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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Child?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Child

A Baby Does Experience Essence

So we can conclude that people are born with Essence but end up without it later on. Obviously, it is somehow lost, or the connection with it is lost. This does not mean that a baby experiences Essence exactly the way an adult does. A baby does experience Essence, but for the adult it will be more developed, more expanded, more distinct, more powerful and it will function in ways that are only potential in a baby. The baby’s Essence does not have the immensity, the depth and the richness of the adult’s experience of Essence.

Child, Modeling of Parents and Brilliancy

The soul desires the presence of Brilliancy because the soul needs it in order to feel safe to come out and meet the world, to learn to have a life of her own. The soul has an innate need to see the aspect of Brilliancy, which is a part of herself, because as you know, the soul learns first by seeing things outside herself. As children, we don’t know that we have Essence with all its aspects and qualities. A young child cannot express and embody the functions of the essential aspects. She needs them to be expressed, to be shown, by the human beings who take care of her. She first sees them in her parents, who, as they embody and express these qualities and functions, become mirrors for her own innate qualities. Then by identification with her parents, she can manifest those qualities and become more that way. Thus, there is an intrinsic need for modeling of what the child can be by both father and mother. In other words, the child’s need for the presence and functioning of the father is actually the need for a part of her essential self—the aspect of Brilliancy and its qualities and capacities.

Brilliancy, pg. 208

Child’s Alienation from His Essential Core

This discussion clarifies why the absence or inadequacy of loving, valuing, and admiring mirroring from parents contributes to narcissism. The greater the inadequacy of this admiring mirroring, the deeper and more profound is the child’s alienation from his essential core, and the more pathological is the resulting narcissism. Sometimes a child is loved and admired, not for who he truly is but as an extension of the mother, or as something she has projected. She might love him, for instance, because he happens to be her child and not because she really sees him and loves what she sees. She admires an extension of herself, not him. Or she might admire something she projects on him, for instance, the expectation that he will be like her idealized father, rather than seeing what he actually is. For the child’s need for mirroring to feel satisfied, the admiring attitude must actually be a mirroring; in other words, the child needs to feel that it is directed to his true self, not to an external part of him or to the parent’s projection. Without this true mirroring, the child will grow up feeling deeply unloved, even though he might be seemingly surrounded by love. This lack will contribute to his loss of contact with his true self.

How the Child Internalizes a Self-Representation

Consequently, the child's experience includes a wordless and imageless Essential Self, and at the same time an objectifiable experience of body and mind. This objectifiable experience of body-mind is what becomes the representation in the self-representation, which is then present in his consciousness with the wordless and implicit experience of Self. Clearly, since he is not aware of the Essential Self in an objective way, he cannot but connect this sense of Self to the representation. This explains how the infant comes to associate the representation to the category of self, instead of something else ... the final result is the internalizing of a self-representation (an image or an impression) that is associated with the feeling of self.

Inattunement Can be Gross or Subtle but it Will Always Affect the Child by Wounding his Sense of Himself

Perhaps the parent cannot recognize or understand the child’s needs, or perhaps she has other reasons for not responding accurately. She might be reactive or hostile toward the child. She might know the child is hungry, but not respond because she happens to be angry. “Good. Cry more.” This is lack of attunement. Or the child might be feeling vulnerable for some reason, but the parent’s response lacks sensitivity to the vulnerability, teasing him or humoring him when he is feeling hurt. Inattunement can be gross or subtle, superficial or deep, chronic or occasional, but it will always affect the child by wounding his sense of himself. Lack of attunement involves a lack of empathy, which is an expression of the parent’s own narcissism. So again, the narcissism of the parent leads to the narcissism of the child. The severity of the narcissism of the parent determines to a great extent the degree of the child’s narcissistic alienation. If the lack of empathy is gross and chronic, the child might become depressed, or even psychotic. In less drastic circumstances, a child will become moderately narcissistic, or basically normal, with a narcissistic lack of sensitivity to his essential nature.

It is Natural for the Child to Need both Mirroring and Idealization

It is natural for the child to need both mirroring and idealization. She needs her grandiosity and sense of perfection to be mirrored and admired so that they can be integrated into the self; she also needs to idealize a figure in her environment in order to share in his perfection and power. She needs the mirroring in order to retain some of the original sense of perfection, until she is able to be more realistic about herself. At this stage of development, she can tolerate only incremental inattunements to her grandiosity, and when this inattunement happens gradually and empathically, she will—to the extent of her developmental capacity—internalize these corrections of her self-image in a gradual process of taming her grandiosity. In this way, psychic structures are organized into a realistic image of the self, with a sense of vitality and ambition. Gross and/or chronic lack or inadequacy of the mirroring response leaves the child with her grandiose self unintegrated, for at this stage she is unable to tolerate such inattunement, whether the inattunement is due to faulty perception of her, or even correct but faulty according to her image of herself.

Mind of the Child

At the beginning, the mind is able to discriminate only the grossest and hence, most superficial, aspects of the experience of the self. The capacity for subtle discrimination does not develop until much later. The infant mind cannot conceptually discriminate essential Presence, the subtlest dimension of the self. Thus, the self-representations that develop contain superficial layers of the self, but exclude the deepest core, because representation depends on conceptualizations, or at least on discriminations. Thus, since the Essential Identity is not a discriminated aspect of the infant's experience, it tends not to survive as part of the self-representation.

Movement Toward Object Constancy

Quoting Joyce Edward: Separation-individuation involves progression along two tracks. Separation refers to the child’s movement from fusion with the mother; individuation consists of those steps that lead to the development of an individual's own personal and unique characteristics. Moving from autism to symbiosis, through four sub phases of separation-individuation, namely differentiation, practicing, rapprochement, and a fourth open-ended sub phase, the child advances to a position of on-the-way to object constancy... which represents a beginning sense of the self as separate from others, continuous in time and space.

The Void, pg. 8

Narcissism Develops Throughout the Early Years, not Only at One Particular Stage

An increasing veil composed of memories (and reaction-induced results or consequences) intervenes between the subject—the self—and the object. This duality gradually transforms the infant’s experience in such a way that she ultimately loses her identification with the sense of presence. As the infant develops an identity situated in dimensions of experience superficial to her essential presence, she loses her capacity to simply be herself. In a sense, rather than actually losing this capacity, the infant simply forgets it as she gradually finds herself reacting to and manipulating her experience, and becoming increasingly alienated from her true nature. Thus, the loss of contact with her true identity involves the loss of the sense of the perfection and wholeness of the self. Narcissism develops throughout the early years, not only at one particular stage. The earlier it appears, of course, the greater the disturbance it creates, since disconnection from essential presence in the early stages of development predisposes the child to further disconnection in the later stages. Also, narcissistic disturbances can be more severe in some stages than in others, depending on the changing circumstances of the child’s life, such as changes in her relationships with her parents, in her health, and so on. Later we will discuss these factors in detail, but here it is sufficient to note that, although narcissism develops throughout the developmental stages, and although the earlier stages influence the later ones, the nature and severity of narcissistic disturbance fluctuates depending on many factors.

Perception of the Infant

Ego psychologists have assumed that the infant perceives things somewhat similarly to adults. So when they have observed behavior that indicates projection they have concluded that the child is aware of an inside as opposed to an outside. This is probably not an accurate conclusion. From the perspective of Being, when there are no ego identifications at all, it is possible to experience perception from a certain state, which we call the experience of Absence, in which both the sense of individuality and self are absent. There is no self-consciousness whatsoever, although there is perception and functioning. The perception includes one’s body as part of the environment. But the perception is not related to a frame of reference, or to a self as a center. There is the perception of all that appears to the senses, without the slightest movement of referring anything perceived to a self or entity. It is as if there is the perception of the outside without a concept of inside. It is reasonable to assume that the infant exists in such a state, or something similar to it, before he begins to form concepts. At the beginning he behaves in ways that can be interpreted by the external observer as involving projection. But if there is as yet no concept of inside, of entity, or self, what could projection mean?

The Adult of this World is the Child of the Spiritual World

We are opening the field of consciousness and inviting it to reveal itself to us. We want to be able to suspend our idea of the relationship enough to invite in something new by opening to what’s there right now. This means opening to things besides the color of a person’s hair, the things he says, their interests, where she was born, what culture he is from. All of those are real in the sense that they are part of our experience in the world, but to invite our spiritual nature into the field means opening into other possibilities, new possibilities. Growing up and maturing through the experiences the world has offered us has been important for our development. The next level of development involves starting out as a child in the spiritual world and maturing into adulthood by becoming a complete human being who knows her true nature and is nourished through it. In other words, the adult of this world is the child of the spiritual world. The adult of the spiritual world has a foot in both worlds and feels them as one. And real relating can only happen between two mature adults. The more mature we are, the more the relational field can open to new potential, and the less the past dictates the content of experience. Our maturational process does not flourish if we disregard this world, push it away, or disown our parents. It is a matter of embracing everything and finding an opening to that other possibility, that next dimension of experience—the inner dimensions.

The Baby Needs the Environment to Mirror Him so That He can Come to Know Himself

Therefore, the baby needs to be seen in order to grow because he is incapable of seeing himself. The only possibility, then, is to be seen from the outside. This expresses itself as the need for mirroring. The baby needs the environment to mirror him so that he can come to know himself, and for his soul to grow and develop. For this unfolding to occur completely and harmoniously, the baby needs reflection from the pure awareness which is the mirror-like awareness. He needs to be seen with the clear, objective light characterized by the pure spiritual qualities: love, value, openness, compassion, strength, intelligence, joy, satisfaction, peacefulness, and so on. So optimal mirroring is celebrative, appreciative, admiring, empathic, attuned, understanding, and relational, expressing the essential qualities of the mirror-like awareness. It is this awareness that is needed for the mirroring. If it is available then the self has the opportunity to mature naturally, spontaneously, fully, and perfectly.

The Child Does Not Know that He is Being Himself

At the beginning, the capacity of the infant to simply be is intact. He is, without knowing it. His being himself is completely natural and nonconceptual. He does not know that he is being himself, for he does not even have the concept of self. He is being Presence when he is being himself. Our discovery in the experience of self-realization reveals that in simply being, one is identified with Presence; and when observing young infants we see that there is no self-reflection and no alienation from immediate Presence.

The Child Feels Unique and Singular Without Conceptual Awareness of the Essential Identity

So the child feels unique and singular without conceptual awareness of the Essential Identity. This is a characteristic of the experience of self-realization. One is, but one is not reflecting on the isness. This is the state of “no mind,” or of empty mind, in which the mind is not filled with representations. However, the child is aware of his physical sensations, emotions, expressions, body image, and so on. The Essential Identity is such a deep source of consciousness that when we are realized on this level, the center of awareness is located at the essential depth of the self; hence, other levels of experience are felt to be somewhat external to that depth. So the child is aware of the usual categories of experience, but with some distance from them. In other words, his awareness of the Essential Identity is a nondualistic perception, and his awareness of all other categories of experience is dualistic, involving the dichotomy of subject and object. Thus, he cannot represent his sense of identity, but he can represent the rest of his experience. So he feels a definite sense of identity, but at the same time he is aware of a delineated impression connected to himself. By “impression,” here, we do not mean just a picture; we are referring to an overall “gestalt” of physical sensations, emotions, ideas, and so on.

The Child Must Gradually Cathect His Physical Body

The Essential Self is completely ignorant of the physical world and its laws. If the child continues to be the Essential Self he will not learn about his body, and how to live in the world. Under normal circumstances, he would not survive. He must gradually cathect his physical body, and the rest of physical reality. At the beginning he is, although pure, not able to survive and grow in physical reality. The sense of grandeur and omnipotence of the Essential Self is actually quite dangerous for his survival.

The Condition of Primary Self-Realization

We will not use Kohut's terminology here because the self is the soul in our view and not merely the soul's later structuralization. In other words, the self exists in the beginning as the psychic life of the infant. In fact, the psychic life as commonly known is not exactly the psychic life of the infant, because she lives in the condition of primary self-realization, in which psychic life, as we understand it, exists as an expression and manifestation of Presence.

The Delusion of the Child that His Body and Mind Have No Limitations

However, as we have already discussed, he is not aware that he is being the Essential Self. He is not conscious of his self-realization. He is the Essential Self completely, but he is dualistically aware of his body-mind. So it is natural that he comes to believe that these characteristics are the properties of his mind and body. On the Being level the Essential Self has no limitations, but the child comes to believe that his body and mind have no limitations, which is obviously a delusion. The delusion is not the feelings and attitudes of grandeur and omnipotence, for these are the actual feelings of the Self of Being. The delusion is in attributing them to the body-mind. We can see from this that the Essential Self has no physical-mental wisdom. The grand qualities belong to the Essential Self, but they become grandiose when attributed to the body and the mind. The child’s imperviousness to hurt is an expression of his solid identity with this Self of Being. It takes him a long time to become aware that these feelings of grandeur and omnipotence are false. When this happens he is thoroughly disappointed and deflated. This usually occurs in the rapprochement subphase, third subphase of the separation-individuation process. This is the big fall, the great narcissistic wound that shows him his limitations and dependency.

The Meaning of Dual Unity

Personality, then, begins with the child's identification with the qualities that the child experiences through merging with the environment. During the merged condition of the symbiotic stage, the child has no conception of what is his and what belongs to the environment represented by the mother. There is still no concept of self and other. This is the meaning of dual unity. So a feeling that might originate in the mother could end up as the childs. The child experiences the feeling because of the merged condition. If, in time, he identifies with it, it becomes his. In fact it becomes part of his developing personality.

The Self of the Child

During the differentiation subphase some of the representations are related to self, and have some sense of self in them because of the presence of the Essential Self during the experiences generating such representations. Let’s imagine an interaction with mother during this time, when the Essential Self is present. The child is the Self, feels himself as the Self, and is quite aware of the feeling of identity. He feels definite, distinct, singular and unique. However, he is not conceptually or reflexively aware of the Essential Self. He does not look at the Self and say, that is me. He is indistinguishable from the Self. He is aware of the experience of identity, but he has no image of an entity called the Self. He is completely identified with the Self, and has no distance at all from it. He does not look back at the Self, in other words, he just is it. The experience of the Self is through identity and not through reflection.

The Soul Requires a Great Deal of Firm but Loving Support for Her to Learn About Her Potential

Furthermore, the soul also requires a great deal of firm but loving support for her to learn about her potential, how to recognize and use it, and how to exercise, develop, and expand it. She needs guidance, instruction, modeling, and setting of appropriate boundaries by confident and attentive caretakers. Without such support it is difficult for her to securely integrate her unfolding potential. (See The Point of Existence, chapter 25, for a more extensive discussion of support and the soul’s need for it.) But when the environment, specifically the primary caretakers, who are usually the parents, provides her with adequate mirroring and support her arising potential, she can recognize it, value it, and integrate it into her sense of identity. She grows up with the implicit and confident sense that this is part of her. This secure establishment of her potential in her everyday experience is the actualization of it in her development. She develops by integrating her potential, as she learns, expands, and matures. This happens through the soul’s identity being structured and patterned by her potential. In other words, the actualization of her potential is inextricably linked with the development in her identity of the ability to include the elements of this potential.

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