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Value Formation

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posted on Apr, 28 2014 @ 10:54 PM
Peter Fonagy's celebrated work "Affect regulation, mentalization, and the development of the Self", Dan Siegels "The Developing Mind" as well as Allan Schores "Affect regulation and the origin of the Self" provide different but highly similar explanations for how the self is formed. Its essentially common wisdom in developmental sciences that the "Self" with it's apprehension of being "different" from other selves is epiphenomenal, which is to say, it emerges in the process of relationship. How the self forms is contingent on the quality of the relationship it has with it's primary caregiver. Contingency is the leitmotif of infant development. "Secure" attachment, a style of relating that establishes a core sense of self in the child, is the product of a relationship where the mother (and to a lesser extent, the father) respond to the infant according to the infants signals. For example, if the infant is seeking connection, through a negative signal (crying) or a positive signal (laughter, moving arms in your direction, making eye contact, etc), and the parent responds, then an infant feels a sense of control over his environment. Conversely, if a parent doesn't respond to an infant when its seeking connection, or conversely, coddles the infant when it is desiring separation, then the infant loses its sense of contingent relatedness with it's environment, and if this situation continues, and becomes habitual, it will become a default "model" for how the infant feels in social relationships.

See how dependent an infant is on it's early caregiver? It's entire future life is highly dependent upon the type of parenting it receives. When an infant is born, a mere 20% of it's brain is actually formed. In order to pass through the narrow pelvic bone of the mother, it's head needs to contort into an egg shape so it can pass through, and in order to so without comprising the health of the brain, evolution has biased ontogenesis in such a way that the body is born with a partially developed brain; infants, in particular, primate infants, and even more particularly, human infants, are highly altricial. This means they are dependent from birth on being supported by another human. Unlike ungulates (hoofed mammals) who can graze with their parents at birth, humans need shelter, food, and EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT in order for their bodies and minds to develop optimally.

At our very core lies a deep sense of empathy with other selves. And this is only natural: our self emerges in a process where emotional resonance is the lingua france. This core level of awareness does not emerge in everyone, as it didn't emerge in me until I refocused my academic interests towards subjects that could help explain my own long neglected psychopathology. When I looked deeper into trauma literature, I learned about the primacy of intersubjectivity - basically, how both minds become regulated by a superordinate structure. Interestingly, I've always been astute at sensing the importance of emotion in guiding our cognitions, and how this basically underlies almost all our thinking, but I never fully applied this wisdom to address my self in any critical way. I never asked myself, for example, why I held beliefs that didn't jibe with my intellectual awareness of emotional primacy in human relations?

Our values are extensions of our own emotional awareness. The less we know ourselves, which is to say, the less aware we are of the affective layers of personal history, the narrative of our lives, and the quality of the relationships we have in our lives, the less we sense the existential nature of the human experience. This lack of awareness - a consequence of manifold experiences emerging along a specific life trajectory, makes us more calloused and unresponsive to the whole - i.e embodied - realities of the people around us, and analogically, to nature and the ecosystems which physically sustain us. The philosophies "we tell ourselves" and the epistemologies we inculcate by surrounding ourselves with like minded people, perpetuate the illusion of what we can actually know, and conceals the reality of how truth is discovered not through abstract theorizing, but through engaging and connecting the MOST IMMEDIATE fact of our human experience: our embodiedness, with our higher cognitive functions. People lose empathy the further dissociated and removed they become from their felt physical experience. Humans are not "minds in bodies". Our minds EMERGE from our bodies. The brain mediates experience; and additionally, as the damaged brain of the people studied by neurologist Antonio Damasio show, if emotion isn't present in cognitive processes, the mind becomes unable to "evaluate" anything, that is, to come to a final decision when different options exist.

Emotion is basically the root of human experience. If you are embodied; if you have learned to "feel secure" in your physical body, and in turn, have a deep sense of Self and identity, and as the centrality of empathy, and conversely, the disease of suffering, become the main object of your attention, empathy can then be seen to be the linchpin, the all importance sine quo non, which alone can repair human society and lead to a better world.

Life becomes centered around this essential truth: suffering is painful and horrible, but also preventable when you possess advanced mentalizing skills such as mindfulness. People who've been mistreated in their early life, or who have been exposed to familial disorder, will go through life seeking "false contingency", that is, to experience a sense of self, they will unconsciously model those same aberrant behaviors which their sense of self formed in. Unconsciously, the pathologically disordered mind seeks "order" within it's psyche by "making sense" of the world by recognizing in it's actions the "self" which was formed under disordered circumstances. In short, they go through life seeking disorder so that they can experience their sense of self.

Lifes complexities emerge as a back and forth between biology, relationships with other selves, and unique personal decisions. The consequence of this dialectic is the person we feel ourselves to be. A staunch conservative who relentlessly emphasizes individual freedoms and 'self and family' above "others", to the point of even adopting positions of not caring about the suffering of other people, which is, as the case with 2 year olds, "out of sight, out mind", that is, not felt, not reflected upon, and not connected with as a fundamental experience for other selves.

A liberal, conversely, is someone who seems to sense, at a basic affective level, that "happiness is the truth". People who are OPEN, I've learned, are truly courageous. To be willing to explain yourself to another, to pour yourself out, and trust that the other will reciprocate, conduces to a social and psychic environment where embodied Selves feel safe and secure together. This contrasts with a world where everyone is suspicious of the other. Where cynicism about peoples authenticity is taken as a "given". Instead of acting with others in ways that will promote healthy and constructive behavior, a suspicious, and closed mind, will instinctively make sense of the world through the eye of criticism: as Jesus famously said, wisdom comes only when the log in your eye is removed. Symbolically, this explains that in order to act logically, you should consider your own experience...

posted on Apr, 28 2014 @ 10:57 PM
....and recognize the difficulties that come with being human. Knowledge isn't "up there" for everyone to see. We all see something different, because we all have our own experiences giving each of us a slightly different apprehension of the world. The closest we can come to "true knowledge" is by acknowledging the basic facts of human experience and existence - bundled as they are in the embodied experience - sympathizing, and empathizing, with how difficult it can be to think properly when contexts and circumstances impinge on your reasoning; personal histories undermine "coherency" in moral awareness. People can be understood because we all understand, when we apply ourselves to understanding, why we are the way we are.

Empathy is the glue which binds our awareness together.

posted on Apr, 28 2014 @ 11:31 PM

Early Life

During the mid-1970s, serial killer David Berkowitz created terror in the hearts of the residents of New York City. He targeted single women and couples, taking the lives of six people and leaving several others injured.

Born Richard David Falco, he was adopted by Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz when he was only a few days old. According to some reports, David Berkowitz was an intelligent but troubled child growing up. He was close to his mother, and he was deeply affected by her death when he was a teenager. At the age of 18, Berkowitz joined the U.S. Army.

After leaving the service in 1974, Berkowitz returned to New York City. He eventually got himself a job at the post office and settled into an apartment in Yonkers. Neighbors and co-workers thought of him as a quiet loner, but they had no idea how lethal he was.

biography . com / Berkowitz

When the police finally approached him as a possible suspect the first thing out of his mouth was "what took you guys so long."

When I read the opening post I was reminded of this.

He was definitely reaching out, not in a healthy way, but craving contact none the less.

Mike Grouchy

posted on Apr, 29 2014 @ 12:26 AM
As an empath who had considerable emotional trauma in their childhood, this interests me. According to what you've written here, an empath with childhood emotional trauma would seem contradictory but it's true. Not everyone follows the sins of their fathers, or in my case, their mothers.

I may have to carefully re-read your post to really take it all in but this is very interesting to me and very well written. I believe I agree with everything you've said.

posted on Apr, 29 2014 @ 12:57 AM
a reply to: AlphaX

In my experience, trauma seems to accelerate the processes that make the mind more "sensitive" to the emotional states of others.

After all, what is trauma but a state of permanent fear? You don't feel safe: this is what trauma is. And when you don't feel safe, you need to be alert, you need to be vigilant. So you're mind is continuously focused on the affective signals in other faces: why are they looking at me like this? Usually, since you've been traumatized, you're prone to project your fears into the behavior of others, but in any case, trauma really does widen a cognitive awareness of emotional states in self and in others.

But trauma that goes unresolved is like having a fast car that you never learn to drive. Trauma becomes resolved when the broken and tattered self - because trauma does create major issues with dissociation (the very vehicle which increases awareness of affective states in others) - looks inward and seeks to understand what went wrong. Of course, for this to be done effectively, you need the guidance of a responsible therapist; the "knowledge" that you need to know is probed by the attuned and empathic psychotherapist. Your early life needs to be understood. Your mother and father needs to be accurately understood. What you lost - and how you've developed - needs to be mourned. But when you come through - and anyone who has ever experienced trauma can come through - you will be all the wiser. Your ability to empathize and feel compassion for other selves will be greater, since you're own experience with your own suffering self, the individual who had to suffer, who lost a life of potential relationships with others, built on fun and enjoyment, had to be made coherent. And to do so, you have to establish a relationship with that self. Understanding what went wrong, and feeling compassion for yourself - paradoxical as that may sound - becomes a proxy and model for your experiences with others.

As someone whose also experienced trauma, I feel it is a blessing in disguise.

posted on Apr, 29 2014 @ 07:27 PM
a reply to: Astrocyte

Its essentially common wisdom in developmental sciences that the "Self" with it's apprehension of being "different" from other selves is epiphenomenal, which is to say, it emerges in the process of relationship.

Could it be that because we are different, and because we do not occupy the exact same positions, bodies, qualities and experiences, that the self is the entirety of the being rather than an epiphenomenon of the being??

posted on May, 3 2014 @ 02:04 AM
a reply to: Aphorism

Well, were clearly thinking in different categories.

When I say epiphenomenal, I mean it is dependent upon the existence of an "other" for the Self to actually emerge.

Although the self which emerges at the end is truly unique, it is still ancillary, and ontologically later. It is "emergent".

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