Uralte Liebe / Ancient Love
Lady of The Chambre
Written by: Dr. Rainer Taëni
The Nature of Love
'All you need is love' the Beatles proclaim in one of their most popular songs, and few of us would deny that love is indeed one of the most desirable, if not the most important thing in their life. Yet what exactly this coveted treasure looks like, and how we should go about attaining it - these are questions not so easily answered. For love clearly cannot be measured or evaluated as a physical object. To be known at all, it has to be personally experienced. Which raises the further question: How can we be sure at any time that what we are experiencing is really love?
And what about the giving of it? What exactly, in quite practical terms, are we ‘doing’ when we love?
In my workshops I have found a surprisingly large number of people who would maintain that they 'cannot love'. Mostly the argument goes: "I've never experienced love, so no wonder I don't know how to give it."
This misses the important point that love is not an object that can be ‘got’, or an ability that some people are better at than others. If we look closely, we find love to be not only the most desirable thing in life, but also the most natural - and most readily available - force on the planet. It seems that we merely need to recognize it, to be open to receive and appreciate it. Once we do this, we may well find ourselves on the way to becoming fountains of love ourselves.
But even without going so far, it may be said that everyone on earth 'loves' someone or something. Partners love each other; parents love their children, and vice versa. Those who have difficulties with this, at least 'love' the objects of their wishes, their desires or fantasies. Everyone loves their hobby or favourite sport. Any animal loves its food. And on a different level: the ruthless tyrant loves power; the sexual pervert loves his thrills - and the brutal killer loves killing, or else he wouldn't do it. And so on...
The question remains, of course, whether all this is ‘really’ love? Maybe we need to draw a line between 'good and proper' love and love that is 'bad' or 'perverted’? There may even be a kind of 'neutral' love (neither 'good' nor 'bad'), such as we talk about when we say 'I love to sleep' or 'I love cooking'...
To clarify this, here are some basic observations that seem to correspond to most people's experience.
1. Love is the universal Force that creates and sustains. It is the basis of all creation as well as of nourishment and preservation. The act of 'lovemaking' is prerequisite to new life being born. We are sustained by being 'lovingly' nurtured or nurturing ourselves. Loving care is needed to preserve anything at all.
2. All kindness and all happiness are somehow related to love.
3. The universal human values of truth, right action, peace and non-violence are rooted in love.
4. Love is the one reliable bond connecting us humans with each other, with animals, with nature, with our planet and indeed the whole of Creation.
5. The basis of love is a sense of identifying, of in some way ‘being or 'becoming one', with the object of one's loving.
If all this is so obvious, where then lies the problem?
The 'problem' is precisely that love is so all-pervading. It is a force so universal that, on the one hand, it readily lends itself to being misunderstood, misconstrued and mistaken for what it is not - or mixed up with all sorts of attitudes, emotions and ways of behaviour that are misused in love's name, often with an outcome marked by disharmony and misery. Thus, identifying to the point of 'becoming one' in many cases means, becoming not only fond of, but attached to the object of one's loving - up to the point of being addicted, as happens not only with gamblers or alcoholics, but also with people who have 'fallen in love'. - On the other hand, its might is such that even powerful institutions may feel threatened by it: where is there room for love in a bank?
But paradoxically many individuals, too, unconsciously fear and avoid it. This can often be seen in the choice of a person's partner, where a loving one is rejected in favour of one indifferent if not callous or cruel. Sometimes it clearly seems that a predictable outcome of misery is the preferred choice.
This emphasizes the need for a clear answer to the question what love 'really' is - and what it is not.
(1) What Love is not
From early childhood we all inevitably develop an 'ego' - a personality that is based upon a sense of 'I as separate'. As I shall later explain in more detail, this is freighted with all the emotions we once felt about the threatening state of being a helpless individual (like the baby is when its needs are not instantly met), and with all the concepts we later developed about this state, together with the defensive behaviour patterns we adopted as a response. Concepts like: Life is difficult; Nothing is ever gained without struggle; Being alone is terrible; Satisfaction is out of my reach; There is no love for me; etc. I will say more about this in Chapter 4.
The fact that even as adults we keep identifying with these beliefs and the personality based upon them, inevitably colours our understanding of love. For in the state of separation in which they were generated, love invariably seems beyond reach. We may therefore say that our personality (=the ego) has largely been developed as a response to the felt absence of love. The ego thus cannot believe in love.
Yet how ever traumatic our start in life may have been, in our innermost being we will remain aware that life without love is so poor as to be not worth living. So we try to make up for this by developing substitutes to compensate for the perceived lack and deny the pain it engenders, even though in the back of our mind we may be convinced that this strategy won't work in the long run.
And by this very attitude we unconsciously see to it that it doesn't (thus constantly validating our 'learned' belief in inherent loneliness and lack). As a consequence, we may 'fall in love' with people we either don't know or don’t wish to commit to on a deeper level - and who we therefore fall 'out of love' with after a short while. Or, in our innate longing to experience the Oneness we don't really believe in, we attach ourselves to dead objects (like coin collections), or resort to drugs, or seek out ways of experiencing thrills (sex, power) that keep us dependent on them like drugs. Since the effect of the activities involved cannot last, they have to be compulsively repeated, over and over. Beyond and apart from these attachments, life seems not worth living.
This kind of dependency may also extend to one's job, position or status in society. And people may get a severe breakdown, even to the point of committing suicide when that attachment is threatened.
The big problem arises because wherever we treat a substitute as real, the real thing is lost sight of. (If it were available, there would be no need for the substitute.)
The belief in any substitute necessarily denies
the reality of that which it is replacing.
In our attachment (to persons or objects)that passes for love,
we actually do the opposite to loving:
we deny the reality of this Universal Force.
And with this, we are also denying the reality of Truth and all other human values based upon Love.
(2) The Big Question: What is Love - 'really'?
The first answer that comes to mind: It is something radically different from the substitutes which our ego-dominated 'personality' likes to attach itself to.
‘True love’ is not a response to emotionally felt lack, fear or loneliness. It does not seek to satisfy a craving or unfulfilled need. It is not a mental response to anything but, as it were, a state of being.
Or better: it is an energy - namely, the Divine Creative Force that exists equally in everything living - and therefore also in ourselves.
In its essence, Love is that Energy
which is the Source of our being -
which brought us into life and keeps us alive.
It ‘knows’ not only what is necessary for our bodily functioning, breathing in each of the millions of cells in our body, regulating the biochemical processes of exchange, transformation and regeneration as well as ensuring the optimal coordination of the working of all our organs, muscles, nerves, tissues etc. But it also ‘knows’ what is ‘right’ for the development of our soul. Its primary ‘dwelling place’, as far as our personal awareness of it is concerned, is in our heart.
This all-knowing Vital Energy is unceasingly active not only in all living creatures; it likewise regulates the circulation of the atoms and molecules of ‘inanimate’ matter.
And when we look at it closely, we don’t need to be scientists to notice something truly extraordinary: The all-regulating Universal Life Force is the only phenomenon in the universe, in the entire spectrum of Creation, which is not subject to any kind of transformational process. It is beyond change, immaterial in itself, absolutely reliable in observing its own laws, and undying - that is: eternal.
There are many names by which this Energy, this immutable, eternally enduring Source of all existence has been known in different parts of the world: ‘mana’ and ‘chi’ being some of the more familiar. Another well-known - if much abused - term for it is: God.
So what I am saying is this:
The Vital Creative Energy
that brought into being the universe and all individual life forms within it,
constantly maintaining, nourishing and regulating them all,
is identical with that Power which we call God
and its intrinsic nature is Love.
Some of my readers may agree spontaneously and wholeheartedly, considering this assertion to be self-evident, whereas others may vehemently dispute it. But is it, being a matter of definition, really disputable?
Love and God
Here we come to the other ‘problem’ concerning our topic: the common mis-use (and abuse) of the term ‘God’. (Which may well be what the commandment not to take the name of God ‘in vain’, is really all about.)
Many of us - and this goes for ‘believers’ and 'nonbelievers' alike - will have formed a view of God as a personality: the Creator outside of Creation, who is the subject that somehow ‘made’ this energy I speak of, and is using it - but is by no means identical with it. To my mind, such a view makes no sense. It is a case of ‘creating God in man’s image’.
Which understandably is a habit that is widespread. Understandably so, because in the habitual identification with our personality - the ego that sees itself as separate from all other egos - we naturally tend to picture God in the same way: as a distinct, individual personality.
This, too, is precisely the reason why many people find it hard to believe in the existence of ‘God" altogether. A Creator as an individual personality dwelling outside of Creation simply doesn’t make sense.
However, that doesn’t automatically mean that there cannot be a ‘personal God’. Surely, being ‘in’, energizing and vitalizing all living creatures, the God Force would also be able to take on, within the created world, a concentrated form in the shape of a person - such as is generally believed of Jesus or any of the Indian Avatars.. What is difficult for nonbelievers to grasp is that this person ‘is’ at the same time, in essence also in all other beings.
Christians may view this as a mystery. However, once we accept that the nature of God is Love, it becomes easier to comprehend. We merely need to discover - better: un-cover - that same Love in our own heart. Then we may be said to have found the ‘Christ within’. And we can take responsibility for a personal relationship with our Creator.
The misrepresentations of God and misconceptions about this Force are of course as numerous as there are egos in the world keen to shape this concept in accordance with their own needs, and then to employ it for their own ends. In all too many cases this becomes, and has been through the centuries, another popular addiction: their own concept of ‘God’ as a kind of drug to which people become compulsively attached. This is another example of generating a substitute for the love one is unable to feel.
And it is clearly a tragedy for the world: We all know what disastrous consequences has oftentimes had throughout history - and is still having in many countries where cruel, entirely love-less wars are fought in the name of ‘religion’!
Our Life’s Task
But let us look more closely at the consequences of the realization that Love, in essence, is identical with that vital energy which is the Source and continuing nourishment of our life. It means that our own true being, beyond the tendencies and appearances of our personality - our energetic core, the Life Force that motivates us - is Love.
This Force, by which we were created and through which we are still being nurtured, constitutes our very nature. And it connects us to all that is living. It is the 'divine' breath within us, as in all life.
Once we accept that God is Love, the Biblical saying that ‘God created man in His image’ can be seen to confirm clearly that the essence of humans, too, is divine love.
But what an assumption! Its implications are so enormous that it is no wonder people are so reluctant to subscribe to it! How are we, used as we are to seeing ourselves as sinful and inadequate, certainly often erring and glaringly imperfect - how are we, as so obviously fault-ridden individuals, to relate to this personally?
I maintain that here precisely lies our life’s purpose:
The purpose of the individual life on earth is
to awaken to the divine essence within:
to uncover the love that we are in our truth
to the extent of becoming able to manifest this in daily living.
Which, in brief, is simply to say:
We are born to love:
Our main task in this life is to ‘learn loving’.
At the beginning of this stands the realization that there is no need make any effort to 'get' love. But what we do need is, to open our heart. To become open, first of all, to accepting that the same Life Energy which constitutes the sustaining Source and essence of our individual person also connects us to all other beings, they all being sustained in the same way by the same Force.
And secondly, in full awareness to accept and embrace this as the supreme and most meaningful agenda for our life.
In everyday practice this presents us with the task, against all apparent odds
to outgrow the state of being determined
by the early traumas of separation
and to renounce our craving for substitutes
whilst increasingly coming to realize the Oneness of all.
The Need to Disown the Past
The assertion that Love in its ‘true form’ is identical with the universal Creative Force we call ‘God’ requires no proof. It is a definition amounting to a tautology; however it is not an individual, arbitrary one. All major religions in their original, unfalsified form (before power-motivated egos got hold of them) are basically agreed that 'God is Love' - as that Universal Force of Creative Energy Who is the Source of life in all of us. And once we open up to experiencing this in full awareness, this experience will be a source of joy, inner harmony and contentment if not bliss for us personally, and radiating to those around us.
This being so, how then can we ever be separated from it, to the point of being unaware of its presence?
It is important to note that this Force, unceasingly active as it is all around as well as within us, can be contacted only in the present.
God, as Love, lives and is active
only in the present.
This clearly means that to the extent to which we are absorbed by our past (or, for that matter, the future) we are missing out on this most vital connection.
Which is yet another pointer to the vital task at hand: to consciously dissociate from the ego. For this structure, which we habitually identify with as 'my personality [= myself]' is entirely made up of relics from the past: timeworn beliefs and strategies which once, in our traumatized state of separation, had validity - but which have long outlasted their original purpose. Nonetheless by time-honoured habit we are still clinging to it, in fact using it as the yardstick and prime motivator for our behaviour and most of our actions.
It is this habit which we may describe as the great and potentially fatal error of our life - the limitation which to this day has separated us from who we truly are; from our divine essence, from Love.
It is only when we have done with our past, remaining aware and fully open to life's changes, that we will become able to experience Love in its unadulterated form: as a joyous sense of universal connectedness - 'in God' - with all creation. It will then be felt whenever another individual contacts us in this same spirit, or when we ourselves initiate such contact.
In this state, giving and receiving amount to the same experience and will make us equally happy. For the same energy is being consciously shared - therefore whatever is mine, is also yours, and vice versa. There is no separated 'me', or 'you' - only a sense of being one in that ever-present universal energy flow which enlivens all. In the awareness of this, we equally love and feel loved.
The Attributes of ‘True’ Love
In practical terms we are setting out along the path of Love as soon as, determined to overcome the effects of past traumas, we make a conscious effort to reconnect ourselves. To anything, to begin with - it may be another person, a child, an animal, or Nature as such. The important thing is that this connection should not be a compulsive response to a perceived lack or a desire to get something. Such emotions from the past will lead us back to ego-attachment and ultimately, separation.
Here we find the answer to that question asked at the beginning - how we may recognize 'true Love'. How can we know in an individual case whether what seems to be love is the real thing and not a substitute?
Certainly where, in connection with 'giving love' the question comes up 'What will I get in return?' or where the action is conditional in any way, depending on circumstances or the fulfilment of expectations, we are still a long way off. As Shakespeare sang in his immortal sonnet four centuries ago:
... Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken...
As I said, the seat of Love is the heart, where the ego’s concerns have no place - which, on the contrary, becomes inaccessible where these predominate. Once we open our heart to what is going on around us, in clear awareness connecting ourselves to it, the ancient emotions and substitute strategies from our traumatized past can safely be left to 'drop away'.
With regard to another person, this means that we resist the temptation to see them 'as’ their ego, even though they may insistently exhibit this in their personality and corresponding behaviour. Instead, we concentrate on perceiving the Divine 'in' them - and we continue to do so whether they respond to this, or not.
More about this in Ch. 5 ???:
In experiencing the feeling of truly being in touch with the Vital Love Energy, we will be filled with a happiness that transcends all other sensations. The realization of our own true nature will carry us to a realm in which separation and all our fear-based reactions to the belief in it, have no place - the realm of Truth where we know that all is right the way it is. Because Life, as Love, is beyond time and as such, unchanging and immortal, goes on forever.
Before we now go further to investigate how we can best go about actually fulfilling our life’s task, let us take a good look around. Let us begin by investigating what is the nature of the stages in which our individual life naturally unfolds and the tribulations, traumas and temptations we are of necessity subject to, living as we are, as creatures of the flesh in a material world.
Our Life's Path and the Forgotten Needs
'Original Sin' : a Fact of Life
As I said in the beginning, the core problem of humanity, the issue that causes most if not all of our difficulties both in the personal sphere and in society, is the human habit of cutting ourselves off from Love. So as to find our way back to a degree of personal happiness and a society in harmony with nature, we need to reconnect, to realign ourselves with this universal energy on both levels.
To be sure, this is not an easy task. For the world we are born into seems to put Love into question with our very first breath. Remember: Love is meaningfully defined as based upon the realization of universal oneness. In the womb before birth, provided the mother is in a degree of harmony with herself and her surroundings, this may indeed be blissfully experienced. But then this bliss is inevitably shattered by one separation experience after another.
To my mind the result of these early traumas is the true meaning of what in the Bible is called 'Original Sin'.
I can hear some of my readers protesting in outrage at this statement, whereas others may take it as confirming their view that human nature is intrinsically ‘bad’ (which seems to contradict my previous assertion). In the Christian tradition we are accustomed to think of 'sin' as something 'evil' - for which, if we have ‘committed' it, we should feel guilty and deserve to be punished. Churches and governments have happily used and often reinforced this notion because it helped them assert their authority over the 'sinners' (and who can claim not to be one?).
However, note that the word 'sin' has to do with 'asunder'. The word for it in German is 'Sünde' - clearly related to 'gesondert' (=apart) and 'besonders' (=special). In English, this meaning is still reflected in 'sound': a narrow expanse of sea with the dominant characteristic of dividing and separating the land.
The significance of this is, that the original meaning of 'sin' refers to a context of separation, of being apart. In the religious sense, it denotes a state of separateness, or separation, from God. Which can meaningfully be understood as separation from Love. And, since the basis and nature of Love is oneness, any kind of separation is alien and contrary to it.
Now, separation (the state of ‘asunder-ness’) is what we are thrown into with our entry into the material world. We cannot be blamed for it. It is our ‘original’ experience.
But furthermore - note this well -: it is an illusion. Love being the Universal Life Force, as described, how can we in fact be separated from it? Can separation be real?
The answer: It is not.
Being separate is an illusion
inevitably brought about by our entry into
the physical world of matter - a world
which in its totality may be considered illusory
even in the terms of modern Physics.
An illusion it may be, but the trauma to the individual, when he/ she enters into this world, is bound to feel very real indeed, and a truly shattering experience. To be thrust out of the protective maternal body into an environment marked by separate objects and other, alien bodies - - to feel lonely and helpless whenever the need for nourishment is not instantly satisfied - and to experience more and more of such moments, until gradually becoming painfully aware of being a separate body, separate even from the mother -: this causes not only great pain but also an overwhelming need somehow to come to terms with it. It invokes an undeniable urge to construct or adopt habits and mechanisms designed to ward off that pain in the interest of survival.
The constructs we adopt and gradually come to integrate into our personality - the ego - may ultimately prove harmful or detrimental, to ourselves or to others: the point is, they are inescapable. We are born with the need for them. Hence: Original - Sin.
The term ‘Original Sin’ refers to the notion
of being separate which we bring into the world from the point and hour of our origin
and which requires us to adopt
certain strategies on the level of separateness.
It is inevitable that these strategies, as we shall see more clearly later, have the effect of cutting us off even further from our divine nature, from the love within us, from God.
By now it should be clear that this is nothing to feel bad about, or be punished for, in any way. But also, that it is our innate limitation. As such it constitutes a significant challenge which, as it were, we bring with us into this world: the challenge to overcome this limitation so as to find back to Love. To the awareness of being connected and one with all, and therefore able to discard all worry and fear.
Are you there yet?... Neither am I. But I am convinced that re-establishing this connection to the Whole is the only goal that can bring lasting satisfaction and give meaning to my life.
The preordained path of each of our lives starts with the illusion of separation, and ends in the awareness of being one.
It is our path from Fear to Love.
And it is also the path from the ego to God. What this means for each one of us (whether we believe in the 'God' the religions portray, or not) I shall explain in a later chapter.
The ‘Forgotten’ Vital Needs
In the development of the human individual we observe some distinct stages at which the organism seems to demand the fulfilment of certain definite, predetermined needs. It is one of the great tragedies of our times that our Western society does not ‘officially’ recognize the vital importance of some of these, and certainly makes no adequate provision for their fulfilment.
However, if these developmental needs are not adequately met, the natural development of the organism is impaired. It is as though the organism keeps waiting for their fulfilment before it can confidently embark upon the next stage of its development.
Needless to say, this creates havoc. There is an innate knowing about the need, but the required experience isn’t forthcoming. So a mental/ emotional programme is set in motion which could be verbalized as: "Before my need is fulfilled, I cannot grow up" - followed by: "I’m waiting and waiting but something keeps lacking..." No wonder so many of us are beset by feelings of lack in the midst of all their affluence! It is an inner lack, originating in infantile need deprivation, which they are naturally unable to identify but which no amount of material goods can assuage.
And which will create a demand, an inner craving for substitutes - for anything that seems to fill that inner emptiness, even though no satisfaction they might temporarily achieve will ever last. It cannot because it is not what is really needed. Or was, at an early stage in their distant past.
Three most basic human needs are those for adequate nourishment, adequate warmth and adequate shelter. In our society these are universally recognized and generally sought to be met by whoever is in charge and able to do so. Not so with those infantile developmental needs which, though no less basic, are neglected to the extent that we may aptly describe them as ‘forgotten’. They are:
The need for a natural birth,
The need for loving and protective touch.
The need for creative exploration of the environment (unfettered curiosity)
The need for unrestrictive, clear boundaries; and, last not least:
The need for self-emancipation as an individual personality.
Each of these needs is dominant at a certain, definite stage of the individual’s development; and, as I said before, its fulfilment is a precondition for this stage being satisfactorily completed. It enables something to be learned that is vital for our growth into mature, self-accepting and loving humans.
If on the other hand the need remains unmet, the individual will of course still grow into an adult. But the feeling of lack and incompleteness will remain, in later life culminating in a sense of not ‘being properly grown up’. A quite distressing emotion for an adult, which will therefore most likely be tucked away and hidden underneath a personal programme of ceaseless effort to acquire a workable substitute: to gain recognition, wealth, professional status, - whatever... Or, where this kind of thing is out of reach, assuaged by some addiction or other.
The real tragedy for that individual then will be that whatever they may achieve in life is never utilized in the service of Love; nor will it bring them closer to feeling loved. For it will be a means of compensation for an emptiness that can never be filled - at least not, until some course of healing is set in place that will address the lack at its core...
Now let us look at those needs in some detail...
(1) The Need for a Natural Birth
A Natural Birth is one which is not arbitrarily interfered with. There may of course be good medical reasons for intervention. But in all too many cases of interference, there aren’t. The interference is carried out for the convenience of the doctor, an uninformed mother, or both.
I propose not to go into details here as there are enough good, well informed books on the market that deal with the problem exhaustively. However, there are also certain misconceptions which are even propagated by medical professionals - established beliefs, some of which I’ve found to be untrue from personal experience. If I mention them here, it is not to cast a slur on the medical profession; nor would I encourage anyone to take the matter of birth lightly, to the point of disregarding sound medical advice. I merely wish to point out that there have been, and to all appearances still are, certain misconceptions around this vital issue which have much to do with the fact that the need in question has been ‘forgotten’ - which therefore deserve careful examination.
One such concerns the necessity of Cesarean section. The mother of three of my children had a Cesarean birth previous to that of our eldest daughter. At this pregnancy, six years later, when she expressed her desire this time to have a home birth, she was strongly advised against it by several doctors, all of whom maintained that after one Cesarean, the following birth would most likely have to be the same.
In the event she did have a home birth, under the care of a responsible midwife (and within five minutes’ distance from a hospital, should anything go wrong after all). The birth was fairly quick and easy, without complications, and was in later years followed by two more such, also in private surroundings.
There is by now sufficient evidence for the vital importance of the new-born being placed upon the mother’s belly, with the cord remaining uncut for at least a few minutes, and then allowed to drink from the mother’s breast. Only a few years ago, when I pointed this out to a nurse, she reacted in horror, saying: "Oh no - after giving birth, the mother is far too exhausted for that! First of all, both baby and mother need sleep!"
Another common belief is that babies cannot see in their first few weeks. Well, at the birth of my youngest son I was surprised to observe how clear his eyes were! And he certainly did find his way to his mother’s breast, and was also able to gaze into her eyes!
This first eye-to-eye contact is an essential part of a natural birth. It is the basis for the vital process of bonding that needs to take place in the first few hours after birth, and as such, seems to arouse the baby's capacity to love. When this imprint is prevented, so is the learning of ‘loving' that normally takes place at this earliest stage: an essential stimulus is missing. The growing individual will then have great difficulty in catching up with this learning at some later stage.
Finally, there still seems to be a belief (though officially unacknowledged) that new-born babies are largely insentient beings who somehow have not yet developed the capacity to feel very much. In consequence, when attending to the necessary after-birth procedures, their need to be with the mother as soon and as closely and intimately as possible often tends to be neglected - regarded as of minor importance!
A ‘natural birth' would be one where all such misconceptions would be laid aside. The baby would be allowed to follow its own rhythm, so the birth would certainly not be induced, and the mother not be under drugs (again, excepting pressing medical reasons).
There is today enough evidence to support the view that drug dependency generally starts during the birth process - if not before, in the womb. This is borne out by the fact that it began in earnest in the seventies - one or two decades after drugged births became common practice in many Western countries. We do know that the baby participates in all the nourishment the mother takes. A birth under drugs may seem reassuring to some mothers in fear of pain. But it means that the baby enters the world with the programme imprinted in its cells: "Life can only be faced under the influence of drugs!" For that will have been its first experience - and one handed down by its mother at that!
What happens during a natural birth is, that the life-giving placenta is not immediately cut.
The new-born is spared the shocking experience of bright lights and is handled as gently and sparingly as possible, with the priority being not to disturb the bonding process between baby and mother that should, if Nature had its way, occur in the first hour or so.
So the baby needs to be placed on the mother's body as soon as possible and allowed to do what he is programmed to do: find his way to the source of nourishment meant for him, and with it, to the bonding process which gives him the first essential experience and mental imprint of what love means.
(2) The Need for Loving, Protective Touch
That babies need to be touched is common knowledge; but surprisingly less so, what this involves, and how important it really is.
There is an interesting book by Jean Liedloff in which the author describes living among a tribe of South American Indians as yet hardly touched by civilization. One of the things that struck her most was that their babies were being constantly carried around, if not by the mother, then by another member of the tribe, and never ever laid down. Another thing she noted about these babies was that they hardly ever cried. And about the adults, that they were remarkably peaceful, to the extent that anger and aggression were practically unknown by them.
She concluded from these observations that babies had a natural need to be carried around constantly and that we, too, should make allowance for this in our handling of them.
In principle, I tend to agree. In actual practice, I found with my own children, that this was not entirely feasible: not being part of a tribe with other adults or older siblings constantly at hand, they would occasionally have to be laid down, and sometimes for quite a while. But it was noticeable also that this did not seem to distress them, so long as one vital ground-rule was observed: when they did begin to feel uncomfortable in this situation, someone should come to pick them up without delay.
Being close to an older person's body undoubtedly provides a sense of security; and naturally this is what an infant requires in order to grow into a loving individual free from fear and anxiety.
To find this sense of security is particularly important when the baby awakens after a sleep - to finding herself in an unfamiliar environment, or being hungry, or wet, or still haunted by an unpleasant dream. In this situation to be crying without being able instantly to summon help or protection is a terrifying experience. We must remember that such a tiny creature, not yet having developed a sense of time, will have no way of knowing that the lonely state of helplessness will end soon.
Up until quite recently it used to be common practice to have even new-born babies sleep in their own cot, which would often be in their own room. This would mean that frequently when they signalled distress, especially at night when the mother was asleep, their cries might not be heard and no help be forthcoming for quite some time, exposing them regularly to the feeling of loneliness if not acute anxiety.
Here I see one of the main causes why so many people have an ingrained feeling of being "unlovable!" . In some of the workshops I conducted this would apply to more than half of all the participants between 20 and 40.
It is not hard to trace the reason for this wide-spread phenomenon to the common disregard, at the time when these people were young babies, of the need for constant availability of loving, protective touch. This need being innate, the baby of course ‘knows’ it is there, and will know as well that it is the mother’s or caregiver’s role to see to it that the need is met. Moreover, what else can ‘being loved’ mean to a tiny infant than prompt fulfilment of vital needs?
So here we have this scenario: (1) Baby signals an urgent need. (2) The mother does not straight away come to fulfil the need, comforting and reassuring baby that everything is all right - a situation that baby would recognize as ‘receiving love’. (3) Baby does see mother as loving; and well she might be (just being ignorant of this ‘forgotten’ need, listening to ‘expert opinion’ rather than her own intuition). Even if she is not, baby cannot admit this being so, since life in the absence of a ‘loving’ caregiver at this early stage is a prospect too terrifying to be sensed as even possible. (4) So if love is not straight away forthcoming, the cause cannot be found in mother; it must therefore lie in baby. (5) Conclusion: "I'm obviously unlovable, or else I would be receiving the love mother has to give me."
You may object that babies at this stage in life have not yet developed the capacity to reason in this way. This is of course true: intellectually they are unable to. However, emotionally they are not.
Emotions, even when unsupported by reasoning,
do follow an unassailable logic,
according to which emotional ‘conclusions’ may be drawn.
"I’m unlovable" is such an emotional conclusion, and for the one who holds this belief, all the more true because of being emotionally charged.
(3) The Need for Creative Exploration
Of this vital need you might say that it is less ‘forgotten’ rather than made difficult to fulfil by the very nature of the society we have developed.
To the toddler, dangers are lurking everywhere. Electric power points, hot stoves and the boiling contents of pots, open windows, swimming pools and moving cars are just the most obvious. Conversely, the toddler's curiosity poses a threat to the many appliances and gadgets our houses are filled with, in that he is apt to pull them down by their electric cords or otherwise cause damage to them.
An easy way out has always been a playpen.This is acceptable for as long as the toddler feels happy in such confinement. Most, however, will not for long; for them, being placed there will amount to a severe restriction.
Restriction of this need is occurring also in another sense. Recently I heard of an interesting study concerning the causes of childhood asthma which has become so prevalent in western society. That this is caused by air pollution through traffic alone may be ruled out on account of the fact that its incidence is as widespread in country areas where the air is still relatively clean.
As the most likely cause this study identified dust and house mites in the immediate living environment, and as the underlying reason our obsessive cleanliness. At a very early age, part and parcel of the exploration of the environment is the child’s tendency to pick things up from the floor and put them in his mouth as if to test them. The natural function of this innate impulse is evidently that of stimulating the body’s immune system by exposing it to the action of a wide variety of bacteria, the majority of which may be counted on as being harmless, if not actually beneficial.
Now consider the situation of a household regularly cleansed of all bacteria by the action of antibacterial cleaning agents. Dust mites will be practically the only things left to attack the young child’s organism, their effect not being hindered or mitigated by bacterial action and the immune system overtaxed by their numbers. An allergic reaction will be a most likely outcome.
In drawing attention to this I don’t wish to enter the debate about this particular issue; I do however want to emphasis that truly innate tendencies may be trusted to have a beneficial function. Putting into her mouth ‘dirty’ things from the floor is part of the baby’s innate need for exploration of the environment. As such, it should neither be discouraged nor viewed with horror; and trying to limit its effects by antibacterial action may well be counterproductive.
Varied social interaction through forming a relationship with practically anyone who comes along, is another aspect of this need. This is largely forestalled by the very way our society is structured. The nuclear family system tends to preclude children from getting used to relating intimately to any one else than family members, class mates or teachers.
Outside this restricted circle however, adult strangers undeniably pose a potential threat. So particularly in older, no longer constantly supervised, children’s dealings with adult strangers, openness is discouraged; rather, children are ‘in the interest of safety’ invited to be mistrusting if not fearful.
To sum up: if these days the vital need of the child for creative exploration is not entirely being ‘forgotten’, it is certainly gravely restricted by the very nature of the social environment our children grow up in, and its importance vastly underrated. In compensation, we offer TV or computer games, but these - though they may have a place, too, in the child’s development - are in the long run merely substitutes for the real thing. As such, they tend to become addictive over time, making the natural need ever more difficult to fulfil.
(4) The Need for Unrestrictive, Clear Boundaries
This need, too, seems not really ‘forgotten’: that children have to be taught boundaries as far as their behaviour is concerned, is in fact rarely questioned. However, as to these being (a) clear, and (b) unrestrictive, this is something that few parents seem to take adequate note of.
(a) Consistency in this regard is most important. If a child is forbidden to do something one day and allowed the same thing the next, both situations being equal and no explanation given, the child will of course have no way of knowing which judgement to take seriously. The result will inevitably be confusion and mistrust, or else an attitude of "if you cannot decide what’s right or not, why should I care!" In consequence, a subtle mental game may ensue in which the child learns to take advantage of which ever mood seems to prevail at the time.
This applies even more in the case where one parent says "Yes", and the other "No!". What the child will then learn is, to play out both sides against each other to his/ her own advantage, but certainly not what is an acceptable standard.
With small children in particular it can be observed that when boundaries are given but not enforced the children will keep testing their validity. They will nag, and rant, and rave, and pester until finally the parent gives in and they are allowed what was originally denied them: to eat that sweet, to skip a particular task, to watch TV...
But on another level this kind of nagging, probing and testing of the parent’s resolve also indicates that the child has a genuine longing to find out how far it is permissible to go, to locate the boundary where to stop. It has an innate need to learn this, to know for certain where the acceptable boundaries are. When this need is not met, the child may tend to ‘go completely overboard’, pestering and whining until the adult in charge finally loses his temper and puts a stop to such behaviour. But most likely much too late. For though now there may be peace, it will last only until the next such situation comes up. With fluid and changing boundaries no child can live happily.
On the other hand, care must be taken that the boundaries drawn are not so restrictive that they will impinge upon that other need - the need for freedom of creativity and exploration. They should of course not be ‘authoritarian’ ("You aren’t allowed because I say so!"). The point of teaching boundaries after all is to foster the child’s development into a responsible and loving adult - and certainly not, to train them to unquestioning obedience.
that are clear but not too restrictive
are needed to teach children respect for
other persons, but also themselves,
as well as animals, plants and objects -
not knowingly causing, harm, hurt or damage
to Nature or any living creature.
It is important for parents to keep this in mind and not to limit the child explorative and creative needs unnecessarily, without pressing reason (such as health considerations - which anyway would fall under the heading of preventing injury).
However, clearly the opposite also applies: in the years of ‘anti-authoritarian’ upbringing, many parents were so permissive that their children would grow up never knowing the acceptable limits of their behaviour and lacking all respect for others.
But let us remember that, worst of all, these children would be genuinely distressed. Their need remaining unfulfilled, lacking any clear guidance, they would not really be ready for the next developmental stage. Left as it were, floating in space, they would have to work out for themselves what was ‘right’ conduct at any given time - a task no child is yet ready for.
The Consequences of Vital Need Deprivation
Trying to end confusion by working things for oneself can be a great problem for the individual. It definitely is a matter for the next, and final developmental stage in the course of growing up. Before I come to that, let me clarify something else.
The vital needs I am talking of succeed one another in the course of the natural growing-up process. Although there is inevitably some overlap, each one predominates at one of the five stages of: birth, infancy, early childhood, school age and finally ( I haven’t come to that one yet) adolescence: the later teenage years. The adequate fulfilment of each one is absolutely vital for the child gaining a sense of growing up without a lack - which over time comes to translate into a sense of ‘the rightness of self’, the inner (feeling) knowledge: "I am O.K. such as I am". In other words: self-love.
A precondition for the child acquiring self-love is
to have the innate developmental needs met
at the stage at which they predominate.
It is genuinely tragic for the development of humanity that these needs, although absolutely vital, are so widely disregarded in our times. This universal deprivation is the crassest expression of what I earlier characterized as the essence of humanity’s ‘original sin’: being cut off from Love and habitually aggravating this state. It is responsible for the fact that humans everywhere, alienated as they are from their own most essential requirements, are unable to love themselves, let alone truly to love others.
This state of alienation from our inner truth has inevitably led to the generating of substitute needs - and this to such an extent that, these days, most of us may be said to be living substitute lives. And in turn these compensatory needs are catered for in a ‘substitute society’: one that has become alienated to the point of destroying the very basis of its existence: Nature itself.
(5) The Need for Self-emancipation as an Individual Personality.
The teenage years are in many ways the most challenging times in a young person’s life. It is then that the effects of early need deprivation are most acutely felt, culminating in the question "Who am I - and can I ever develop into a lovable adult?" The issue of Self-Love plays an essential part in this.
What further aggravates this problem is the fact that at this stage it is coupled with the necessity of emotionally separating from the parents and finding one’s own way. So the vital, innate need in the years of adolescence is that of self-emancipation as an individual personality, the task being the preparation of growth into a mature, self-confident and loving adult.
It is this task which many young people fail to master without great difficulty. The reason for their troubles may in many, if not the majority of cases well lie in early deprivation as far as those other needs are concerned.
As I pointed out before, non-fulfilment of those needs must lead to a feeling of lack: lack of love - an emotional state based on the ‘knowledge’ that some vital experience should have been forthcoming but didn’t. It may have originated at any of those individual stages I have described: - through having missed out on the vital love bonding with the mother straight after birth, - through not feeling lovable due to having missed the experience of protective touch when it was required, - through lack of self-confidence in having had the need for creativity and exploration unduly curbed; - and finally, through confusion concerning what are ‘right’ behavioural standards.
Love deprivation, feeling unlovable, being restricted and being confused are the predominant emotional troubles so many teenagers have to contend with. And not having completed and been able to integrate those earlier stages (or some of them): how can they now be prepared in confidence to tackle the present stage?...
So in all too many cases, much is amiss. The result will generally be that the young person in his/ her drive for self-emancipation goes overboard, becoming overbearing and destructive, or else, totally negative and depressive, to the point of contemplating suicide. Or else, hooked on escape: through drugs, promiscuous sex, overeating or whatever. It’s as though they now needed to catch up upon what they’ve missed out on, while at the same time taking revenge on the adult world for having denied them something essential (though they won’t be able to verbalize what that is).
For the rest of us, with regard to teenage behaviour it is essential that we acknowledge their need for self-emancipation as well as the inevitability of those emotional excesses when they occur. This does not mean, of course, that any kind of behaviour should be tolerated - the boundaries still apply! What it does mean is this:
Adolescents should, within the boundaries of acceptable behaviour,
be left to their own devices in building up
their personality: an ego-image
in which they can, at least to some extent, feel acceptable to themselves.
If they are denied the freedom to do this, for example by adults continuing to treat them as children or disapproving of their subculture, they will not be able to acquire a sense of having completed that stage. Emotionally, they will never see their ego as complete or acceptable, and are likely for the rest of their lives to keep trying to assert it aggressively.
Which is a personal tragedy because it stops them from ever continuing on to the next stage: on the road to mature adulthood embarking upon the lifelong task of more and more detaching from their ego and finding back to love - to the realization of the Oneness of all.
In living with my teenage children I have in at least three cases been able to observe examples of this: in adults who, themselves prevented from completing this stage through parental disapproval, had become ‘stuck’ in it. As a consequence, they were unable to relate to my teens in a accepting way.
One such case concerned a man in his early fifties (!) who was sharing the house with us. Though they left him completely in peace, he grew increasingly irritated at the teens' behaviour (mainly occasional rude language, which was however, never directed at him. He would scold them like small children for trivial things, such as leaving their washing in the bathroom bowl. And when they reacted to his rudeness asking to be left in peace, he stopped talking to them altogether, from this moment on completely ignoring their presence - whilst vehemently assuring me that such behaviour was never ever tolerated when he was their age.
Precisely this was the point where he was wounded. That he never got over the restrictions he had to endure at that age, was brought home to me vividly when one night he got drunk and at one in the morning outside my bedroom door regaled me, raving and swearing in a typically adolescent manner. His outbursts were several times interspersed with the words: "No love! ... No Love!’ On the surface these seemed directed at me but it was clear that they really referred to his mother who, judging from his own description, was quite a battle-axe, and overly strict with him.
The case of this man, in his middle-age and still exhibiting the very behaviour he would not accept in my children, shows clearly what happens when adolescents are denied the need to find their own way of self-emancipation and self-acceptance. They remain stuck in this stage, unable to take the next step into adult maturity.
I cannot help suspecting that maybe our world is in the sorry state it is in because this applies to the majority of us? - Just think about it ...
Post-Adolescence: Life’s Turning Point
All going well, in the ‘natural’ course of events adolescents should have developed an individual personality acceptable to themselves by the end of their teen years. This is of particular, of supreme importance. As I said before, without satisfactory completion of one stage, the step into the next developmental stage cannot be confidently and satisfactorily undertaken. And in this case, the next step is that into adult life, with its specific challenges and a specific task set for us as humans. Taking it up and working at it may be seen as the purpose for which we were born.
Our Life’s task is that of finding our way
back to Love,
thereby finding back to our true essence.
So the step from adolescence into adulthood where this task begins is an important turning point - in the spiritual sense: the unavoidable turning point of our life.
For it may be said that we are engaged with constructing our personality not only as adolescents but in fact throughout the course of our childhood. What gradually takes shape during all those years is the ego - a personality construct with which we more and more come to identify, having learned to count on it for help whenever we felt confused, burdened or threatened through the realization of our separateness.
But now at the end of adolescence when this personality is (or ought to be) at last fully developed, we are finally also in the position of beginning to realize that separation is in fact an illusion. This is life’s challenge: In more and more perceiving the reality of the Oneness in all, we are now to find our way back to Love, to the Source - our true essence beyond the physical body.
Our body will remain with us as our soul’s vehicle and most useful instrument for meeting this challenge. However, in coming more and more to the realization of Love in our life we will need to loosen the ego’s hold over that body and identification with it. In the light of Love, the personality we took so much pains in constructing, can now be perceived not only as a symbol of separateness that is blocking our way to that goal but as an armour and mask that is in fact no longer needed.
To be sure, this realization will not come easily. But then, if it were, our task would have been accomplished and life’s challenge achieved. We will be fortunate if we’ll have reached this point in the last hour of our physical existence.
For the time being, having successfully concluded the construction of our (ego-)personality, we will keep being confronted with one most vital choice to make in everyday living:
Will my life be ruled by fear/ anxiety and the defensive patterns that stem from it -- or by Love?
Which also means:
Will my decisions be inspired by my ego’s deceptions and illusions -- or Truth?
It is a decision which will need to be repeated time and again, if we are successfully to meet the challenge of our life's task.
At this point in your life, it may seem difficult or fraught with danger, or an absurd impossibility in today's circumstances. The more you have missed out on the fulfilment of those vital needs in your past, the less likely will you be ready for it. But then, overcoming such handicaps and dissolving all blocks to our loving: - this alone is what gives meaning to our life. And in this, satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment.
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