Can we pass on our complexes to our children?
Sophie Braun: I think it’s very difficult to escape it because our complexes are part of who we are. We can convey them through our words: if we ourselves are obsessed with extra pounds, we may be very or even too attentive to our child’s diet. We will point out to him that he eats a little too much, tell him “Be careful, you have put on weight”. And repetition may end up creating a complex.
Other transmissions are much less “visible”. I see a lot of patients suffering from a “class” complex. They come from less privileged social backgrounds and always have the impression of not being up to the task, of not having the right codes. Even if the parents never put it that way.
This type of complex will go from unconscious to unconscious. Likewise, the mother of one of my young patients has a very strong complex, a lack of self-confidence. It is therefore very difficult for this teenager to be sure of herself because she has bathed in this atmosphere since a young age.
Can a physical detail become a family complex?
SB: We can be born into a family where we are very old or, on the contrary, very small. Thoughts like: “In the family we have a big nose, that’s how it is” will make the child understand that it is not beautiful to have a big nose and therefore that it is not beautiful.
It can infuse during childhood and suddenly come out in adolescence. During this time of great change, teens may have difficulty separating from their parents, and a physical complex can serve as a bond with their family.
One of my patients was very self-conscious about his protruding ears which he had inherited from his father. He’s been doing a lot better since having his ears glued back on because it also allowed him to part with a harmful father. On the other hand, another patient, on the contrary, regretted her operation a lot because she felt that she was losing an identification mark and something of her identity. She no longer looked like her family.
Does becoming parents allow us to make peace with our own complexes?
SB: I think that’s a very nice question. We do not talk enough about how children transform their parents. The answer is yes, of course. Loving a child with his qualities as well as his faults, it can help us to come out of this relentless model of perfection in which we are very much today.
But it seems essential to me to make parents feel guilty. All human beings have complexes and this does not have to be serious, as long as they do not take up all the space in the psyche. They make us feel like humans like everyone else. Parents can also and above all transmit to the child that he has within him the necessary resources to learn to live with his complex.