Recommended Reading for the Online Course: Unit 3
Unit 3 – Your past shapes your present. Is your present good enough to shape your future?
Environmental Input: The Developmental Decider
A Strict Sequence
When a Sense of Self (SoS) starts to develop in a person, and that starts right at birth, it follows a particular pattern with particular input at particular times. Children who do not get what they need at the right time grow up locked into compensations that are self-destructive and that cause all kinds of suffering and problems.
Before we explore the natural, healthy process of how a person ought to grow up and compare it with what happens when that process is distorted in one or more ways, here are some thoughts about growth processes in nature.
Every infant, seedling, or animal goes through a formation process. Even after it has sprouted or been born, its anatomical and functional systems are still forming. This process follows a strict sequence that is pretty much predetermined by nature and, as a whole, it is also being influenced by the interaction between nature and nurture.
The genes of each living being are its “nature” aspect. The circumstances in which the being exists are its “nurture” aspect. These two influence each other, such that genes or circumstances may reinforce the growth and development of a plant or animal in one direction or another. Some processes need to take place before others can. If some bit of a living being’s physiology does not develop fully and appropriately at its given time—its “critical period”—the clock marches on anyway. When this critical time passes, the being is abnormal in some way, unable to live up to its full (initial) potential.
As it is with plants and animals, so it is for people. So much of who we are as people, and how our lives unfold, is initiated in our childhood. So let us take a brief look at what happens in childhood.
Humans do not stop developing after they are born. Development follows certain natural rules and certain patterns; for example, we crawl before we walk; we walk before we run; we babble before we talk. Another important but often overlooked rule is that certain kinds of input are required at certain times in the sequence for the development to occur as it is meant to. If the right input happens at the right time in the sequence, a child’s development is normal and healthy. If a child does not experience the correct conditions, it will grow in an unnatural and defective manner. It might be alive, but it is distorted and weak, and it struggles to function.
For example, an infant, during this process of formation—which can be specific and unique to a particular critical period in the sequence—needs various kinds of physical environmental inputs, such as adequate food, water, and warmth, as well as specific interpersonal, psychological, and emotional input. To understand fully the necessity of these inputs, it is necessary to realize that both physical and psychological inputs affect both body and mind.
The natural in Natural SoS means a person has a SoS that has developed at the natural time, in an adequate way, and in the natural order that the development of a human being requires. It indicates the development has been “normal”—that the human consciousness has been able to do what it is programmed to do, without encountering obstructions or Hindrances in facilitating the maturation process. If the various required inputs are not present or provided at the appropriate time, the development of a Natural SoS cannot take place, and the result is a person with a warped SoS.
When developed in a distorted manner, we often need others to support us.
A SoS is not something we are born with or that we develop automatically and inevitably, no matter what. We do have an inborn drive to develop it, but unless certain kinds of experiences (feedback) are provided and processed in infancy and early childhood, a SoS won’t develop naturally and normally.
A core sense of an independently existing me-ness is part of normal, healthy human development, and our psychological development programs that into us. Normal development requires a specific attitude from the primary caregiver toward the child; this attitude needs to communicate certain information to the child about his or her “being.” This specific attitude needs to provide to the child the building blocks for the development of a healthy SoS, and is called Mirroring.