They were all Replacement Children

Elvis Presley, John Coltrane, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Lawrence, Katherine Hepburn, William Shakespeare, Peter Sellers, Princess Diana, Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Carl Gustav Jung, Eugene O’Neill, Vincent van Gogh, and Ludwig Von Beethoven were all replacement children.

They are examples of how a replacement child can honor their own needs, desires and emotions and connect to their authentic self. Ordinary people, too, can find meaning in their lives and become aware of their own unique gifts as an individual.

To the list of famous artists who were replacement children you can add Salvador Dali, Maria Callas, Hermann Hesse, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Noël Coward, Edvard Munch, Rainer Maria Rilke and many others.

Margaret Lawrence
Margaret Lawrence

Among the pioneers of psychoanalysis who were replacement children, you find Françoise Dolto, Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, Donald Winnicott, Melanie Klein and Sabine Spielrein. As well as Margaret Lawrence, the first African-American female psychoanalyst in the United States and first black female physician certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

And these, too, were replacement children King Salomon, Napoleon III, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Mark Twain, Sören Kierkegaard, Stendhal, Margaret Mead, James Barrie and probably many, many others.

The first replacement child referred to in western history is Seth, born to Eve after Cain had slain Abel, as is written in the Bible (Genesis 4,25).

More about some of these Replacement Children

Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, a year to the day after the birth of his stillborn brother. The deceased brother and Van Gogh carried the identical full name: Vincent Willem van Gogh.  They even shared the same number, 29, in the parish register.  The family lived in the rectory of the parish and so Vincent passed his brother’s grave – same name, same birth date (except for the year) – daily on his way to school.

James Matthew Barrie (known as J.M. Barrie – author of Peter Pan) Barrie’s brother, David, died in an ice-skating accident two days before his 14th birthday when Barrie was six years old. David had always been his mother’s favorite and with his death she became deeply depressed. Barrie, in an effort to make his mother forget his deceased brother and gain her affection and attention, dressed up in David’s clothes and learned to whistle the way he did. When Barry turned 14, (the same age as David when he died), he literally stopped growing at only 5 ft 3 ½ inches tall.

Salvador Dali’s elder brother, Salvador Galo Dali, died when he was nearly 22 months old.  Dali, the famous painter, was born exactly 9 months and 10 days later.  Dali felt the anguish of his parents’ loss of his brother, their firstborn son, very deeply. His parents chose to view their second son as a reincarnation of his deceased brother.  Dali’s dead brother was his “ghostly double“ and, as such, created a tremendous conflict and stress for the painter. Salvador Dali essentially lived the life of two people, his own and that of his deceased brother.

Katherine Hepburn When Katherine was 13, she lost her 15-year-old brother, Tom, to suicide. At that time suicide was a stigma and the family never mentioned his name thereafter. But the loss of her brother completely changed Kate’s life.  She coped with this devastating loss by keeping Tom alive within herself, even taking on his birthday, November 8 (while her real date of birth was May 12).  She vowed to herself and her deceased brother that he would live with her always; she would live a life for two.  And she stated that “the real date of his death would not be until the day I died“.

Peter Sellers was born with the name Richard Henry Sellers. His parents called him Peter, the name of his older stillborn brother. Sellers is best known for his uncanny ability to assume the identity of the characters he played. When he was acting, he became the person he was portraying. When he wasn’t acting, he was Richard Henry playing the role of Peter.  Sellers made the claim that he had no personality. Perhaps he needed to play very strong characters in order to gain an identity.  In 1978, appearing on the Muppet show, he decided not to appear as himself and rather play characters wearing various costumes and assuming different accents. When Kermit the frog remarked to Sellers that he could just be himself, Sellers replied, “But that, you see, my dear Kermit, would be altogether impossible. I could never be myself… You see, there is no me. I do not exist… There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.”

Elvis Presley was a twin.  His brother, Jesse Garon, was delivered 35 minutes before him, stillborn.  Elvis was deeply affected by his brother’s death, feeling that a major part of him was missing.  He questioned why he had survived while his brother had been born dead. Elvis felt a sense of guilt that he might have been responsible for the death of his brother.  At the start of Elvis‘ career, his mother spoke of her son’s talent and energetic drive. She believed that it was his birth as a twin and his brother’s death that set the stage for his incredible success.  She said his destiny was to do great things as he was living for two people. Elvis longed to reunite with Jessie and pursued this desire through various channels including meditation, studying the Bible, numerology and other spiritual avenues.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana When Diana was born, there were already two girls in the family; Sarah and Jane. A son, John, had been born one year before Diana’s birth, but died in only 10 hours of a lung disease.

A third daughter was not wanted or expected by the family.  They were so unprepared for the birth of another daughter, that they in fact did not have a name for her. Diana was finally named a week after her birth.  She was given the name, Diana Francis, which was a combination of her mother’s name and the name of a distant relative.

Carl Gustav Jung was a Replacement Child

Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26, 1875 after his mother Emilie and his father Paul mourned the deaths of three children: a daughter stillborn on July 19,1870, a second daughter stillborn on April 3, 1872 and a son named Paul named after his father, born on August 18, 1873 who died five days later.

Countless passages throughout his work, attest to Jung’s search for the core of his true being. He wrote: “I know only that I am without knowing what I am” (p. 304, Red Book) and “I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents…”  (in: Memoires, Dreams and Reflections (MDR), p. 233)

Healing for the Replacement Child: Finding your true Identity

Jung is the founder of Analytical Psychology. For becoming the unique inalienable human being you can be, he advocated a dialogue with your soul to help bring about a slow but continuous transformation of the personality, in accordance with its core true being.

This is the individuation process, the key concept in Jung’s approach. In the individuation process, “the psyche is . . . developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious” (Jung, MDR, p. 209).

This is a message of hope for replacement children: they can experience a psychological rebirth. (see: Schellinski, K. Individuation for Adult Replacement Children. Ways of Coming into Being (2019)

(see: Schellinski, K. Individuation for Adult Replacement Children. Ways of Coming into Being (2019)