indebted to parents

The Myth of Being Indebted to Our Parents

Take care of your parents for they took care of you. And this makes you automatically indebted to caring for them. This is a catch phrase that many of us have grown up listening to for centuries. Our ancients spun out a cycle of debt and transferred it to the younger generation who were continuously hushed up from questioning their elders. We have always been told that the good lord would cleanse our souls when we complete our duty.

Well, Gautama Siddartha (yes, I carry some sort of obsession with this guy) shook off this indebtedness, and yet, he became the most blessed soul on the planet.

So how did that happen?

Ever since I was a child, I have always listened to the elders. The only people I rebelled against were my parents, because I could. Otherwise, I was that girl who followed the rules, was polite and nice, and just did what I was told to do. I still work that way because childhood habits are hard to break. The only person I rebel against these days, is my husband.

I listen to others because I feel that I should listen to others. It was only much later, well into adulthood, that I put a name to this feeling. It was a feeling of indebtedness. I listened simply because I felt that other people were doing me a favor by talking to me, and I was indebted to listen to them.

Where did this feeling come from?

As I began to wonder how I had developed this feeling, I went back to a place in my childhood that I have been revisiting often these days. This place had always been a Pandora’s box up until my need to open the box overcame my temptation to keep it locked.

During my kindergarten and early primary grades, I was bullied. I have always remembered my intense fear of this bully, and my mother’s futile meetings with my teachers. But, I have never quite remembered what it was that the bully told me.

I was later told by my life coach that the brain automatically locks away extremely hurtful memories, creating Pandora’s boxes. She also told me that the one thing every bully repeatedly tells their victim, is that they are a useless piece of shit. And when you are told something repeatedly, the brain automatically turns it into a habit. As you would have guessed by now, I spent the better part of my life feeling like a useless piece of shit.

Every person who has a low self-esteem becomes a listener, and never a speaker

My speech is still broken, full of emotions, and my ideas never get through to others. Simply because, I have never been able to overcome this feeling of worthlessness.

Then, how was it that I broke this listening habit with my parents and brother, or now with my husband?! The one common thread between all the four is my love for them. And when we love someone well enough, we feel strong enough to break free among them. We are at home with these people and will always feel a great sense of freedom just being among them.

Now, what has all this got to do with indebtedness towards parents?

I broke the feeling of indebtedness to listen to my parents because I loved them. My feeling of indebtedness was created when my brain comfortably settled into a habitual feeling of uselessness. Although the feeling did not come from within, but was forced upon me from outside.

As became the case with white supremacy that forced many nations across the world to habituate themselves to an attitude of “uselessness” and “indebtedness.” And as became the case with casteism in India, where one section of the population continues to feel obligated to serve the other section. All this because, these people were continuously told that were not good enough, strong enough or useful enough.

So continuous was the repetition of these words that the feeling of “uselessness” almost became a genetic trait. Until there arrived the generations that broke this pattern.

Indebtedness should always arise out of a service provided to us – one that needs to be paid back.

Parents take care of us. Is that not service provided?!

The child is the result of an intense desire to have one. In other words, the birth of a child is a wish made by the parents – a boon that we try to grant ourselves. As we all know, for anything to work well, it also needs to be well cared for.

So, it is the parents who are indebted to care for their child, because they asked for the child, in the first place. Parenting is a job. Just like with every other job, the returns are based on how much of ourselves we are ready to invest in it.

As we watch a world blaming kids for abandoning their parents, we also need to look at the ones who have not. Where did the former’s parenting go so wrong that they have a child who does not want to care for them?! For what goes around, always comes around. And it is love that makes the world go around.


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