PARENTAL INSTINCT AND TENDER EMOTION
=Until They Can Fly.= Only half of Nature’s need is met by the reproductive instinct. Her carefulness in this direction would be largely wasted without that other impulse which she has planted, the impulse to protect the new lives until they are old enough to fend for themselves. The higher the type of life and the greater the future demands, the longer is the period of preparation and consequent period of parental care. This fact, coupled with man’s power for lasting relationships through the organization of permanent sentiments, has made the, bond between parent and child an enduring one. Needless to say, this relationship is among the most beautiful on earth, the source of an incalculable amount of joy and gain. However, as we have already suggested, there lurks here, as in every beneficent force, a danger. If parents forget what they are for, and try to foster a more than ordinary tie, they make themselves a menace to those whom they most love. Any exaggeration is abnormal. If the childhood bond is over-strong, or the childhood dependence too long cultivated, then the relationship has overstepped its purpose, and, as we shall later see, has laid the foundation for a future neurosis.
=Mothering the World.= Probably no instinct has so many ways of indirect expression as this mothering impulse of protection. Aroused by the cry of a child in distress, or by the thought of the weakness, or need, or ill-treatment of any defenseless creature, this mother-father impulse is at the root of altruism, gratitude, love, pity, benevolence, and all unselfish actions.
There is still a great difference of opinion as to how man’s spiritual nature came into being; still discussion as to whether it developed out of crude beginnings as the rest of his physical and mental endowment has developed, or whether it was added from the outside as something entirely new. Be that as it may, the fact remains that man has as an innate part of his being an altruistic tendency, an unselfish care for the welfare of others, a relationship to society as a whole,—a relationship which is the only foundation of health and happiness and which brings sure disaster if ignored. The egoistic tendencies are only a part of human nature. Part of us is naturally socially minded, unselfish, spiritual, capable of responding to the call to lose our lives in order that others may find theirs.
Civilized man as he is to-day is a product of the past and can be understood only as that past is understood. The conflicts with which he is confronted are the direct outcome of the evolutional history of the race and of its attempt to adapt its primitive instincts to present-day ideals.