Many people believe that the basic security they lack, due to parental neglect early in life, must be subsequently supplied by someone, somewhere, for healing and confidence to be established in their innermost being. When I began my professional career as a therapist at The Linden Hill School, a psychiatric hospital for nonviolent, deeply disturbed adolescents, I was told tales of former therapists who had attempted to compensate for the early neglect of caretakers by literally feeding their adolescent patients on their laps with warmed bottles of milk.
I myself once had a cat who’d been separated from his mother prematurely; we called him Ricky. Every time Ricky was held and petted he immediately attempted to nurse on anything his mouth could reach. No matter how much Ricky nursed through the years, this behavior never changed.
There appear to be critical periods for meeting certain needs through age specific behaviors. In the field of ethology, the study of animal behavior, Konrad Lorenz discovered that there are critical periods for imprinting and attachment. For instance, a mother goose will not bond with a separated chick beyond sixteen hours after hatching. In other words, that chick has just 16 hours to get the mother goose’s attention! If that fails, it’s on its own.
In humans, nursing behavior enacted beyond infancy will not supply the archetypal love as it does for an infant being loved through this form of nurturance. Fixation upon the now outdated archetype might persist, but acting it out merely provides a temporary fix, with powerful dependency on others continuing to be necessary to provide basic security. An internalized sense of being loved, with its resultant feeling of confidence, remains lacking.
How then does one fulfill a missed first chakra need of secure footing in this world? Regardless of the state of integrity of our personality foundation as separate beings, our bodies continue to grow. We are forced to adapt to new situations in life even if we are lacking in confidence. Fortunately, some inner parent, what I call one’s High SOUL, invokes a variety of strategic maneuvers which prioritize continuing to be able to grow, cognitively and emotionally, in spite of the lack of completion of a secure personality foundation.
One such strategy of the High SOUL is to prompt a child to make believe everything is OK. An adult name for this strategy is to act-as-if. When we act-as-if, or fake it till we make it, we willfully explore a behavior that stretches us beyond the comfort zone of our habitual repertoire. Though acting-as-if may be experienced as a false self, or may not serve deeper personality transformation, it is useful for adaptation in the moment. It may allow one to stay in the moment and actually continue to grow in vital ways.
Another powerful intervention by the High SOUL is the use of amnesia. Frequently, in the trauma of primal neglect, the memory of the traumatic experience is completely lost to consciousness, stored alternatively in the unconscious mind or somewhere in the physical body. Through this dissociation an individual is enabled to stay somewhat present to the experiences and lessons of the current moment.
Interestingly, as I have witnessed in my personal clinical experience, the High SOUL decides when, at some future point in time, the forgotten experience will surface, often decades after the event. This parental wisdom, exercised by the High SOUL, is to wait until a stage of life when adaptive needs are lessened and focus can shift to the integration of lost wholeness. Indeed, I am suggesting here that our true parent is our own High SOUL, always present behind the scenes, supporting our ability to undertake and fulfill our mission in this life.
Addressing traumatic memory or the fulfillment of basic needs requires a strong adult presence. When one opens to need or trauma, the emotional state of the inner child is evoked through the little soul of the subconscious’s connection to the body and its release of powerful hormones and neurotransmitters to activate emotions specific to the state of the trauma or need. The ego-Soul is then asked to stay present to the activated emotional, cognitive, and body states associated with the memory or need of the inner child.
In effect, High SOUL has determined that ego-Soul is now ready to become the parent to its own child self. This is not a matter of going back to some earlier time and fulfilling a need in the form that was missed out on. What is required is for the adult ego Soul to stay fully present and open up to the experience of its formally dissociated inner child. This means feeling it in emotion and body, and knowing it cognitively as the child believes it to be. High SOUL, who raised ego-Soul, now asks it to become the adult parent to its personality in the time and space of this world.
But how to do this? How does one develop such affect tolerance? One approach is deep relaxation. The little soul of the subconscious does what it is told to do. If, in the midst of a highly clenched physical state, ego-Soul can volitionally place its awareness on the points of tension in the physical body and instruct the body, through suggestion to the little soul of the subconscious mind, to relax the body, the body will respond and lessen its grip. Repeated instruction will deepen relaxation and allow ego-Soul to help its child self to regulate its own emotional intensity in the face of the experience it is in the midst of.
This loving act, of staying present to and helping to transform the inner child’s emotional reaction, opens the door to a deeper cognitive perspective where the child state sees the fuller context of the truth of its early experience, which can clear up false negative beliefs it may have held about itself for much of life.
This adult ego-Soul relationship with its younger self becomes the true supplier of the primal nurturance long sought in life. With this foundation, genuine transformations occur that provide for enriched fulfillment in life, within and without.
Whenever stressed, practice relaxation. Pause, take a breath, shift focus to the subconscious with the instruction to release the body tension. Stay present, see what happens! This is love in action, the right mechanism for archetypal completion, now.