This Week's Questions
[posed by Austin S.]
Do you know?
I have been in Chicago since Monday working on a job. One of the main reasons I took this job is that my cousin and his family live there. My cousin has two young children, ages two and four, and this was the first time I met his two year old son Alek.
Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by something Alek did. Prior to this, it seemed to me that each time Alek saw me, it was as if it was his first time meeting me. What I mean is, for the first few mornings, Alek would come running down the stairs giggling with excitement. Then he would see me and become really shy and cry out "mama."
After doing a few moments of Direct Emergence with him though (by turning my head away and by acting shy at the same time as he did), each time, he would begin to warm up to me. By the end of the first breakfast then, he could not only tolerate me. He could also laugh and connect with me.
This made it somewhat painful when, the next morning, he nearly startled when he saw me, then again become shy and again cried out, "mama." I had expected Alek to remember me.
Finally, on the fourth morning, I was pleasantly surprised when after breakfast, Alek grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the couch to watch Elmo with him. Before this he would freak out if I sat on the couch next to him. This day though he leaned against me and we watched Elmo together.
Even now, as I am writing this, he just came over and giggled and sat next to me on the couch. This is the first time today that I have seen him. Thus I believe something must have emerged in him.
[Question 1] What emerged in Alek that made him feel safe with me? At what moment did this safe feeling emerge? And what did this moment look like when it happened?
Even without this additional information though, one thing stands out in your description. The idea that Alek got startled by seeing you, then a day later, voluntarily took you by the hand. This would indicate that you were at the very least provoking a pre-existing wound in him and then at some point, this wound got healed. Here, his being startled is the evidence.
The question then becomes, did Alek simply become more open to you because he Learning by Momentum? Or did he actually have a safe feeling emerge in him.
What I'm asking is, did Alek simply get used to you? Or did he become able to remain visually conscious around you. To be honest, Austin, I cannot tell. Why not? Because when people Learn by Emergence (as opposed to simply Learning by Momentum), they feel a strong desire to keep doing the previously unpleasant thing over and over again. And because you haven't mention seeing Alek do again and again, I cannot be sure what happened.
Contrast this with what happened to me recently when friend's three year old son, Jack, began to over react to hearing the phrase, "stop it." Certainly this is an ordinary phrase for a three year old to hear. So clearly, this little boy had been injured. At his parent's request then, when I visited one day, I used Direct Emergence to help this little boy to heal. At which point, not only did he stop hating this phrase, he actually could not hear it enough. In other words, he now literally laughs with excitement every time he hears me say it. This is happening even months later.
What I'm saying is this. When you Learn by Emergence, what you learn is permanent. Even months later, with no further reinforcement. And in Jack's case, even moths later, he still loves hearing me say the once dreaded phrase; "stop it." In fact, whenever he hears me say this, he still laughs with surprise each and every time he hears me say this. In addition, because I was the instrument of this Emergence in him, I too now love this phrase and cannot hear it enough. Especially when I'm around this little boy.
My point is, Learning by Emergence happens equally to both people. Thus, both Jack and I Learned by Emergence to see the beauty in the phrase "stop it." Moreover, the proof this happened is that this feeling is permanent and requires no further reinforcement.
This then is why I cannot tell if this happened with you and Alek. Thus, even when a previously cautious two year old opens up, and even when he openly begins to like you, unless this child exhibits a permanent desire to be with you, you cannot be sure whether he Learned anything by Emergence.
The truth is, Austin, he may have. Unfortunately, because your story does not continue past the one additional event, I simply do not have enough information to say with certainty.
What I can say with certainty is this. His being startled by you means either that you were causing him to relive a pre existing injury or that you actually were the cause of an injury in him. Either way, after the first day, if he was startled when he saw you, you were causing him to relive this injury.
What kind of injury would this be? Essentially, a condition called, Xenophobia. This is a condition common in kids this age.
What is "xenophobia?" The word comes from two Greek words, ξένος (xenos), meaning "foreigner" or "stranger," and φόβος (phobos), meaning "fear." Thus xenophobia is a fear of strangers.
Certainly we can say that this is what Alek had. He was afraid of a stranger. You.
We could also say with certainty that you created the momentum in him for him to learn you were safe. Learning by Momentum. Again, his initial behavioral changes show this, each time he warmed up to you. And his not maintaining this indicated what he learned was only by momentum.
The question then becomes, did his repeated exposure to you made you safe and familiar to him (Learning by Momentum, as in temporary learning). Or did he have an aha and Learn by Emergence to feel safe with you (permanently learn)? The thing is, either outcome is possible. Moreover, both likely happened. Therefore I cannot really answer your question one way or the other. I can only hope, for Alek's sake, that he did Learn by Emergence. Which would mean that when Alek now sees strangers, he will feel curious about them rather than anxious or afraid. All this the result of your having done Direct Emergence with him.
[Question 2] Did his seeing me for a few days in a row create the momentum necessary for him to have this emergence?
What we can say is that seeing you for a few days did create the momentum in Alek for him to feel safer with you. The signs for this momentum are clear. But again, the question becomes whether anything in him changed permanently? And as I said in my previous answer, of this, I cannot be sure. Although the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to think something did change permanently. Why say this? Because you simply do not take the hand of a person who startles you. Not voluntarily at least. Thus, chances are, something did emerge in him. Something permanently good between you and him.
[Question 3] Will what emerged in him last beyond my trip to Chicago? For instance, will he still remember me the next time we meet, even if it is in a few years?
What is so awkward for me here is that I cannot give you a firm answer, this despite the fact that I theoretically know how to tell. Here again, without clear evidence, I cannot say.
What would this evidence look like if I could say? Well, take the case of what happened between me and my friend Lauren's son Jacob. Here, I am pretty sure I injured Jacob when he was about five months old. What makes me think this?
Prior to this point, Jacob was open and at ease with me even when I held him and his mother walked away. After this day though, whenever he would first see me, he would just freeze in shock. Similar to how Alek did this with you.
How exactly did I injure Jacob? Right after arriving at my house one day, his mother laid him down on a blanket. The when I leaned over to say hello to him, he got startled when he saw my mustache. I literally saw his eyes startle and lock onto my mustache. Then I saw him lay there frozen in fear barely even breathing.
After this day, whenever I would go over to say hello to him, he would startle when he saw my mustache, then freeze in fear. At least until I managed to do enough Direct Emergence with him, at which point he learned over one day and voluntarily touched my mustache.
This is very similar to what Alek did when he took your hand. And while I am certain Jacob had some of his injury heal that day, my certainly relies on my having seen this happy reaction many times after that.
I am also certain Jacob has no ability to recall this event. After all, he was only four months old when it happened and only eight months old when it healed. This differs markedly from an event wherein he does remember me, an event which he has on several times recalled.
In this second event, he and I were laying on my bed together when he noticed a tractor trailer driving by my house. At which point, he became very excited and began to ask me questions. Here again, I'm certain something emerged in him, because despite the fact that he was only two at the time, and despite the fact that I have since seen him only on rare occasions, he still talks about this event.
So will Alek remember you similarly? My guess. Perhaps not outwardly. However, if indeed he did Learn by Emergence to feel safe with you, then there will at least be something permanently different in him. Some permanently good feeling in him about your relationship. At the very least, an open familiarity with you.
[Question 4] Do two year olds and adults learn differently? I ask because I know a two year old child does not yet have an unconscious. They are in fact at this age only beginning to develop a subconscious. Does this mean children this age learn differently than adults? Can we even Learn by Emergence without having an unconscious? Or does having an unconscious actually hinder Emergent Learning?
Do two year olds and adults learn differently? Definitely. Although putting this difference into words presents a few problems. Not the least of which is that we adults cannot normally access states of mind wherein we do not have an unconscious. This simply is not possible for us. Once we develop an unconscious, it stays for life.
If we did this then, it would be something like being a lake fish who swam only in the upper foot of lake water. Never deeper. No coincidence, this is something baby fish do. And larger fish do not do.
How then could we describe this difference though? Perhaps by picturing this very same lake. And by picturing the difference between learning to see something in very shallow water, and learning to see this same thing in deep, partially murky water.
Obviously, this second kind of learning includes being able to discern things even in the presence of murky water. Babies can not have this experience because they do not yet have any murky water. Thus, while young children may indeed Learn by Emergence from a young age, their ability to recall what they learned at this age may be limited to times wherein there is no murky water in life. Times wherein life is exceptionally clear.
Austin, as I think about it, this is likely very close to the truth about young children and how they learn. Which may be why when we do access these kinds of things in special states like meditation, we can feel at times like we are remembering things rather than that we are just now learning them.
Does the lack of an unconscious make learning for a child this age different than for an adult?
What I can say is this. We emerge from wounds only when new patterns emerge from our unconscious. Literally these new patterns emerge from chaos, wherein this chaos is the mental blankness and the newly emerged pattern is what is visually new to you.
What about when we do not have a wound though but rather, have yet to witness a pattern? Here, I know this experience to be very similar to what Buddhism describes as their life's focus; to become enlightened by becoming conscious.
This then leads me to something else I already know. The idea that there are two categories of events in which we enter a state of mental blankness. In the first one, we go blank when we are exposed to something unfamiliar. In the second, we relive having once been startled into blankness. The blankness of an injury.
Technically, both these states could be called unconsciousness. And while the second kind of event is what normally leads to Learning by Emergence (the experience of emerging from a previously blocked ability to picture something), it may be that when we have yet to be able to picture something, this same possibility may exist. The difference being that we are more emerging from the blankness of ignorance than from the blankness of injury.
What stops me from saying with certainty that this is the case? The idea that I do not know for certain if we get can get startled by realizing we have yet to learn something. If we can, then I can easily see how we might emerge both from ignorance as well as from a wound. If not, then we likely cannot Learn by Emergence from ignorance.
In other words, with injury, the thing which causes our mind to go blank is reliving the startle. Then the thing which causes us to feel amazed when we emerge from this injury is that we do not get startled.
So the question is, does this happen to us when we emerge from ignorance? Now as I think about it, ironically, I feel amazed. Why? Because I realize I would have to say yes. Why? Because emerging from ignorance does amaze us. It just now happened to me.
What does all this mean? It means that the fact that a two year old does not yet have an unconscious makes learning for a two year old different than for an adult. However, the mechanism beneath this learning must be the same. The amazing change from being startled to being not startled.
So can Learning by Emergence happen without having an unconscious? Or does having an unconscious hinder Emergent Learning? Austin, first, I have to say this whole group of questions has been one of the most thought provoking I have been asked in quite a while. Here's why. Prior to this, I had not considered how learning for a two year old was any different than for an adult. That I did not know only a moment ago, in fact, now amazes me. What I'm saying is, your asking me these questions has just now caused me to have a few things emerge. Not things which I ever had wounds about. Things I had simply been ignorant of. I literally hadn't even known to ask these questions.
In this moment, in fact, I still feel quite amazed by how I had never thought to ask these questions. And while I do indeed have an unconscious to be sure, still, this amazement means the same thing regardless of your age; it means something just emerged in you.
As for whether having an unconscious hinders learning, here, I'd have to say yes and no. Yes, because in order to have this thing emerge, we must become able to see it both in clear water and in murky water. And no, because when we learn with no murky water, we have not yet completed the learning. It completes only when we have learned to see this thing in both clear water and in murky water.
This then must be the nature of maturity. And my reason for titling this week's questions, The Nature of Maturity. Maturity must be when something emerges in us in such a way as to be accessible both in good times and in bad; in clear water and in murky water; in connection and in stress. Children simply cannot yet have this happen, because they have yet to accumulate enough murky water.
Wow. Wasn't this something. Thank you, Austin.