Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Biology of "Omnipotence"

Preface:  As the discussion which follows is only one of many potential considerations of the relationship patterns between boys and their mothers, men and women, and men and "Mother" Earth, I want to acknowledge from the beginning that I have not tried to draw any absolute conclusions here. I am sometimes speaking very generally because I do not have the time to go more deeply into all the possible variations on these themes, although I may at another time here, or in some other format, like a book or something!

I share these comments as I am "in process" with the ideas myself, as writing and thinking and intuiting tend to go hand in hand for me. Furthermore, at another time, I will probably go more deeply into the archetypal patterns Carl Jung talks about as they relate to a woman's inner masculine he calls the "animus", and the man's inner feminine he calls the "anima". As John Sanford explains in Invisible Partners (one of my favorite books under 200 pages, by the way), the anima and animus are all too often "projected", so a man does not really see a woman for who she is in her own right, but instead he sees his "projected anima", and vice versa for women in terms of their "projecting" their "animus" onto men.

Needless to say, all that projection business makes discussing "masculine" and "feminine" traits, and "typical" patterns of interaction between them much more difficult, although, not impossible, and again I highly recommend Sanford's book on the subject, as he does a pretty good job of sorting a lot of it out in less than 200 pages.

The other book I will dig into in the future is About Men and Women... by Tad and Noreen Guzie. As another of my favorite books under 200 pages it gives a clear and straight forward introduction/synopsis of the four major archetypal patterns for women, "Mother", "Amazon", "Companion", and "Medium", and for men, "Father", "Warrior", "Seeker", and "Sage".

These books are relevant to what follows in that they address the subjectivity of "perception": How often do we actually see another person as they are without "projection"? Are we actually seeing this Earth/World As It Is, or does it also suffer from the burden of our projections? Is it our "Mother"? Is "Mother" Nature a source of nurturance and blessing on the one hand and then death and destruction on the other? (In Invisible Partners, Sanford describes these as the opposite poles of a single projection.) Or is "Lady Nature" also here to be a "Companion" - which happens to be the feminine archetypal "opposite" of "Mother" (as the Guzie's discuss in About Men and Women...)?

So, again, I'm making some generalizations here because that's as deep as I want to go with it right now. But, I want and need to start somewhere, so this is where I am starting this discussion. And because this is just the beginning, I really am open to feedback when it comes to working out the nitty-gritty details. (Thanks in advance to Paul Chappell for the very helpful feedback he has already given me.)

* * * * * * 

In "The Biology of 'Heaven'" and in "Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part II: The Biology of 'Falling in Love'", I have suggested that there are latent memories as well as biochemical patterns associated with prenatal and early postnatal infancy. To the degree we attempt to duplicate these patterns or recapture these experiences as (at least physically) mature adults, we are setting ourselves up for repeated frustration and disappointment, and basically dysfunctional relating interpersonally. In this blog I'd like to add another possible "story line" that follows from the earliest stages of postnatal infancy as it relates to the "Biology of 'Omnipotence'". I will also offer that trying to perpetuate or regain that particular early emotional/biochemical state can result (or may be resulting) in consequences that extend far beyond our interpersonal relationships all the way to our relationship with this planet and the world as a whole.

As suggested above, this story begins in the first few months immediately after birth.  As Jean Piaget "explains" (via the author's hypothetical "conversation" between Piaget, Erikson, and Kholberg) in Stages of Faith... by James Fowler, "If the psychoanalysts speak of this phase as characterized by feelings of narcissistic omnipotence in the child, we must say it is a narcissism without Narcissus.  As yet, there are no 'self' and 'other.'"(P. 53) I would offer, however, that there is a form of "consciousness" of this early life experience as it is patterned both biochemically and neurologically in the infant's body and brain.

Furthermore, as I suggest in "The Biology of 'Heaven'" where the latent memory of being in the womb coincides with the desire for a state where "All of my needs are being met with No Effort of my own"; likewise, "The Biology of 'Omnipotence'" coincides with our wanting to be in a state where "All I have to do is cry and my needs are met...magically...AND...I do not have to give anything in return". In the "adult" arena, the equivalent would be, "All I have to do is 'snap my fingers' and, Viola! People do what I tell them to do!"

Although I can no longer recall it exactly, knowing what I know about human development, knowing that during those first six or seven months of life there is no sense of "self" OR "other", I can imagine that experiencing the cause and effect relationship between crying and having one's needs met, would make one feel pretty omnipotent. Of course, this would be juxtaposed against the practical realities of being completely dependent and helpless. Furthermore, should crying not get your needs met adequately and consistently, one would probably end up feeling even more vulnerable and biologically "stressed" if not absolutely terrified.

Nevertheless, in such a state, not only does the infant not recognize the existence of their care givers as "others", they are also a long way away from the capacity to recognize that those "others" have needs of their own. Let me make clear though, this does not imply that the child is therefore being inherently selfish when it cries to get its needs met. As stated above, it is, of necessity and by no particular conscious choice of its own, completely dependent on its parents For Its Survival, moment by moment and day by day.  It will actually be several years before a child can begin to assume responsibility for themselves when it comes to meeting basic needs (and only then to the degree the parents allow the child to start developing their skills in those areas).

So let's fast-forward to consider the potential impact of these "postnatal" emotional/biochemical patterns in relationships between (at least physically) mature adults, by looking back at another blog I've written here "Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I"...

Integral to "The Psychology of Romantic Love" is the idea that our "partner" is our respective and personal "Love God" or "Love Goddess" and our greatest hope and expectation is that they will always be there to shower their love and blessings upon us, whenever we ask them to. Or... maybe we don't even bother to ask, we just expect them to read our minds - as any proper "God" or "Goddess" should be able to do.  After all, this is what it felt like, this is the way it seemed to be when we were living through those first six or seven months of our lives.  On the one hand we thought we were totally in control, but, if by chance, sustenance did not "magically appear" on demand, then we were more likely left to feel helpless, and terrified for our lives. Wondering how many of you out there have ever been afraid of being abandoned by your significant other?

In so many cases, just like with the infant, there is no recognition that the "other" PERSON has love needs and life needs of their own.  Furthermore, having a "need" satisfied does not automatically evoke a sense of obligation to reciprocate.  With regards to infants, that "reciprocation" is not expected because they are so totally undeveloped, with hardly any capacity to exert control over themselves or their actions or feelings in relationship to others. However, as adults we are in a completely different situation, even if, deep down inside, we are, probably, mostly unintentionally and in the past emotionally/biochemically. Nevertheless, we have a much greater capacity for action, for self-control, for choosing our thoughts and feelings, for taking care of ourselves - far, far more capacity than a newborn baby.

Consequently, without rational re-evaluation of our expectations, people have been, are currently, and will continue to be Profoundly Disappointed in their Intimate Interpersonal Relationships, especially if they keep expecting their partners to relate to them as "Love Gods" and "Love Goddesses"!  And this applies to all of us "common folk" as much as it does to the "super stars" of our culture. Why? Because we have all been born, and therefore, we have all been through pretty much the same experiences from these earliest stages of our lives.

Furthermore, (and here comes one of my big "generalizations") because of the easy shift (at least in heterosexual relationships) from "baby boy and mother" to "boy friend and girl friend" and "man and wife", I suspect that part of the reason men have persisted in having a strong if not compulsive desire to control women (and even "Mother Earth") is because a) Like most everyone else, they want to reclaim those earlier feelings (i.e. the emotional/biochemical patterning) of "Omnipotence", and b) At the end of the day, they generally have the superior physical/technological strength to force their will on women (and "Mother" Earth) if they so choose. 

Even if it is not overt use of physical force, or the threat of physical force, there are all kinds of ways that threat is sublimated into other more culturally accepted means of control.  At the same time, (and here comes another big generalization, though one I think could probably be proven pretty easily with a little data research) on the whole, Male CEO's are running this world, and Controlling and seeing to the consumption of the resources of "Mother Earth" - with, again, it seems to me no sense, or very little sense of responsibility or obligation to Give Anything Back!

Again, I am suggesting here that the "baby boy" in relationship with the "Mother" and wanting to have control, or wanting to think he has control over the "Mother" as his personal source of nurturance and care, is the easiest relationship to transfer to the more adult version of a heterosexual relationship between a man and a woman, as well as with respect to the still great dominance of men in positions of power who control the human and material resources of this planet. It could also be a woman's "baby animus" that engages in those kinds of activities. In other words, it doesn't mean it is the only way those desires get expressed in the world today, though it may very well be the most common. And, by extension and media propaganda, most people in the world tend to identify themselves primarily as consumers in relationship to the earth's resources...just like all of the other plants and animals on this planet. Of note, however, is that the plants and animals cannot really choose to be otherwise, or relate to the planet in a more conscious way than they already do. Human beings CAN.

Also, given the inherent challenges of "survival" for human beings in this rather chaotic and often times unpredictable natural world, as a species, we've had every reason to see ourselves as "separate" from and "superior to" nature and to use all of the means at our disposal to try to control it as much as we could. There is a pattern for that in early childhood development as well, and it is a precursor of our actually becoming autonomous; i.e. "separate from the Mother". (Three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half-year-olds are well known for their egocentric, willful, and controlling behaviors, especially in relationship with their mothers, or primary care-givers. However, again, this is a Normal stage of their development. At the same time, it is not supposed to last the rest of their lives, as it appears to have in the lives of many "adults" living today!) So to the degree that mankind has tried to "separate" itself more and more from the Natural World, it may be that in the Grand Scheme of Things this was necessary in order for us to develop all of our capacities, individually and collectively; to develop our "autonomy" from "Mother" Earth.

Furthermore, as True Adults, we learn to relate to "others" differently. Having moved from "dependence" (child/parent relationships) to "independence" (personal autonomy and self-responsibility) the next step is "interdependence". Interdependence recognizes the respective needs of each person, or each party in the relationship. Mutual understanding and care look to find the best way for needs to be met so that both individuals, or all individuals involved, are sustained, not such that one individual must totally sacrifice their needs in service to the other. In this way we develop the capacity to be companions and friends, as well as "husbands" - prudent and frugal managers of resources.

An example of how this attitude and level of development looks in real life can be seen at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker/Survival School. I attended two weeks of Primitive Survival Skills classes in New Jersey, a few months prior to my going on my cross-country bicycle trek. There were many young people there who were learning to be true "caretakers" of the surrounding pine wood forests, and that opened my eyes to the actual good that human beings can do to have a very direct, positive, and supportive impact on an otherwise completely natural environment.

Consequently, as I commented in my very first blog here: It is not that human beings are inherently bad, it is not a matter of inherent "character flaws" in human nature itself - our issues are ones of lack of development, specifically emotional and, I would also say, spiritual development. On the whole, and for all kinds of reasons, we are still struggling with "growing up". And, on top of that, even as we do grow up physically and even mentally, to the degree that we can be quite capable of manipulating this environment in all kinds of highly technological ways, it doesn't mean we are emotionally prepared to make Mature decisions regarding how we use all of that technology.

But...I do have hope as I am seeing more and more people getting to the point where they can act like fully mature, fully human Adults - with a recognition of all of their Capacities as Fully Mature Human Adults and a willingness to accept the Responsibilities that such Human Adulthood would naturally imply. 

To close, I would like to offer one other observation: Although being a Source of Nurturance is a very important aspect of The Feminine (as it is expressed in both men and women) and through "Mother" Earth, it is not the Only Way the Divine Feminine expresses itself in or As the World. Sometimes, it is nice to be appreciated not only for what we can give, but, instead, simply for Who We Are (and I think this applies to all human beings, both men and women, and even to All of Life Itself). As I have suggested above, there are those who look to this planet merely as a collection of "resources" to be "consumed", just as infants look to their mothers as sources of sustenance...and...the way most other living beings involve themselves with this planet...with no Sense of Obligation for Giving Back. And, I have to add, even for many who want to help protect the planet For Future Generations of Consumers, they are still short of helping or loving the planet For Its Own Sake.

It is the true "husband" (as defined above) and lover who appreciates their loved one for Just Being Who They Are and wants to preserve and protect the other, not just as a resource for future consumption, but for the value of such a one's mere existence. It is the Truly Mature Human Being who Looks in Awe at this World and at "Lady Earth" in All Her Wonder, and loves Her Just for Being Who and What She Is!

In other words my friends, it is time for more of us to finish Growing Up in every way, as there is a lot of "companioning" and "husbanding" ahead and it is going to take a lot of Fully Mature Adult Human Beings, both men and women, to do it. We can be a Potent force of Good in this world, even if we are not, never really were, and never will be Omnipotent!

So here's to the Dawn of a New Era of Understanding - Happy December 21, 2012 Everyone!!!!