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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd


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Parent - Adult - Child

The subconscious forces that trouble people are often to do with the profound things learned in childhood. From childhood to old age, inner conflicts confront us. From a very early age, the child plays very much an active role in his own development, learning at a fantastic rate, especially through play. But parents and others around the child, seek to influence this learning towards a pattern of behavior that suits their own needs, and conflict may result.

Natural aggression may have been suppressed and now comes forth in a variety of ways, as repression of oneself or others. Repression of others comes about in particular because people project onto the external world those characteristics that they repress in themselves.

Eric Berne made a useful analysis of the subdivisions of personality that all people have in common. Changes from one of these states to another are apparent in manner, appearance, words, gestures and bodily functions.

The first of these states, the "Parent", is an identification with the replayed recordings of unquestioned or imposed external events, perceived in the first five years of life. Particularly the parents and everything the child saw them do or heard them say, including non-verbally through tone of voice, facial expression, cuddling or non-cuddling. All the thousands of do's and don'ts. They are recorded as "truth", from the source of all security: the people who are six feet tall at a time when it is important to the two-foot child that he please and obey them. It is available for replay throughout life. Some of it of course is inconsistent or contradictory between Mother, Father, Teacher or Priest, etc.

“Parental approval, which can disappear as fast as it appears, is an unfathomable mystery for the child, who has not yet made any certain connection between cause and effect.”
At the same time, another recording is being made, of internal events - the responses of the little person to what he sees and hears. When replayed, the person in his "Child" identity feels again the emotion that the situation originally produced in him, and he is aware of the original interpretations, true or false, which he gave to the experience. What he saw and heard and felt and understood.

Since the little child had no vocabulary during his earliest experiences, many of his reactions are feelings. He has natural ways to express feelings and to experience movement and discovery - on the other hand there are parental demands that he give up these basic satisfactions for the reward of parental approval. This approval, which can disappear as fast as it appears, is an unfathomable mystery for the child, who has not yet made any certain connection between cause and effect.

The predominant by-product of the frustrating, civilizing process is negative feelings. This permanent recording is the inevitable residue of having been a child, even of kind, loving, well meaning parents (let alone abusive or cruel ones).

As in the case of the Parent, the Child is a state into which a person may be transferred at any time, given an appropriate environmental reactivation that recreates the situation of childhood, bringing on the same feelings he had then (that may be good as well, of course). As soon as the child goes to school, he begins to use his Parent or Child identities in dealings with others, that has a reinforcing effect.

By ten months a child has found he is able to do things that grow from his own awareness and thought. This self-actualization in the form of play, learning and communication, is the beginning of the "Adult". Adult data accumulates as he finds out for himself what is different about life as opposed to the "taught" data from the Parent and the "felt concept" as a Child. The Adult develops a "thought concept" of life based on his own data gathering and processing. The Adult, the "I" using his analytical thought processes, tests the data from the Parent for validity and checks the feelings of the Child for appropriateness to the present.

Creativity is born from curiosity in the Child. The Child provides the "want to", either the Parental directives or alternatively newly self-determined Adult conclusions provide the "how to". Once checked out, these conclusions may become part of a belief structure, freeing the Adult for unrestrained creativity. But if negative Parental directives were accepted, creativity and even the freedom to adopt an Adult viewpoint may be restrained.


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