-by William Hay
In psychology 101, students are taught that the first relational bond is mother child. The child developing in the womb does not have a sense of separateness from mother until after birth. No one knows for sure. It’s not something that can be ‘proven’. Indeed there is even hypnosis work with memories that suggests separateness is experienced in the womb. Yet the prevailing wisdom is that child is born in a state of ‘merger’.
Self and not self. This is the first key aspect of immunology. There is a need to recognise that which is friendly, helpful, and like from that which is not. The child’s awareness of self and environment is growing all the while in the early years. The child is perceived as beginning believing that mother and child are one.
The ‘terrible two’s’ when the child is in ‘rebellion’ is psychologically a time of “separation and individuation”. This time is characterized by the word ‘my’. By now the child has had to accept father and other siblings into their world. The magical thinking of the child has been narcissistic and omnipotent. There’s a large scale drama occurring in the world of the child where all revolves around them and then they are utterly alone. Emotions range like rivulets and great oceans.
Anger is associated with fear and during the ‘terrible two’s’ the child rapidly experiences rage and stubbornness and through the process, loved, comes to know a sense of interdependence.
A healthy child seen in public at a certain age will not ‘cling’ to the mother. A clinging child suggests to examiners that the child is afraid of losing the ‘uncertain’ mother. The child lacks ‘security’ for whatever reason. An emotionally healthy child will be able to move away from the mother in public while keeping her in eye sight. This will allow the child to explore the environment in safety. Where once in the first months of life the child was nearly attached physically still to the mother, and certainly dependent on the family the child is increasingly making forays away from the safety of the mother and family into the immediate environment.
The next phase of separation and individuation is seen in early adolescence. Adolescence has been characterized by the likes of Bok in three stages. The first is the moving away from the family and identification increasingly with a same sex same age adolescent group. The next phase is the becoming a part of the mixed sex same age group where sex and love relationships are played out with those outside the primary family. The final stage of adolescence is the establishment of a new ‘creative’ unit which will allow the child to separate physically from the family psychologically and establish a new family.
At this time the new family unit identifies with other family units of roughly the same age and begins to ‘nest’ and begin the cycle again for introducing new members to society.
This separation individuation is core but has many variations, not the least of which is homosexual development or celibacy in priest hood. These latter developments are seen as potentially self imploding while serving the group nonetheless.
The key feature though is that there is a ‘developmental’ time when this development can be viewed in the mainstream. The age of the individual in each phase varies greatly.
At one time the families cycled with separation from family and recreation of new family and individuals every 20 years. This continued in the lower classes into the 50’s and then as with the upper classes there was what was termed a ‘delay in adolescence’. Where once women reproduced children at age 16 to 18, increasingly child bearing moved into the 20’s, then the 30’s and now for many it does not occur though the external forms of the behaviour are symbolically preserved.
In earlier times children were valued for their own sake. Later they moved from being ‘tools’ in society and part of the essential development of the society, to being ‘toys’ and entertainment with value not independent from the parents. The introduction of ‘labour saving’ devices, the fear of the future, the unwillingness to expand outward, society trapped at the void of space as Europe was in pre Columbus times at the void of the great ocean. Where once children were necessary to man the farm and war machines and build the factories today they are not so necessary.
In the past children were celebrated because more children meant for most more income. The adage was simply that more hands make the workload easier and the thought of more mouths to feed was not intrinsic to cultures that celebrated life.
Later in the ethnocentricity of the present age would the rewriting of history occur and suddenly children, womanhood and family would be viewed through the lens of what has sometimes been seen as a dying or devolving culture. Indeed today many of the leading theorists are at the ‘end’ of their world of DNA. The grandscale of abortion in our society is testimony to the extraordinary transformation of culture that collectively celebrated life, childbearing, womanhood and family to one that now denies the child existence, promotes the individual over the family and society and generally dead ends.
Now that does not necessarily mean that devolution is inferior to evolution. Indeed some theorists believe the cycles are as necessary as any other ‘cycle’ in nature. It’s just a question of where a society or even individual is along this line.
In the end , it really comes down to the matter of drawing a line even if one only believes in circles. Believing in circles one must ask how tightly wound or loose the circle will then be in the metaphor of an individual or cultural life. So much debate and certainty depends upon the fundamental understanding an individual or culture or age has over this process. There are those who do not believe in development itself and may themselves not develop as a consequence. Snapshots,slideshows and movies all can give a different perspective on process. The point remains in drawing the line. Perhaps also one might ask who has done such drawing as end points are commonly in science beginning points as well.