Your parents have known you longer than anyone else. They have seen you develop through infancy, childhood and adolescence.
How do your parents feel about your multipotentiality? If they are good cheerleaders, raised you to nurture multiple talents and are totally on board with you, congratulations! You have some fantastic parents. Or, maybe the opposite is true: perhaps they have been impatient with you to “get your life together” and pick one path. Perhaps they accused you of flakiness and said other hurtful things.
My post today goes out to all of you who fall in the latter camp. It is very difficult to hold certain things very dear to your heart and not have your immediate family members appreciate them. And when family is involved, a history of complicated emotional tension can further block us from clearly seeing the patterns in people that we ought to be closest to. And I would like to present a radical hypothesis that may be helpful in unraveling this problem. I have a sneaking suspicion that most cases of multipotentiality is inherited.
Are your parents, who disapprove of your many pursuits, secretly also multipotentialites? Do they know it?
Our parents grew up in an even less multipotentialite-friendly cultural climate than ours. It may be that their once-many talents, hopes and dreams were squashed by a society that expected them to fit in a square box. As a response, they might have developed and held on to the idea that it is dangerous to pursue your multiple passions; they fear that you will be punished by society just as they were.
I don’t have to look very far for an example. My mother, even though she was a homemaker for most of her life and now is a small business owner, has always been a poet at heart. She was so talented, won numerous poetry competitions growing up and all her teachers thought she was going to study literature and become a famous poet or writer.
Tragically, my mom’s hopes of writing poetry were dashed by her father, who thought making a living as a creative artist was dangerous and foolish. He punished her when she came home with poetry awards. He instilled enough terror into her that she didn’t pick up the pen again until recently — now she is in her fifties.
This story makes me so sad for many reasons. First, I grieve for the poet in my mother. Secondly, I grieve for my grandfather; in retrospect, it is completely obvious that he, too, was a multipotentialite who grew up in world that was relentlessly cruel toward him as he fought for basic survival. Even though he worked as a civic employee for most of his life, I remember him giving me drawing lessons when I was little; he taught me perspective, the way things that are far away are drawn small and things that are close are drawn bigger. I recall he also knew a lot of random things about world history and linguistics that is not at all typical of Korean grandparents. Multipotentialite alert!
Instead of nurturing the gifts of his daughter, however, he felt he needed to punish them and beat her into a box because the world did the same to him. He didn’t know there was another way to survive, much less flourish as a multi-talented person.
Remembering this story reminds me to feel compassion toward many of those who are less than wonderfully receptive to your multiple passions. If you’re here on Puttylike, you’re probably more ‘awake’ to your own multipotentiality than most people out there who have no idea that resources now exist and that living a “straight” life isn’t the only option. Including our very own parents.
Instead of feeling angry or defeated by them, why not gently, lovingly and compassionately invite them to open up and explore their own hidden interests?
What could you do to help them feel safer in doing this? Perhaps you don’t have to think very hard before realizing, “Oh, yes, my mom has a secret interest in indigenous languages and watercolor painting that she’s not telling anyone about.” Why not invite them to talk to you about it?
Remember that they may have had a lifetime of repressing certain patterns and may not be able to grant themselves them the permission, spaciousness and curiosity that they were born capable of, at least not immediately. Why not be there for them and cultivate that place of safety and exploration together?
Start with a conversation. It may be one of the loveliest things you could do for them. And, who knows, this may be the opportunity for them to realize how much indeed they have in common with you.
Have your own story of dealing with disapproving parents or helping a multipotentialite come out of the closet?
Simone Seol lives in NYC and dreams way too big for her own good. When she’s not practicing hypnosis and change work, she can be found writing, theologizing, yoga-ing, conducting public health research, singing classical music and planning compassionate world domination. Find her online at Freckled Brilliance.