Grandparents (grandparents) in the system of family relations (part 1)
The relationship between generations can be viewed in various aspects: as a historically and culturally variable phenomenon; as a psychological inheritance; as the personal relationships of grandparents and their children and grandchildren.
The historical aspect of the relationship between the older and younger generations in society. In so-called traditional societies, the image of an older person was closely related to the category of life experience, its gradual accumulation and transfer to the young. Customs, traditions, continuity, heritage-all these mechanisms of social life assume respect for ancestors and high authority of elders. However, the nature of relations between generations does not remain unchanged. Especially significant changes occurred in the second half of the XX century.
The famous American ethnographer M. Mead suggests distinguishing between three historical types of cultures: post-figurative, co-figurative, and prefigurative. In post-figurative culture (traditional, Patriarchal), changes occur so slowly and gradually that grandfathers, holding their newborn grandchildren in their hands, represent their future in the image of their own past. The representative of the older generation in such a society is “a complete model of life as it is”, and what they have lived is a blueprint for the future; for their children. The relationship between the age groups is clearly regulated, and everyone knows their place.
The pace of development of modern society is rapid. In a world where the future is unknown, the knowledge and experience of elders often cannot be applied, and sometimes even become harmful due to completely changed conditions, circumstances, and laws. Rather, a person is forced to take into account the opinions of scientists, to focus on the views and behavior of contemporaries; both children and adults learn from their peers, and even more so – adults learn from their children. The authority of the elders can no longer serve as the main support for the young.
Events that irrevocably changed the attitude of man to the natural world and to man (computerization, nuclear energy, global Informatization, discoveries in the field of genetics up to the locking of living beings, space research and weapons of mass destruction), led to a break in the continuity of life, to a conflict between generations.
In the XX century, under the conditions of increasing average life expectancy, a new historical situation developed of real coexistence of adult children and their elderly and old parents for a fairly long period (about one and a half times longer than in the XIX century). Society is faced with the need to develop new norms of relations between people of different generations. Recognition of the authority and wisdom of elders and respect for their experience should be complemented by an awareness of the value of innovation. Only a counter-movement will allow us to come to a meaningful dialogue between generations, to mutual understanding.
An elderly Russian, our contemporary, is very concerned about the life and fate of children and grandchildren, and considers their problems their own. Statements of older people indicate that they are involved in the problems of their loved ones, often correlate the goals and plans of their life with the events of the younger ones (“I want to help in caring for my grandchildren”, “I want to save money for my grandson’s education”, “live to see my granddaughter’s wedding”).
And this can be regarded as a favorable fact. When analyzing and characterizing an older person’s own Self-concept, you can often find descriptions of children and grandchildren, stories about their lives, and an emphasis on their successes and achievements. This orientation preserves the perspective of personal development, promotes awareness of the value of the Self. Reorientation to intra-family relationships is a natural stage of the mental life of an elderly person (I. F. Shakhmatov, 1996). The organization of family life, the choice of the form of daily employment are the main content of life at this stage. The processes of incorporation, which consist in closing the interests of a narrow social space (family), can be one of the mechanisms of adaptation of an elderly person to the current situation (O. V. Krasnova, 2000).
And what about the family, the close social environment? Does it offer its senior member psychological support, providing a living space for self-realization, creating new meanings of life in addition to a professional role? There is no clear answer. Many older people do not have anything definite to say about what is expected of them in the family. Others perceive the expectations of their families aimed at them as household support, as help around the house, and almost do not mention the demand for their life experience, their personal qualities.
It is known that in today’s urbanized society, the status of domestic work is low, it is often perceived as something imposed from the outside, and for modern older people, such self-realization is insufficient and does not bring satisfaction. The question of choosing a way of life, self-determination in old age, including a worthy place in the family structure, remains open.
The relationship between older and younger generations in society and the family as a mechanism of psychological inheritance. Carl Gustav Jung was one of the first to address the idea of understanding the unconscious sphere of the human psyche as a vital source of wisdom, norms, values, and rules. He considered the “collective unconscious” as one of the components of the human personality structure. This deep layer of personality is a repository of traces of the memory of our historical ancestors, and, perhaps, not only people, but also even more ancient evolutionary predecessors. The “collective unconscious” is inherently predetermined and identical for all mankind, it contains archetypes-primary models of perception and behavior. The existence of such structures is confirmed, according to Jung, by the striking similarity of symbols in paintings and literary works of different times and peoples, fairy tales, myths, and legends. Mental images of the “collective unconscious” encourage people to respond to individual events in a similar way; they are often reflected in dreams.
Although Jung’s ideas about the existence of the “collective unconscious” and its constituent archetypes do not yet lend themselves to empirical verification, the interest in them on the part of modern psychologists, philosophers, and theologians does not weaken.
In turn, the Swiss psychologist A. Zondi speaks of the “generic unconscious” as a form of mental heredity. A person in life seeks to realize the claims of their ancestors-parents, grandfathers, great-grandfathers. According to the author, their influence is especially evident in important moments of life that have a fateful character: when a person makes a professional choice or is looking for a job, a life partner. Thus, when deciding the most important issues of self-determination, he is not completely “free”, since in his person he represents the family, his progenitors, who delegated “instructions”to him. However, this does not mean that the fate of a person is rigidly programmed and it remains only to follow some instinctive impulses. A person can overcome imposed tendencies, rely on their own internal reserves and build their own destiny consciously.