When we are born we are confronted with a strange and uncertain world. A world full of noises, lights, colours, movements and things. Perhaps even a world that seems at first a dangerous place to be in.
Our initial contact with our mother forms the basis of being loved and feeling loved. In turn, this love seeds the growth or development of faith, security, courage, and self-esteem or self-worth.
These are as important and vital for the child’s development as is the mothers breast and the milk the child receives. The child needs both kinds of ‘nourishments’ to enable it to face the vicissitudes of living and growing up in our world. Hence both physical and mental growth takes place. The turbulence of growing up demands a clear sense of identity, confidence and self worth.
The infant’s first contact with the mother is with her breast. In fact with the nipple of her breast. The child begins to associate and identify with his/her experience of that nipple. If that nipple provides an easy and satisfactory flow of nourishment, the child will feel ‘good’. The child may then be moved to the other breast. If that experience is not so good, that nipple will be seen as the ‘bad’ nipple. The child then begins to discover his/her world as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The child begins to split his/her world into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’.
As the child grows up and ‘matures’, it begins to see more and more of the mother. First the nipple, then the whole breast, then it ‘integrates’ the good and bad breast, until eventually the child is able to relate to the mother as a whole. The child experiences the mother’s love as a force that integrates the child’s view of the mother. The child’s mind then gets preoccupied with the forces of ‘integration’ or ‘splitting’. To the extent the child is able to integrate the good impressions with the bad ones, the child will succeed in developing a balanced and more mature view of the world and itself.
Identity, confidence and self-worth can only be built on a growing knowledge of the self. A knowledge that comprises beliefs and images of ones own self gathered over a continuing period of self-evaluation. .... “What am I?” Who am I?” “What am I not?” ... Acknowledge that good and bad are only perceptions of an integrated whole.
We cannot escape the inner process of self-evaluation, and hence find ourselves constantly at the mercy of self-fulfilling prophecies. Simply put, we are what we think we are. Our Perception forms our Reality. To change our reality, we need to change our perceptions.
Hence it is imperative that as children our self-perception must be built on a very realistic foundation. As parents we tend to over emphasize either good or bad. Either you are good or you are bad. We feel our goal is always teach the child what is good and to avoid what is bad. In so doing we are adding to the splitting processes of the child. Instead we need to show the child that both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ coexist. That they must learn to see both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in themselves as with everyone else. That good and bad are actually only perceptions of a compassionate and lovable whole that is neither good nor bad. As Shakespeare famously said in his play Hamlet, ‘Nothing is good of bad, only thinking makes it so’.
Parents need to gradually show their children that both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are merely nothing more than view points, where what’s ‘good for the gander is not necessarily good for the goose’. There is no such thing as a ‘bad boy’ or a ‘good boy’. There is something ‘good’ in all of us.
We need to learn to look for more than just what is bad or wrong with us. More importantly we need to discover what is good in each of us. We need a more balanced view of ourselves. A viewpoint that we allow to grow, to change, rather than one that we remain fixed to. We need to discover what we are really worth. We need to realistically evaluate ourselves. For the values we find will ultimately become our most important ‘resources’.
“What’s the secret behind the flexibility of young brains? Its not about growing new cells – in fact, the number of brain cells is the same in children and adults. Instead, the secret lies in how these cells are connected.
At birth, a baby’s neurons are disparate and unconnected, and in the first two years of life they begin connecting up extremely rapidly as they take in sensory information. As many as two million new connections, or synapses, are formed every second in an infants brain. By age two, a child has over one hundred trillion synapses, double the number an adult has.
It has now reached a peak and has far more connections than it will need. At this point, the blooming of new connections is supplanted by a strategy of neural pruning. As you mature, 50% of your synapses will be pared back.
Which synapses stay and which go? When a synapse successfully participates in a circuit, it is strengthened; in contrast, synapses weaken if they aren’t useful, and eventually they are eliminated. Just like paths in a forest, you lose the connections you don’t use.” (-“THE BRAIN, The Story of You” – by David Eagleman).
Hence it is during the first 2-3 years of life that the ‘way’ we evaluate our selves becomes pretty much set, awaiting for opportunities to reinforce these inhibiting, self limiting beliefs. Low self esteem, low self-confidence, self-doubt, all slowly grow endemic within us, limiting our perceptions and beliefs of our true potential.
We then become ‘second class’ human beings. Frustrated, angry, fearful, and prejudiced. We become ‘fragmented’ human beings and our world becomes more and more ‘fragmented’. Instead, we need to reinforce our memories and experiences of being loved, respected, admired, and valued. We should also reinforce these experiences and memories amongst our children.