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On Parenting Babies

the Emergence Explorer

Questions for the Week of February 27, 2006

these questions were based on the article
"The Conscious, Subconscious, and Unconscious, a New Look at an Old Metaphor."

Emergence Character Type Babies 9-AI-2

This Week's Questions

[posed by John F.]
  • What is "discipline" called in the language of emergence?
  • What causes some physically abused children to be less affected than others?
  • If pre-seven children to do not comprehend historical time, how can they have memory?

Do you know?

[Question 1] Are parents who abuse a pre-verbal baby, either physically or verbally, reliving an injury or are they simply in shock? Or both?
[Answer] Both. In fact, Socrates said no one would do evil if they knew the good. Emergence practitioners believe this too. So while the scene you mention is horrible, seeing the parent as injured is not just liberal pabulum. It is literally true. And if you have trouble feeling this, then shock is preventing you from knowing the good too.

What makes this idea so hard to accept is that most people mistake the person logically knowing their act is wrong for having been conscious during the wrongful act. People are never conscious during violent acts, even if they can remember what they did, and even when they say they chose to do what they did. In every case, when people hurt others, they have a BLocked ability to see what it is they are doing, no matter what they say afterwards. So yes, any parent who physically or verbally abuses their child is reliving an injury, and reliving an injury always includes that the person is in shock while the abuse is happening.

The thing to add here though is that no matter how badly a parent may have been injured, the parent is still responsible for the child's well being. This includes being responsible for getting help to prevent this abuse from happening. More over, while abusing anyone is wrong no matter how injured a parent might be, abusing a pre-verbal child is just plain horrible. It is also the main source time of the injuries of those who abuse their children.

[Question 2] How can a pre two-year-old baby be injured, if they do not have a fully formed, subconscious or unconscious?
[Answer] Anyone at any age can be injured, regardless of how fully formed the container of their mind is. In fact, all that is required is that the baby (or adult) experience the sequence of [1] hyperawareness, [2] be startled, and [3] go into shock. Experiencing this sequence wounds anyone it happens to, regardless of age.

[Question 3] If pre two-year old babies do not have a subconscious or an unconscious, how then are their pre-injury and post-injury pictures stored in them?
[Answer] Start by remembering that our Theory of the Mind is only a model of the container which holds our experiences. Thus it both does and does not actually exist. By this I mean, our minds do develop what amounts to three compartments in which our experiences get stored. However, these compartments are more like vaguely blended areas than compartments which are entirely separate.

To get a better picture of this idea, imagine you get a new fish tank. After you get it all set up, you see the glass, clear and shiny, top to bottom. Now consider that for some strange reason, you not get around to cleaning this tank. I know. Tough for you to imagine doing, but try to imagine doing this. Can you imagine what would happen to this tank?

Over time, of course, algae and so on would build up on the inside of the glass. Now think about it, where would this build up be thickest? On the glass closest to the bottom, of course.

And what would this fish tank glass look like if you let it go for two whole years? Here, without having cleaned this glass for two whole years, there would be quite a bit of smutz built up near the bottom of the tank. Not enough to keep you from seeing the gravel at the bottom. But enough to prevent you from seeing it as clearly as what is above it, the fish, for instance.

Now imagine seven years pass, and the smutz and algae and so on have grown more and more dense. The glass at the gravel level of the tank is now so thickly covered that you literally can no longer see the gravel, unless, of course, you look down directly from over head.

Some two inches or so above this impervious-to-light mess, there is a mid layer of algae, more a filmy layer than a wall of gunk. Here, you can see the images of the stuff in the tank, but not very clearly.

Above all this mess is the clear part of the glass. Here, you can see everything clearly.

Now think about what this looks would look like. There would be no separate, visual compartments in the fish tank. We would simply refer to these varying degrees of obscurity as a way in which to roughly approximate what this built up algae looked like. Thus, while we could say there were three visual levels, we could also say there were forty three levels. Of course naming and remembering the names of forty three, visual levels would make the whole idea unmanageable. This is why we use only three, for one thing, because it is a very manageable number, and for another, because the three words we use to name these levels come from an already existing and well known metaphor.

All this said, John, can you now imagine where a baby's pre-injury and post-injury pictures get stored. They get stored in the same fish tank of the mind in which everything else gets stored. And no, this tank does not get bigger. It only accumulates more smutz at the bottom of the glass.

Here then is where these the pre-injury and post-injury pictures get stored. They get stored in the deeper parts of the baby's mind, which in our metaphor is at the bottom of the container of the mind. Moreover, because a baby's access to these deeper parts gets more and more obscured by the smutz of life each and every year, these images get more and more difficult to visualize. Unless, of course, the baby experiences emergences. In which case, for these life events, it's as if they get to float all the way up to the clear part of the tank. In which case, seeing these things becomes both easy and enjoyable.

[Question 4] When we reach two years of age and the container of our mind begins to develop, do we already have pre age-two images stored?
[Answer] Yes. This happens because we all have a container of the mind from the moment we are born. Some theorists, including we Emergence Practitioners, even believe this container exists in utero. For instance, personality theorist Henry Murray posits a developmental stage he calls the "claustral stage."

What we Emergence Practitioners add to this is that prior to age two, we see babies as having only one partition in their container of the mind, with the rest developing later. Traditional theorists have believed the structure of the mind is complete even as we are born, that even babies have a subconscious and an unconscious.

So where are the pre-age two images stored? They are stored in the container of the mind. It exists from the moment we are born. What may help you here though is to realize this container is more like an uncleaned fish tank, where the glass at the bottom gradually gets covered with algae as time goes on, while the glass at the top of the tank stays relatively clean.

Using this metaphor then, everything we experience goes into the tank. And stays there. Only the visual nature of the glass we see through changes, meaning, our ability to see what is in the tank is what actually changes.

Continuing with this metaphor then, whenever we get an injury, any related life experiences stored in the tank sink to the bottom of the tank. Think "heavy" as in the way we speak about painful events. Over time then, the stuff on the bottom of the tank becomes more and more difficult to see. Why? Because over time, the glass at the bottom of the tank gets the worst algae build-up. Thus anything on the bottom of the tank becomes very hard to see.

An important point to remember would be that people commonly believe it is the time which has passed which makes it hard for us to recall things. This is simply not true. It is only our ability to visualize clearly that determines what we can bring to mind, and this ability, while in some way related to how much time has passed, is mainly based on whether or not the life event has emerged in our minds. Most things don't. This is why we incorrectly believe that it is time which makes things which happened a long time ago are hard to recall. It isn't time. It is the degree to which these images remain in the conscious compartment of the mind. Which in part accounts for why we love emergences so much. Once a life event emerges, it stays permanently in the conscious compartment of our minds. Without effort. For the rest of our lives.

[Question 5] What prevents parents who were repeatedly beaten as children from not seeing the damage they cause by beating their own children? I am not referring to the obvious wounded learning inherent in having a BLock. There must be more to it than this.
[Answer] There isn't more, John. In truth then, we simply cannot control what we cannot picture, and when we cannot picture, we rely on scripts from the past. Or logic from the present.

Thus, if one of our scripts from the past involves hitting or being hit, then we may respond in times which resemble this past as if we were back in this same story all over again. Moreover, when one of these wounding scripts begins to run in us, unless someone startles us out of it, we all have a hard time coming back into the present. A very hard time. Which is why shouting at someone who is about to commit a crime sometimes helps. Unless, of course, the original wounding scene included being shouted at. In which case, being shouted at will make it much, much worse.

[Question 6] What causes some children who were abused to become less affected by physical abuse than others? Some children seem to respond to being abused with defiance.
This is a good question. I'm not sure I know the answer. I can say this though. A child who responds to abuse with defiance has seen this defiance happen before. In other words, in abusive events, we do only what we have witnessed doing, even if we cannot visualize these responses. And if we can not access something we have witnessed, we just freeze up.

Thus, if a child responds with defiance, this child has seen someone be defiant. And if a child responds to abuse with defiance, this child has seen someone respond to abuse with defiance.

Of course, this someone need not be someone from real life. It can be someone from a movie or a television show. It may also be someone they have seen in real life, such as a mother who, during an argument, defied her husband to hit her.

My point is, shocking scenes write our wounding scripts. Always. Thus, even if we were to never have witnessed a particular abuse script in real life, as long as we have, at least once, pictured it happening, we can feel compelled to relive this script.

A good way to see this is to see these wounding scripts as "fixed ideas." By this, I mean, we live these scripts out as if we have no good choices. Nineteenth Century personality theorist Pierre Janet even used very this term to describe peoples' abnormal response, albeit without reference to these being visual scripts.

The point is, we do what we have pictured, even if we have only pictured these things in our imaginations. More important, we hurt ourselves or others only when we are reliving a wounding script. This is what makes us both innocent for our wrong doings and responsible for the aftermath. And for an amends. At least, as adults.

[Question 7] What causes the opposite to occur, as in an abused child who becomes frail and broken down?
[Answer] Here again, I'm not sure I have a definitive answer to this question. However, as I just said, we do what we have pictured. Thus, like an opossum who is programmed to play dead when frightened, some abused children "play dead" as well.

One difference I see here from the prior answer is that children who respond with frailty and break down have become frozen in fear, and in a sense, this is the polar opposite to the children who, in the face of abuse, become defiant and aggressively taunt their abuser.

The most important thing to see here is that these children are living out "experiences of no choice." This "no choice" experience, in fact, is the proof they are reliving a wounding script. Thus, if a child, or an adult, for that matter, feels compelled to respond to abuse with any act, either defiance or frailty, then this person is reliving a wounding script and is not at all choosing this behavior.

Believing this as true takes a lot of courage, as we humans are programmed to blame and to justify this blame by believing people do have access to choices. These choices do exist on paper. People reliving wounding scripts simply cannot access these choices, and hypnotically live out these events as if they robots.

They are living out these events as if they were robots, programmed by some painful life event.

[Question 8] What is "discipline" called in the language of emergence?
Let me start by saying, although we are currently discussing children, the best way to understand discipline is to start by acquiring an over all sense of what discipline is, including how it applies to us as adults. To begin with then, all discipline, whether directed at ourselves or at our children, is a variation of what we call, "damage control." Moreover, the goal of all damage control is to create an external motive, in times wherein we cannot find a self-authentic, internal one. Let me now explain.

Discipline and motivation are two ends of the same continuum, a continuum we could call, the "Continuum of Motivation." Discipline is what we use to motivate ourselves, or others, in the times wherein we, or they, have no real interest in seeing the good in behaving this way. In other times then, we need none of this external motivation, as we have in us a genuine love of learning about behaving this way.

For example, I am usually highly motivated to learn about other peoples' personality theories. Thus, I study them every day. To many people though, this appears to them to mean that I am very disciplined in my personality studies. In actuality though, I am not and in fact, need very little discipline to keep doing this, as I love learning about theories of personality.

The love of learning is an authentic, internal motive. It is, in fact, the only truly authentic motive, at least as far as being a motive we can consciously choose. When we cannot access this kind of motive then, and when we want to continue doing something we believe will be good for us, we then require a "disciplinary" motive.

Here, an example would be what I tell myself on those days wherein I am too overwhelmed to feel motivated to meditate. On these days, although I normally love meditating, I cannot find it in me to even begin. Thus, on these days, I use why logic to create a "carrot" in my head. By this, I mean, I think of the good I will get from meditating and use this good to motivate myself into action.

I see this second kind of motivation as being inauthentic. Why? Because it is an external motive, not an internal one. I call it this because the thing I am using to motivate myself; the good outcome that I hope to get, exists outside of me and not inside of me. Thus, this motive is more an artificially created motive than an authentic, internally accessible motive.

Then too, on some bad days, there is also the dreaded, "if you don't do this thing, you will feel bad about yourself" motive. What a crummy motive this is. Here again, this is an external motive, not an internal one, meaning, it is personally inauthentic rather than personally authentic.

Finally, then, there is one more external motive. This motive is that we can get to connect to someone else who is doing what we want to do. AA and other Twelve Step group use a lot of this type of motive, especially for new comers. In truth though, they need it, and it works really well. For new comers.

Know then that there are basically three flavors of discipline (the three pseudo-motives) and one authentic motive.

The three pseudo-motives are, [1] wanting to get a good outcome ( the "carrot" motive), [2] wanting to avoid a bad outcome (including shame or guilt), and [3] wanting to connect to another person who is also doing damage control (the 12 Step motive).

The one authentic motive then is the joy in learning about what this behavior is actually like. Which is just another way to say we have the desire to emerge from our unconsciousness.

Said in other words, all genuine motive is internal, and comes in one flavor; the desire to learn. All "discipline" or pseudo-motives are external, and come in three flavors. The kind we use when we choose to go to the gym because we love going comes from inside ourselves. This is "self directed" or "internal" motivation. At other times, when we somehow can not summon up the energy to self motivate going to the gym, we look for motivation from some outside source. Here, an example would be when we hire a physical trainer. Moreover, this discipline, we would call, "other-directed" discipline, or "external" motivation.

In every case, "discipline" is what we use when we need someone else's help in order to maintain our desired goals and living style. In these cases, we look for "other-directed" discipline, or in other words, an external source of discipline.

And the idea of "self discipline?" Even here, we are using another being to pressure ourselves into action. Most people never recognize this being as being other than our natural selves, because we see whatever is in our minds as being ourselves.

Visions of others are others, not ourselves, even in cases wherein we see ourselves as the person acting.

Regardless of the source then, we call this way of being spurred into action, discipline or "damage control." As to your question concerning the discipline we offer our children, know that all these same ideas apply there too. Moreover, the younger the child, the more they need an external source of motivation, which is to say, they need more discipline. With love, of course.

Finally, know that one of the more insidious parenting errors comes from that parents give young children too much choice. This happens in parents who were given too few choices in their childhoods. Children need strong and loving guidance through out childhood, while at the same time, they need to be progressively required to make their own choices, but only as they naturally come into this ability.

Said in other words, forcing children to make choices too early robs them of the images they need to make healthy choices. Would you want a baby to make your choices for you? Of course not. Then keep in mind that children need you to make these choices for them, and at the same time, need to be given progressively more freedom to make choices the older they get.

[Question 9] If pre-seven children to do not comprehend historical time, how can they have memory?
[Answer] John, answering this would take a lot more space than we have here (smile)! The simple answer is, they have memories, but have not indexed these memories with regard to how they fit into a historical sequence. This means they cannot sort their memories into cause and effect sequences, thus, making it very hard to logically learn from their mistakes.

Children learn mostly from associations then. They associate the visual aspects of what they see into categories of short movies. These movies can last as briefly as a second, or as long as several minutes, depending on the age of the child. In all cases though, children simply see one scene as being linked to another similar scene.

What they cannot do, however, is to sort these scenes into a logically edited movie. To understand why, simply remember that before age seven, children cannot experience time as a history. Thus, before age seven, while children do store their life experiences, they have yet to know how to edit them into movies which logically guide their lives. In lieu of this ability, they simply jump from brief scene to brief scene, experiencing each scene as if it were an entirely different life.

[Question 10] If pre age-seven children do not have memory, how can there be wounded learning?
[Answer] Pre age-seven children do have memories. They simply do not have a timeline against which to understand these memories. Including their wounds.

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