Harold W. Vogt is the former chief psychologist at Prairie View. He is a clinical instructor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
From birth on infants learn. There is speculation that the onset of learning predates actual birth. There is an urgency to this learning. An instinctual awareness of the possibility of non-survival is shared with all living things. Unlike most other life forms, the human infant is uniquely helpless to do even one thing to insure its survival. This helplessness and the total vulnerability form a pervasive fear base demanding a steep learning curve. Survival tools and assumptions are "invented" early to deal with that initial environment. Unfortunately, once formed, those tools and ancient belief become fixed behavioral habits.
When an individual seeks therapeutic help, the invented and socially imposed tools for dealing with life situations are not working. The internal response is anxiety and dysphoria (typically referred to as "depression"). The search at that time centers on finding a way to restore a sense of well-being and a return to feeling "Safe". Seeing God as "Safe-Maker" at that stage of therapy has more immediate appeal than God as Serendipitous Creativity. Because the ubiquitous managed care companies declare the anxiety and depression as the "illness" (as the identified problem), the opportunity for an individual to embark on a journey of discovery and the re-invention of a new way of seeing and thinking about the Universe is rarely afforded.
My questions about the God as Creativity concept lead me to speculate about the manner of personality development and characteristics that would have to be in place for an individual to be comfortable with this exploration. My concept of neurosis is a way of thinking and acting that is designed to make oneself safer than it is possible to be. The hallmarks of such a system are complete predictability of outcomes and certainty of absolute truth. Being absolutely right is essential. The courage to set forth on a journey of indeterminate destination requires an internally oriented way of thinking about one's security that probably had its origin in an atmosphere of recognition and respect. Conformity to external expectations arises out of fear.
The unfortunate rarity of courage-producing child rearing destines many, if not most, individuals to lives of safe-seeking.
A thought experiment into our human biohistory suggests how this might have occurred. The predominant event in the evolution of humans is the serendipitous creativity of the mysterious enlargement of the human brain. I met "Grandmother Lucy" in Addis Ababa many years ago. She was four million years old, was three feet tall, and had an ape-sized brain. Some time after that, the brain "exploded." It was an important enough event that I call it the "Little Bang." That event changed everything. For humans it was the ultimate event of Creativity2. As the brain developed, another serendipitous event occurred, whether a function of Creativity2 or Creativity3. The process we have come to call consciousness emerged. Out of the consciousness, an awareness of separateness or identity developed. At some point the occurrence of self-conscious decision making, now known as agency, became apparent. For some, this development might be viewed as the highest expression of what being human could be.
Developing concurrently, possibly utilizing the big brain power, was a growing awareness that the pooling of prowess, energy, and resources provided enhanced survival chances, another legacy of Creativity3. The benefits of tribal living must have led to a rapid expansion of tribal thinking. Tribal cohesion, tribal integrity, and tribal control of individual lives were unquestioned. Conformity to tribal expectations were the guarantee of safetyof survival. It must soon have become clear that the sense of individuality and personal agency would be on a collision course with tribal power.
The serendipitous enlargement of the human brain required an obvious growth of the cranium. Creativity2 did not appropriately attend to the necessary changes in the female body to carry and give live birth to the big-brained fetus. A little of flexibility in the infant's frontal plate and some widening capability of the female pelvis was not enough to accommodate the new birth requirements. Howard Schlain in Women, Sex, and Power, estimates that for the human infant to have the capability of a new-born piglet, gestation would need to be 24 months. The female body being totally incapable of this feat left no alternative but earlier birth. In many primitive societies, women stop eating when they become pregnant with the obvious goal of deliverable little babies. As a result of the earlier birth solution, the human infant begins life in a state of fearful helplessness. Unlike the kangaroo, Creativity3 has not come up with a second womb solution.
Margaret Mead's effort to explain the unique poise and tranquility of the Okinawan people pointed to the fact that the Okinawan child's feet never touched the ground until they were five years old. Constant physical contact may well reduce the fear element. That initial complete helplessness intensifies the predominance of the fear mind set and the lifelong obsession with being safe.
Unfortunately, the absolute equation of external approval and being kept alive becomes the basic tool for human interaction. The fear the child experiences in parental disapproval can be overwhelming, and symbolically morphs into Guilt. Guilt may well be society's most important control invention.
Sometime in the child's third year another formative developmental crisis appears. What someone has called the "evolutionary imperative for individuality" raises its head. The child's inchoate experiment with being a separate person becomes apparent. The fact that this period is universally called "the terrible twos" reflects a core societal belief that individuality is the inevitable enemy of tribal solidarity and, therefore, of security. The intensity of the reaction to insisting to be treated as though they had personal choice is enough to drive some back into a life of conformity and the avoidance of any further disapproval. Many others with a secret vow beginning with "when I get big. . . ." later develop a mutant form of individuality called "being independent" that manifests itself in making sure that one always does the very opposite of what "they" want me to do. A case could be made that the source of what we call "evil" in the world has its roots in the excesses and insatiability of this mutant drive to become a person. A society coming to welcome this period we define as the "terrible twos" as the "wonderful twos" in which the tools of responsible agency are learned and guided seems unimaginable as yet.
Fortunately there are always a sufficient number of parents that have grasped the critical importance of supporting a child's individuality to keep a meaningful tension between the masses who woefully lament the loss of the "true values" of the past and those who are willing to grapple with the uncertainty "at the edge of chaos." For most, embracing unquestioned answers is far safer that struggling with unanswerable questions.
In psychotherapy, individuals stuck in the crippling behavioral habits and unquestioned assumptions forged in early childhood are not yet seeking the freedom to explore realms of thought and speculation they haven't yet envisioned. A solid grasp of their internally determined worth and individuality may, as yet, be a distant goal.
The dominant "tribal" culture does, indeed, have its own goal of making a better world filled with better people. The acceptable and time-tested method of achieving this goal by ridding individuals of their "willfulness" and replacing their flawed inner motivation with sanctioned ideas. "Obedience" continues to be the valued personality characteristic. Our dictionary continues to define obedience as "the complete submission of one's will to the will of another."
There is, of course, an implication that actions arising from a strong sense of individuality will be morally inferior to actions designed to fulfill compliance with a higher Will. I usually interpret the Garden of Eden story as an effort to explain the ejection from a state of complete and simple dependence. Eating the fruit of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil sounds like the workings of that too-big brain. The punishment of "bearing your children in pain" certainly came true with the enlarged cranium. It seems clear that much of what we have come to call religion had its origins in the workings of tribal culture in its efforts to create an ordered society. In such a society, individuality and independent thinking are seen as dis-ordering. Perhaps individuality is the original sin.
All of this formulation is preparatory to two basic questions that I am presenting for further discussion.
I believe that much of our behavioral determinants have their origin in our early childhood experience. They are based on assumptions and "beliefs" that we have no awareness of. They are historical/irrational. "Irrationality does not dissolve in logic" is one of my oldest sayings. No amount of "deciding" will change our attitudes and behaviors until they reach awareness. If we could change our behavior by logic, we would all wake up to a perfect world every January 1. What would have to happen for Creativity3 to substantially alter basic human child-growing patterns and beliefs? No amount of pleading and exhorting will change the world until we change the way we approach it. A word from Sir Francis Bacon: It is an unsound fancy and quite inconceivable to think that we can accomplish that which has never yet been done except by means which have never yet been tried. And from Albert Einstein: We live in a world of problems which can no longer be solved by the level of thinking that created them. My own dictum is that when something continues to not work, the problem is likely in the conceptualization, not in the implementation.
In Ilya Prigogene's Theory of Dissipative Structures, increasing complexity of a system finally results in the coming apart of the system, only to be reorganized into a new system. Does the ever-increasing "noise" seen in political and religious extremism today bode well for Creative resolution for humankind or could it result in more extreme efforts to impose even more external order? Creativity3 tends to get restless with million year timetables.
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