Ian Weinberg

5 years ago · 5 min. reading time · ~10 ·

Ian blog
Harry, Sally and Fay

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

Further reading:




Ken Boddie

5 years ago #24

Understandable, Ian, that not only your age, but I suspect your profession, should make you ‘oldies’ risk averse (and I speak from the personal experience of being more conservative as the decades roll by). After all we all know that you medics have to bury your mistakes. 🤣 Perhaps the more life throws at us, and the more confronted we are with the consequences of our past errors and even flippancies, the more conservative we become? I know that when I was practicing project management (rather than following my present more relaxed teaching, mentoring and system improvement role) I would often solicit younger staff members to initiate proposal and tendering submissions as a sure way to reduce the price and increase the chances of winning competitive jobs. Often our various negatives experiences across the decades can produce a plethora of ‘what ifs’ and can hence negatively impact our risk management.

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #23

Praveen, you referred in one of your comments to the 'observer' (it was in one of my other uploads). I recall having written about this concept in the past but it seems to have gotten lost in process. I think it's a very important and profound concept. We all develop an awareness of self and of the environment and while we as subjective beings become distorted in our perception due to our limiting beliefs, linked fragments of objectivity play to us in the background as a running commentary. This I believe is the 'observer' - quietly sitting upon our shoulder incorporating the footnotes of all that has been experienced. Ultimately, if we become brutally honest with ourselves, we allow the 'observer' to become our mentor as we continue to live out our subjectivity - with the possibility of the information contained in the 'observer' becoming integrated with our subjectivity and 'objectifying' it.

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #22

Valid stuff Randall Burns and I agree. There's always exceptions to the rules. One example that comes to mind was a real life occurrence where a kid from a great nurture background inherited a real monster of a pre-grade teacher who assured little Johnny that he was useless and wouldn't amount to anything in life. Johnny grew up with a seriously compromised self-esteem and it was only in later psycho-analysis that the memory of the teacher was de-suppressed into consciousness (had been hitherto suppressed due to its toxicity). This example was referenced when I did an NLP course several years ago. Also, a study done on the emotions of identical twins (fMRI study done by one of my buddies in Toronto) showed radically differing levels of anxiety between the first and second born twins. One of the theories proposed was that after the first was born, the twin awaiting birth received a bolus of cortisol from a stressed mom which sensitized the amygdala of the twin setting up the scene for later anxiety!

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #21

This is a most valuable review of the subject Praveen Raj Gullepalli and I thank you. I guess there's one more element that should be mentioned (if it hasn't already been stated or implied) and that is that a sudden, unexpected event or series of fortuitous events resulting in a 'shock and awe' rapture and change. While it could still be argued that the effect of such an environmental prompt would still require the receptivity in personal subjectivity, a really dramatic event may well act as a heated crucible, breaking down old beliefs and forging new one's - a kind of intense, instantaneous and comprehensive neuroplasticity!

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #20

That's an interesting point Ken Boddie I was introflecting with some aging surgical colleagues (we're all at about the same age of immaturity!) . At this stage of the game we all tend to stay within our comfort zones/safe space. It's not only that we're risk averse but the thought of being put out and inconvenienced by any untoward consequence keeps us very much in safe predictable territory. The result is that we are far less inclined to start doing a new procedure or change how we do current procedures at this stage. I guess that this could be interpreted as increasing inertia against change/progress. Having said that, If I were my own patient to be operated on by me I would choose the procedure that I'm most familiar and experienced with and have the most confidence in, rather than apply some new high tech approach.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #19

Yet, even with that realisation, Randall Burns, so many of us choose not to change, cocooned in the comfort of habit, happy to complain, but seemingly incapable of initiating change for the better. Our fears form an invisible yet flimsy fence, preventing so many of us from stepping out on the path to improvement. Yet, once we burst through that emotional barrier and ascend the stairway to change, the rewards we reap, whether emotional or physical, can be so uplifting.

Randall Burns

5 years ago #18

An afterthought that I had, and a point that comes up in discussion frequently is the "exception to the rules" scenario where someone can be from a "privileged", well balanced and loving environment and still have issues possibly from chemical/medical/emotional disorders, or other factors and the opposite is someone growing up in a toxic environment and still a well balanced, loving, "enlightened" individual; there are a lot of nebulous areas of our beings that could explain that; and so the discussion continues. We ALL have free will to change our perspectives, we just have to realize it. That is the biggest hurdle. Yes indeed another article!

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #17

Thanks for that Randy. Indeed there’s a lot more to throw into the pot. Ultimately the discussion heads towards the subject of free will - how free are we in real terms? Perhaps the topic of another article.

Randall Burns

5 years ago #16

Very thought provoking post Ian Weinberg It is an age old debate that has been discussed in my circles for years, literally decades. Your points do have merit and I agree with them to a degree but it has been proven that we, as individuals are able to break out of the molds that we have been cast in by our life long and especially our formative years influences. the first step is always recognition and identifying the "hows and whys" of who we are which your post illustrates brilliantly. This can be discussed at great length but an excellent movie that comes to mind is "Trading Places", (with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd" and while it is highly comedic and entertaining it does explore the very points of what you're talking about and how 2 seemingly opposite people from almost alien backgrounds/environments can find a common ground and "change". Well done sir!

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #15

Thanks John Rylance Agreed. As regards the deterministic environments, there's another one that's getting quite a lot of attention of late - the in utero environment. The 9 months preceding birth ought to be regarded as an extension of the formative, molding influence which by convention, commences on emerging from the womb.

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #14

Thanks and agreed. As regards edeterministic environments, there's another one that's getting quite a lot of attention of late - the in utero environment. The 9 months preceding birth ought to be regarded as an extension of the formative, molding influence which by convention, commences on emerging from the womb.

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #13

This is indeed true Ken. It really all comes back to that fear element - fear robs us of the ability to reason even in a familiar environment. What we tend to forget is that the fear centre (amygdala) is is the seat of fight, flight and FREEZE. And we're seeing a lot of folk frozen in inactivity/inertia in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #12

Thanks again Paul Walters Fortunately Fay interrupted them, because Sally's are like red rags to Harry the bulls!

John Rylance

5 years ago #11

Great Buzz, a slightly different slant on the nature nurture debate. I also think environment is a factor, possibly a crucial one in our development.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #10

Interesting comparison, Ian, between the greedily needy, the manic martyr and the inquisitive engager. It appears quite obvious that they, and we, are all products of our relationships with our carers or abusers during our childhood and formative years, but I suggest that all of us, given the appropriate circumstances, can be equally averse to change. This is on the basis that it takes much more energy to think in a suddenly changed environment, where we have not as yet developed the comfort of habit and are robbed of the ability to rely on instinct. 🤔

Paul Walters

5 years ago #9

Ian Weinberg A case of "when Harry met Sally and were interupted by Fay" Great and insightful piece as always...thank you !

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #8

Thanks for that Pascal Derrien

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #7

Smart would not even do justice as a commentary contribution but this a really powerful introduction to the complexity of our own make up and behavioral patterns for the rest you got to read Ian’s book 📚 😉

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #6

Thanks Gert Scholtz Keep a watch on the rapid developments in the world of epigenetics. It’s becoming a significant contender in the world of inheritance.

Gert Scholtz

5 years ago #5

Ian Weinberg A very insightful post, Ian. After reading it I can’t help but wonder how nurture/narrative habits (good and bad) are passed on from one generation to the next. I guess it takes a good deal of self-insight for a bad generational loop to be broken, and perhaps also for a good one to realize it as such and continue. A great read - thank you!

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #4

Thanks very much Ali \ud83d\udc1d Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee for the complimentary words and endorsement.

Ali Anani

5 years ago #3

This is a great buzz Ian Weinberg. I feel that you studied Carl Jung thoroughly for your analysis is spot on. Your buzz shows the source of inner conflicts, which help any storyteller to benefit from.

Ian Weinberg

5 years ago #2

Thank you Debasish Majumder

Debasish Majumder

5 years ago #1

Great buzz sir Ian Weinberg! enjoyed read and shared. thank you for the buzz.

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