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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd


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The Child Personality

One notable feature of humanity is the very long period of development preceding adulthood. Underlying the functioning of every adult is a complex personal history of childhood and adolescence.

Human beings are dynamic creatures, full of contradictions, experiencing trouble, conflict and fear as well as joy, boredom and satisfaction. The traumas within the personality are clearly seen in the overwhelming emotions of the small child or in the struggles for identity of the adolescent. Later on in life they are usually more controlled, or repressed in the subconscious, but are no less powerful.

“Adult anxieties may cloak a residue of infantile fears and emotional memories.”
The young child lives in a world in which fantasy is not clearly distinguished from reality, fears may be exaggerated and the conflicts generated are more intense and overwhelming - fears and expectations are more prone to distortion. How likely is it that experiences of such magnitude would simply fade away? More probably they are internalized and become part of the developed personality. Adult anxieties may cloak a residue of infantile fears and emotional memories.

Despite the primitive brain/mind development of early years, the essential personality of the child has transpersonal qualities, those of the Higher Self. Such a quality, in the course of a life, particularly in the relative helplessness of childhood, may easily become distorted. For instance, rejection of his caring efforts, in a less than understanding environment, may have been defended by withdrawal and fear, and leave the person with an internal "frightened child" who is likely to emerge at any time, even after the original vulnerability has gone, or may become a permanent part of his character structure and be a constant handicap for life.

The primary human drive "to survive" (or to persist by identification) may be subdivided into eight domains:

  1. Survival of one's personal identity
  2. Survival through sex and family
  3. Survival through group membership
  4. Survival through the human race
  5. Survival through all forms of life on this planet
  6. Survival through the physical universe
  7. Survival through spiritual qualities, values and aesthetics
  8. Survival through universal consciousness (Eastern view) or through the mercy of God (Western view)
Assagioli considered that this drive moves beyond survival towards creativity, i.e. derived from the causation of the Higher Self. Frankl's experience in the wartime concentration camps taught him that the drive to find meaning - including a reason to live - was of utmost importance in the survival of the prisoners. Taken together, these are drives towards fulfillment and growth. However it is an interaction of transpersonal and genetic inborn qualities and the cultural influence of the family and social environment, that affect the characteristics of the individual personality. To recover the creative drive of the Higher Self, these factors have to be taken into account.

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