Guilt regarding having children

The “scenario” that @Kiman brought up regarding an AF person saving a child brought up some unexpected strong emotions in me. A lot of which I think are the residual hangovers of depression. This is just a snapshot of some of the thoughts that came to the surface when reading this post. A lot of what I am going to write now is merely to try and be honest about the types of thought patterns and emotions I can find myself in.

It is interesting that saving the child’s life is so important. When @Kiman mentioned about the hypothetical scenario regarding saving the child the first thought that popped into my head was “uggh somebody brought more life into this world. What a piece of shit.” It totally ruined the felicitous day I was having. Here I am feeling bad about a hypothetical child and the hypothetical parents and how they are scum for bringing the hypothetical child into a world where potentially being stabbed to death is not hypothetical but a genuine real possible outcome, how absurd.

I have found myself unwilling to confront my overwhelmingly negative feelings towards life. Most ordinary people never see anything wrong in bringing life into this world, I have a problem with the act of bringing life into the world. I feel like scum, a piece of shit having 3 kids. Like I was deluded and selfish and brought life into this world without considering the risks. I look at all who have children now with disdain, like ‘what the fuck have you done’ maintaining the cycle of misery and suffering on Earth. Like nobody should have kids until enough people are free of the human condition at least. Reducing the potential for suffering in this universe.

I feel like I am the one who has already stabbed them by bringing them into a universe where being stabbed to death as a child is a genuine possibility, what a fucked up universe (excuse my French). If you don’t want children to potentially suffer then don’t have them. What was I thinking, I can’t protect them ultimately. I feel guilty for selfishly adding life into a universe in which mental and physical suffering is inevitable. Where life is like Russian roulette and I don’t know what forms of suffering will happen to them in their life. My children might hate and resent being alive and wish to be dead everyday anyway (as some of my friends live right now) including one who passed away recently, drinking himself to death at the age of 37.

When I hear about somebody dying I think “wow lucky, they don’t have to suffer anymore”. I don’t feel bad about death and I’m more perturbed by suffering, somebody with a knife that would keep you alive and just torture you without killing you, fuck that sucks because one is experiencing the suffering. At least with death there is a cessation of experiencing and thus of suffering. I think, ‘wow their so lucky to be dead’. I would rather my child dies than suffer intensely. I don’t see life as some wonderful thing to preserve at all costs. I don’t value life.

When I hear about a death, what matters to me more is the manner of their death, was it drawn out and did it involve great suffering or was it instant like a shot to the head or the luckiest version, dying peacefully in their sleep.

Why is death bad? I can remember asking my parents this question when about 11. Beginning to probe and think about it in a curious way, trying to figure out why is it taboo, etc. Nobody wanted to talk frankly and openly about death in my family.

Why is life good? What is so precious about human life? Are we not one of the worse things to have ever come into existence in this universe? Hence the need for change. Hence the motivation for change. Can this revulsion be rechannelled and help in my need to change.

“I” suck…the human condition sucks…

This universe also sucks for allowing such things as physical suffering to happen too, such as genetic disorders, injuries, disease, etc. I don’t like what is possible in this universe. I wanted a safer universe. Why does this upset me so much?


Not sure my reply is warranted, but since you linked me, I’ll put down what I thought while reading your post :slight_smile:

Misery is caused by the weight of self. Its likes and dislikes. Trying to conform the world to its likes all the while its emotional likes and dislikes were created by society. Look at the concepts of success(craving it means you believe you are a failure now, which obviously sucks the joy in life); self-esteem(It’s ironically not about self but of society’s. Society decides it. Like, those who look bad tend to have low self-esteem. They can compensate it by earning truck loads of money, yet their drive is socially determined); worthiness(highly judgemental word)…investigate all such concepts which we use in our everyday lives.

Our thoughts are mostly superfluous desires, stroking the self relentlessly to possess this body. The narratives that run in our heads are comparisons, judgements, fantasies(because the present moment is boring, yeah), should haves, could haves et al. are desires.

As for anti-natalism, How about potential good parents not procreating, thereby paving way for religious fundamentalists and zealots take over the society(because in democracies, might is right. And staunch theists have very high birth rates), which will lead to far more misery in the world?

More and more emerging research suggests that detrimental living patterns in adulthood were caused by distorted world view developed in childhood. Gabor Mate has some solid views on this. We have terms like generational trauma, cyclical trauma that support that. All addictions are always caused by an attempt to find relief from emotional pain. So make for a happy childhood for your children and make your children independent. Bust the harmful concepts they are carrying in their mind. They’ll surely be thankful for life and would be aghast to know if you were an anti-natalist.

Life is precious by its very nature. Concepts that mind create are distorted by our experiences, which make us feel that life is miserable.
Physical pain is rarely too bad that terminating life is a better option. Richard suffers from a bad back pain and tooth ache. He would be the last person to consider killing himself.

You may need to revamp your friend circle:) When we are low, we become more impressionable to others’ emotional states. Love yourself abundantly, which means no judgements on yourself.

Are there bodily tensions in you currently? Relax. Pay attention to your body, whenever you feel you aren’t feeling good. Relax the tensed body parts, which isn’t noticeable unless you pay attention. It’s not always psychosomatic but somatopsychic too. Feedbacks are bidirectional there.

As for the depression, John CM once wrote about his feeling the weight of his emotions for a full day regarding his failed love. That’s very much on point. Thought in an attempt to relieve us from the emotional pain expropriate the attention to itself. It tries to understand the current pain from the memory bank of past experiences, which are judgemental and distorted, so right view continues to evade. So let go of the importance you give to thought and notice what happens then. Notice what (emotion) resists when you try to do that.

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I guess you could also look at it from another angle, how lucky we all are that the parents of a human being called Richard were selfish enough to bring him into the world :relaxed:

After all you don’t know just what your children could do with their life.

I think of it just that essentially it’s fun to be alive :smile:. Also I hear from parents that kids are great. I have two dogs and they bring such joy into me and my partners life. So kids will be more fun and they can learn to talk back with me hehe. Though of course there’s a lot of work involved too.

Is it selfish? Maybe but the kids are having a blast also! So what’s really the moral sin of having the kid?? :grin:

Hi @Kiman,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I am over the worse of my depression and anxiety now and have had the longest period of being free of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication since my accident in 2007. So, things are going well for me in general, day to day life. Better than they have in a long time. However, there are certain areas of intense triggers. This just seems to be a strong emotionally triggering area for me still. It is obviously the type of thinking that formulated in a state of depression/anxiety.

What I have noticed about this guilt is that I also feel a deep responsibility for their suffering. Like a sense of blame, personal responsibility. Their hurt, hurts me. An almost obsessive need to keep them safe. I could almost make them like that character in the film Bubble Boy, force them to live their lives in a protected bubble. :rofl:

This reminds me of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scoring. I have done this before with a previous counsellor. It is interesting to realise how much more at risk of depression and anxiety one can be from these early experiences, you can see across all my siblings forms of mental health issues. It almost feels like it should be part of the medical system in my country and maybe so many more people could be helped before reaching that point of depression/anxiety. However, two of my friends scored low on this and still suffered depression so it is not an absolute predictor of who may be at risk.

To be clear, I do my best to make sure they have a happy, safe and enjoyable childhood. It is not that I don’t care about them, it is that I care so much about them I am overwhelmed with feelings at all the “what ifs” that might be possible. I have reached a better point where I can accept what will happen to me, will happen to me, so be it. Which for a naturally anxious person is remarkable progress. However, I find it harder to be this way about them. I feel so directly responsible for any suffering they may experience.

I am aware enough to notice that a state of suffering has allowed such a view to formulate and resonate. It is not unchallengeable but the strong undercurrent of emotions that encompass it make it a stickier trigger/emotion. If that makes sense.

This I would have to disagree with. As somebody who has worked on a paediatrics ward and other adult wards as a ward clerk in a hospital setting and then in my first job after graduating in health informatics processing medical data, I have seen first hand and read numerous accounts of the unfortunate and terrible forms of suffering some people go through. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. People have a very deluded sense that our modern medicine is so advanced you can be spared so many forms of suffering.

Me and my friends had drifted apart. The same friend who drank himself to death ironically is the one who introduced me to AF back in 2004. His death at the beginning of Covid (not a covid related death though) brought them back into my sphere of influence. We have always had such an excellent and open friendship though. Can talk honestly and openly about anything and joke and laugh without offense so easily. Again, not all of the group are in the throes of depression. Only one of them is now that one has died.

Yes, definitely. I have reached a degree of awareness to know what is arising in me and notice the subtle changes across my body. When writing the first post my hands were sweaty and clammy.

The emotions/triggers relating to my children are very intense. The feelings around nurturing are fascinating but also mind-boggling.

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Hi @Kub933,

It is less about what my children might do (or not do) with their life and more about what may or may not happen to them. If that makes sense.

As I have had zero success in getting anybody else in my life interested in AF I guess I don’t think like I could bring this into my children’s awareness so that they were at least better equipped to deal with the human condition and thus any emotional and/or physical suffering that may happen to them.

There is an absence of confidence in preparing them for the possibilities of this world.

Hi @claudiu,

Wow, this is funny. I was trying to identify a way to describe the way it feels and the best analogy that came to mind was thinking how religious people think about sin. It feels like I have sinned. Like Eve taking a bite from an apple. I guess despite no religious upbringing I can still have such a moral system in me.

Again, my kids are great. They are hilarious and fascinating and a constant source of surprise. It is not that there are not wonderful parts of being a parent and of having children. It is a desperate need to keep them safe/protected.

I think this is a super fascinating but complex topic and I can’t really speak from experience as I have never had children so I don’t know just to what extent the instinct of nurture expresses itself when one becomes a father.

Although I think it can be safely stated that your instinct of nurture and the role of being a father will most definitely warp the clear seeing of these issues.

I see what you are saying though, realistically speaking any child brought into the world will experience various levels of suffering. They might find a way through it all in the end but to an extent their suffering is almost a given and if they’re unlucky enough it could be truly horrendous.

I could be way off here but I wonder if the below could be playing part in it all :

I wonder if your overall cynicism about the situation arises out of the fact that you have not found a way to eliminate suffering from your own life.

The lack of confidence about raising children in general arising out of the lack of confidence in eradicating sorrow and malice within yourself, and thus demonstrating that it can be done by others, including your children.

The other thing which I am wondering is wether by seeing your children through the father/child lens, you are in a way reducing them into an organism that merely has things happening to them?

I did not receive any advice from my parents about living free of sorrow and malice, as a result I experienced suffering, but one can escape their fate no? I am glad my parents brought me into this world, even if I had to face some rocky times as a result. Maybe your children or anyones children might grow up and reach those same conclusions.


This seems to be the crux :slight_smile:
Your identification has shifted from yourself to your children:) Fundamentally it’s no difference; Fear for the self is same as fear for somebody else.
The fear of unknown for your children makes the mind throw any number of “what ifs”. There’s no way out of it.
When it becomes too much for your life, then that’s the threshold when one should let go. That is, after that threshold, it’s too burdensome to bear more responsibility that your life suffers from it. When you love life enormously, it becomes natural to demarcate that threshold. When you center your life around somebody else, then the life becomes subordinate.
You seem to have reached that threshold, so let it go and feel the entailing guilt. Trying to appease guilt by rationalisations will sustain guilt. You must have already noticed umpteen times.



I think it’s clear the source of your thoughts and feelings stems from the belief that “life sucks”. If life didn’t suck you wouldn’t feel this way about having kids, non?

I can’t speak to the experience of having kids since I don’t have them. But to that core belief, I can speak to that … and I can say without a doubt that it’s a false premise! And therefore false premise = false conclusion.

It’s not a fact that life sucks … it’s a belief. A justification to allow ourselves to feel bad and be angry etc. “of course i’m angry … and it’s ok cause life sucks anyway, it’s not my fault, I won’t change anything!”

Maybe you can use the protectiveness and nurture you feel for your kids, to your advantage! Do you really want them to live in a world where life sucks? Of course not… do you want to subconsciously instill in them a belief that life sucks if it doesn’t, which you will do because the kids are observant and will see and imitate what you do and feel regardless of what you say? I’m sure you don’t… so what better reason to get off your behind and do something about this belief you carry! Do it for the kids :blush:

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Yes, this definitely rings true. Also, that I have suffered too, that I experientially now know intense forms of suffering/trauma are possible and what they are like. There is a difference between seeing suffering and knowing of it and then experiencing it. Though I have incrementally improved my situation, so I know the method works.

Yes, definitely. Wishing I was a better example.

Isn’t that what they are, a self aware organism with its own intelligence, awareness, etc? :rofl: Not quite sure what you mean here. Could you elaborate more please.

Yes, it is a relief there is a way to escape the thrall of emotional suffering and improve ones experience in this world. What is frustrating for me though is that I can not guarantee it. They may have no interest in AF, or living their best life.

Yes, I see this now. I guess it was a blind spot.

The first time this guilt manifested was when one of my daughters got burnt. It was a mistake by my wife leaving hot oil from cooked bacon in one of the kids bowls, but my wife didn’t know she could now reach the area she put the bowl on so she thought it was safe. I hadn’t communicated this to my wife that she can now reach this area. My wife left the room and I was washing up but my wife didn’t communicate to me about the bowl. My daughter (3 years old at the time) reached for the bowl thinking it was some food for her because it was one of her coloured bowls, the boiling hot bacon fat spilled onto her chest and melted her pyjamas and burnt her flesh. I felt so personally responsible for this outcome, poor communication between me and my wife had allowed this possibility to rise.

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In order not to make this post too long, I will only say this for now:

I believe that in your own words (which I have quoted out of order) is the seed of -at least part of- an answer. May be you are a more extreme version, but you don’t essentially feel any different than the overwhelming majority of humans whom evolution groomed to care for our own children at all costs. The most elementary version is to feel bad for their real or potential suffering; the most extreme, to give one’s life for them.

But it is significant that we do not feel the same way about other children. No matter how much human empathy we feel for “childhood” as an abstraction or for concrete children (such as those my wife sees daily as a pediatrician): it does not equal what we feel for our own. And this is what has been evolutionarily effective; this is what filial love and filial nurturing are for.

So from the point of view of a feeling human being and the efficacy of maintaining us as a species, you are feeling the right thing! This is one of the new emotional layers that parenthood activates over the suffering already experienced by any human being.

Because suffering is aversive, you try not to suffer. Because touching fire makes you suffer, you withdraw your hand. Because you then fear touching the fire (and fear is aversive), you come just close enough. But parenthood (experienced as feeling beings) enlarges this aversion by encompassing our children, making us feel their real and potential suffering almost as our own. And this suffering for their actual or potential suffering is also aversive. So what we want is for them not to suffer in order to stop suffering ourselves now and to avoid our potential suffering!

So “I” want to keep them away from suffering because “I” want to keep myself away from suffering, which means that ultimately “I” am still suffering for “me” when “I” suffer for them!

At the end it is always about “me”… If the self disappears, is minimized or at least weakened, the suffering and the fear of suffering disappears, is minimized or is weakened. Therefore, our suffering for the real or potential suffering of our children also disappears, is minimized or at least weakened.


Yes that is exactly what I mean, but it seems that there is a shift in seeing that happens when one is looking through the lens of parent/child.

Because as a parent you instinctually and socially feel responsible for this person, which means that through this lens, to a certain extent their autonomy and ability to navigate through life successfully of their own accord is somehow underestimated.

This is at least my observation and I have confirmed this with my mum recently as we have actually been having lots of talks about nurture, her responsibility for me etc lately, which is why I can relate to some of this.

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Also I found this one interesting, because if they have no interest in AF or living their best life then who are you to ask otherwise? (assuming they are grown up and living their own life at this point of course, I guess if they are young you have to enforce certain things in order to ensure their wellbeing)

That looks like traumatic. Trauma sets in patterns which overwork to make sure that the same emotions won’t repeat(guilt here), but at a tremendous cost.

Freedom entails allowing ourselves to make mistakes both in our lives and our loved ones. Otherwise there won’t be playfulness or naivete. Continually scanning for threats is a great way to keep the fear circuits active, thereby enlarging amygdalae and shrinking cortex, which will act as a positive feed back to the loop. Allowing yourself to make mistakes with regard to your kids’ lives is a part of giving life to yourself (you must have noticed that only when you allowed yourself to make errors and be okay with the rare but devastating tragedies happen in your life did your fears leave you. Just that you need to repeat this with regard to your kids now). Otherwise, you are a prisoner to their lives.

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It is not that life sucks, there is much that is awesome about existence/life. I am not so clouded that all existence sucks. It is that suffering sucks, physical and emotional. The emotional framework makes the physical seem unbearable. Curious as to what extreme physical suffering is like for somebody AF.

However, I am aware enough to know that my emotions regarding that suffering have shaped my feeling/view of suffering altogether, like I am trapped in some weird feedback loop.

My dad was a very tough person, he had suffered from a young age and was so un-phased by pain, multiple co-morbidities, cancer, many forms of different suffering. I know experientially it is possible to not be phased by it, that it can be endured. There is a deep well of fear about having to endure suffering, subjectively speaking.

Substitute ‘suffering’ for life. The belief that suffering sucks is very subjectively valid to me because I have been there and I couldn’t tolerate it. To me this belief is more valid than somebody’s belief in angels or God or other arbitrary belief.

Though my depression and anxiety have waned there is still a hypervigilance here. In that same manner that Rick’s post about ‘1982 [Author Withheld]’ triggered your hypervigilance because of previous problems with spirituality, my hypervigilance is triggered by anything that might bring harm to me or my family.

Of course, I have already seen first hand how my anxiety about my body and illness has transferred onto my eldest (she is 11 now). She has learned to obsess over symptoms and signs in her body and over analyse in exactly the same way I do.

I am not raising these points to be stubborn. I just trying to be honest. I don’t want to gloss over where I am struggling.

I appreciate your openness with sharing and discussing these things by the way @son_of_bob

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Oh and another thing, sorry for spamming this is really fascinating to me though :see_no_evil:.

My mum has so many of the very fears that you have expressed to Claudiu and she has also been around lots of suffering, friends and family dying from cancer.

She is equally hyper vigilant and she has indeed through example instilled those very same fears in me.

I remember for about 6months of the last year going through some crazy fear fuelled fantasy that I will die of cancer any day now, it is still there sometimes although it’s massively minimise these days.

Hi @Miguel,

I do feel concern for the suffering of others and wish that other children and adults didn’t have to suffer too. It is of greater intensity towards my own children because I am partially responsible for them coming into existence. So, there is a personal responsibility that I have concluded on top of the evolutionary components that have shaped this nurturing behaviour.

Yes, really well articulated, thanks.

Thanks. Reading this, I realised there is this incredulity as regards the feasibility of me not suffering. That I am destined to suffer, perpetually. I feel close to tears right now, it is strange.

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