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The Child

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The Child is an examination of the structure and dynamics of the earliest developments of ego and individuality. In it we progress from the primal relationship of a child and mother through to the emergence of the ego-Self constellation, via the child's relationship to its own body, its Self, the Thou and being-in-the-world. We move from the matriarchate to the patriarchate; from "participation mystique" to the "standpoint of the Self around which the ego revolves as around the sun".

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1. The Primal Relationship

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The mother dominates the early development of the human individual just as the matriarchal world, in which the unconscious is paramount and ego-consciousness is still undeveloped, dominates the psychology of primitive cultures.

One of the fundamental characteristics that distinguish man from even his closest relatives among the animals, is that the human child, to employ Portmann’s terminology,1 must go through an extra-uterine as well as an intra-uterine embryonic phase. The young of the higher mammals are born in a state of relative maturity; either immediately or shortly after birth they are small adults which not only wholly resemble adult animals but are also capable of living unaided. In order to attain a similar state of maturity the human embryo would require a pregnancy of from twenty to twenty-two months. In other words the human child, after the nine months it spends in the womb, requires another year to attain the degree of maturity that characterizes the young of most other mammals at birth. Thus the whole first year of infancy must be assimilated to the embryonic phase. In addition to the one embryonic phase in which the child is psychically and physically integrated with the mother’s body, there is a second, post-uterine, post-natal embryonic phase, in which the child has already entered into human society and, as its ego and consciousness begin to develop, grows into the language and customs of its group. This phase, which Portmann has termed the social uterine period, is characterized by the dominance of the primal relationship with the mother, who is at first the child’s entire world and environment but, little by little, opens up new aspects of the world to the child’s experience.

 

2. Primal Relationship and Development of the Ego-Self Relationship

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Just as the general development of the child’s body depends on nourishment by the mother, so the development of its psyche, of its ego-Self relationship depends on the psychic nourishment given by the mother figure. In this context, the primal relationship provides the child with four essential types of experience.

Where child and mother still form an undifferentiated identity, the primal relationship stands at once for the child’s relations to its own body, to its Self, to the thou, and to the world. The primal relationship is the ontogenetic basis for being-in-one’s-own-body, being-with-one Self, being-together, and being-in-the-world.

As we have seen, the undisturbed primal relationship of the postuterine embryo (in which the child’s Self, externalized, is still with the mother), is characterized by the tensionless paradise-situation of the original unity between mother and child. The child is embedded in a soft containing vessel which represents mother, world, body and Self in one. Its natural existence is one of slumber and peace, almost as in the uterine phase. The symbolism connected with this phase is: satiety, warmth, security and total containment in the sheltering maternal vessel.

 

3. Disturbances of the Primal Relationship and their Consequences

ePub

A decisive step in the development of the child within the primal relationship is the formation of a positive-integral ego, an ego that is able to assimilate and integrate even the negative or unpleasant qualities of the outer and inner worlds, such as deprivations, pain, etc. The mother, as compensatory Self, sees to it — as far as the circumstances of her life permit — that the negative factors should not predominate and that they should be replaced and overshadowed as quickly as possible by positive factors. This compensation extends not only to objective factors such as cold, hunger and frustration, which are all experienced by the infant as world factors, but gradually also to all negative experiences that come to the child from within but are at first also experienced as pressing in from outside, such as fear, rage and pain. Through the maternal function of compensation and appeasement, the child invests in its ego the positive integral tendency which the mother exemplifies and which she embodies over and over again in her contact with the child. In this way there arises a positive-integral ego capable of integrating positive and negative factors in such a way that the unity of the personality is guaranteed and is not split into antagonistic parts. Thus — to use an abbreviated formulation — there arises a positive tolerance on the part of the ego which, on the basis of its attitude of security and confidence toward the mother, is capable of accepting the world and itself, because it has a constant experience of positive tolerance and acceptedness through the mother.

 

4. From Matriarchate to Patriarchate

ePub

In our culture the necessary development by which the child emerges from the primal relationship to achieve greater independence corresponds to a transition from the psychological matriarchate in which the mother archetype is dominant to the psychological patriarchate in which the father archetype is dominant.

In The Origins and History of Consciousness we showed that this transition is indispensable to the development of consciousness. But there the accent was on the universally human and the symbolic. Here we shall attempt to indicate a few of the ontogenetic processes in the child which correspond to this transition.

This development can be described as a whole because the progression from the matriarchate of the primal relationship to the patriarchate applies both to boys and to girls. The male child’s release from his mother is described at length in The Origins and History of Consciousness. The difference in the development of the girl will at least be touched upon in a later section of this book, since special importance must be attached to the mother-daughter relationship as the first phase of the specifically feminine development.

 

5. The Stages in the Child's Ego-Development

ePub

Though up to this point we have concerned ourselves with the matriarchal phase of child development and the beginning of the child’s release from it, we have constantly borne in mind the development of the ego. But this ego development was so much under the domination of the mother that our chief concern has been the relation, not of the ego but of the child’s total Self to body, mother, and mother as representative of the world. That is why the erogenous zones of the child’s body discovered by Freud have played so important a role in our discussion, although the significance of these zones has been placed in a different context than in Freud and importance has been attached not so much to their erogenous, pleasure-accented aspect as to their gnoso-genous aspect of experience. But both the infant’s attachment to its body and its attachment to its mother are an expression of the fact that at this stage the body-totality, the body-Self, is of greater importance than the ego, which is configured only gradually.

 

6. The Patriarchate

ePub

To make possible an understanding of the transition in child development from the matriarchate to the patriarchate and from the magical to the solar ego and of the structure of the human psyche correlated with this transition, we must clarify the relations between the ego and the Self and between the mother and the father archetypes. First of all, let us sum up what has thus far been said on the subject.

The child living in the unitary reality characterized by participation mystique and an absence of polarity between inside and outside, consciousness and the unconscious, has at first no independent ego. The development of an independent ego, the rise of consciousness, and the polarization of the world, or in mythological terms the separation of the World Parents, go hand in hand and determine the next phase of development. From the standpoint of analytical psychology it is essential to note that this development and its phases are transpersonal. Just as the organs of the body develop and the central nervous system gradually grows into its functions in accordance with a pattern that is universally human, so the psyche develops in transpersonal stages. This implies that in the course of an archetypally ordered development, the ego and consciousness are sustained by the unconscious until they gain the relative autonomy characteristic of the modern adult.

 

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