Part II: Carefree Child
“There are vaults in your nervous system, where you store whatever pain, stress and
bad memories you have. You have to dive back into that trauma, go back and do
the same tricks that hurt you, in the same place. If you don’t process it out,
those traumas will find homes in your body, hold you back.”
~ Danny Way ~
Alright, I eluded to this earlier, but I will say it more explicit now:
Human beings, for the most part, are a bunch of fearful fuckers. Rare it is, to meet someone who you could call a brave person, someone who is truly fearless in Life.
I am no exception. For the most part of my Life, fear has driven a lot of my behaviour:
Fear of getting hurt, fear of not fitting in, fear of going broke, fear of death, fear of intimacy, fear of failure, fear of whatever else might bother me. I want to start this part by writing a bit about one of these fears: fear of intimacy.
I’ll define intimacy in the sense of being able to share what is truly going on inside of us:
to share with another person my authentic experience. In intimacy, I can put my guard down and share things more personal to me. I find that I can share my authentic experience with another person easily when I trust that other person. I usually do not share deep or highly personal experiences with a random stranger I just met, as I have no way of knowing whether I can trust him or her.
But what is this thing called trust?
How am I trusting another person?
For me, I find that I trust a person when I expect that he or she will not hurt me when I put myself in a position of vulnerability. If I know that another person will not judge or condemn me for what I share with him or her, I feel safe to share my authentic experience with that person.
Some people never feel safe with another person; they always have their guard up (and usually for good reasons). They live very lonely lives. I know, because I know what it’s like to not share my authentic experience with anyone. It kind of sucks.
Human beings need disclosure when they have been hurt. In order to facilitate identity change, it is key to understand how pain, fear and attention work, as they can hold us back in being the person we want to be. By understanding how being hurt and healing emotional pain works, I can move beyond that which has ‘fucked me over’ (technical term) in the past.
It’s not like human beings start off being afraid and insecure. Psychologists tell us that the only fears a newborn baby has, is the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Although I do not believe that these are the only two fears that are hard-wired into human beings (other fears will appear after certain developmental stages), I want to point out a basic trend we can observe in the life-span of a human being. As a kid, we start out pretty bold, explorative and adventurous. This is because we are naïve and have no knowledge or reference experiences for the things that can do us harm. However, as we grow older, we might encounter dangers and hazards. We may experience the downside of being so carefree (or should I say careless).
If we do get hurt, we are likely to become more hesitant in the future. Being hesitant and looking out for trouble can help us avoid being hurt again. However, I want to suggest that in some cases this can also become highly problematic and that is when the hesitancy and fearfulness become a frequent way of being.
People can develop all sorts of disorders from this, like post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and whatever other anxiety disorder your latest social scientist has just made up.
Social scientists like creating symptom lists and diagnosing inventories for these types of things, like the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental disorders (DSM-IV).
As for me; I prefer not putting labels on people, instead finding the source of my fear, going beyond fear and helping other people to do the same. To each his own, I guess…
The need for Predictability
In the previous part I mentioned the need for predictability that people have. People want to understand what is going on, have an explanation for what happens so that they can predict what is going on in situations. If I am good at predicting situations, I can make the right choices and steer myself away from pain and harm and towards being safe. This need helps to protect me, but at the same time, can also hold me back.
It will hold me back if it keeps me from exploring area’s where things are not so predictable, in places and events where I do not know what is going to happen. If my need for things to be predictable is so strong, that I only stay with the familiar, it can inhibit my growth and the discovery of new territory.
This tendency to only stay with the familiar and predictable is often called a fear of the unknown. As human beings we intuitively like minimizing fear, so we like to stay in our comfort zones, where things are safe, familiar and predictable.
In a healthy human being the need for predictability is balanced with a need for exploration. This quality of exploring new terrain is intact in the carefree child I described in the previous section. The child likes to run out into the world uninhibited, full of wonders for the new things he might explore today. In a similar vein, the child trusts that, at any moment, he/she can retreat back into a zone of safety, a home, where things will be safe, familiar and predictable. This shift from the need to explore to a retreat back into the comfort zone is characteristic of healthy development in a child and facilitates that the child grows and learns new things. In some cases, we find that some children are more hesitant than others to leave their safe haven and explore the unknown and in a lot of cases, we find that as children grow into adults, their need for exploration slowly and gradually distinguishes or deteriorates. This, in turn, stifles the development, learning and growth of the individual in question.
Like I wrote earlier, the need for predictability comes from fear and is rooted in a desire for a feeling of safety, to be back in the safe haven that is the comfort zone, where things are familiar and predictable. The need for exploration on the other hand, comes from a desire to discover more, it’s rooted in an adventurous impulse to develop, learn and grow.
Growth and Exploration
For optimal growth and development, a child needs just the right amount of challenge and stretching of the comfort zone and then retreat back into the safe haven to allow for a period of rest, recovery and renewal. The right amount of challenge facilitates a flow state, which is optimal for learning new things. The problem arises when just being alive is already enough of a challenge. If just being alive and surviving is already quite a challenge, people will not leave their safe havens. Children don’t grow if they stay in the safe haven of the comfort zone, and this leads to an extinguishing of the child’s need for exploration. This usually occurs when a child has a negative experience in one of their explorations when they go outside their comfort zones or when their safe haven is of poor quality or non-existent. The base that is the comfort zone must be a place where one can retreat back into and feel safe in. This safe haven is really like what a nest is to an animal. If the nest is not a place of safety, but an uncertain and unpredictable place, the child cannot rest and recover properly. The nest for a child is off course, the home and family he/she lives in.
The next book piece drops at Wednesday January 11th 2012 on the topic of the child/parent trust bridge and trauma…
Subscribe to Identity is Dynamic if you would like to receive free updates on the online book series. Fill out your name and emailadress below to receive updates and new free articles in your mailbox: