Beneath the Surface
What a difference between this past quarter and last. I went from posting nearly every day to barely at all. And not because I haven't been writing. In fact, it's been a full immersion in my writing offline that has kept me from posting online!
In the past 10-weeks, my courses - Psychology of Relationships, Psychology of Human Development, and Counseling Process & Skills - required I take a deep dive into my own life's history (to maybe even resurface anew!). Throughout the process, unearthing over 100-pages of written, synthesized materials... like digging up potatoes to serve up a delicious mash... I now use this post as a way of condensing the learnings to share with everyone here.
Ultimately, it all comes down to this:
Like a little seedling taking hold of the soil by forming its roots, it's our early attachments with our primary caretakers setting the course of our growth patterns for the rest of time...
Or at least until we wake up to our own patterns and figure out how to course correct!
In the article Attachment Theory and Supportive Psychotherapy, Jeremy Holmes, the author, explains how a secure attachment with our caregivers acts as a "precondition" to autonomy.
"People need to feel safe before they are ready to explore the outer world of people and things or the inner world of emotions."
Without that "safety," what becomes a challenge is self-regulation. The same way a plant grows off course when it is lacking nutrients, one learns to reach and reach and reach externally for both validation and support. Nurturance above all else.
"The child’s sense of self and self-organization is disorganized by affect that has reached traumatic proportions," Althea Horner explains in Psycho-Analytic Object Relations Therapy. Such hardships can be physical, mental, or emotional.
Ultimately, though paradoxical, we must be securely dependent on our caregivers before attaining independence. And there are many reasons why that might seem berserk...
First, we live in a world where having needs or being dependent is viewed as annoying or even shameful - despite the fact that we all have needs.
"So much of human feeling was also swept aside in the relentless expansion of capitalism," explains Sue Gerhardt in the book, Why Love Matters.
Next, as Gerhardt is alluding, we also tend to associate and measure our prioritization of "independence" with a dollar figure, a value system external to the Self.
As explained by the doctors and authors of A General Theory of Love, “Today self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain," which is the part of the brain that deals with emotions.
"Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them."
It's when we prioritize inner stability through connection and love, instead of an outer reach for material gains, we might just finally find that sense of secured "success" many of us seem to be searching and even striving for...
But that's not to overlook the fact that the majority of our "inner foundation" is laid in the first three years of life, and those are the years we, as human beings, do not remember. We are also entirely vulnerable in that we have no control over whom our parents are, or their capabilities as caregivers.
In some ways, life is looking more and more like a gamble...
So this is where the role of a therapist can come in.
As Alice Miller explains in The Drama of The Gifted Child, "It greatly aids the success of therapeutic work when we become aware of our parents’ destructive patterns at work within us. But to free ourselves from these patterns we need more than an intellectual awareness: we need an emotional confrontation with our parents in an inner dialogue."
Or as psychoanalyst Philip Bromberg suggests in the book Being and Loving by Althea Horner:
It's not so much about what has been done to us. But what we continue to do to ourselves.
Through therapy, we can become aware of our unmet childhood needs, and thus how to better care for ourselves and others.
That being said...
As an innovative, creative thinker - one living in the Silicon Valley out of prioritization of making systematic, impactful change - I'd like to explore an even deeper solution. A solution to the extreme fragility in human development in which we all experience, one leapfrogging over the need for therapy all together.
As the African proverb states, "It takes a village to raise a child." It's as though our siloed, individualistic society leaves us more vulnerable as parents and children than if we were to more commonly share the responsibilities to human development.
If we move away from a "country vs. country" approach, to instead people helping people in community, I truly believe we would start to see a new world. Parents would no longer be left to raise their children within their own limits. Instead, everyone could share the roles. Kids paired with seniors, just like they do in Africa.
As I have said before and will say many times over...
A tree only appears to stand alone in a forest. And yet, it is intimately connected - sharing its resources - beneath the surface.
Let's dig deep to connect at the root. Of it All. Together.