To develop fully a mind of our own – to be free thinking, autonomous and independent is not something that simply happens. From birth we are surrounded by family, friends and community contacts, in the context of the law and prevailing social values. Every child undergoes a process of “molding” – developing a personality and style to fit in with its circumstances. Very little of early childhood development consists of our own expression – early childhood is a time for listening, learning and repetition of what we find to be the most rewarding behaviors.
Social and family expectations come into play from the moment it is announced that we are a boy or a girl. Sexual definition and gendering is the basic stereotype. Knowing the sex of our baby determines the colors that we will paint the nursery wall – and many other biases, traditions, expectations pre determine to a large extent our future road in life and expectations of us.
If we have too good mothering we feel as though we have control – everything we need comes to us – life is at our beck and call. If early needs are not met, then we become enraged – crying and screaming to get whatever it is that we need, or we become depressive. Inconsistent mothering makes life very hard to predict and confusing. So that we do not become locked into early behavioral patterns for the rest of our lives – we need to develop a mind of our own.
During the early weeks of infancy a child learns basic expectations and gets an emotional “feel” for the world. Stress in the early environment limits our potential to develop a mind of our own. Stress creates very “me” centered responses. Instead of an atmosphere that is relaxed, trusting and playful – interactions are tinged with anxiety. Every interaction brings with it feelings of insecurity which have to be resolved.
Natural and human interactions in which stress is involved will always be resolved in favor of the more dominant force. The more stressful the circumstances, the more compulsively needs are resolved, limiting negotiation and the possibility of better outcomes. Needless to say – outcomes based upon the blind exertion of relative power are not always the best in terms of human health and happiness.
Stressful situations whether acute or chronic are essentially those in which we feel limited in our options, with no acceptable outcome available. We become tense when we feel trapped, unable to resolve a difficult situation. When we use defenses it takes away the pain, but achieves no positive resolution, and limits our ways of thinking.
What takes stress out of relationships best is the intervention of something “other”, something with the force and strength to open up the possibility of new solutions. Having a mind of our own implies that we have a reality of choice between doing what we do and other alternatives.
The need for an intervener to break up tense, deadlocked situations can be seen with our appointment of referees, arbitrators, judges and mediators. We intervene into our own internal stress when we distract ourselves from the problem in hand and decide to do something else.
In the context of drug addiction, which is a compulsive resolution of stress, the addict needs intervention between him and the drug of addiction, to provide a distraction from his obsession with the drug. This enables the possibility of change and a better way of life. Freedom from addiction means having a mind of our own.