Archive for the ‘developmental psychology’ tag
Today’s photo could be considered “flawed” because of the over exposure at the top. But, it serves a purpose for me because of the excessive light from the sun. Light. Consciousness. Having taught developmental psychology for a number of years, I can’t help but think of that journey of development from the pre-natal waters in darkness, to the bloom of full adulthood when one is standing tall in the light, tall and proud. It is a long journey that is all uphill. But, like this photo, once one has crested the bridge of life, it is necessary to descend, to move back toward the darkness, towards death where human consciousness is no longer.
I want this post to focus on the high point of the bridge. If one looks into the water, into the reflections of consciousness in the body of the collective and personal unconscious, one sees what is not evident above the water, above the bridge. One sees that the self that walks this bridge, must go over the sun, go over the father in order to become a full adult. It’s about becoming the authority over one’s self rather than allowing one’s self to be the subject of the authority of others, especially one’s personal father, or the collective father represented in one’s community, one’s country, one’s religion.
“Also associated with the father imago is the issue of authority. By whose authority do we live our lives, make our decisions, practice our professions, conduct our journeys? Authority as concept is neutral; in praxis it is always valenced. Any authority, no matter how benign an well-intentioned, can exclude its opposite and over time become oppressive. No child can ever wholly evolve into his or her own truth without finding an authentic inner authority. For this reason, the individuation process obliges some form of overthrow of the external authority, whether modeled by the personal parent, the broader culture, or the resident tribal deity.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 47)
As one grows up, one discovers self as a separate being. One also discovers that one is helpless at first and must depend upon the Mother and the Father. The original power of these two figures are grounded as archetypes into our very soul. The Mother as nurturer and as the source of life. The Father as authority and the energy of life. The task of growing up leads us to overthrow their authority. Rather than to have one’s father’s voice echo in one’s head and heart guiding all of one’s decisions, one must become the authority. One shifts from being the child to the adult, from being the “subject” to the ruler. One shifts from being a member of a church to being at one with deity, to finding that there is no separation between self and deity.
It’s a long journey, not an easy one. It is a journey that leaves one alone in so many ways. Individuation. And when one has completed the journey, one returns to being at one with others seeing that there is no real separation between self and other as all are part of the whole.
This is a very shy little boy who lives in a ramshackle dwelling along the banks of a dried-up river bed, a place where the dispossessed have thrown together bits and pieces of wood, cardboard and metal until they could be called their homes. I was at the scene in order to lend a hand with a shovel so that a retaining wall would provide a bit of security when the rainy season comes and the river once again flows with water.
I got to take a number of photos during the morning, not too many so that it would be intrusive, not so many as to interfere with the work that had to be done. I needed to do the work for this little micro-community as well as for my own soul. So much for altruism – yes, there was a selfish purpose – my need for purpose and meaning.
As I said, I took photos of the scene and of some of the people living there including this little boy. I wish that I was more proficient in Spanish as I would have loved to be able to speak to this little guy and some of the others I met. Regardless of the stories they could have told me, I knew that they would repeat stories told by others around the world. There is something universal in being human and being a child. With limited language skills, I did manage to have the little guy smile.
I am a grandfather and I know children and this makes the task easier. Also helping me is a knowledge of Developmental Psychology. I taught the subject for a fair number of years and learned that though a child might appear more mature than others of his or her age, that appearance is actually deceiving. Beneath the appearance is a child, a child limited by his or her developmental stage.
One of the things I sort of overlooked as I taught Developmental Psychology, was the topic of “psychic stages.” Jungian Psychology fills in the blank spots and lets me begin to understand the problems of adulthood and midlife that arise out of the psychic experiences of childhood. Note that I said “psychic” experiences rather than “life” experiences. There is a difference. For example, imagine going to visit extended family and being allowed to stay over with your cousins when the day visit comes to an end. Nothing traumatic is evident, in fact, all appears to be more positive than negative. Yet, for one child, this could be taken as abandonment rather than as a reward and opportunity. How does one know? One doesn’t. At some point in time if the event was taken as abandonment, the story will out.
Experiences with mother, father, siblings or the lack of such become encased and hidden in layers of life or forgotten because remembering them only causes pain. So, as I look at this little boy, I wonder how he will fare, how will he be different from the other little boys? Then I leave the scene to return to my villa. Still, I know that he saw and experienced me as I saw and experienced him. And that, has changed both of us forever – a psychic experience.
This photo was taken in the Reserva Santa Elena, part of the Monteverde National Park. While I was walking through a series of trails on the mountain, I came across a number of small waterfalls with this being the largest of the group. I have to admit that I love listening to waterfalls and gurgling streams in a forest. There is something primal about it, something that descends to the core, something that lets me know that what I call my consciousness is naught but a thin, flimsy surface of a vastness that is incomprehensible to my conscious ego.
I often use the words consciousness and unconsciousness, but I don’t know if I ever truly define these words in a satisfactory manner. I have decided to return to C.G. Jung’s words in order to bring a bit more clarity to the terms as it Jung’s work that has informed my meagre levels of understanding.
“Consciousness does not create itself – it wells up from unknown depths. In childhood it awakens gradually, and all through life it wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep from an unconscious condition. It is like a child that is born daily out of the primordial womb of the unconscious. . . . It is not only influenced by the unconscious but continually emerges out of it in the form of spontaneous ideas and sudden flashes of thought.” (Jung, CW 11, par 935)
This does make sense to me. It fits with much of what I taught students while teaching developmental psychology. In infancy there is no separation between self and other, no realisation that “self” exists. All is sensory data and no more. The task of infancy and childhood is differentiation between self and other, the establishment of boundaries. One of those boundaries that I didn’t consider then was that between consciousness and unconsciousness. Somehow, I missed that dynamic – the unconscious was something I wasn’t paying any attention to at all, in fact, I didn’t admit its existence as I was much too focused on the dynamics of self and other, the self and the collective, the self and the environment. For me, it was only about consciousness, a consciousness that I confused with knowledge about things, processes and people. It was only after the unconscious tripped me up that I became aware of the straight jacket that I had wrapped around myself with the outer world.
“Everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but now have forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness: all this is the content of the unconscious.” (Jung, CW 8, par 382)
Yes, all of this is part of the unconscious, the personal unconscious. All of this informs, guides, pushes and pulls each of us through the days. Beneath and surrounding this layer of the unconscious is something bigger, something more, something deeper.