Birth of a child – or when you expand from an individual into a duovidual
I haven’t updated this blog for a while because I was fully absorbed in one of the greatest miracles of my own personal life: The birth of my first child! To keep up with the philosophical intentions of this blog I will resist the temptation to proclaim to everyone how wonderful event this was, how the child is the cutest ever and how great it is to be a father! Instead I will use this opportunity to reflect the deep-going changes in identity and worldview that this event gives rise to.
In west we have an atomized view of the individual: I am separated from all the others. I ought to be faithful to what is inside of me, to my unique personality. In the end of the day it is my own responsibility to make myself happy, to look for my own interests and make sure I am living the life I want to live. Accordingly, I should be primarily interested in the maximization of my own personal happiness only.
"The so-called Western view of the individual" is about "an independent, self-contained, autonomous entity" - Markus & Kitayama
Having a child challenges all this. The little fellow is not just another person who I can use to increase my own happiness. In terms of identity and motivation he is quite much inseparable from myself. My interests and the baby’s interests is the same; what is good for him is what is good for me; what I want is that the baby feels good. My happiness is embedded in him, his fortunes and misfortunes influence my mood at least as strongly as my own fortunes and misfortunes.
So we can say that I have deeply transformed through becoming a father. Or more accurately, what is ‘I’ has expanded. The individual I was before no longer exists: I have become a duovidual. The newborn has become part of my identity, part of what I see as myself.
There is nothing mystical or unusual in this. When the sense of belongingness in some social relationship becomes deep enough it makes better sense to think of the relationship as the functional unit of what it means to be myself. In fact, a historical look reveals that most of our history we human beings have been so deeply embedded in our social relationships that it has made better sense to talk about “an interdependent view of the self” instead of the modern “independent view of the self.” In fact, the word individual as referring to a person didn’t exist before the 18th century.
We humans are social animals, deeply embedded in and defined by our close social relationships. Nothing brings this fact more at home for a western individual than having a child. A child is born, the individual is dead: Long live the duovidual!
- Want happiness? Make those around you happy! 5 reasons why this is the best strategy.
- What are the ways that a life can be good? There are three of them
- Being individualistic and altruistic at the same time. The story of Jack Casey the firefighter.
- Are household duties ruining your relationship? The solution: Do more than your partner!
- The beginning of a journey