Elsewhere on this site I have written about Harville Hendrix work on Imago, the concept that we are pre-disposed from the events of our very early life to attract, and be attracted to a partner who represents, at least in part, a reasonable facsimile of the people that caused you wounds from which your key character traits evolve.
The idea to my understanding (and much developed in my mind by my friend and mentor Al Turtle) is that these partner associations bring together two people specifically ‘unskilled’ in the areas that one another most seek evolution from.
In order to be a reasonable facsimile each partner will have specific traits that resemble those of the other person’s former primary care givers. It is suggested also that each of us will return time and time again to those facsimiles in our significant relationships until we recognize the work we can do upon ourselves to become a better receptacle to our partners wound redemption, which in time will reward us with a route out of our own.
Sometimes this can seem to me somewhat oblique, and I have wondered also about the other ‘influences’ that colour in our character traits in those formative years.
After all if the Imago idea is valid at all my thinking is that it is at the root of far more than so many people’s inability to abide with another in harmony, as communicating and sharing equals.
I think perhaps the traits of bullying, submission, communication skills, fear v courage, may all at some level be learned traits passed down from one generation to another.
But I believe the world is a changing, every time she turns, and so I quote the following passage exactly as I read it, cos it got me thinking:
This extract is from Allen Carr’s worldwide bestselling book ‘Easyway to Stop Smoking’
Tis a book, whose title offers the clue, written to give insight to smokers on how to return to being non smokers. Mr Carr (now deceased) also wrote books on returning to your right weight, and the plagues of alcohol, and my thinking is that the last line 'WHAT DO ADULTS DO WHEN THEY NEED A BOOST' would hold equal significance in all three cases, cigarettes, alcohol, and food; and probably drugs, both prescription and the less legal variety also.
The world of a few hundred years ago seems to me a somewhat simpler place. Malidoma Some a West African tribal man, taken to proffering a different message to the usual western dogma has stated that where he comes from bringing up a child is the task of a whole village.
He suggests that the network rearing each child, beyond primary caregivers (usually mum and dad) involves direct and measurable influences from a series of tutors teaching specifically from their own life experiences (well that is my understanding).
I am fairly sure that in such an environment there would be 'imaginary' heroes and villains, probably the worship of deities one or many, and for certain the patterns of alcohol, smoking, drugs, and diet will follow established traditions in the family and village.
But it seems to me that whether in Africa, Asia Europe or the US the community childhood of not so many years past is changing......Grandpa and Grandma and Auntie Beattie informed you of their wisdoms and world views, coloured as they might have been by their own journeys, in a very real and personal way, but these days for many these influences have been replaced it seems by a remote control, a chat room, I pad or other remote info/entertainment device .
Over the last fifty years, and I think quite demonstrably, television, movies, internet, mobile communication, media news and advertising have for millions of evolving souls taken over as the second most influential factor to colour in those character traits, after mum and dad.
A majority of adults in the west, despite many of them being jaundiced and often pre-disposed to 'manage' their intake of media feed still opine based on a steady diet of ‘remote information and entertainments’.
Oftentimes people may admit to being overly reliant on these forms of information/entertainment; but as adults they, you and I, have an inalienable right I believe to make that choice, change our minds, damn or free ourselves from life’s daily grind as we deem fit.
What then of children?
Born into an Imago world, evolving a series of character traits under the tutelage of their caregivers, to best deal with 'surviving childhood'. Add to that mix, pretty much from day one, a cornucopia of remote influences, imagery sounds opinions instructions and people/characters both real and imaginary; from a world the media can take from perfection to harrowing in an instant.
As a kid I used to watch ‘Gerry Anderson’ the great puppeteer of the 60’s range of shows including Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Stingray. I remember at the beginning of these shows a disembodied voice would say ‘Anything can happen in the next half hour’……
It kind of sums up television to me, I didn’t know any better, it was all so real……….
Furthermore I think that we can add in the breakdown of community into so much more compartmentalized lifestyles, an illusion of connection amplified by those same remote influences, and it seems to me a heady mix, and oftentimes dangerous in the extreme to those future generations that we hope I guess will carry humanity onward.
There is though I believe a dilemma.
Who amongst us wants to tell their children straight from the off that there is no tooth fairy, that Santa Claus does not exist. Who wants to disbar their children from all of those remote influences, yet send them on to schools, clubs, and friendships where those influences are at the core of daily life?
At a more mundane level, who wants to ration and premeditatedly judge what our offspring may or may not consume, amongst those remote influences; who can constantly and daily for a whole childhood. Who amongst a pair of Imago partners would even be able to agree on the absolute imperatives of what to watch/not watch, which gadgets to have/not have, and so on.
And even if such agreement is reached dialogically and equably what might make sense to many at say 5 years old, does it still work at 10? At 15?
I think though of equal value is the recognition that if you have embraced/enjoyed/endured these influences now or in the past, then your children very well may follow that lead. I am thinking that similarly to learning and copying or rejecting coping behaviors based on early life experiences if you did it when they were younger, if you do it now, then at some level this will be a key influence on the younger persons developing mind.
I was (some time past now to be fair) once adolescent, and one other thing I remember clearly amongst myself and my friends circle was that if my parents ever strictly forbade anything, then somewhat like prohibition in 19th century America, you could be damned sure that was the direction I was heading in.
So to me at least the trap is subtle. We are nurturing generations to come with a mix of Imago, which it seems to me is a natural state of affairs however imperfect it appears on the surface. Then we are colouring in the gaps increasingly of these evolving humans not with direct experience, relationship, and debate; instead with a new and more remote variety.
It seems to me that after about age eight, that time when a child starts to question the omnipotence of their care givers, that perhaps the best solution may be to begin a process of gentle communicating (programming).
Accepting that children will need the tools to exist in this world, invite debate, and offer repeated caution about that other programming, take the time to help them make an informed choice, and once they have made their choice (which will make sense to them) recognize whether you can add more to their information to improve or adjust their best choices in the months and years to come.
Mahatma Gandhi once said ‘ Be the change that you wish to see in the world’
I think always try to remember that your data, your patterns and programming were primary from day one, and will be a key part in all the evolving choices children will make.
But your choices change over time, so will theirs, allow those choices to be informed by your wisdowms and experiences, and include in those wisdoms the cautions that you have learned along the way about believing for too long in the tooth fairy…..
My friend Al writes ‘The map (what is in your head) is not the territory (what lies out there)
Though this is one of my favorites, I wonder though whether he would forgive me for butchering this with my own addition...
The map (what is in your head) is not the territory (what lies out there), but it is the basis upon which you give your children directions as they set off on their journey...
Tis just my thinking….
‘The shock of birth leaves us desperately seeking security. We reach for it in the form of our mother. Our neediness and vulnerability continue through childhood, and we are often cocooned from the harsh realities of life, in a world of make believe.
Before long we discover that Santa Claus and fairies do not exist. We look more critically at our parents, up until now our main towers of strength and it begins to dawn on us that they are not the unshakeable pillars that we had always imagined; that they have weaknesses, frailties and fears just as we do.
The disillusionment leaves a void in our lives, which we tend to fill with pop stars, film stars, TV celebrities and sports personalities. We create our own fantasies. We make gods of these people and attribute to them qualities far in excess of those that they possess. We try to bask in their reflected glory. Instead of becoming complete, strong, secure, and unique individuals in our own right, we become mere vassals, impressionable fans, leaving ourselves wide open to suggestion.
We are forced from the safety of our home, to school and a new set of fears and insecurities. In the face of all this bewilderment and instability, we look for support, a little boost now and then.
Our intellect comes up with the solution, programmed into us since we were very young. ‘What do adults do when they need a boost’