “the emotional attachment between the spouses is identical to the emotional attachment that each spouse had in his or her family of origin” (Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, p. 530). There’s no greater gift that a parent can give his or her child than a solid father-mother-child triangle. It’s a gift that keeps on giving into future generations.