Written by Sam Igneous @ Soul Discovery
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During childhood, we are in our least conditioned state. The subconscious mind is still accumulating its largest proportion of stimuli, which becomes a primary driving force for our behavior in later life. The conditioned mind functions according to the demands of the ego. The ego operates according to the external world, preoccupied with past and future states. As a child, we are more absorbed in the present moment and so our intuitive instincts dictate how we act. Our intuition communicates through our feelings, which serve as important signals. Naturally then, unrestricted by time, we are driven down the path of highest excitement, to creatively pursue our individuality and so become engaged in the process of manifesting our highest potential.
Even when connected to the present moment, a child can still utilize their conscious mind in a constructive way. This comes through utilization of the imagination, but not as a form of escapism. When we become lost in abstractions or trapped by the future, the ability to create now is hindered. As a child, however, we imagine a reality in our minds as if it were real and we bring the accompanying feelings back to the present moment. We start to live as though we are already the person we want to become. These feelings are what give children the innate motivational spirit to play, explore and create and this state of being is much more influential than the specific images conjured up by the imagination.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ~ Albert Einstein
As we get older, we are taught that these dreams hold no basis in reality and so we adopt belief systems that limit what we are capable of achieving. Paradoxically, the older we get, the more out of touch we actually become with reality. Our dreams as a child were telling us something about what type of person we could become. When we lock them away, we live within confined possibility, following life like a deterministic script. This is an unfortunate byproduct of a competitive, materialistic society, which functions according to external dictates. We start to feel as though we will be judged if we step outside the status quo and, in fear of being ostracized, we may accommodate to a life of conformity and obedience, compromising the expression of our true individuality. This resistance against the self begins to build up within us. We become highly repressed individuals and may project this subconscious trauma on to others, as well creating inner turmoil, which manifests on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.
The way we were nurtured by our parents in the critical early years of our development, bears a huge impact on our behavioral temperaments in later life (Bowlby, 1969) (1). It is particularly important that a child has his/her basic physical, social and emotional needs tended to by a primary caregiver. Without sufficient nourishment, a child is likely to develop insecure personality patterns, which can manifest as two extremes: The first type, the anxious/ambivalent type, is often characterized by overcompensating in an attempt to gain the caregivers affection, as a result of their neglect and/or abuse. The second type, the anxious/avoidant type, is characterized by withdrawal and indifference, as a result of the caregivers neglect and/or abuse. These become prototypes for later relationships (Bowlby, 1969).
Anxious/ambivalent: (Joyce Catlett, M.A.) (2)
“Children who have an ambivalent/anxious attachment often grow up to have preoccupied attachment patterns. As adults, they are self-critical and insecure. They seek approval and reassurance from others, yet this never relieves their self-doubt. In their relationships, deep-seated feelings that they are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting. This drives them to act clingy and overly dependent with their partner. These people’s lives are not balanced: their insecurity leaves them turned against themselves and emotionally desperate in their relationships.
Adults with preoccupied attachment patterns are usually self-critical, insecure and desperate, often assuming the role of the “pursuer” in a relationship. They possess positive views of other people, especially their parents and their partner, and generally have a negative view of themselves.”
Anxious/avoidant: (Joyce Catlett, M.A.) (3)
“People who formed an avoidant attachment to their parent or parents while growing up try to steer clear of emotional closeness and intimacy in their new relationships. They tend to feel uncomfortable with physical contact and attempt to limit affectionate and sexual exchanges with their partner in order to maintain a more comfortable or “safe” distance in the relationship. They value the friendship aspects of a relationship, but look down on romantic love, passion, commitment, and satisfaction. Other adults identified as “avoidant/dismissing” are loners; they prefer isolation and are primarily interested in practical matters.
When faced with threats of separation or loss, many “dismissing” men and women are able to focus their attention on other issues and goals. Others tend to withdraw and attempt to cope with the threat on their own. They deny their vulnerability and use repression to manage emotions that are aroused in situations that activate their attachment needs.”
Though this Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1969) is recognised in mainstream academia, it fails to address the deeper ramifications of insufficient parenting, beyond the evolutionary paradigm. A child who is nurtured and loved sufficiently in the womb (and beyond), will develop much more than the the capacity for survival. Providing the parent is not too strict or smothering and doesn’t try to mould the child to their own expectations, they will have the secure base they need, from which to more freely explore the world, nurture their individuality/creativity and forge deep and meaningful relationships, free from unresolved, internalised conflicts. There are many other environmental factors to consider, some of which may interfere with this process, as well as the vital component of free will, but having this foundation in place sets a child off on a strong foot.
There are complete exceptions to the rule also. Some children, as a result of childhood mistreatment or neglect, are actually propelled to look deeper at reality, in an attempt to rationalize their suffering. This may come during an act of rebellion and/or during a period of intense emotional trauma, during which time a lot can be discovered about the self. Nevertheless, any unresolved conflicts still remain internalized within the self and will need to be addressed at some point. There are various ways to tackle the shadow and release past traumas (refer to section 3 on the website: Confronting The Shadow). Sometimes, when we are bought up sheltered and stable, we may not have the need to venture out of this perceived comfort zone.
As well as our early upbringing, the education systems hugely shapes a child’s future. Indoctrination into the education system further curtails our imagination and restricts critical thinking. Children become more inhibited from freely exercising their unique skills and creative drive, as they move through the school system. Instead, we see a situation where holistic learning is fragmented into separate subjects, producing standardized material, where the ability to conform, memorize and repeat is rewarded. Attempts to look at reality deeper, question the status quo, or connect with one’s individuality, on other hand, are punished. This negative conditioning, through punishment, creates in us a state of learned helplessness. In such a passive state, we fear breaking the rules, because we know the consequences are detrimental. Students are then encouraged to narrow down their focus to the prescribed parameters of one subject area and then to take up further study at university to study this in greater detail. This further compromises the ability to view reality holistically and expand awareness beyond the confined restrictions of society.
“For a small child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does just for fun and things that are educational. The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play.
~ Penelope Leach
Though we can’t expect to abandon responsibility and commitments completely, we can learn to apply the creative mind into our daily lives, as much as possible. We can turn our lives into a work of art, through various expressions. The best way to rekindle the childhood spirit is to find what most excites us in every moment, and practice it to the best of our ability. We can learn to master this state of being in any environment we find ourselves in, by absorbing ourselves right into each moment and releasing preoccupation of our minds from worry and regret. We mustn’t expect that the future is set in stone. If we learn to release attachment, new possibilities emerge that we couldn’t predict. As long as we fear the unknown, we will seek physical security. This attachment to survival compromises the growth of spirit, which thrives on the exploration of consciousness and expansion through creativity. This far surpasses anything material. As a child, the concept of time and death were not embedded in our reality. Fear did not drive our actions. This default mode of existence can teach us a lot to apply into our lives now.
(1) Bowlby J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books.
(2) Catlett, J., (n.d.). Understanding anxious attachment- part 1: Ambivalent/anxious attachment. Retrieved from http://www.psychalive.org/understanding-ambivalent-anxious-attachment/
(3) Catlett, J., (n.d.). Understanding anxious attachment- part 2: Avoidant/anxious attachment. Retrieved from http://www.psychalive.org/anxious-avoidant-attachment/
Original Article: Reigniting The Childhood Spirit — Soul Discovery
Website: Soul Discovery