Wednesday, August 04, 2021

An Awesome, And Beautiful, Responsibility

It's a popular to say, "I don't care what others think." I've said it myself. Life coaches, motivational speakers, and pop psychologists would have us be "true" to ourselves, to "be" ourselves, and to listen to our "inner voice." There is a "real me" somewhere inside each of us according to the theories and the secret to happiness is to somehow allow it to manifest. But this, I've come to believe, is a myth. As psychologist Dr. Craig Haney says, "Human identity is socially created. We understand ourselves through our relationships with other people."

It's interesting, and heartbreaking, to consider what happens to people who are tortured with solitary confinement as the US and other nations do to some of their "worst of the worst" prisoners. According to law professor and prison reform advocate Laura Rovner, "Solitary (confinement) puts people at risk of losing their grasp on who they are, of how and whether they're connected to a larger world. (It) can make you change what you think about yourself. It can make you doubt whether you even have a self. Some people in solitary aren't even sure they exist." If there was really some core "self" within each of us, then one would expect it to emerge unfettered in isolation, but instead the self disappears.

Babies who are are not touched or held not only develop abnormally, but can even stop growing. They have even been known to simply roll over and die. Without the other people, they simply cease to exist.

In other words, no matter how highly we regard "the individual" what we consider to be our "self" is really just what we see being reflected back to us by others. This means that we are in a constant process of collectively creating one another. This was once common knowledge. Indigenous peoples from around the world still know it. As Maori educator Brenda Soutar told me at Teacher Tom's Play Summit, "We enroll the family, not the child, and that child comes with their ancestors surrounding them." She also told me that the smallest family unit is 60-70 individuals. That seems to me to be a far more healthy and realistic way to view the young children in our lives, because it's only through connection that we exist at all. How many of our world's problems are caused by disconnected individuals?

This is an awesome, and beautiful, responsibility we have to one another! 


"This inspiring book is essential reading for every family choosing a preschool, every teacher working with young children, and every citizen who wonders how we can raise children who will make the world a better place." ~Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
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