Carl Jung is often attributed to stating, “The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.” Jung is suggesting that parents often carry unresolved psychological conflicts, unfulfilled dreams, or unaddressed issues from their own lives. These unresolved matters can influence their behaviour, attitudes, and interactions with their children. Children, in turn, can inherit or internalise these unresolved issues, whether consciously or unconsciously, and they may carry the emotional burden of their parents’ unlived lives.

Imagine a father who had dreams of becoming a doctor but never pursued it. Instead, he ends up in a job he dislikes. As his child grows, the father may unconsciously push them to follow his abandoned dream, urging them to become a doctor, even if it’s not the child’s passion.

This quote emphasises the unintended weight that parents’ unfinished aspirations can impose on their children. When parents project their own unfulfilled ambitions onto their kids, it can stifle the child’s ability to explore their authentic desires and paths.

Jung’s quote serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between generations and the importance of self-awareness and personal growth for parents. It suggests that parents should strive to resolve their own unresolved issues and live authentically, not only for their own well-being but also to prevent passing on the burdens of unlived lives to their children.

The solution lies in parents nurturing their children’s unique interests and aspirations. Encourage them to pursue their dreams, not yours. Guide and support them in discovering their true passions.

Conversely, children should acknowledge their parents’ unmet dreams with empathy. Understand the source of their desires but strive to lead your own life. Parents’ dreams can be a valuable source of inspiration, but they should never become chains that limit one’s potential.

In essence, Jung’s quote teaches us the importance of striking a balance between honouring our parents’ past while allowing our children to create their futures unburdened by our unrealised dreams.


About the Author, Brent Holgate

Brent is a psychologist at In Positive Health and he has a strong passion for enhancing the life of his clients. He adopts an empathic, open-minded, honest, and client-centred attitude as a therapist.

Our speech pathology and psychology clinic is located in Braddon, ACT, in Canberra’s CBD. Call us on 5117 4890 or email to get in touch.

In Positive Health, Canberra. Nel MacBean Speech Pathologist Canberra. Campbell MacBean Psychologist Canberra. Sally Arthur Psychologist Canberra. Brent Holgate Psychologist Canberra. Canberra