The Care of the Child


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Seminar 6 and talk on the Care of the Child


What are the principle neglected factors which affect the wellbeing of the child?

       1. Lack of care given to pre-natal and perinatal nutrition for the parents and the baby. Neglect of the infant and toddler's physical and emotional needs in the weeks and months after birth.

       2. Lack of really good care of mothers during pregnancy and childbirth owing to lack of mid-wives. The process of birth may be too uncaring and mechanical because of this. Lack of support for young mothers and help in recognising and treating post-natal depression.

       3. Failure to educate children to take responsibility for their future sexual relationships, teaching them about responsible parenthood and the care of the child. Teaching them about sexual intercourse alone encourages promiscuity and doesn't teach emotional responsibility. Failure to teach children to be aware of the dangers of premature and unprotected sex and of transmitted sexual diseases is the cause of much unnecessary trauma.

       4. Failure to teach young men and women in their late teens the essential skills and responsibilities of parenthood. Warning them about the long-term effects on the immune system of their children and even their grandchildren of binge-drinking or excessive consumption of alchohol.

       5. Teaching children to read and write too early, before the neurological pathways for developing these skills have been developed and before their bodies are sufficiently coordinated to be able to sit still, concentrate and remember and copy letters and numbers.

       If these were given the attention they require, an enormous amount of suffering could be avoided and a huge amount of money could be saved. There is still so little understanding of the infant's and toddler's emotional and physical needs that little progress is being made and the nervous system of many children is damaged.

There is one book that concerned parents should read in order to avoid unconsciously inflicting trauma on their infants and toddlers. There is so much that is now known but is not yet common knowledge about how vital good, loving care and emotional bonding with the mother is in the earliest months and years for the optimum development of the brain and nervous system in the older child and adolescent. Drug-taking, anorexia, self-cutting and other self-destructive patterns stem directly from early emotional trauma and a damaged nervous system:

Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma is an interdisciplinary book which explores our current understanding of the forces involved in both the creation and healing of emotional trauma. Through conversations with pioneering clinicians and researchers, In it, the author, Daniela F. Sieff explores questions such as:

What is emotional trauma?

What are the causes?

What are its consequences?

What does it mean to heal emotional trauma?

How can healing be achieved?

The conversations are engaging and accessible, making the work of these insightful and paradigm-changing pioneers directly available to a wide audience.


©Anne Baring (talk given in Wokingham Sept. 2004)

The tiny, vulnerable body of a baby is an expression of the miraculous creative nature of life, ever renewing itself through the union of the male and female. It calls forth our deepest feelings – both the best and the worst. It may evoke our love, our caring and devotion or our hatred, rejection and cruelty. The child may carry the burden of the injured or destroyed emotional life of its parents who may vent their rage and hatred upon its fragile soul and body, or it may be nourished by the loving care of parents who are able to respond instinctively, wisely and patiently to its physical and emotional needs.

If there is one word which summarises the needs of the child in today’s world, it is the word sanctuary. In our dysfunctional and predatory society, where people are increasingly out of touch with each other and there is no consensus as to what values should direct our lives, and no time to attend to their emotional needs, millions of children cannot find sanctuary either at home or in school.

The charity Childline was founded in 1986 and is now adopted in 43 countries. It receives over 2 million calls a year, some 5,000 a day of which only 2,300 can be answered. 10% of our children harm themselves physically because of the mental anguish derived from fear of bullies and abusive parents. (1) What does this say about the care of our children? What is the effect on them of one-parent families, exhausted working mothers, Day Nurseries from infancy, serial partners, bullying, television, video violence and the dubious values absorbed through the media? How are they being programmed into aggressive behaviour and early, promiscuous sexuality by those values and by the images put before them? What is the effect of our failure to educate them for the responsibilities of parenthood, to give them practical skills such as cooking and a basic knowledge of nutrition? A recent study has shown that one in five first babies is born into a home with no father. 18% of first born children and 15% of all babies go home with just their mother. (2)

The last 40 years have seen:
The doubling of rates of depression, suicide, crimes of violence, drug and alcohol abuse
Half of all women and 43% of men have taken anitidepressants in 2014. In the UK prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than doubled in 10 years to 26 million in 2002 and to 40 million in 2012.
a phenomenal increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe
the increase of many diseases such as heart disease and stroke, asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
50% increase in leukemia in children under 5
increase in educational disabilities such as hyperactivity (ADHD) and autism.
1 in 5 teenagers show signs of heart disease
1 in 8 adults suffer from heart and circulatory disease.
Britain now has the world’s fastest growing rate of obesity and the most obese population in western Europe.
Since 1960, mental health disorders and the violence, depression and social problems that go with them have increased sharply amongst young people, particularly in those children born after 1980 who are now in their twenties. (4)

Thousands of children are being prescribed prozac and ritalin for depression and attention deficit disorder with very limited evidence of their long-term effects - harmful or beneficial. A recent report (September 2004) has highlighted the risk of suicide in children taking these drugs.

These statistics reflect immense suffering and immense cost to the NHS and therefore to all of us whose taxes finance the NHS. Is there a possible root cause of all these symptoms? Can we do anything to prevent them happening?

New life begins with the meeting of the male and female nuclei, the connection of sperm with ovum. This meeting signifies the beginning of a new individual who will carry the genetic material from both parents. However, the way this genetic material develops is not predetermined. It can be modified positively or negatively during pregnancy by nutrition. It can be injured by toxins derived from alcohol, smoking and drugs. It can be damaged by anti-biotics and other medical drugs. (5) For example, an increasing number of babies are being born in this country with low birth weight, with their brain and nervous system damaged by their mother’s heavy drinking. We apparently have the highest number of female bingers in the world (6) If we want healthy babies, the wisest course would be for women to abstain from alcohol altogether from four months before as well as during pregnancy — no matter what the "experts" say. (7)

Good nutrition is vital during the months when the embryo and foetus are developing. We now know when and how the nervous system and the brain form in the womb. We also know that a diet deficient in specific nutrients in the pregnant woman can lead later on to a whole spectrum of disorders which include mental illness on the one hand and cancer, heart disease, diabetes and diseases of the nervous system on the other. (8) There are two main factors that are thought to contribute to poor nutrition quite apart from the amount we eat:

First, the depletion of the soil over the last fifty years and the lack of essential amounts of trace elements have led to a general weakening of our immune system and that of the animals we eat. There is evidence for example, that lack of selenium contributes to heart disease and cancer which are now affecting younger and younger age groups. Cancer is now reaching epidemic proportions. More than 5 million people have asthma in this country and 1 person dies from it every 7 hours. A recent study in America has found a definite link between asthma and a deficiency in selenium and a study in this country has found a lack of iron and selenium in the umbilical cord of children who have later developed asthma and eczema. (9)

A discovery of great importance was the fact that an essential element in the formation of a healthy foetus was folic acid. Spina Bifida has fallen by 60% since pregnant women were given folic acid. (10) Yet, astonishingly, 4 out of 10 pregnant women still do not take any kind of supplement, including folic acid.

The second crucial factor in poor nutrition is a lack of fish oils - particularly the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which, since our consumption of fish has declined dramatically over the last 50 or so years, is lacking in our diet. These fatty acids are now known to be vital for brain development and for the stability of the nervous system. Research in many countries has shown how depression and violent behaviour correlate inversely with fish and seafood consumption. The suicide rates in countries with the lowest consumption of fish are up to twice as high as those with the highest consumption, homicide three times as high, bipolar depression 20 times and major depression 40 times. (11) A recent study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may be prevented by taking DHA. (12) Depression also responds to this.

The crucially important time for the formation of the nervous system and future brain functioning is the first three months of pregnancy and particularly between day 15 and 28 after conception when the neural tube is developing. Quite apart from toxins derived from alcohol, smoking and drugs, poor nutrition invites serious damage to the embryo’s basic development, particularly to the connections between the different regions of the brain:

“Neural tube disorders occur about three weeks after conception, and lead to serious disabilities such as spina bifida, cleft palate and hair-lip as well as to mental disorder. At about three weeks the embryo is a long disk. This folds length-wise and fuses into a tube. If DNA production is slow, the tube may fail to close completely. Any gap left may become a cleft in the palate, for instance, or an imperfect junction between the two sides of the brain. Also forming at this stage are striations across the neural tube, delineating the spinal column and regions of the brain. Imperfect fusion or delineation can lead to inadequate connections with poor signalling between different regions of the brain… Low signalling activity features in the brain scans of people with violent temperaments…This indicates a poor level of communication between the thinking, feeling and motor regions of the brain. Trials using nutritional supplements have reduced neural tube disorders by a high percentage.” (13)

The second most important time is the last three months of pregnancy and the first ten months of infancy, when the brain is growing very rapidly. The brain is 10% docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). If the supply of this is insufficient, the development of the brain and nervous system will be impaired. (13)

The third important time is late adolescence when both the body and the brain are growing rapidly, particularly in young boys.

Which is the wise option? To continue as before or to educate the population at all age levels to awareness of the effects of toxins and poor nutrition on the development of the foetus and embryo?

According to the research carried out by the McCarrison Society, preparation for conceiving a child needs to begin 4 months before conception.

During these 4 months:
Both parents need to avoid alcohol, smoking, drugs, anti-biotics and anti-depressants — all of which transmit toxins to the foetus.
Both need to pay attention to the quality of their diet and to their intake of protein and fresh fruit and vegetables. They also need to take daily exercise.
Both need to take fish oil supplements which contain DHA and EPA and a multi-vitamin and mineral pill which contains the nutrients selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc and the B vitamins as well as the crucially important folic acid.
Mothers need to continue to take these throughout pregnancy, and while they are breast-feeding or preparing for a second child. (14) These small preventive steps could have dramatic and long-term effects on the general health of the nation and the happiness and well-being of individual families.

The Limbic Brain. There is something that is not widely understood in our culture and that is the importance of the limbic brain. We have three brain systems and they continually interact with each other. The oldest (reptilian, 500 m years) gives us our instinctive survival reflexes; the second (limbic or mammalian, 200 m years) our capacity for empathy and group bonding, and the third (neo-cortical, from 1½ m years) our capacity for abstract thought, reflection and everything we call consciousness. In infancy and early childhood, each develops successively out of the other. The reptilian and mammalian brains together form the autonomic nervous system and fight/flight reflexes. The neo-cortical brain and everything we call consciousness grows out of the limbic system in the first few months and years of our lives. (for a fuller explanation of this process see Sue Gerhardt, Why Love Matters) We are not a body and a brain but a miraculously integrated body/brain organism. (Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion) If there is not good parental care, the development of the brain can be arrested at the limbic stage and the full development of neo-cortical skills and the optimal integration of the three brain systems will not be able to occur.

The maternal instinct is innate and rooted in the limbic brain but it can be deflected from its natural instinctive response if the mother experienced rejection, abuse or abandonment in her own childhood or if her mother offered a poor model of parenting. Her natural instinct to bond with her child may then be overlaid by the imprinted pattern of her own experience at the deepest instinctive level of the limbic brain. Insight into this fact and informed support can prevent the transmission of a negative pattern to a new generation.

We now know that the instinctive bonding between mother and child - the experience of physical and emotional connection is absolutely essential for the child's future emotional and physical well-being. It is the emotional and physical bonding between mother and infant that establishes and develops the neuronal pathways throughout the body/mind organism. The sense of trust and safety develops through the infant’s seeing, touching, listening; tasting, smelling the mother. If this pleasurable sensory bonding is established in a contented infancy, the neuronal circuits are grounded in the experience of relatedness and love and there will be the possibility of a healthy integration of the three brain systems (reptilian, mammalian and neo-cortical) and a further development of the neuronal pathways in the frontal lobes. But if there is disruption of bonding between mother and child, and the experience of constant fear and anxiety at the limbic level (instinctive level of the autonomic nervous system) in early infancy, then a healthy and strong connection between the three brain systems will not take place. The capacity to relate to others with empathy, care and compassion will be impaired. How does the too-rapid expulsion of mothers from hospital and the lack of support and help given to young mothers after birth affect this essential mother/child bonding? (in France, mothers stay in hospital for 5 days. Here they may be discharged on the day of the birth).

Dr. John Bowlby, writing in the 1950's, was the first person to draw attention to the effects of maternal deprivation through neglect, depression, abandonment or death yet society as a whole is still not aware of these. Until the age of 5 years or so small children have no sense of time. Instinct tells them that the absence of the mother means abandonment. Bowlby found that infants or small children who had lost their mothers through death or abandonment developed depression in later life. They did not recover from the trauma of separation. Buried grief can harden into anger and depression later in life. If the bonding between mother and child is incomplete or deficient, the growing child will remain negatively imprinted at the limbic, instinctive level, experiencing constant anxiety that will affect his or her ability to make and sustain good relationships later on. In view of this, are Day Nurseries a good idea for infants and very young children? This is not to criticise mothers who leave their children in Nurseries but to suggest that, as a society, we may need to rethink our priorities.

The heart. In the foetus, the heart is the foundation of the nervous system which develops from the heart cells, 65% of which are neural cells. The brain develops from a mass of undifferentiated heart cells before they form into the four cardiac chambers. The right hemisphere of the brain is the first to develop out of the heart cells. The heart is connected to all the vital organs of the body. (See Nilsson, p 92-4) Recent research has shown that the well being of the heart is of primary importance to many processes, including cognition. It has over 40,000 sensory neurons. It has its own independent nervous system. The electrical signal of the heart is 60% more powerful than the electrical signal of the brain. The electro-magnetic field of the heart is 100 times more powerful than that of the brain and in the adult extends 8-12 feet beyond the body. (15) Just putting the hand over the heart area changes the brain waves. The heart produces a balancing hormone — oxytocin, the bonding hormone — and this hormone is activated in a loving and nurturing maternal environment. Frustration and fear make the heart rate jagged and rapid. Loving, stroking, caressing, make it rhythmic.

We know now that the foetus in the womb registers everything the mother is experiencing: her happiness and delight in her growing child or her distress, fear and anxiety. We know it is affected, as I said earlier, by alcohol, smoking and drugs but also by tension and violence in the parental relationship. We know it is sensitive to music, noise and the quality of the environment the mother is experiencing. (taking tiny babies into supermarkets is not a good idea) All this affects its heart and nervous system. The transcendent experience of intense bliss comes from the limbic system; the infant can know these feelings in the womb and in the first few moments of being reconnected with the mother after birth and in close contact with her touch, her voice and her body throughout infancy. Her constant presence and her joyous response to her baby are absolutely essential factors for its future wellbeing. This trusting bonding experience is the foundation of later feelings of trust and love, of joy and delight in life.

Until the age of 3-5 years, the neural connections between the limbic brain and the neo-cortical brain and frontal lobes are not established. Until then, the young child lives purely through the limbic brain or instinctive level of behaviour. Between 3 and 5 the neo-cortical level is activated and the child develops a sense of self. The memories associated with the older brain levels become “unconscious”. Yet these early memories imprinted on the limbic brain still have immense power to influence our lives and our behaviour. A wound to the limbic brain can programme our lives in negative ways to the end of our days.

Study after study has shown that emotional and physical abuse of the mother-to-be affects the neuronal circuits of the child she is carrying and that the neglect or abuse of the infant and small child alters the balance of its neural chemistry and programmes it to depression or to violent behaviour later on. What happens is that when fear or distress is experienced, the adrenal glands produce a high level of the stress hormone cortisol and this upsets or disturbs the optimal formation and equilibrium of the nervous system, interfering with the neural connections between the different parts of the brain. We need to ask whether the bullying and aggression that is so apparent not only in schools but in the home and the workplace and now on Facebook and Twitter does not in part originate in foetal and infant distress.

We are born with 100 billion neural cells. From 3-10 months a culling takes place with the loss of 50,000 connections between brain cells every second. Cells that are not used during this time die. Every cell has several branchings off it called dendrons. The more the cells are used the more connecting dendrons develop. They develop complexity and increase by use. If they aren't used, they can be lost. The mother's holding and responding to her infant is vital to the development of these dendrons. Care and bonding with the mother or primal carer help the cells to be active and are absolutely essential in the first 10 months. (16)

What can help the mother’s bonding with her infant? Baby massage is one of the most effective ways to help young mothers bond with their babies, particularly the 10% of mothers who are suffering from post-natal depression. If mothers can be taught this method in a group it helps them to feel more confident and to meet other mothers and make new friends. Home Start is an excellent enterprise.

Cellular receptors can hold memories of trauma stored deep within the body, in the hormonal system, the digestive system and in the muscles. Working with deep massage later in life may release traumatic memories that have been stored in the cellular memory for decades.

It is interesting that some 1000 primary schools have adopted a peer massage programme that is seeing remarkable results. Once children begin to touch each other on the head, neck, shoulders and back in a gentle way for ten minutes, first asking the other child for permission to do so, the whole class settles, bullying decreases and they develop greater trust in each other. Children feel happier, have more friends and work with greater concentration. (17)

What are the deeper roots of violence?
Each of us carries in our limbic brain the archaic programming of predator and prey transmitted from earlier phases of evolution, but what triggers it? Children who have experienced violence and the deep distress caused by abandonment, neglect and emotional or physical violence are likely to become bullies or to become violent (predator) when they are older or to remain fixated in the role of victim (prey). (18) People who have been traumatised by violence may be attracted to causes and ideologies which justify and even celebrate violence as a means to an end. Their capacity for love and altruism will be projected onto the cause or ideology and their unconscious rage will be projected onto the perceived enemy(ies) of the cause or ideology. Nothing activates the instinctive defences of the limbic brain and disturbs the nervous system more than fear. Trauma and terror can transfix the victim of violence in a state of perpetual fear and anxiety at the limbic level throughout his or her life.

Many families in this and other countries are victims of terrorism in the home where one adult maintains absolute control over partner and children through the threat of physical or verbal violence. An animal in such a situation would attack or run away. But the small child, because it is weak and needs food and shelter for survival, cannot run away. Too young to articulate its feelings, it may develop mental or physical symptoms of distress or it may become silent and depressed. Some children live in a state of hyper-vigilance and visceral fear for years, with disastrous effects on their mental and physical health. All of us concerned with the welfare of children need to be trained to recognise the symptoms of a victim of such terrorism.

In some children, the impotence of the terrified and unhappy child later becomes the omnipotence of the violent, bullying and controlling older child or adult or, alternatively, the passivity of the victim. When in a position of power in relation to a weaker human being, the unconscious limbic wound can erupt in some kind of predatory attack on a weaker person — whether rape, murder, torture, sexual abuse or bullying. Bullying is basically the torture of a helpless victim but we should always look for the origins of this behaviour in the emotional distress of the child who exhibits this pattern..

I do not believe that certain children are born evil nor that we are genetically programmed to aggression. However, predatory patterns of behaviour exist in latency in the limbic brain of each one of us. Through good nutrition, parenting and education they can remain dormant. Through poor nutrition, poor parenting and poor education they can be triggered into taking over the psyche, particularly where an ethos of violence and brutality is condoned or encouraged by a culture. One should also bear in mind the influence of herd bonding and herd copying — again coming from the limbic brain behaviour patterns, particularly in the young.

I am in no doubt that the continual viewing of violence on television, the nightly glorification of murder and brutality arouses and encourages predatory behaviour. On television and in videos such as Manhunt, in which a man roams the street killing anyone he comes across, we give children models of cruelty and depravity to copy. We have fostered a culture in which every child — even those as young as 5 or 6 — sees people being beaten, kicked, shot and murdered every day, in its home, often just before going to bed. They see images of murder and male violence announcing an “exciting” forthcoming programme. What does this suggest to them about adult behaviour, about life in the world? We deplore the existence of evil, yet we celebrate and encourage it. Why should we be surprised when our children act out the images of cruelty they have seen? As the mother of a murdered son said recently: “This game gave the ideas, the violence, the method to my son’s killer.” The judge said there was no evidence to support a link. Some 'experts' would like us to believe that children are not adversely affected by these images because they know they are not real but this seems a strange conclusion in view of the known fact that children absorb most when they are excited and their emotions are involved.

What I would like to suggest to you is the possibility that the unconscious limbic brain does not distinguish between fantasy violence and real violence. Children may be very frightened by the brutality continually set before them. To compensate for this fear, they may unconsciously copy the aggressor because, to the limbic brain, strength and brutality offer a role model that ensures survival. Boys in particular copy this role model but now girls are also copying it. Our increasingly decadent society suggests that unless we wake up to what we encourage in the name of freedom of expression, we will condemn ourselves to repeat the predatory patterns of behaviour that now threaten the survival of our species. What we call civilised behaviour is a very thin skin covering a substratum of instinctive survival responses to danger.

Developing the Child's Gifts
Every child in this country carries great gifts. We could help our children to become well-rounded human beings, intellectually alert, emotionally intelligent, experienced in the practical necessities of life as well as fulfilling their own creative potential if we gave them a more balanced education. We could help them to develop the heart and the imagination as well as the mind and to develop practical skills, using their hands as well as their brains. We could develop their bodily strength and general health through sport. It is the soul of our children that is suffering from the harshness and superficiality of our technologically advanced but emotionally illiterate culture. So many children can find no deeper meaning to life reflected in the values they see around them and for this reason turn to sex, alcohol and drugs. What instinctively could be expressed as love is expressed as hatred, greed, bullying and violence.

There is an enormous spiritual vacuum left by the collapse of Christianity but there are many initiatives beginning to fill it. The most important fact I can convey to you is that if the creativity of the imagination is not nourished by a vision which inspires love and delight and relationship, it can turn negative and destructive.

Suppose we told children from earliest childhood that they participate in a great Web of Life, and that they need to take care of it so that no part of it is injured or destroyed. Suppose parents and teachers told children at about the age of 5 that each one of them has within them a special gift – a hidden treasure that, with time and effort, they could discover and develop. Suppose we told them the story of the planet and how recent our human story is in relation to that ancient story and how important their role is in protecting the planet and all life on it.

Suppose, when they are still in Primary School, we showed them Nilsson’s wonderful pictures of how their life came into being, how precious and fragile it is at the beginning, how miraculously all the systems of the mind/body organism work together to maintain their life. Their body is not a machine, existing in isolation from its surroundings but an organism vitally connected to the greater organism we call nature.

Urban children have little connection with nature yet a sense of wonder and connection with nature and with animals is innate and instinctive in a small child. We could nurture and encourage this connection in every school in the country so that our children become ecologically literate, aware of how their lives are embedded in the life of the planet. There are many initiatives which are encouraging children to grow vegetables and plants in schools, learning about nature, nutrition and cooking at the same time. (19) Following a Swedish initiative, one experiment that is being tried here is taking children into woods and fields at least once a week, to learn about plants, animals and trees by exploration, touch and observation rather than in the classroom. Children love this and look forward to it. (Sadly, the fear of paedophilia may prevent this)

How could schools become sanctuaries? By enlisting the help of every child in the country — making it a conscious goal. There needs to be zero tolerance of bullying in our schools and an explanation given to children of why children bully others and how it harms both victim and perpetrator. Village by village and city by city, we could make this country a no-bullying zone. An initiative called Values Education (20) has been developed at West Kidlington Primary School in Oxfordshire and is now in place in many schools in the south of England. It teaches social skills, listening skills, consideration for others, the ability to reflect on deeper questions and to exchange ideas. A few minutes silence and meditation every day is a part of it. The results are better relationships, better manners, less bullying and greater calm. The practice of mindfulness is now spreading to many schools (2014).

What happens to a culture when adults give children no values beyond the materialist ones that now engage us? What happens when there is no vision in society as a whole and when children are intensely lonely because their parents are so busy working that they are unable to spare the time to talk to them? Naturally, they turn to television and videos to fill the void in their lives. Extending their time at school will not fill this void. How can we inculcate responsibility, gentleness, compassion in our society if they feel we do not love them because there is no time to be with them? How can we teach our children how miraculous and extraordinary the creation and unfolding of their own life is and how important it is to prepare, even as adolescents, for the future well being of their own children if we are unable to relate to them emotionally? We need to place the huge amount of information they absorb in the context of an extended field of relationships, not only with us as parents, but with every other species, the planet and the vastness of the universe beyond.

1. Mental Health Foundation, Camelot Foundation report 6/9/04
2. Study Professor Kathleen Kiernan, London School of Economics, June 2004
3. Dr. Andrew Powell, Royal College of Psychiatrists
4. McCarrison Society Newsletter, August 2003
5. Yale Medical School Survey 1991-9. Report Sunday Telegraph 12/9/04
6. Talk given to International Symposium: Brain Function and Dysfunction, The Royal Society, May 14th, 2004. Summary Michael Crawford for the McCarrison Society.
7. The Rev. Simon House, member McCarrison Society
8. The McCarrison Society
9. Avon Study, report Sunday Times 3/8/04
10. McCarrison Society Newsletter, August 2003
11. Rev. Simon House, “Nourishing Brains for Mental Gains,” McCarrison society newsletter, Spring 2004 shhouse@ntlworld.com
12. Professor Greg Cole, University of California, Los Angeles, senior author of paper in the journal Neuron “A diet rich in DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, dramatically reduces the impact of the Alzheimer’s gene.”
13. Rev. Simon House, “Nourishing Brains for Mental Gains,” McCarrison Society Newsletter, Spring 2004
14. Rev. Simon House, booklet Nutrition and Health, 2000, Vol. 14, Generating Healthy People. Publication for McCarrison Society
15. Institute of HeartMath www.heartmath.com see also HeartMath training in Europe, the Hunter Kane Resource Management, 26 Broad Street, Wokingham Berks RG40 1AB
16. I am indebted to Dr. Peter Fenwick, Senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, for this information.
17. Massage in Schools, tel: 07773 044282 – Daily Telegraph, July 6th, 2004 . See also Antonella Sansome’s book below
18. They are nine times as likely to become violent if they carry the MAOA gene but this does not correlate with violence unless triggered by abuse. Rev. Simon House, McCarrison society Newsletter Christmas 2002, “Genes, Fish and the Brain”.
19. Article, the Times, July 3rd, 2004 “The Kindegardeners”. See Oliver Quibell commmunity infant school, Newark, Notts. Maggie Brown, Organic Gardens for Schools – offers practical advice and seeds. See also Angela Verity, Scotholme Primary School, Nottingham. She has transformed a derelict allotment into an organic garden for the children.
20. Values Education: developing positive attitudes. ISBN 1 898908 76 1 £5. Curriculum and Entitlement Office, Oxfordshire County Council Education Office, Cricket Road, Oxford, OX4 3DW
report in Positive News, No. 41, Autumn 2004. www.positivenews.org.uk

Books recommended
Lennart Nilsson and Lars Hamberger, A Child is Born, Doubleday, £25 www.booksattransworld.co.uk new edition 2004. ISBN 0-385-60671 (essential reading for all parents-to-be as well as for older children)
Sue Gerhardt, Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain, Brunner-Routlege, London, 2004 £9.99
Antonella Sansome, Mothers, Babies and their Body Language Karnac Books, London, 2004
McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health. Dr. Michael Crawford, Editor, 0207 973 4869 michael@macrawf.demon.co.uk
Rev. Simon House, shhouse@ntlworld.com
Daniela F. Sieff, Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma, Routledge, London 2015

Seminar 6: The Child and the Parental Relationship

©Anne Baring

This article is an extended version of the previous talk.

Prayer Before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat
or the clubfooted ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born; console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
With strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
On black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me,
sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me…

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
When they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
Hands, my death when they live me….

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
Come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me,
Otherwise kill me.

Louis MacNeice          

The tiny, vulnerable body of a baby is an expression the miraculous nature of life, ever renewing itself through the union of male and female. It holds the hope for the continuation of our own life, our unlived potential, all that we have been unable to live in our own lives. It calls forth our deepest feelings - both the best and the worst. It may evoke our love, caring, devotion or our hatred, rejection, cruelty. The child will carry many projections from both parents: hopes, plans, the longing for it to flourish, the fear that it will not. He or she may carry the burden of the injured or destroyed emotional life of parents who may vent their rage and hatred upon its fragile soul and body or it may be nourished by the loving care of parents who are able to respond instinctively, patiently, to its physical and emotional needs.
     Each child who comes into the world is a soul entrusted to our care. As mother and father we reflect for the child the two great feminine and masculine principles or archetypes of life. How we relate as parents to each other and to our child is of the greatest importance for the child's future health, balance and well-being as an adult. The mother and father connect their child with the deeper levels of life by the values which influence their own lives and by the quality of their relationship with each other and with their child. It is through the quality of their care and their attention to their child's emotional needs as well as physical ones that they transmit the values which will enable their child to survive and flourish in the world and to care in turn for the lives entrusted to it.

Do we value our children?

Child Running in a Landscape,
Odilon Redon, c.1864/5
Musee du Louvre, Paris

In this country (the United Kingdom) we give generously to humanitarian tragedies all over the world and to all kinds of animal charities yet we have the worst record in Europe for caring for our children. Childline answered over 1.5 million calls in the year April 2000 to March 2001. What does this say about the suffering of our children? What is the effect on them of divorce, one parent families, step-fathers or mothers, television violence and the values absorbed through the media and in schools? What is the effect of many women's total lack of preparation for motherhood, of any basic knowledge of nutrition or of how to prepare food, and care for a home?
     This country is way behind other countries in Western Europe in the provision of good housing, preventive health care and, above all, preparing men and women for the role of parenthood. We have the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe. We also lag behind in attending to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the mother during and immediately after pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth. For example, the general practice is to discharge first time mothers the day after giving birth and mothers who already have children on the same day (except after a Caesarian) and send them home, where they are expected to carry on as before, possibly caring for other children as well as their new baby without sufficient rest and without the certainty of physical and emotional support (except that provided by the midwife) from their own mothers, relatives or friends. Family support may be available but frequently it is not available or is inadequate. Nothing is more frightening for a young mother than to find herself alone without any real knowledge of how to care for her baby and herself, with a partner who is equally unsure of himself, who may wish to absent himself from the domestic scene or who has already abandoned it. Is it surprising that so many marriages end in divorce or that young mothers succumb to post-natal depression – something that is still insufficiently recognised, anticipated and sensitively treated?

The Roots of the Problem

The last decade has brought ever more dreadful revelations about what has been brushed under the social carpet: the number of children secretly murdered by their parents (believed to be three a week); the children who have died atrocious deaths because of the failure of the Social Services to recognise and act on the symptoms of abuse; the sexual and emotional abuse of children in the care of Social Services; the sexual abuse of children by parents and others; the physical and emotional abuse of women by men in front of their children. All these have existed for generations yet now, suddenly and fortunately they are coming to light, attracting our attention, arousing our concern, our guilt, our desire to be more aware, more responsive to the need to put an end to these human tragedies.
     I doubt if any of these would have come to our attention without the existence of psychotherapy and the training of many counsellors and psychotherapists to recognise the symptoms of distress and abuse. For centuries, owing to the general belief that women deserved to be held in a state of subjection to their husbands, they were beaten by them. For centuries men have inflicted and are still inflicting injuries on women and children while under the influence of alcohol. For centuries alcohol was the only solace for men and women living in the most dreadful conditions imaginable. Only recently have women been able to gather enough sense of self-worth to emerge from this nightmare. Yet it was not only women from an impoverished background who suffered these traumas, but women from every social class (see the biography of Lord Carman by his son).
      My personal view, derived from my study of the history of persecution by the Christian Church in Europe, is that one of the deepest roots of the abuse of and cruelty towards women and children lies in the Christian doctrine of Original Sin (see seminar 3 website: annebaring.com). With this doctrine, the Church unconsciously justified and condoned the abuse of women (particularly during the centuries of the trial and burning/hanging of witches). There have been centuries of brutal, alcoholic fathers who ruled their families with a rod of iron and centuries of brutalised, "victim" mothers who were told that their "lot" was to suffer in silence and who were unable to change the unbearable circumstances of their lives. It is estimated even now that up to 40% of women still suffer emotional and physical abuse from their partners. On top of this religious and social programming there was the effect of the Industrial Revolution and the movement to cities of huge numbers of people living in overcrowded conditions of atrocious poverty and deprivation.
     Two world wars killed millions of young men in Europe. Imagine the effect of these wars: the loss of life; the widows, the children conceived and then left without fathers; the survivors of the enslavement of whole populations in eastern Europe; the return home of exhausted and often deeply disturbed men, unable to speak of their experiences, preferring to bury all memory of them for the rest of their lives. Imagine the emotional distress of women who lost their husbands — in those days the sole provider. From one day to another they had to think of how they were going to survive; how they were going to help their children to survive. A war widow's pension in this country was and is a contemptible sum, not enough to provide any kind of life or security for a family. (How little money is spent on nurturing life in comparison with that spent on the weapons that bring death).
     The result of these various historical factors has been the physical and emotional impoverishment of generations of women and children (mainly, but not entirely, in the poorest section of the community). Women, ravaged by exhaustion, alcohol, violence and emotional abuse, could not offer a safe and healthy environment for a child. There was no concept of perinatal care. There is still hardly any awareness in society as a whole of the need for women to prepare for the child, helping them to be in as healthy a state as possible, eating foods that will nourish both mother and child, avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee to excess.
     Until very recently, women were undervalued by society. During the war they were expected to help with the war effort, to work on the land or in munitions factories, filling jobs left vacant by the men who were fighting, and then, after the war, to return to their homes and take up their former role as wives and wives. Many women discovered qualities and capabilities in these years that they did not know they had. After the war, they wanted to continue to develop these gifts. Many went to universities and became highly qualified intellectually. Men returned from the war to find women changed, wanting to play a wider role in society, no longer content to be "only a mother". Contraception was another factor that radically altered women's lives. The old image of woman has gone forever. We have still not assimilated the implications of this enormous change which has had both positive and negative effects. Collective attitudes that have prevailed for centuries are being transformed but it is difficult for men and women to be aware of what is happening rather than to be swept along by the social attitudes that are currently in fashion.

The Foundations

Parenting, as most of us who are parents know, is the most long term and dedicated commitment any of us can make in our life time. It requires long years of devoted care, constant vigilance, and emotional and physical effort to bring a human being from infancy to adulthood. Until they become parents themselves, or unless they are part of a large family, children usually have not the slightest idea of what parenting involves. Most mothers do their best within their physical and emotional capacity. Many mistakes are made or were made through ignorance or depression or circumstances beyond control but with insight, support and good-will they can be corrected in a new generation.
     Strangely, there is no preparation in our society for the role of being a parent. Parenting is thought to be an instinctive pattern of behaviour and, in essence, it is. What is not understood is that it is also a learned one that is unconsciously copied or absorbed by the child as it grows up from the way its parents, but particularly its mother, treated it. If the mother (or the father) has suffered an emotional injury or wound in her own infancy or childhood, her (or his) pattern of parenting is likely to be flawed or inadequate and she (or he) will pass on that pattern to her child. Today, with a quarter to a third of marriages or relationships breaking down, the instinctive pattern of parenting transmitted from parent to child is likely to be broken, disturbed and deeply flawed. It has been flawed in the past for reasons of poverty, religious indoctrination (in the negative, authoritarian sense) and lack of education. But today, in addition, there is the absence of any moral influence on parental behaviour and a general lack of responsibility towards the child who is often casually brought into the world without thought or preparation and expected somehow to survive. In the past this moral influence came from the Church. Men and women talk about their rights in relation to conceiving or adopting a child but there is scant awareness of emotional responsibilities or of the rights of the child which ought, in my view, to come first.
     How unconsciously such a precious being is usually conceived - a being so vulnerable, so dependent on our care and love for its happiness and health. How casually a child may be carried in the womb of a mother who has no awareness of the need to prepare her body and her psyche for this new being. There is very little understanding among men or women that the future health and happiness of their child is enhanced, perhaps even created by this vital preparation.
     How little knowledge there also is of the importance of the child having two parents committed to its well being; aware of its need for relationship with both mother and father in order for it to have a balanced psyche and the possibility of being able to communicate with and relate to both men and women as it grows older. To be abandoned by one parent - usually the father in today's society - deprives it of a role model and an image of relationship between male and female. Two streams of life, two different streams of energy coming from the mother and father are reduced to one. While many single-parent mothers and fathers (there are now 140,000 of such fathers) do their best to bring up their children, and fiercely defend their ability to do so, how can this deprivation not be an impoverishment of the child's experience of what it is to be human? Sometimes bereavement inflicts this impoverishment and the child carries a deep wound. But so many children in our society carry the wound of rejection through divorce or the multiple relationships entered into by their parents, a rejection which might not be necessary if there was more recognition of the responsibility of the paternal and maternal role before a man and a woman conceive or adopt a child.
     Some mothers are so psychically fragile that they have children in order to have someone to love them. Some fathers have such a deep need for attention from their partners that they become jealous of their children as soon as they are born, unable to stand the focus of their wives' care and concern moving from themselves to their child. Fathers who have received poor maternal care are particularly vulnerable to this jealousy which is rooted in unconscious anger that their own infant receives the love they themselves were deprived of. Mothers who did not have sufficient emotional support from their own mothers may lack any confidence in their ability to care for their child or to manage domesticity with either skill or pleasure.
     The casual way in which sexual relationships are entered into in today's society creates children who feel unwanted, unloved; who have to accept step-fathers and step-mothers who may not love them as much as the children created in the new partnership; who will feel themselves to be second-best in the new cycle of relationships, second best in relation to their mothers whose life is focused on the new partner, second best in relation to new siblings. The dysfunctional lives of media stars offer a poor example to the young. These different factors, which are largely unconscious, contribute to the suffering we inflict on our children.
     The foundations of a happy or unhappy life and of positive or negative relationships are laid in childhood and in the relationship of the parents with each other and with their child. Many of the social problems we are now facing derive not only from poverty and poor education but from emotionally deprived infants and children who, as adolescents and adults, re-enact in their own lives and their behaviour towards others what they absorbed from their parents' behaviour towards each other and towards their children. So the pattern of good or bad parenting affects the wider community and is passed on to the next generation.

The Failure of Relationships

If a woman is unsure of herself, lacking respect for herself and unaware of her own deepest values and instincts, she will find it difficult to choose a partner who will care for her and their children. She may be insensitive to her children's needs because she has no awareness of her own. They will grow up deprived of that initial instinctive bonding with a mother and father and the love which would enable them to survive as strong and vital human beings, giving them a deep trust in themselves and their ability to make rewarding relationships with others as they grow up.
     How can a woman who grows up in this society value herself as a woman? How can she avoid being imprinted with the superficial values and patterns of behaviour that currently form collective attitudes and values? How can she look forward to and enjoy the experience of being a mother or, indeed, discover how to be a mother in such a complex world? Her sons and daughters lie on our streets, abandoned and outcast, children so deprived of love and support from their own mothers and fathers that they cannot value their own lives, and succumb to drugs and promiscuity.
     Why are there so many broken marriages in our society, so many abandoned children? A pattern of abandonment and rejection may be a re-enactment of the parents' own early experience. Those who have experienced these traumas may have the greatest difficulty in bonding with their child. They may have had no role model to follow. The instinct for relationship has been traumatised and without awareness of this situation, and help in understanding and transforming it, the trauma will be repeated in the next generation. Obviously, there are many variations in this pattern.
     Here is one example of the kind of scenario that exists in today's society. A couple marry; both have jobs. They want to own their own home. They find a house which requires a large mortgage. Both parents work in order to support the mortgage. They decide to have a baby and start one without thinking about how they are going to look after it. The baby arrives; because the mother is working full time, she asks her sister-in-law, who has two children of her own, to look after it during the day. The baby bonds with the sister-in-law and her children. The mother is hurt and angry that the baby cries when it is taken away by her at night. Its crying keeps the parents awake. The mother feels rejected by the baby and hits it when it cries, at times flinging it away from her in anger. The sister-in-law finds she is pregnant again and can no longer cope with the baby (now nine months old).
     The mother now asks her own mother to look after the baby during the day. The mother (who has a history of alcoholism), agrees but the arrangement comes to an end after a couple of months. The mother turns to her mother-in-law, asking her to come to her house every day to be with the baby while she is at work. She cannot give up her job because she needs the money to keep up the payments on the mortgage, the car, the furniture. She cannot sleep at night and is put on Prozac by her doctor. The marriage comes under increasing strain. Her mother-in-law, distressed by the baby's increasing signs of emotional disturbance, and driven by her own sense of guilt if she is not looking after everyone save herself agrees to look after her but this means giving up the job she enjoys and the income and independence it has given her, helping her to pay off old debts accumulated during the years of bringing up her own three children. She is deeply upset to leave her job but sacrifices her needs in order to respond to her son and daughter-in-law's appeal for help. After six months, the arrangement breaks down under the increasing resentment of the baby's mother towards her mother-in-law. Under these circumstances, what possible chance has the baby of growing up to be happy, well-adjusted in its relationships and loved?

Understanding the child

The child is our future and it is only through a deepening understanding of the child's nature and needs that we can hope to change the negative inheritance of the past. What wounds the heart of a child? There is a general belief that children are resilient, tough, able to survive the most atrocious experiences. But the experience of therapists suggests that this is not so. The child may survive physically and intellectually, may be able to hold its own in the world, but the wound to the heart will show in the difficulty it has with relationships; in the way, as an adult, it treats its partner or its children, and in depressions, obsessions and compulsive negative behaviour of all kinds. It will develop a defensive carapace, a false self, in order to survive the pain of its experience and may believe this false self is its true individuality. The false self in league with the superficial goals of our culture, will drive the person to seek power and control over others through a pattern of bullying or manipulating others, for to be more powerful or in control of other people is to be beyond the reach of the child's sense of powerlessness and worthlessness. Alternatively, it will be enacted in the role of the victim who is repeatedly drawn to an abusive or defective partner or a negative life situation.
     The psyche of the child is like warm wax. Its sense of self is barely formed by the time it reaches adolescence. It is impressionable, fragile, sensitive, vulnerable. What it absorbs from the atmosphere of the home and the wider environment of school and society, is imprinted indelibly on the memory. Children without a stable and happy home, children who have to survive in a brutal or depraved environment, often witnessing the emotional or physical cruelty inflicted on one parent by another, children who are exposed to the anger, lust, cruelty or the rigidly imposed belief system of their parents, step-parents or foster parents, are like a baby thrown into an abattoir. They have little hope of psychic survival. Indeed, as someone has written, they are the victims of soul murder.(1) As they grow up, the memories of intolerable pain are repressed into the nervous system and muscles where they may manifest eventually as a defence system that inhibits the ability to experience empathy for others, and also as habits that lead to illness. There may be no awareness of the actual circumstances or traumas which wounded them. These repressed memories may be re-enacted in destructive or self-destructive scenarios which are a kind of code language telling the story of what happened to them 10, 20 or 30 years earlier (2)
     Children in the first months and years of their lives, need the constant care and attention of at least one adult, preferably two. If they are separated too early from their mothers, put into nurseries and day-care, the deep and essential primal bond with the mother is weakened, perhaps broken. John Bowlby has written with the greatest authority about the effects of maternal deprivation in infancy and early childhood. It is astonishing that his work does not seem to have reached the consciousness of women about to embark on becoming a mother. (3) Hundreds of studies have shown that the quality of care a child receives in the first months and years of life determines its capacity to make relationships in later life. (4) (see Oliver James, the Independent 17/11/98).

A Secret Garden - Delight in Life

Each child carries a secret garden within herself, the sensitive core of her being. The primary job of a parent is to keep this garden of the heart alive and flourishing, planting seeds that will grow into plants and trees and flowers until the child himself can take over the job of being gardener to his own soul. In some children, this garden may become shut away behind a high wall, inaccessible even to the child who may lose the key that enables him to pass to and fro between the garden of his heart and the outer world.
     Awareness of the external world comes slowly into focus from the deep ground of the soul: "In the child, consciousness rises out of the depths of unconscious psychic life, at first like separate islands, which gradually unite to form a continent, a continuous land-mass of consciousness. Progressive mental development means, in effect, extension of consciousness." (4) Joy, the feeling of delight in life, the feeling that life is mysterious, marvellous and magical is every child's birthright and the key to being in touch with both the imagination (the heart) and the world. Joy and trust are feelings that naturally belong to earliest childhood. A child's bright, shining eyes reflect this joy and trust. If joy and trust are killed, the key to the garden is lost. The whole art of parenting consists in the ability to nurture this sense of delight, enthusiasm and trust in life. The whole art of healing is the ability to help oneself or another to re-discover this key, to re-experience the spontaneous delight in life of a happy well-nurtured childhood. (see the example of the Queen Mother's childhood). This means removing the guilt, fear and grief that have caused it to be lost. It means changing the unconscious programming of the nervous system.
     Joy is something that most of us have had a glimpse of. But as we grow older, we tend to feel it less and less and substitute pleasure or material things to compensate us for that unbearable loss. We may destroy it in our children by putting an end to their imaginative playing, substituting competitive goal-seeking instead. We may destroy the very activity that could nourish their instinctive life, out of which could develop their future balance, happiness and creative work. We may allow them insufficient time for fantasy and play, no time just to be, giving them too early a sense of hurry and striving, or failure and disappointment, believing that we are helping them to "face reality" and become equipped for life. But the reality we force them to face up to is our reality, not theirs. Their view of life may not be allowed to grow and flourish because there is no time or space for it to do so. Under the pressure of society's goal-seeking competitive ethos, parents may fear that without access to a good education, their children may falter in the race of life. Yet too much emphasis on succeeding at school as the atmosphere in the parental home can make children conform too quickly and compete against each other too early and this pressure may deflect the instinct from its natural path and destroy the innate and instinctive desire to discover and explore, and their trust in themselves throughout life.
     When the child enters the wider world of society already damaged by the home situation, and finds an impersonal, frightening environment (too many children in a school or a classrooom) and a curriculum devoted to the achievement of goals, where there is no beauty or mystery or magic, no nourishment for the heart, it will again be traumatised and the neglected imagination will be channelled into negative fantasies. The pathology of violence presented on television, film and video will increase the sense of fear and powerlessness, for what children watch, night after night, in scenes of sadistic violence, is the spectacle of the desecration of the soul, which is, ultimately, their own desecration. Consciously, people may say that children don't copy the negative mythology they see, but this is too literal and simplistic an approach to the issue. Unconsciously their instinct (limbic brain or autonomic nervous system) absorbs violent, barbaric images and unconsciously it identifies with the aggressor as the only way to survive. In a society which is increasingly brutal, brutality becomes an admired pattern of behaviour, tied in to survival instincts which are activated by society's inability to protect children from bullying and violence. (relate this to the number of young males in prison)
     Children whose feelings did not matter to their parents will, as adults, ignore their own feelings and those of others. Compulsively, in addictive or manipulative behaviour of all kinds, they will repeat or re-enact the original trauma by attracting to themselves situations or relationships that punish them, traumatise them, destroy them (see article at end of notes). They may also, by unconsciously identifying with the aggressor who wounded them, wound their own chosen victims - always someone weaker than themselves, making them suffer the intensity of the pain they are enduring themselves. The child is the weakest element in society and will suffer the most from this behaviour. Some commit suicide or run away from home because they do not know how to survive the fear and trauma caused by school bullies.

The Child in the Womb and the Experience of Birth

The foetus in the womb registers everything the mother is experiencing - her happiness and delight in her growing child, her distress, her fear, her anxiety. It is affected by alcohol, smoking, drugs, anger and violence and tension in the parental relationship, and is sensitive to music, noise and the quality of the environment the mother is experiencing. Care and a good diet and an unstressful environment during the first three months of pregnancy are vital for the formation of a happy and healthy child, for it is during these months that the basic structure of the nervous system is formed. This structure includes the development of the heart cells, 65% of which are neural cells. The brain develops from a mass of undifferentiated heart cells before they form into the four cardiac chambers. The heart is connected to all the vital organs of the body and is linked to the cognitive and learning processes.

1. In the watery dimension of the womb the experience of the foetus may be a feeling of supreme bliss or a feeling of constant anxiety or something in between. These feelings may lead in later life to self-esteem, the ability to communicate with other people and the deeper aspects of life, happiness and creativity (love of water and swimming) or to self-disgust, self-abuse and the feeling that life is against one (fear of life, water etc.). Think of how many women were terrified of dying in childbirth until very recently and how that anxiety was transmitted to the foetus during the birth process. Think of how many young women died of puerperal fever after childbirth in the past. These old fears linger in the unconscious. So the first question to ask in pregnancy is: "what do I feel about this child?" Am I looking forward to the birth or am I full of anxiety, fear or resentment? Secondly, what am I doing to care for myself and provide the best internal and external environment for my baby? Thirdly, what is my relationship with my partner like? Do I feel reassured by his interest and support or anxious because these are lacking?

2. the first stage of birth for the child gives rise to feelings of helplessness, of being stuck and confined within a narrow, unyielding space. The foetus cannot move and there is no way it can know that this constriction will end. A long protracted birth amplifies these feelings.

3. the propulsion through the birth canal is experienced as a titanic struggle with powerful forces that crush one and hold one in a vice-like grip.

4. the release of the birth itself brings feelings of expansion, ecstasy, light, warmth and the bliss of being in touch with the mother's body. See the books of Drs. Michel Odent and Leboyer (5) for how to give the infant a good experience of birth. Not holding the newly born infant upside down; a calm, dark environment. The mother sitting in warm water during stage 2 and 3 can help both mother and baby. Warm water, quiet, and a semi-dark room (no bright overhead lights) help the mother to relax and allow her instincts to guide the whole process. They also help mother and infant to bond after birth.

It used to be thought until very recently that foetuses and infants do not feel pain. But we now know that the infant can feel constriction, pain and suffocation, particularly in a protracted or difficult birth. The work of Stanislav Grof has shed enormous light on previously unrecognised birth trauma.(6) The buried cellular and muscular memory of the experience of constriction, suffocation and excruciating pain can be reactivated by any difficult life experience. "I will never get out of this mess." "I am stuck in a trap." "Nothing good will ever happen to me." "I will not be able to survive." (often constriction in chest area; inability to breathe).

Danger programmes us to one of three responses: fight, flight or paralysis

The kind of birth we have had can programme us to responding to a life situation with a tendency to fight, flight or paralysis. (The third response has not received anything like the attention required. I believe it lies at the root of depression in later life). In therapy, this primal terror can be embodied in the image of a spider or an octopus, for example, and this image can help to heal the trauma if it can be imagined, discussed, related to the trauma and eventually accepted without fear. The chemical constellation in the nervous system can be changed. This process of healing through relating to the image sends a message to the nervous system to relax so that the effect of the original traumatic memory can be transformed.

The Child and the Mother

The child starts life in a state of psychic identification with its mother. Only very gradually does it send out the small shoots of awareness and relationship which eventually lead to the development of a conscious ego or sense of self. The sense of self develops (by age 3 approximately) through the child responding to its mother and father, then becoming aware of its immediate surroundings (through crawling and exploring), then encountering the world of ideas, feelings and values, discovering through experience and interaction with others that 'this feels safe', 'this feels dangerous', 'this feels nice', 'this feels nasty', 'this hurts' etc. The mother at the beginning of the child's life is experienced as the whole, the oneness of being. Through her bond with her child the mother mediates the instinctive connection or sense of relationship with this whole.
     In the past the mother was the primary link to this deep psychic ground of life. The father acted more to connect the child with the external world and to establish him in it by helping him to find a profession, particularly in the case of a son. In the last 50 years this situation has changed radically. Fathers can be extraordinarily nurturing, given the time and the opportunity to be with their children. Daughters as well as sons need help in getting established in the world but they also need connection to their inner world. With both parents working outside the home, and having very little time to spend with their children in the home, above all to spend time enjoying their company and talking to them, this connection can be lost. Because it has been lost, children founder in their efforts to find a secure foothold at school and in the wider community and to form rewarding relationships with men and women in later life. Their primary response at the unconscious level is anxiety and fear and the activation of instinctive responses to danger (fight/flight/paralysis).
     Women's inability to value themselves as mothers because society does not value them in this role has deeply injured them and their children. The focus of society is now on the professional woman and women are programmed to seek professional status and see the greatest value in their professional role rather than their maternal one. Women have for so long been regarded as inferior and regarded themselves as inferior to men that they have come to give inferior status to motherhood in relation to the professional career that gives them equal status with men. Many women today look upon and experience motherhood as a confining, secondary, boring and lonely experience which interferes with their work or career or the need to earn their living. This view of motherhood is partly fuelled by the desire to follow the male model of achieving power, success and a place in the world but also by the need to discover their specific individual gifts and to express them as fully as possible. There is great social pressure on them to do this and many enjoy their professional life and the relationships this brings. But, instinctively, they also want the experience of motherhood. This puts them under great stress as they try to squeeze both demanding roles into the space of 20 or 30 years. The greater their intellectual gifts, the greater may be their unconscious rejection of the role of motherhood, their sense of frustration and conflict, and their resentment at the ties their children place on them. Conversly, there are many mothers who have (for financial reasons) to go out to work but who would love to be able to stay at home with their babies and young children. And there are thousands of single mothers who would love to train for a profession but who cannot afford to pay for child care.
     Some women discover too late that they want a baby and deeply regret having put their profession before embarking on being a mother (see Baby Hunger correspondence). It is physically and emotionally very arduous for a woman to have a job and to look after several children. What may be sacrificed is their relationship with their partner, their children and their own health. There is simply no time and insufficient emotional and physical strength to attend to each of these aspects of their life adequately. Today financial necessity and social pressure force many mothers into full-time work but the strain imposed on them by the lack of domestic help, or an extended family to provide a reliable mother-substitute to care for the children takes its toll. Nannies and au pairs (often left in sole charge of children) don't stay for a long time with a family in the way they used to and children whose mother is working full-time experience emotional deprivation when the primal carer leaves, often frequently. This is not to say that any of this is wrong, simply that it places enormous strain on women and on their relationships. Eventually we may find a better way of balancing our lives.

The Importance of Bonding

We are born, so to speak, into the presence of our mother. Absence of the mother due to emotional or physical withdrawal, severe depression, death or abandonment means alienation, loss, disorientation. Dr. John Bowlby, writing in the 1950's was the first person to draw attention to the effects of maternal deprivation (7) He had a great influence on psychotherapy but his discoveries have even now not reached the general public and many parents are still not aware of the effect of their leaving their child when very young, even for a few days. Until the age of 4 or 5 small children have no sense of time. Instinctive memory tells them that absence of the mother means abandonment. Their visceral anguish when their mother is away for even a few days is heartrending to behold. Bowlby found that infants or small children who had lost their mothers through death or abandonment developed depression in later life. They did not recover from the trauma of separation. Unbelievably, children in this country used to be sent to boarding school as young as 4 years old with catastrophic effects on their capacity to relate to others both physically and emotionally later in their lives. I hope this is no longer the case but fear that it may still happen.

Establishment of Neuronal Pathways

We are born into life as relating beings. The first relationship is with the mother: we are in the womb for nine months; after birth we can become bonded to her if she can respond to our need for relationship with her. Importance of eye contact, skin contact, the sound of her voice. (helpfulness of body massage and cranial osteopathy to correct birth injuries to head and nervous system, particularly after a lengthy or forceps birth). Studies by the neuropsychologist James Prescott have shown the long-term effects of successful bonding or the lack of it in the relationship of the mother and father to the infant. These showed that neural circuits are damaged through rejection or abandonment of the child. The degree of bonding depends on the amount of attention given to the physical and emotional needs of the infant and growing child. Feelings of pleasure and gratification arise in the infant when three basic systems - trust, touch and smell - are integrated. Disorientation, violence and emotional disturbance develops when they are not. (8)
     The instinctive bonding between mother and child - the experience of unity, relationship and wholeness is essential for the future healthy functioning of the child's instincts. It is the emotional and physical bonding between mother and infant that establishes and develops the neuronal pathways throughout the body/mind organism. Sense of trust and safety; seeing, touching; listening; tasting; smelling. If these are established in a contented infancy, the neuronal circuits are grounded in the experience of pleasurable bonding, relatedness and love and there will be the possibility of a healthy integration of the three brain systems (reptilian, mammalian and neocortical) and a further development of the pathways in the frontal lobes. If there is disruption of bonding between mother and child, and the experience of fear and revulsion at the limbic (instinctive level of autonomic nervous system) in early infancy as a result of rejection, withdrawal or abandonment, then healthy instinctual development will not take place. If the bonding is incomplete or deficient, the growing child will remain negatively fixed at the limbic, instinctive level, experiencing constant anxiety that will affect his or her ability to make and sustain good relationships and to flourish in some chosen profession. The body's experience is transmitted to the neuronal pathways and expresses itself as moods, negative emotions, unconscious self-criticism, self-destructive patterns of behaviour etc. However, it should be borne in mind that if another person takes over the role of carer and is loving and nurturing, the maternal bond can be established with that person, as has been shown in cases where the orphaned or abandoned child has been successfully adopted.

"Through the harmony between the child's own rhythm and that of the mother - who in the primal relationship is experienced as identical with its own - the mother's image becomes representative of both the inner and the outer world…The root of the earliest and most basic morality is to be sought in the harmony between the still unsplit total personality of the child and the Self which is experienced through the mother."(9)

In the child's experience, the mother or primal carer is:
      The containing matrix
      The primary agent helping the child to connect with the immediate environment.
      The person who connects the child with the deeper instinctive ground of the soul.

     The development of the limbic system (reptilian and mammalian brain) in earlier phases of evolution put in place structures which allowed vocalisation to develop. The infant's cry attracts the mother to it and her response develops trust and empathy and bonding in the infant. The transcendent experience of intense bliss comes from the limbic system; the infant can know these feelings in the womb and in the first few moments of being reconnected with the mother after birth and close contact with her body throughout infancy:
      Feelings of unity
      Joy, peace, bliss.
      Foundation of later feelings of trust and love
      Foundation for later delight in life.

A good mother/child bond contributes towards
      Social cohesiveness
      Adds meaning to the world
      Develops the capacity for empathy
      Nourishes the imagination

     Every cell has several branchings off it (dendrons). The more you use the cells the more connecting dendrons develop. They develop complexity by use. If they aren't used, they can be lost. The mother's holding and responding to her infant is vital to the development of these dendrons. Care and bonding with the mother or primal carer are absolutely essential in the first 10 months.

      Frustration makes the heart rate jagged
      Appreciation, stroking, caressing, makes it rhythmic
      From 3-10 months a culling takes place with the loss of 50,000 connections (not cells) every second. Cells that are not used during this time die. Good mothering helps the cells to be active. (I am indebted to Dr. Peter Fenwick, Senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, for this information).

     Communication between the heart and the brain is critically important for the well-being of the child. Recent research has shown that the intelligence and well being of the heart is of primary importance to many processes, including cognition. It has over 40,000 sensory neurons. It has its own independent nervous system. The electrical signal of the heart is 60% more powerful than the electrical signal of the brain. The electro-magnetic field of the heart is 500 times more powerful than that of the brain and extends (in the adult) 10 feet beyond the body. Just putting the hand over the heart area changes the brain waves. The heart produces a balancing hormone - oxytocin, the bonding hormone - and this hormone is activated in a loving and nurturing maternal environment. (10)

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem, Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;-
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more!

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the rose, -
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth…'

Wordsworth - from Ode. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.

The Home

is primarily an extension of the mother's containing womb. In the home the caring mother provides space and time for the child to become herself or himself. If the mother is in touch with her own instincts, happy to be herself, valuing her role as mother, she will lay the foundations for the child's sense of its own value. A mother who is in love with this tiny, amazing creature - her child, who is able to make time just to be with it, will help the child to flourish. Time is absolutely essential for the continuity of this emotional and physical deep bonding to take place. In the home, the mother can be 'present' for her child. In the containment of her love and mirroring, in the touch and smell of her body, the bud of the baby can begin to flower. "The mother gives to the baby the baby's own self." - the mother helps the infant and the small child to build up a continuity of being - its true self.
     One of the most difficult things for the young mother to allow time for is attention to the older child when a new baby is born - giving special time to that child, and this applies right the way through. For a mother who has no help of any kind, who may be a single parent without the help and support of her own mother or any assistance with shopping and cooking, this need may be an impossible demand. If society really attended to the needs of the mother, as well as preparing her for motherhood, much distress and emotional damage to both her and her child could be avoided.

The importance of play and the imagination in the child's development.

Exploring the environment through touch, co-ordinating hand and eye. The importance of reading fairy tales and making up stories and having time for this. Answering questions. Contact with animals, looking at birds, trees, plants, flowers, insects etc. Planting seeds in the ground and seeing them grow into plants. Helping with cooking, making bread. Being aware of the child's feelings and helping it to become aware of them and name them so it can articulate them to you. Young children cannot express feelings of anxiety and grief and may show physical symptoms instead (usually pain in the stomach or bloating and distension after eating food) since body and mind are intimately connected. (11)
     The child needs a witness or mirror for its deepest feelings. In an unhappy home there is no-one to notice what it is feeling. In therapy the therapist is often the first and only witness of the child's buried suffering.

The Father

Fathers are increasingly participating in the care of the infant and small child. Sometimes they are the primary carer. Their role used to be more important in the second stage of the child's life when it starts school and enters the world beyond the home. The father is still at the unconscious level (because of the species life experience of the male) the primary connection to the world of "doing" as opposed to that of "being." He is still the primary role model for a little boy to copy. Little girls need his affection and approval and interest to thrive. A little boy's adoration for his father might be expressed in words like the following: "I think I loved my daddy before I was born."
     The father's support for the mother is vitally important during pregnancy and early childhood. If there is tension and anger between them or if the father is withdrawn, jealous or aggressive, it makes the mother's role far more difficult. She will be anxious and tense, possibly depressed, if there is no love and support flowing to her from her partner during pregnancy and to her and the child after the birth. After the birth, the child can build up a deep bond with the father if he is present for the child and takes delight in being with it. The child is totally dependent on the mirroring it receives from both parents for its sense of self-worth and, at the deepest level, for its ability to survive. It will adapt itself to the parents' demands, even to the parents' cruelty, for the sake of survival but the child can only come to know itself, like itself and trust itself through the spontaneous mirroring offered to it by both parents. If this mirroring is absent or defective, the core of the child's being is affected and wounded. Feelings may be split off from the conscious personality which may find refuge in all kinds of behavioural dysfunction and also, later on, in exclusively intellectual pursuits (such as academic work or the rigidly objective approach of science) where feelings are not allowed to intrude on work, or it may become the victim of unconscious fears and projections which undermine relationships.

The Effects of Fear

Fear of one or the other parent because of emotional or physical attacks on the child can programme it to become fixated in one of three responses mentioned above throughout its life: fight, flight or paralysis. These responses may also be activated if it has to witness the physical or emotional abuse of one parent by another over many years. It is the continual helpless witnessing of suffering and abuse over many years that does the harm to the child's psyche, not so much the single act (unless it is witnessing a murder or a rape). The child's main concern is survival and whatever anger, fear or grief it is feeling may have to be repressed or hidden for fear of punishment.
     Children may not be protected by their mother from a father's violence or abuse because in the mother's own childhood she witnessed the same pattern of behaviour and is unconsciously programmed to accept it as "normal." The anger and grief arising from all kinds of situations and events within the family are projected in later life onto situations and relationships in the wider field of society. Higher standards of living do not affect cultural attitudes and beliefs nor do they necessarily heal the wounds and tragedies that may be transmitted in families over many generations.
     The way the mother treats the father and the father the mother has a deep influence on the child. Equally, the way the mother and father value themselves also has an influence on the child.

Two of the most important questions parents could ask themselves

      What was there in my own childhood experience that could lead me to behave in a way that might be either beneficial or harmful to my partner and child?
     What can I do to encourage or transform that experience?

There are 7 primary questions a parent can ask as a child grows up:

     Is my child healthy?
      Is my child happy?
      Does it communicate well with other children?
      Is it able to become pleasurably involved in some kind of activity that absorbs its attention?
      Does it know that I take delight in its existence regardless of what it is achieving so that it knows my love is not dependent upon its achievements?
      Does it look forward to each day?
      Does it experience me and my partner as a safe person to be with?

Does it know, for example, that I am pleased to see it when it wakes each morning and each afternoon when it comes home from school? Am I there to greet it and acknowledge its existence with warmth and interest or have I no energy or desire or time to do this?
     The successful later bonding between man and woman in later life may be rooted in the earliest feelings of trust and communion between the growing infant and the parents. At the same time trust in our ability to survive and the desire to explore, discover, create, relate to others, extend ourselves are rooted in the same early experience. I found this passage from a book called A Life in Your Hands by Dorothy Law Holte which simply and eloquently offers guidelines to all parents:

If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in the world.

The true and false self

Dr. Winnicott developed the concept of the true and false self. The true self as he saw it, was able to develop in the child who had adequate parental support and love. The false self developed in the child who had endured trauma of some kind or another and who had suffered emotional rejection. It was a constructed defence against the unbearable pain of the repetition of this trauma. The construction of the false self is a survival mechanism to ensure protection against breakdown. But, as Winnicott wrote, "The breakdown that is feared has already happened." (12) The adult may have no memory of the childhood trauma but a breakdown in later life (that is treated with therapy) can help a person to recall the memories of what originally happened to cause the massive failure of the infant's or child's defence system and the construction of a false self.
     To survive emotional trauma the child may construct a conforming false self - adjusting itself to the approval of the parents or foster parents in order to survive, even if they are physically cruel, emotionally absent or rejecting. This is particularly so in cases of child abuse where the defence is to survive by withdrawing from feelings altogether. The child may even accept cruelty and sadistic abuse as an expression of love, knowing no other pattern of behaviour, and bonding to that pattern for survival. There is a strong evidence now that repeated exposure to abuse as a child sets abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals that express themselves as states of mind like chronic anxiety, depression or aggressive or self-destructive patterns of behaviour. In an environment where the child lives in constant fear of a parent/s over many years, high cortisol levels can lead to the loss of certain brain cells. Too much tension damages the limbic system which does most of the brain's learning and remembering. A child can endure any amount of physical hardship if it feels loved. What it cannot endure is the anger and rejection and cruelty of a parent. (The psychopath doesn't recognise pain,. doesn't respond to crying faces, following the pattern of the mother who consistently did not respond to him when he was crying, who perhaps hit him when he cried or a consistently abusive parent who treated him cruelly. This is a controversial suggestion and may be modified as our knowledge of brain chemistry evolves).

The loss of one parent due to divorce or abandonment

can inflict a deep trauma and may also lead to the possible demonising of the missing or abandoning parent. This in turn can lead to the internal demonising of one half of the child who unconsciously identifies part of itself with the absent and mourned parent. All badness may be projected onto the absent parent and all goodness onto the remaining one or vice-versa. This may deeply wound and polarise the child's psyche and set up a conflict between an internalised unconscious "negative" voice and the conscious self. (this may be one root of the inner critic and another cause of depression in later life).

The programming we have received as children

and our consequent view of ourselves, deeply affects the way we relate to our own children and to our partners. Fear of the mother or father (who has abandoned or rejected or mistreated the child) may be reflected in our behaviour patterns later on. We may be unable to trust another person or may react excessively to a perceived threat. We may carry anger and resentment or a deep distrust of the opposite sex which may contaminate our relationships. We may try to escape from relationships because we feel inadequate to the demands put on us or are frightened of emotions that we fear may overwhelm us. We may discard partners and move on to others, looking for the unqualified love and support we never had as a child.

In men: the fear and distrust of women may be expressed as the need to abandon them for another partner or as criticism, emotional or physical cruelty. 'Mother Church' has for centuries been a place of refuge and safety for men who have been emotionally damaged. Alternatively, there may be too great a dependency on women; allowing them to carry their feelings for them. An emotionally insecure man may be withdrawn from his feelings, jealous of other men and also of his children taking his partner's attention away from him. This pattern of unconscious dependence on a woman is often expressed as manipulation of her feelings, ridiculing her for being "emotional" and as constant criticism of whatever she does, thereby undermining her trust in herself.

In women: The fear of and therefore the unconscious need to control men can be expressed as emotional and physical withdrawal, rejection. A tendency to manipulate in order to secure attention and support (affection). Dependency on men. Inability to take care of themselves in the world or, alternatively, a fierce determination not to be dependent on a man. Treating men with contempt; trying to control them; belittling or ridiculing them. A typical "victim" pattern: I can't do such and such a thing because my husband/partner doesn't like/want me to. Or, conversely, I'm much better off without a man. I can manage on my own.

Unconscious patterns

It helps to become aware of a childhood situation where there was bereavement, abandonment, divorce or a persecuting, rejecting or depressed parent or parents. In each of these situations, the tendency is for the child to feel powerless and to blame itself for whatever has happened. It feels it must have been 'bad' for the parent to have abandoned it or to be angry with it:

The deepest wounds are inflicted on the child by:

The death of a parent, particularly the mother.
Separation from the mother or abandonment by the mother.
The loss or absence of either parent. Divorce can severely traumatise a child, losing a parent he or she loves or being "second-best" in relation to children of a new marriage.
Rejection of the child by the parent.
A dysfunctional, emotionally unstable or withdrawn parent as with alcoholism, depression or other mental illness.
quarrelling, abusive or violent parent/s.

The child rationalises these events to itself in terms of saying to itself

It is all my fault
I am bad
whatever I do isn't good enough
whatever I did I shouldn't have done
I must do more (to bring the parent back to life, back to the home, to rescue the 'victim' parent, to secure the parent's love, to help the dysfunctional parent, to bring the parents back together).

A child who is crushed by an overwhelming sense of sorrow, guilt and badness is full of self-hatred and feelings of inadequacy because it has been unable to prevent the catastrophe taking place. These feelings are repressed into the unconscious and set up a regime of self-punishment which takes the form of constantly confirming to oneself the feeling of failure and of being unlovable. A persistent negative internal voice undermines the child's (and the adult's) feeling of self-worth. Self-hatred and self-criticism are a continual re-infliction of the original wound. These in turn may lead to the compulsion to offload unconscious feelings of guilt and unhappiness by hurting or punishing others, including one's own children. This, I believe, is at the root of the growing pattern of bullying and violence in schools and the breakdown of so many marriages. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy may also drive an adolescent to alcoholism, drugs and promiscuity.
     Adults believe that values are instilled in children by religion. But it is far more likely that values are instilled by the child's observation of how adults respect each other and their child. The child unblinkingly perceives the hypocrisy of parents who profess belief in a religious code and behave in a way that contradicts or belies that code. The more we ask children to look for the answers to the questions that perplex us in themselves rather than in what they have been taught to think or believe, the more we may be astonished by the lucidity and the quality of their perceptions. Rigidity and fixed belief systems are the second biggest danger for the child: forcing beliefs on a child distorts its capacity to make its own choices. Influence is one thing, but forcing a child to conform to the parents' beliefs is best avoided. Indoctrination may come from religious beliefs, scientific beliefs, political (tribal) beliefs, new age beliefs, (belonging to cults), beliefs about diet, fanaticism of all kinds.
     The attempt to impose control on the child through these different systems will have negative effects later on. The rigidity and compulsion to control in the parents will be transmitted unconsciously to the child's psyche. In later life that rigidity and compulsion to control will emerge in a similar pattern of behaviour although the belief system may be different. For example, the child of a person who insists on the child believing in God may become a scientist who insists that there is no such thing as God. (13)
     Mothers instinctively have a very deep bond with daughters because daughters are the future carriers of life and are preparing themselves for this role from earliest childhood. Little girls usually show the containing, holding, relating, connecting instincts that go with motherhood. Little boys are usually more interested in exploring, building things up and taking them apart, driving tractors or cars, looking into cupboards and going beyond boundaries. Although gender specific skills can be rounded out, it is absurd to try to interfere with or change age-old instinctive tendencies.

The Teacher

The teacher is the second "parental" influence on the child. He/she is a vitally important role-model for the child. His/her influence on the child depends on what kind of values he/she has, how much he/she loves teaching and enjoys encouraging the growth of the child through communicating enthusiasm for the subject. A teacher can paralyse a child with fear and cause it to lose its trust and delight in life or he/she can help a child to build confidence in itself and discover its capacity to learn things that it thought were difficult or even impossible. This poem by a 12 year old boy at school in Southampton shows how a teacher can provide the containing environment in which a child can dare to express his true feelings:

I hear my inner voice talking to me,
Explaining, encouraging,
Opening the part of me that I thought was lost.
In this world of cruelty and fear little lights are burning.
Everyone has a flame inside their hearts,
If only they had the courage to find it.
The light can trickle out through a hole in your mind.
When the inside is out
You are transformed and revealed.
There is no need to be afraid,
But be curious
As you will probably never know where the force is coming from.

Daniel Webster

It is not only the imparting of information but keeping alive the connection to the imagination that is absolutely vital, nourishing a sense of connection to the universe, an awareness of a deeper "Presence" and values that are grounded in a profound respect for life and all living things. Without this connection, which keeps the imagination alive and engaged, school becomes boring. Most subjects, but particularly science, may be taught objectively, with passing exams as the goal, without engaging our deepest feelings and values and without an awareness that these are essential to an understanding of life. What should come through teaching is the realisation that life is a vast and complex organism of which we are a part. Neither nature nor the human body is a mechanism to be manipulated as we choose.

Some questions for parents to ask

How can I help my child to find its soul purpose, its creative gift/s?
How can I help my child to develop emotional intelligence and a balance between thinking and feeling as it grows up so that both are given value and recognition?
How can I help my child's imagination to flourish in the face of the intensive factual demands of modern education?
How can I lay the foundation for a strong immune and nervous system and teach it to respect and care for the body as it grows up, recognising its symptoms of distress?

Some parents and teachers realise the extent of their immense power and responsibility to foster life and health and happiness in the children in their care. Others do not. Some understand the importance of the home and school as a sanctuary, a place where a child can develop in safety and security until it is strong enough and confident enough to take its place in the world. Nothing is more important than providing the environment in which a child can flourish, discovering its potential and the kind of activity that brings it delight and satisfaction and lays the foundation of a creatively lived life. The values that parents and teachers transmit to children by the quality of their love, care and attention create civilisation. To hear a child look and act as if it were happy to be alive is the greatest possible reward a parent or a teacher can receive.

Final Thoughts

In the beginning, if parental bonding has gone well, children instinctively have a passionate interest in everything that is around them; the light of a joyous interest and enthusiasm shines in their eyes as they discover and explore their environment. But this light may fade in the effort to learn facts in ever greater quantity; facts that may have no meaning for them unless these are imparted by teachers who are in love with their subject and are not exhausted by the bureaucratic demands that are the corollary of being a teacher today. There may be no time or space for relationships and the development of their imagination. Without close and nourishing relationships throughout childhood the brutality of a culture that only values power, success and wealth may destroy or distort their imagination before they have grown to maturity. Imagination then becomes negative, destructive, manifesting in all kinds of self-destructive patterns of behaviour and also in bullying and violence towards other children and society in general. In trying to copy and compete with others, children may lose the sense of their own individuality and worth. In trying to adapt to a degenerate and superficial culture, they may never discover their unique creative gifts. I think it is vitally important that we help children by:

making a conscious effort to teach adolescents and young parents about the emotional needs of young children and preparing them for parenthood and child-rearing (attention to Bowlby).
Giving more help and support to young mothers.
providing a balanced education which nourishes the imagination and a sense of wonder.
creating a feeling of safety or sanctuary in our schools, dealing effectively with bullying and intimidation both through zero tolerance of them and through giving children insight into what gives rise to this pattern of behaviour. Meditation (mindfulness), yoga and massage (of each other) in schools has proved very helpful. Weekly expeditions into the woods to explore and discover ways of relating to nature have also aroused tremendous enthusiasm (following the Swedish experience of the value of this both educationally and emotionally, resulting in more alert, more focussed and happier children).

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

From Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.


1. Shengold, Leonard, Soul Murder, The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation, Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1989
2. Miller, Alice, The Drama of the Gifted Child, Basic Books, Inc. 1981. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, Pluto Press, London, 1985
3. Bowlby, John, Child Care and the Growth of Love, Penguin Books, 1953; Attachment and Loss, Volumes 1 & 2, Hogarth Press, London 1969 and 1973 (other publishers since then).
4. C.G. Jung, The Development of Personality, Collected Works, vol 17
5. Odent, Michel see his Entering the World, Birth Reborn, and Primal Health; also Leboyer, Charles for his book on childbirth
6. Grof, Stanislav, Beyond the Brain, Suny Press, New York, 1985. The Holotropic Mind, HarperSan Francisco, 1993
7. Bowlby, John, see above, note (3)
8. J.W. Prescott, The Origins of Human Love and Violence. Pre-and Peri-natal Psychology Journal, 10 (3): 143-188.
9. Neumann, Erich. The Child, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1963
10. see the work of Dr. Alan Watkins, 5 Tithe Mead, Romsey, Hampshire SO51 7SD; website: www.heartmath.org and email: alan@ipslab.com
11. Pert, Candace, Molecules of Emotion, Simon and Schuster Ltd., London, 1998
12. Winnicott, Donald, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, Hogarth Press, London, 1982
13. Miller, Alice, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware see above, note 2. also Kalsched, Donald, The Inner World of Trauma, Routledge, London 1996

For perinatal care see the updated The Unborn Child: A New Concept of Care by Roy Ridgeway and Simon House (soon to be republished by Watkins). Also the current work of Simon House, whose main interest is in the needs of the unborn child and the care of women in pregnancy. (Rev. Simon House, 22 Stanley Street, Southsea, Portsmouth PO5 2DS, email: shhouse@clara.co.uk).

for the roots of violence in our society, see Felicity de Zulueta, From Pain to Violence, the Traumatic Roots of Destructiveness,Whurr Publishers, London 1993 and also Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Penguin Books, London, 1977 (the chapters on Malignant Aggression)

In Pennsylvania recently, a perceptive judge (Judge Paul Perachi), trying cases of adolescent crime, has offered disturbed and violent offenders the choice between going to prison and acting in Shakespeare's plays. It was found that learning to act in certain plays by Shakespeare not only encouraged these children to discover capabilities and skills that they didn't know they had, but to gain confidence in themselves and a sense of achievement. It also helped them to relate to and contain violent emotions instead of acting them out in socially disruptive behaviour. Finally they discovered that they enjoyed this new experience and that they made new friends. See report in The Times, April 14th, and May 2nd 2002 (T2).


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