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Return to Grace, Part Three — The Primal Scene and the Divine Child: Hierarchical Societies Demand Conformity All the Way Down the Line

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Becoming “as a Child” and Building the Better Human — Childhood: The Ego Is Sycophantic to Someone and “The Word” — What Those Voices You Hear Really Are

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Let us turn now to the third fall from grace, that time when the child’s potential is reduced to the acceptable spectrum, only, that reflects the socionormative constructs of the society. Can this be different?

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Primal Scene — We Give Up

Remember that at the primal scene, occurring around the age of four or five, we become “them.” We give up. We see our attempts to interact as ourselves with our parents and the world extending out from them as being utterly futile. We feel it is better to get at least something by being someone they want rather to get nothing and to seethe in loneliness and inattention being the unique person we were meant to be.

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The Unreal Self, the Ego, Is Sycophantic to Someone

So, we cater to others’ requirements and lose connection with our own wants and needs … their needs become our needs.

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We develop an unreal self which is concocted to please others and comprised of bargaining chips to procure approval from others. Our self is sycophantic to someone. Even if that self contains elements of “toughness” or independence, those traits came into being to placate another, usually the same-sex parent.

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“Child Sacrifice”

I say it is comparable to “child sacrifice” and is exemplified in Western culture in the Biblical story of Abraham being told by “God” to sacrifice his son, Isaac. For “God,” you may read the insane workings of the mind in adult life once one has lost a real and felt connection to the transpersonal by means of these falls from grace. You see here, over and again, that we do to others what has been done to us. Having been forced to give up ourselves we are compelled … by “God,” but actually by the end products of emotional pain … to slay that same thing in our children when it presents itself.

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I say it is the fall from grace that occurs as a result of relationship trauma. Indeed, it is that which develops at the time when the child is beginning to connect with the wider world beyond Mother. The earlier traumas and splittings from innate divinity come about in relation to the mother or other primary care-giver. They happen at and around birth and for a while afterward through the interaction of the infant with mother around gestation, actual birth, and then, bonding, nursing, feeding, toilet training, and so on.

While this pressure to split off from the body and its needs and the transpersonal and its directives and guidance continues into toddlerhood, more and more the child interacts with siblings, other children, the father, the other figures in the social unit.

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So, as with the mother, the natural child will seek to have its needs satisfied. Earlier this was for biological needs. Now this is for relational needs … connection with others, interaction, mutual recognition. So over time the biological and affectional needs develop and become related to ways of behaving and interacting around needs of belongingness and connection with loved ones in the immediate family. Ideally these needs are met through mutual recognition and appreciation between distinct human personalities.

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Hierarchical Societies Demand Conformity All the Way Down the Line

However, in complex, hierarchical societies and just like in the Abraham and Isaac myth, the parents will seek to have their children behave and appear to be like miniature versions of themselves … mini-me’s. Like Abraham, the adult is not really seeing the child and its needs as separate from his or her own. Rather the parent is caught up in the mental byproducts of unmet needs from his or her own childhood. Indeed, the child becomes a byproduct of the adult’s attempt to orchestrate the emotional pain within him or herself.

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“The Word”: Those Voices You Hear … What They Really Are

60606PCN_GarnerDorothy11-682x1024How that manifests is that the adult—all the while proclaiming to be doing this “for the child’s own good”—will seek to carve a reflection of him or herself into the precious sensitivity of the toddler and preschooler.

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Without a doubt, the adult thinks it is doing this in obedience to voices coming from outside. For they are the pushes and pulls of his or her own unmet needs in childhood, which—repressed because of the pain associated with them and existing in a portion of the consciousness … and brain … not accessible to consciousness—now have influence seemingly from the outside.

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The fact that the adult will feel that these unconscious forces have the force of a higher power … a deity in Abraham’s case … is because they indeed are the remnants of instructions, nonverbal messages, and admonitions given to that adult as a child from his or her own parents. Coming from outside oneself they seem to come from a supernatural source. Coming from one’s parents they seem to come from a higher source … one requiring strict obedience … one’s parents.

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The “Commandments” and the Culture’s Shared Neurosis

Beyond that, they appear to come from a higher authority since these “commandments” from the parents are reflective of the society as a whole. For the cookie cutter that is pressed upon the precocious personality of the young one and which is in the shape of the parent is somewhat like the cookie cutters of that culture in general. That is to say, the neurotic proclivities of an adult in any society are of course going to be similar to those of the others in that society, for indeed neurosis is all about conformity with others. Put bluntly, the way the parent’s soul has been disfigured is roughly in the manner of the way others in that society have been disfigured.

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“Doctrine” of Infallibility

So, being reflective of the larger society, again the patterns of this unreal self have that sense of being from “above”—from outside oneself and from higher up. Thus, these distorted orchestrations on the self from the outside carry with them all the weight and validity as from an infallible source … though of course that is anything but true.

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I should at least mention at this point that the reason this process of losing one’s self in conformity to supposedly higher others is more extreme in complex, “civilized,” societies is because the hierarchical nature of such societies imposes itself upon all elements of its corresponding culture. Specifically, in such societies virtually all adults are pressured into conformity with higher ups of some sort or other and are sycophantic in relation to them. Naturally this pattern of oppression in the greater society will be reflected in the patterns of relationship in the family as well.

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Building the Better Human — Childhood

A Child Wants to Be of Service by Nature

Now, by contrast to Western attitudes to young children, Liedloff (1977) describes the kind of trust in the innate sociality of the child and the “respect” for the child and for his or her “inclinations” that characterized the Yequana:

Perhaps as essential as the assumption of innate sociality in children and adults is a respect for each individual as his own proprietor. The notion of ownership of other persons is absent among the Yequana. The idea that this is “my child” or “your child” does not exist. Deciding what another person should do, no matter what his age, is outside the Yequana vocabulary of behaviors. There is great interest in what everyone does, but no impulse to influence—let alone coerce—anyone. A child’s will is his motive force. There is no slavery—for how else can one describe imposing one’s will on another and coercion by threat and punishment? The Yequana do not feel that a child’s inferior physical strength and dependence upon them imply that they should treat him or her with less respect than an adult. No orders are given a child that run counter to his own inclinations as to how to play, how much to eat, when to sleep, and so on.

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But where his help is required, he is expected to comply instantly. Commands like “Bring some water!” “Chop some wood!” “Hand me that!” or “Give the baby a banana!” are given with the same assumption of innate sociality, in the firm knowledge that a child wants to be of service and to join in the work of his people. No one watches to see whether the child obeys—there is no doubt of his will to cooperate. As the social animal he is, he does as he is expected without hesitation and to the very best of his ability. (pp. 90-91)

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An Example of the Adult Role Containing Within It Also the Real Self, the Child

In a similar fashion, the Mbuti, as described by Turnbull (1961), hardly notice a difference from child roles and expectations and adult ones:

And one day they find that the games they have been playing are not games any longer, but the real thing, for they have become adults. Their hunting is now real hunting; their tree climbing is in earnest search of inaccessible honey; their acrobatics on the swings are repeated almost daily, in other forms, in the pursuit of elusive game, or in avoiding the malicious forest buffalo. It happens so gradually that they hardly notice the change at first, for even when they are proud and famous hunters their life is still full of fun and laughter. (p. 129)

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The Divine Child

The holy man from India, Sathya Sai Baba, echoes these perspectives of the child as presented by Pearce (1980) and demonstrated in nonliterate cultures. He says, “The human child sees itself as the center of the universe and the world as an extension of its being. This divine child knows that it is so” (1991, p. 295).

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Kasturi (1991), Baba’s editor and translator explains,

Children are most concerned with the Now; Baba reminds us the past is past; do not turn back and look wistfully or wailingly on the road you have traversed already. Children do not see the world as fragmented by walls: Chinese, Berlinese, or erected just to tease; they are involved in everything and with everyone; they represent true innocence, love, forgiveness and fraternity. The child has no conceit or contempt of gender; this divine child [referring to the avatar, Sai Baba] affirms: “Among men I am man; among women I am woman; among children I am a child.” (p. 295)

This child [meaning Sathya Sai Baba] inspires us to become children again so that we might be ever with Him, of Him, in Him. (p. 295)

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Continue with By Adolescence “Civilized” Children Are Programmed … Whereas in Primal Societies Inner Experience is Cultivated: Return to Grace, Part Four — Puberty, Becoming Adult

Return to Changing the Human Condition Starts with Birth: The Most Precocious, Brilliant, and Advanced Children Were Treated Differently as Newborns

To Read the Entire Book … on-line, free at this time … of which this is an excerpt, Go to Falls from Grace

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Life Is Passed Performing Rituals and Mouthing Incantations in the Service of Others’ Requirements: At the Age of Four or Five, Giving Up, We Become “Them”

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The Natural Self Slain, the Ego “Is Rewarded for Being Obsequious While the Real Self Seethes in the Prison of Loneliness”: The Third Fall, the Primal Scene, Part One — “Child Sacrifice”

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The Primal Scene

The primal scene occurs at around the age of four or five years. It corresponds exactly with Wilber’s tertiary dualism, as also it correlates with the beginning of the Oedipal struggle (in Freudian terms). It consolidates the formation of the ego against the body, severing the Centaur into “a horseman divided from his horse” (Wilber, 1977, p. 149). It may be likened to a third shutdown, a third stage in the removal of self from divinity, a third denial of God—this time under the terrorizing influence of what might be called social or relationship trauma.

The Natural Self Is Slain

According to Arthur Janov (1970), at around the age of four or five there occurs a point at which the child perceives the hopelessness of ever being loved for him- or herself and becomes instead what the parents (and, by proxy, society) want. Their needs become her or his needs.

The real self—the “child within,” the natural self, the God within—is slain and buried in the unconscious (once again) and becomes the unconscious self. Janov (1970) explains this process of losing the real self in a systematic and detailed manner. He writes brilliantly and poetically in his description, and I will let his words do most of the talking here.

Janov points out, first of all, that

We are all creatures of need. We are born needing, and the vast majority of us die after a lifetime of struggle with many of our needs unfulfilled. These needs are not excessive—to be fed, kept warm and dry, to grow and develop at our own pace, to be held and caressed, and to be stimulated. These Primal needs are the central reality of the infant. The neurotic process begins when these needs go unmet for any length of time. . . .

Since the infant himself cannot overcome the sensation of hunger (that is, he cannot go to the refrigerator) or find substitute affection, he must separate his sensations (hunger; wanting to be held) from consciousness. This separation of oneself from one’s needs and feelings is an instinctive maneuver in order to shut off excessive pain. We call it the split. (p. 22)

The split evolves into the permanent disconnection between the real and the unreal selves—between the real, needing, “feeling” self and the self we must pretend to be in order to try to get some our needs satisfied.

Demands for the child to be unreal are not often explicit. Nevertheless, parental needs become the child’s implicit demand. The child is born into his parents’ needs and begins struggling to fulfill them almost from the moment he is alive. He may be pushed to smile (to appear happy), to coo, to wave bye-bye, later to sit up and walk, still later to push himself so that his parents can have an advanced child. As the child develops, the requirements upon him become more complex. He will have to get A’s, to be helpful and do his chores, to be quiet and undemanding, not to talk too much, to say bright things, to be athletic. What he will not do is be himself. The thousands of operations that go on between parents and children which deny the natural Primal needs of the child mean that the child will hurt. They mean that he cannot be what he is and be loved. . . . (p. 25)

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Becoming “Them”

The upshot of this process, then, as Sam Keen (1972) described it:

He knows he cannot both be himself and be loved. So he splits into a real and an unreal self. His real feelings are sealed in the throbbing vault of the lonely inner self and he begins to tailor his conduct to the expectations of his parents. His watchword becomes: I will be what you want me to be if you will only love me. Although I feel hurt, alone, fearful, and unlovely, I will act trustworthy, loyal, helpful. . . . Henceforth the budding neurotic child gets plastic approval but no genuine love. His unreal self is rewarded for being obsequious while his real self seethes in the prison of loneliness. (p. 46)

Body Snatchers

The primal scene itself, however, is that crystallizing event that for the child symbolizes the essential truth of all the accumulated interactions that from birth on have demonstrated that in order to get a semblance of one’s needs fulfilled one cannot simply be oneself but must instead struggle to please another—for now a parent or parents, later it will be a lover, a spouse, a boss, society in general.

Giving Up, We Become “Them”

Janov (1970) describes this primal scene:

As the assaults on the real system mount, they begin to crush the real person. One day an event will take place which, though not necessarily traumatic in itself—giving the child to a baby sitter for the hundredth time—will shift the balance between real and unreal and render the child neurotic. That event I call the major Primal Scene. It is a time in the young child’s life when all the past humiliations, negations, and deprivations accumulate into an inchoate realization: “There is no hope of being loved for what I am.” It is then that the child defends himself against that catastrophic realization by becoming split from his feelings, and slips quietly into neurosis. The realization is not a conscious one. Rather, the child begins acting around his parents, and then elsewhere, in the manner expected by them. He says their words and does their thing. He acts unreal—i.e., not in accord with the reality of his own needs and desires. In a short time the neurotic behavior becomes automatic.

Neurosis involves being split, disconnected from one’s feelings. The more assaults on the child by the parents, the deeper the chasm between real and unreal. He begins to speak and move in prescribed ways, not to touch his body in proscribed areas (not to feel himself literally), not to be exuberant or sad, and so on. The split, however, is necessary in a fragile child. It is the reflexive (i.e., automatic) way the organism maintains its sanity. Neurosis, then, is the defense against catastrophic reality in order to protect the development and psychophysical integrity of the organism.

Neurosis involves being what one is not in order to get what doesn’t exist. If love existed, the child would be what he is, for that is love—letting someone be what he or she is. Then, nothing wildly traumatic need happen in order to produce neurosis. It can stem from forcing a child to punctuate every sentence with “please” and “thank you,” to prove how refined the parents are. It can also come from not allowing the child to complain when he is unhappy or to cry. Parents may rush in to quell sobs because of their anxiety. They may not permit anger—”nice girls don’t throw tantrums; nice boys don’t talk back”—to prove how respected the parents are; neurosis may also arise from making a child perform, such as asking him to recite poems at a party or solve abstract problems. Whatever form it takes, the child gets the idea of what is required of him quite soon. Perform, or else. Be what they want, or else—no love, or what passes for love: approval, a smile, a wink. Eventually the act comes to dominate the child’s life, which is passed in performing rituals and mouthing incantations in the service of his parents’ requirements. (pp. 25-26, emphases mine)

In Myth: Isaac’s “Primal Scene”

A good mythic reflection of the dynamics of this third fall from grace is the Abraham and Isaac story in Genesis. In the story, God “tempts” Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Therefore, the altar Isaac is to be sacrificed on is that of the parent’s own misapprehended growth needs.

What Is Meant by “Child Sacrifice”

Moreover, just as Isaac, the son, the child, is to be offered in sacrifice to Abraham’s relationship to the divine, to his supposed spiritual needs; so also we, most of us, are asked to forego our own dreams, our own unique directions, for the unfulfilled dreams, desperate hopes, and ego vanity of another—usually the same-sex parent.

Continue with Having Become “Them,” We Are Left Forever Asking “Who Am I?” The Third Fall From Grace, The Primal Scene, Part Two — The Philosophic Bands

Return to Becoming Not Yourself: The Centaur Stage of Infant and Toddler Learning Involves Learning You Are Not OK and Continues the Separation from Innate Divinity

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Continue with Having Become “Them,” We Are Left Forever Asking “Who Am I?” The Third Fall From Grace, The Primal Scene, Part Two — The Philosophic Bands

Return to Becoming Not Yourself: The Centaur Stage of Infant and Toddler Learning Involves Learning You Are Not OK and Continues the Separation from Innate Divinity

To Read the Entire Book … on-line, free at this time … of which this is an excerpt, Go to Falls from Grace

Invite you to join me on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/sillymickel

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