Harry, Sally and Fay
We are, each one of us, the products of our nurture environments and the narrative which followed thereafter. I would suggest that the way each of us perceives ourselves determines how we relate to others and to the environment. In support of this suggestion, I invite you to explore the life narrative of three individuals.
Harry the Heavy
Harry was born to parents who were distracted by the need to be accepted and praised by their environment. The result was that mom who was the primary caregiver, was not always immediately available for Harry’s needs. Harry’s inborn needs included feeds to appease hunger and a consequent descent in blood glucose levels, as well as a frequent hug and rub. When deprived of these needs, Harry was left hanging out in the wilderness. Fearful, Harry would need to muster some appropriate behavior in order to attract mom’s attention and have his needs met. Ultimately this was forthcoming, albeit with the required amount of application and effort. Harry’s early narrative therefore incorporated the perception that life is tough. But you get rewarded if you put your shoulder to the wheel. Additionally and as important, your needs will only be met if you’re recognized.
In time Harry the kid would morph into Harry the Heavy. And predictably, Harry the Heavy would imbibe all the same traits: Harry would pursue his needs with an insatiable appetite. Harry would need to be recognized, respected and adored in all situations to ensure that Harry’s needs were promptly met. Any obstacle in the way of Harry’s pursuit would be aggressively dealt with. Obviously Harry would not just be insensitive to the needs of others, he would actually be unaware that others had any needs! Harry would be driven by the call sign – What’s; In; It; For; Me.
Strange as it may seem, Harry would perceive himself as a fearful individual that risked being ignored and having needs left wanting. Consequently Harry’s authentic view of himself would reflect how others reacted to him. Thus if others recognized and respected him, Harry would feel good about himself. Likewise if Harry received rewards and accolades, he would feel safe with renewed optimism. But if he was disliked or challenged, Harry would become angry with Harry (and with the world) and in extreme cases, would become self-destructive and ultimately ineffective. It is true to say that Harry’s entire perception would be filtered through the narrow aperture of Harry’s needs.
Sally the Sufferer
Sally was born to a mom who was either totally preoccupied with surviving or wracked with personal suffering (or both) to the extent that much of Sally’s needs were not even perceived, let alone appeased. Thus not only did Sally experience the pain of real hunger, Sally was also left wanting for any demonstrable gesture of warmth and love. In spite of all her efforts to gain recognition for her needs, she remained severely deprived. Consequently Sally’s early narrative incorporated the belief that it was futile to expect the experience of any meaningful appeasement of needs and gratification no matter how much energy was expended in seeking recognition. It was inevitable that Sally would perceive the environment as a hostile and uncaring place. She was low on hopefulness and distrusted the environment that had abandoned her. As a result of her extreme deprivation Sally believed that she was less important than others and so developed a compromised self-esteem. In order to survive these trauma’s Sally was forced to suppress her emotions of suffering. Ultimately most of her emotions were suppressed.
On occasions when Sally observed others apparently having fun and enjoying life, she began to question why others were favored while she was left to suffer. This would sow the seeds for the possibility of vengeful hostility in which she would experience some personal gratification when observing the suffering of others.
To obtain some degree of personal gratification Sally would amuse herself alone with items in her immediate environment. On occasions she would form imaginary relationships with creations of her own imagination. In extreme situations Sally would live most of her life in Sally’s virtual world. In the virtual compensatory world Sally would sometimes spend hours reading, writing, painting or engaging with musical instruments if these were available. The result was that Sally would develop talents.
Eventually Sally would mature into an ever-suffering adult. She would venture through life with a feeling of anhedonia (the inability to experience happiness), hopeless-helplessness and distrust. The combination of distrust and the intrinsic suppression of emotions would preclude Sally from forming meaningful relationships. Self-esteem issues would always plague Sally such that loneliness would be a frequent accompaniment. Sally still lived in her imaginary world with all her virtual friends. She often spoke to them, especially about her sadness and pain.
If Sally had developed talents, these would provide a degree of compensation in terms of gratification. However due to her compromised self-esteem, Sally would never recognize her talents as having any value.
Irrespective of how the environment perceived her, it was Sally’s perception that she was less important and less valued than others. That it was her lot to suffer and /or to serve the needs of others who were more important or more valued than her. Her distrust was such that she would not expose her feelings to others for fear of being hurt. She was however very sensitive to the hurt and pain in other sufferers.
There was however also a dark side to Sally. It was related to an old question which she posed in her early childhood: 'Why should I be the only one to suffer?' Flowing from this Sally on occasions experienced some gratification on witnessing the suffering of others, more especially in those who had been unkind to her. In extreme situations Sally would contribute to an eventual unfortunate consequence in these individuals. It could also be said that Sally often found herself in a caregiver capacity not only because she was sensitive to the suffering in others but also because she derived some gratification in the recognition that others were suffering more than her. But she was also drawn to the caregiver role out of a sense of guilt that others were suffering more than she was.
Fay the Facilitator
Fay was born to a caregiver who promptly took care of her needs. There was more than adequate nurture and caring such that Fay’s needs were never an issue. As a consequence, Fay was free to engage with her world in an expansive way. The engagement led to a lively curiosity which further spurred on her engagement. Fay developed an appreciation for the way things were as well as an awareness born out of a non-judgemental sensitivity to the way of things. Ultimately this would give rise to confidence and trust.
Fay would evolve into an adult and carry these traits to fruition. Her engagement with the extended environment would be characterized by one born out of a non-judgemental sensitivity to the essence of individual entities. This would translate into a greater awareness of the environment and non-judgemental inclusiveness. Fay derived personal gratification from expanding her own engagement and subsequent enhanced clarity as well as from mentoring others in order to enhance their respective clarity and sensitivity.
Fay recognized the need to exercise an initiative when required, in order to realize her aspirations. She did not however require reward or achievement as an endorsement of her own self-worth. Her contributions were directed to the whole and secondarily derived gratification from the successful collective rather than from a self-interest based initiative in which she would derive personal gratification at the expense of others.
Fay perceived herself as a facilitator and mentor who was ever curious. A self-confident individual she was driven to contribute value - to make things better than they were before she engaged with them. She remained both inspired and an inspiration, deriving gratification from an evolving self and environment.
If truth be told, we’ve all got varying proportions of Harry, Sally and Fay in our individual subjectivity. There are those in whom the predominant traits are clearly identifiable and hence the Harry, Sally or Fay in their subjectivity become apparent. But having said this, there are also specific events and situations in the course of life where prevailing factors may elicit the Harry, Sally or Fay traits within us.
Obviously there are those traits which predispose to personal gratification and success while others detract from this. It raises the question of intervention and change and indeed the capacity for change. Suffice to say that the capacity for change is a direct reflection of that potential within our subjectivity together with the degree of dis-ease that we experience on engaging with the extended environment.
Copyright reserved – Ian Weinberg 2018
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