SOCIALIZATION

 


Socialization is a loaded word.

On one hand it means the process by which individuals learn to behave, think and feel as individuals in relation to their social environments. On the other hand it means learning to be what is expected of one by other members of society. The two processes are not always compatible, for what may be good for the individual in the short run may be dysfunctional for society in the long run. And what may make perfect sense for the survival of the collective may be painful for the aspirations of the individual. Hegel remained convinced that history was the final measure and that individual and collective aspirations melded through some mystical process to produce evolution. Such a view is a view filled with faith, faith in the meaning of a single life, faith in the meaning of an époque, and faith in humankind’s progress to some decent and honorable ending.
Social life is a long process involving the interpretation of perceptions and the selection of behavior in relation to other people. It is a life-long process, especially in cultures of frequent and substantial change.

What and how we learn is the focus of studies of socialization. It is an interesting area of study because buried within this area is the most controversial issue in philosophy, theology and contemporary sociology. This issue is the debate between NATURE versus NURTURE. It puts us face to face with a dilemma which has plagued philosophers, theologians and social scientists for a long time. Is the human being born with primordial characteristics or are human characteristics the results of social systems and social preferences. Are we living according to a law handed down from some divine supernatural source, or at the very least our own genetic codes, or do we arrive in the world as a clean slate and have our selves written by others and our own will?

In reality, however, both aspects are operative in many social situations. We are born with universals and to these are added social constructs, that is habits, thoughts, values which are socially transmitted and not connected to any physiological predisposition. We need not choose between the two viewpoints but realize the danger of applying each viewpoint at the wrong time and in the wrong places. To say that the “smile of a human” is not primordial is to entertain the ridiculous. Saying that gender is a natural given and cannot be negotiated is equally ridiculous.

But there is one fact we know which applies to all cultures. It is impossible to be socialized and become a member of society without the presence of others.
A child needs stimulation in order to become a social being. I want to discuss the most profound need of a child prior to describing the various theories or perspectives regarding child-rearing, learning and socialization.

In 1929, Dr. John Watson. founder of behavioral psychology wrote the following proposition, one which I personally consider idiotic in any époque and any country: “There is a sensible way of treating children. Treat them as though they were young adults. Dress them, bathe them with care and circumspection. Let your behavior always be objective and kindly firm. Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit on your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning” ([1928] 1972: 81-82).

Reading Dr. Watson’s tract, one might want to pause for a moment of silence in memory of the emotional lives which were ruined as a result of this dim-witted proposition. And recovering from the shock of it, we might wish to realize that no argument can be constructed to rationalize why Dr. Watson’s attitude may have been “functionally appropriate” for that period of history. Nothing which leads to individuals who are emotionally stunted and closed-off, as is often the case with adults who are physically neglected as children (Shilling, 1993; Davetian, 1996), can be considered “functionally appropriate” unless, for some reason, the survival of a culture requires the robotization of its citizens.

It was Ashley Montagu who finally brought the required attention to the importance of touch. He reminded us that touch is the most fundamental contact and is the infant’s earliest interaction with the adult world. If the infant is touched with warmth and love, he/she enjoys the experience of seeing the world as a safe and trustworthy place. But if there is little touching and if the infant is left continuously to cry it out in the crib as was amazingly suggested to mothers by the psychologist Truby King in the 1950’s, then the infant approaches its socialization experience with hesitancy and lack of confidence, for its first contacts with the world are down-right scary ones.

Following touch comes language, the single tool by which an adult can effectively transmit to a child the accumulated values and emotions of the culture. Yarrow, Rubenstein and Pederson demonstrated in an extensive research in 1975 that the more often children are spoken to and played with the more quickly they develop their mental abilities.

We have seen in our research regarding children abandoned at an early age that lack of verbal contact with adults and other children causes the subjects to become mentally and emotionally underdeveloped. Feral children are children who have grown up without adult contact and they are very hard to socialize at a later stage.

PERSPECTIVES
The Behaviorist Perspective
The behavioral approach focuses on observable behavior rather than on the inner thought processes of the actor. It focuses on how people are conditioned to do what they do and pays little attention to what they think and feel about what they are conditioned to do. So behaviorism is effective for observing what stimulus produces what reaction. But it fails to answer why individuals deviate from the prescribed program and produce unpredictable reactions. In fact, much of our behavior is learned without the rewards and punishments prescribed by the behaviorists. Often, even when forbidden to do so, children copy the behavior of people they admire....we often imitate models.

The Social Learning Perspective
The social learning perspective emerged from the observation that humans could learn without a system of rigid rewards and punishments.

The social learning perspective focuses on the manner in which we choose those models whom we then imitate. Watch a small girl trying on her mother’s high heels and you’ll have a pretty good illustration of this theory at work. Also, observe how children will often use sexual words long before they even have an inkling of their meaning. Equally, they can imitate their parents ethnic or racial slurs long before they have the opportunity to evaluate the sanity of such positions.

Most studies in social learning have concluded that individuals tend to choose models that are most attractive to them. During early childhood the attractiveness of a model is often connected to its power status. A four year old boy, therefore, in a utilitarian society, would be more apt to want to be a military general than a poet. Children, being thrown into an adult world which does not take their size and fragility into consideration, tend to imitate those who seem to control events and other people. Young boys and girls tend to imitate whichever parent seems stronger in the parental relationship. Occasionally, they will on purpose not imitate a strong parent whom they find not likable and will gravitate towards the parent whom they feel most loved by.No one likes to be associated with the weak link in a relationship. It is simply a pragmatic aspect of human nature, part of our desire to survive.

Yet even the social learning perspective cannot explain why it is that people behave in the way they do when there is no model available. We have observed that adults are capable of making complex moral decisions in complex situations whereas a three year old is not able to do the same. For the explanation of why this is so we have to turn to the cognitive development perspective.

The Cognitive Development Perspective

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget was the developer of the cognitive development theory. He argued that children’s mental development passed through a series of stages. Each stage brings with it a greater ability to process information and make judgments. The ages of each stage are approximate and children pass through them at varying paces.
From the age of 2 to 7 children are able to use symbols to label things but they cannot glibly use concepts to express the relation of one thing to another. That is because the neo-cortex of the brain where concepts are processed is not developed enough until the age of 7. Children in this stage are egocentric. And it is not until the age of 12 that children are able to use rules to solve abstract problems. In the egocentric phase children are not able to hold conversations with others which taker one topic and carry it on for a while. They tend to say whatever comes into their heads and will often introduce elements which have no connection to what the other speaker has just said. Some of you may disagree with the age limit and consider that for some it goes right into old age...I would tend to agree with you.

From the age of 7 to 11, the concrete operational stage, children master abstract logical solutions. From 11 to 15, children pass through what Piaget called the formal operational stage. They are now able to review all possible solutions when faced with a problem. According to Piaget all adults pass through the first three stages, they are therefore universals. But not all adults pass through the fourth stage.

For additional insight, we turn to two theories...the psychoanalytical theory and the interactionist theory.

Interactionism of Herbert Mead
Herbert Mead’s (1863-1931) was a philosopher who spent most of his career teaching at the University of Chicago. He wrote very little. In fact, his best known work, Mind, Self and Society was put together by his students from their lecture notes. Yet his ideas have had a tremendous impact on sociology and are known as the interactionist perspective.
According to Mead, infants and children develop as social beings by imitating the actions of those around them. Through play, they have the opportunity of imitating adult activities....making mud pies after having seen an adult cook, digging with a spoon after observing an adult do gardening...these are examples of how children imitate the actions which they observe.

This imitation allows the child to experience what it is to take on the role of the other. By seeing themselves through the eyes of others, children develop an understanding of themselves as independent agents. The self-consciousness of the “I” becomes what Mead described as the ME....the self being observed consciously by the self. For Mead the ME was the socialized self, the ego and superego of Freud, while the I was the unsocialized self, the ID of which Freud spoke.

What is interesting about Mead’s work is the manner in which he observes how children begin internalizing the expectations of others. Early in life, a child identifies the people he or she considers to be his or her significant others. The significant other is the person or persons who most influence the child and on whom the child is most dependent for the satisfaction of needs. These are the parents and whichever members of the extended family whom are closest to the child. Later, this circle of influence extends to teachers and close friends.

The child adopts the language used by the significant other and applies it to herself. Let us say for example, the parent becomes angry because the child has dropped a glass of water and says, “No, don’t do that” to the child. The next time the child drops a glass, she may make an angry face herself and repeat to herself, “No, don’t do that.” The child has now internalized the adult’s values. For better or worse, the child is becoming a member of society. One day as an adult the child may give proper hell to his or her own child for breaking a glass without knowing why it is that big a deal. But it was a big deal while the child was internalizing the adult’s values...for refusing to internalize the parent’s values may have meant a loss of the parent’s love, a devastating thing for a child to say the least.

Now, as the child grows older, she begins noticing the social environment which extends beyond the immediate family and the significant others. Mead refers to this area of extended social contacts and reciprocal expectations as the generalized other. Important lessons are learned regarding statuses and roles. The generalized other is crucial to our understanding of what is expected of us in a world of complete strangers. We learn this in spite of the fact that we have no idea of what these others expect of us. We learn it by noticing how others within the world relate to one another and what rituals they use in daily life. The first instance of learning about the generalized other occurs when children participate in organized games. Further instances become available when they go out into the world accompanied by their parents or caretakers.

Through these contacts children learn to differentiate between the status occupied by their significant others and that occupied by individuals they meet as part of the field of the generalized other. They learn that different situations require different reactions on their part. And they learn that their impulses can be satisfied with certain people while not with others. In effect, children learn self control by learning their position vis a vis others in the social world. The fact there is differentiation between their relationships with their significant others and the generalized other which they encounter in the person of strangers, they learn that they themselves are able to occupy different roles in different situations. In this way children learn who they are in the eyes of others and how others see them. They learn about their rights in certain situations and their obligations in others.

With time, the child develops a self-concept, which is the totality of her thoughts, beliefs and feelings regarding herself. Whether this self-concept is a positive or negative one will depend entirely on the type of experience the child has with the significant other and the generalized other. A child who experiences tender understanding from the significant other will have a certain reserve strength to cope with cruelties encountered in the generalized other. But a child who is already repeatedly traumatized by the significant other’s behavior and speech will arrive in the world of the generalized other with a self-concept which renders her vulnerable to external abuse.

Self-Concept and Self-Esteem
Self-concepts are not simply thoughts. They entail a lot of emotion and these emotions include pride, contentment and shame.
Cooley has described aptly how self-concepts can be fragile and multi-dimensional. He describes two teenagers meeting one another on a date. Let us call them John and Mary.
There are six different concepts involved in this interaction:
1. There is John known to no one.
2. There is John’s idea of himself such as “I look great in this new shirt.”
3. There is John’s idea of Mary’s idea of him, such as “She thinks I look great.”
4. There is John’s idea of what Mary thinks he thinks of himself, such as “Mary thinks I think I look great.”
5. There is Mary’s idea of what John thinks of himself, such as “John thinks he’s really something great.”
6. And there is what Mary actually thinks about how John looks, such as “He’s wearing the most horrendous shirt I have ever seen.”

The same six phrases could be applied regarding Mary’s own conception of herself.
Cooley explains that we use one another as mirrors. We look at each other for confirmation of who we think we really are. Feeling visible means finding in the other a confirmation of what we want to be. That confirmation may feed our vanity or our real self esteem. But it is necessary if we are to feel pride in our selves.

Because we depend on others for confirmation of who we are, we often react to ourselves according to what we think others think of us. We may be wrong in our evaluation. But we have nothing else but our own perception to go by. The insecure person more often than not concludes that the opinions others hold of him or her may be negative ones. And the overly-confident assume the best when they might do better to feel a little insecure.

Cooley called this imagining of the other’s opinion of us as the looking glass self. And this is an important concept to master. For the looking glass self is not how we imagine ourselves to be. Nor is it how others really see us. It is how we think others see us. Now this should give you some indication of why it is so difficult to negotiate between individuals and groups, regardless of the nature of the negotiation.

Ideals, Self-Esteem and Referential Groups
Someone once said, “Culture allows us to have dreams.” In a sense this is very true. We construct an idea of our ideal self by observing the roles and status available in the society we live.

Research has been done during which children below ten were asked what they would like to do when they grew up. The majority of children chose work which was directly connected to what interested them as people. Fire-fighter, garbage collector, jet pilot, beauty queen were some of the answers given. But when the same question was asked of older children, different responses were given. The older children chose work which had status...doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher.

So as children we build an ideal self and then compare ourselves to others. These others are called reference individuals and reference groups. We select reference individuals because we want to be like them or we want to not be like them. Whether we like the reference individual or not they remain a reference individual as long as we use them to help ourselves reach decisions about ourselves.

We also use reference groups in order to evaluate our social position. In societies of diversity one individual can be in contact with several reference groups. One’s neighbors and one’s schoolmates may be completely different people. As a result of this, the individual can end up having conflicting self-evaluations which are the result of dealing with a variety of reference groups producing a variety of self-evaluations in the person.
Reference groups also help explain why a person will begin changing his or her behavior in anticipation of joining a reference group. In many law school classes
students arrive at class wearing suits and carrying business briefcases...it is as if they were preparing to slip into the role that will be assigned them upon graduation. This preparatory behavior is called anticipatory socialization.

Culture, Social Networks and the Process of Perception
Consider what occurs when you see someone as intelligent, when you consider or categorize someone as intelligent. You observe a few instances of that person’s behavior or speech and then measure these against your inner standard of what constitutes an intelligent person and then reach your conclusion. Your perception of the other is not only based on their behavior but also on your own inner dialogues and values. This may explain why a given professor is seen by some student as very smart and by others as hopelessly dumb.

Consider an experiment conducted by Kelly in the 50’s. He invited a lecturer to lecture to his class. He sent the class written bio of the lecturer. To half the class he mentioned that the lecturer was very warm and personable. To the other half he mentioned that he was cold, practical and determined. He then observed the behavior of the students during the discussion period. Only 32% of those who had been told he was cold and determined participated in the discussion whereas 56% of those who had been told he was warm and personable did. When the students were asked to pick from a list words describing their view of the lecturer, those who had been warned that he was cold, chose disparaging words such as ruthless, irritable, humorless. The interesting thing, of course, was that Kelly used a control during the experiment. The lecturer was the control because his behavior did not change during the lecture and word has it that he did crack a few jokes and was pretty nice.

Perception, therefore, is often based on first impressions. That’s why social contacts are in a way self-fulfilling prophecies. Our beliefs about people lead us to treat them in particular ways...and our treatment of them, in turn, leads them to fulfill the prophecy contained in our belief. (Merton)

Our first impressions influence our behavior quite strongly. Yet, just as important as our first impressions are the social identities, or the existing status sets of the individuals we meet. And this is where stereotypes come in.

Models of Interaction
There are several models of interaction.
The Dramaturgical Approach as Theater
Shakespeare wrote: All of life is a stage.
This concept has been refined into a social theory regarding human interaction.
We can see interaction as theater because it involves people who hold to ideas about who they are, and who then present themselves to others as part of “acting out” their own idea of who they are.
Officials who act “official” and student who act “studious” or “Not-studious” are projecting images by taking on roles. So all interaction is dramaturgical by the simple fact that it involves action and acting.
Erving Goffman has written a very entertaining book called The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.
To Goffman we are all individuals playing to an audience. Our interactions take place in physical settings and involve roles. We act according to the expected behaviors and feelings attached with our status in each situation. Together, our roles constitute what we call our social script. When we approach others we approach them with a front. And like theater our interactions occur in frontstage and backstage. Frontstage is where you play your roles....backstage is where you are liberated from them and can do what you want without worrying about the impressions you will leave. Being in class here is frontstage being in your bath singing a song is backstage unless you have someone in there with you in which case the degree of frontstage activity may depend on how long you’ve known each other.

Goffman’s dramaturgical model is very useful because it liberates us to see that many of our actions and perceptions are negotiated from moment to moment. We see that there are a few people involved even in an interaction between two people:
1) There is I as I see myself
2) There is I as I would like to be
3) There is you as you are
4) There is you as you would like to be
5) There is me as you think I am
6) There is me as I would like you to think I am
and on and on.
We create and recreate ourselves without ever knowing in a given instant what is the totality of our selves. The larger the community the more opportunity we have of being multiple selves. The successful actor learns how to navigate in an environment where things and situations change quickly....without loosing the multiple fronts which the person considers as his or her personality.

INTERACTION AS EXCHANGE
Interaction is at the root of all cooperation an competition, it brings out the best in us as well as the worst in us.
Because we and the other mutually affect one another as part of our interaction together, we can see this interaction as a form of exchange.

Exchange theorists suggest that human behavior is based on 4 principle realities:
1) We are all motivated to avoid pain and increase pleasure.
2) Another behavior can be a source of pain as well as pleasure.
3) So we can use our behavior to influence what other people do in relation to us.
4) We can try to avoid pain and get pleasure....that is we can deal with others and try and make the best deal possible, one with as much pleasure and as little pain as possible.
An exchange theorist would suggest that loving someone in a way is a way of getting them to love us. There is an emotional profit motive in many of our actions. We invest in others what we would like to gain from them.

Each culture has its own norms about what is considered fair exchange in social relations. These norms apply to a variety of situations ranging from dinner parties to criminal justice legislation.

Now as we said, exchange can lead to cooperation as well as competition and exploitation. We can give little hoping to get back much more.

Let us consider the problem of unemployment. In a society of recession there are two ways of handling unemployment. 1) You fire some and keep some; the ones who are kept benefit at the expense of the ones who are let go....the result is competition and exploitation of the jobless by the workers. 2) You can diminish everybody hours by a percentage equal to the unemployment rate and establish a cooperative network.
Successful negotiators who specialize in conflict resolution are experts in exchange theory. They know that a successful conflict resolution must leave both parties feeling they are winners in the exchange.

A New Theory of Socialization/Interaction:
The Need for Love Theory
Arthur Janov’s discovery of "pain" in the early 70’s has yet to enter social psychology as a mainstream perspective explaining human behavior. Janov’s discovery and my own perspective relate in part back to Freud and Mead.

Arthur Janov (1970) quotes clients in therapy who confirm Miller’s contention, presented twenty years later, that there are subtle ways to hurt a child. In The Primal Scream (1970), Janov documents a therapy process which helps an adult release the pain built up due to childhood trauma. While Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich wrote extensively about “emotion” and the “defensive personalities” which arise out of repression they stopped one step short of discovering the full extent of a person’s feeling self and the consequences of its suppression. Janov provided the missing link.
What occurred in the late 1960’s in the office of this American family therapist provides a wealth of insight into the body, the anatomy of emotions and the wider social which is the habitat of thinking/feeling individuals. While conducting one of his regular talk-therapy groups one night, Janov was listening to one of his clients describe how he had been impressed by an off-Broadway play in which the actors walked around the stage dressed in diapers, calling to their “mommies and daddies.” Janov asked the young man to do the same and call out to his mother and father. The young man demurred at first, but then agreed. He called out “mommy!” “daddy!” In The Primal Scream (1970) Janov describes what occurred next to the young man whom for the purposes of anonymity he calls Danny:

“I asked him to call out, ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ Danny refused, saying that
he couldn’t see the sense in such a childish act, and, frankly, neither, could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic; ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches....The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: “I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel!’” (9-10)

This first experience with Danny bewildered Janov. He did not understand the wails or why they had suddenly appeared and overwhelmed his client. The client was a fully-functioning professional, with no history of mental illness. While Freud’s work had included “abreaction” (the release of feeling) as a part of the therapy process it had mainly been based on an analytical dialogue between the analyst and the client. There was no instance in Freud’s work in which a fully functional adult was suddenly given expressing an emotion intense and voluminous enough to appear without precedent. Janov listened to the tape of the session for several months trying to make sense of it.
One day, several months later, Janov had a chance to learn more about what had happened with his first client:

“A thirty-year-old man, whom I shall call Gary Hillard, was relating with great feeling how his parents had always criticized him, had never loved him, and had generally messed up his life. I urged him to call out for them; he demurred. He ‘knew’ that they didn’t love him, so what was the point? I asked him to indulge my whim. Half-heartedly, he started calling for Mommy and Daddy. Soon I noticed he was breathing faster and deeper. His calling turned into an involuntary act that led to writhing, near-convulsions, and finally to a scream. Both of us were shocked. What I had believed was an accident, an idio-syncratic reaction of one patient, had just been repeated in almost identical fashion. Afterwards, when he quieted down, Gary was flooded with insights. He told me that his whole life seemed to have suddenly fallen into place. This ordinarily unsophisticated man began transforming himself in front of my eyes into what was virtually another human being. He became alert; his sensorium opened up; he seemed to understand himself” (10).

Janov tried slight modifications of his approaches with his other clients. Each time the same results occurred. Out of this initial discovery, he developed a process of clinical psychotherapy based on the process of helping a client remember and regain access to feelings which h/she may have kept suppressed. This process differed radically from conventional psychoanalysis and behavior modification therapy. Instead of being asked to embark on an analytical conversation with a therapist, the client was encouraged to feel h/her emotions authentically, without the jargon of analysis or the ideation of various psychological schools.

The therapist’s main function was to help the client avoid the usual defense mechanisms of rationalization, sublimation, reaction-formation and projection. This was accomplished through two methods: 1) Encouraging the client to fully live through and express an event in the present which was upsetting or painful, 2) Helping the client remember scenes from the past which held an emotional charge, and 3) Encouraging the client to move away from those of h/her behaviors which h/she knew normally decreased h/her levels of tension and discontent (i.e. over-eating, over-drinking, tobacco-use, drug-use and any use of other substances capable of altering consciousness). And, in the early stage of therapy, the client was also asked to refrain from distracting h/herself with excessive television viewing and reading and replace that with an inner meditation on h/her life in the past. Overall, the client was encouraged to “stay” with h/her tension and allow it to build. Janov discovered that tension was the surface “armor” which the body produced in order to keep feelings from emerging into consciousness. He realized by “blocking” usual tension-relieving outlets, he could put his client in a position where the tension and its underlying bio-energetic meaning had to be faced and felt.
The reliving of suppressed emotions and the remembering of the events connected to these emotions seemed to help Janov’s clients acquire the insights they needed to understand and transform their behavior in the present. No transfer of knowledge or insight was needed from the therapist. The therapist’s role was limited to helping the client dismantle defenses h/she had built over the years and bring the natural forces of h/her own system back into play. The client was encouraged to wait for h/her own feeling expression to provide him with authentic insight (1978). Often, clients remarked after feeling something from their past, “Now I know why I’ve always been afraid [or unable] to....” It seemed as if feeling the past liberated the person from the effects of the past while helping h/her identify the nature and reason for a comportment in the present. The therapist’s main function during this process of self-discovery was to make suppression more difficult by encouraging the direct expression of feeling and discouraging the process of rationalization. Whenever a client discussed a problem, he was encouraged to discover and feel any emotions that might lie below the surface of the problem being presented. Analysis designed to make the client “accept” h/her emotions and no psychological “rewards” were offered for their suppression. Breathing was sometimes used to increase bodily feeling.

The data suggests that a person’s psycho-logical and emotional state is not only determined by present-day social reality but by reactions dating back to early socialization as well as the historical realities of the times in which the individual has been socialized. It seems that emotions are “stored” within the body when suppressed and continue to affect “personality.” The reactions of a person carrying such a load of built-up emotion are not only physical but also ideational. Being emotional (physical), they involve every sense of the body. Having an effect on the “ideational” life of the person, they involve mental processes.

The data suggests the following: 1. The socialization process can produce joyous individuals or individuals who carry a burden of emotional pain within them. This emotional pain results from childhood and is caused by the unfulfillment of the child’s needs. It also results from the accumulation of subsequent disappointments. It has a strong effect on the body and the subject’s later use of that body. It also has an effect on the person’s thoughts and attitudes. A person whose defenses are mobilized to keep pain out of consciousness must by necessity alter h/her consciousness in order to make it less aware of bodily reality. 2. When this reaction of pain is left unfelt or unexpressed there is a build up of pain that affects and propels later adult behavior. 3. The existence of such correlation between pain registered in childhood and later adult behavior suggests that what we observe in the social is as often a reflection of emotional limitation as much as it is of creative expression. After all, the adult who is affected by build-up of pain dating back to childhood functions in the public sphere and contributes behavior tainted by this past pain. Therefore, the social is at once the sower and reaper of its own rewards or problems and the individual is its agent. The child grows into the adult, and the adult delivers back to the social the consequences of h/her socialization, be those consequences positive or troublesome ones. The links between body and the world beyond its boundaries are, therefore, formidable and any social theory which attempts to study time, place, identity and boundary without taking into account the “inner boundaries” of the body leaves much unsaid.
Now there are many ways in which a person’s needs can remain unfulfilled during childhood. And the profound dissatisfaction which results from such deprivation can be observed in highly developed technological societies as well as in less developed nations. Janov reports having received individuals in his therapy institute from virtually every continent. It seems that, although cultures may be different, the socialization methods used by each culture can have a positive as well as hurtful side. The various expressions of cultures may be relative to one another, but the needs of a child are universal. The toddler in Moose Jaw raises her arms asking to be held just as the toddler in Zimbabwe. The need for love is biological. The infant arrives in the world carrying that need with h/her.


The needs of a child are not many. Proceeding from what therapy clients have recounted they are few, but precise: 1. To be received into the world at birth with care, tenderness, warmth and love, 2. To not be separated from the mother (who has been the child’s universe during nine months) right after birth but be allowed time to get used to this strange phenomenon called life, 3. To be given physical warmth during infancy, fed when hungry, and protected from the elements, and to receive enough stimulation but not so much that it overloads the infant’s highly sensitive nervous system, 4. To be loved for being alive, for being h/herself. To feel wanted and not be treated as a prize or trophy that is loved as long it performs but rejected or ignored when it doesn’t, 5. To be allowed to grow at h/her own pace, 6. To be allowed to express h/her feelings, thoughts and ideas without having to censure h/herself just by virtue of the fact that h/she is a child, 7. To live free of violence and corporal punishment and any other occurrence that plants a deep fear and hurt in h/her, 8. To be encouraged to develop h/horsefly’s physical and intellectual abilities and to be supported to do same, 9. To be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, 10. To be allowed to participate in peer activity, 11. To be allowed to choose h/her own profession without undue pressure, 12. To live in a world that makes sense, where there is a certain consistency between what is asked of h/her and the rewards offered back.

Need is a bio-psycho-logical absolute of nature. How it is fulfilled is a construction of the social. The two do not always coincide, however. Whether recognition is given to a child in order to train him to be what is considered “manly” or train him to be gender-free is not the issue here. What is universal is the existence of the need for love, support and recognition. These needs cannot be willed away or eliminated, for political, social or economic reasons. They are the language of the body. They exist independently of a person’s willpower or philosophical beliefs. Need simply exists within our system, whether we remain conscious of it or not. The testimonies of individuals who have made a journey back into their emotions show that an individual who discovers an unfulfilled need within h/herself might very well have lived all h/her life unaware of its existence and even gone to great lengths to pretend of its non-existence. Once an emotion and the need that lies at the root of it are negated, so is lost the conscious realization of that need’s existence.

Pain is registered within the system when a basic need goes unfulfilled. The best a child can do to make h/her deprivation bearable is to defend against that pain and put it out of consciousness. Actually, the phrase “out of mind, out of sight” is a misleading one because it implies that forgetting an emotion may actually lead to its disappearance. The physiological research quoted later in this paper demonstrates that repressed emotions do not disappear. They cannot be willed out of our system, only driven underground. They continue to exist outside our awareness, yet exert an influence on our body, our nervous system and our behavior.

A child’s pain and its manifestations in later adult life come from the many ways in which h/she is not allowed to be h/her real natural self: when h/she is left to cry h/herself to sleep in the crib, exhausted by h/her own terror of abandonment...when h/she is asked to talk and walk before h/she feels ready to do so...when h/she is asked to show slavish gratitude for a life which should be h/her natural debt-free birthright...when h/she receives no reward for the good that is in him but continual admonitions of what needs changing in h/her.
The overwhelming majority of individuals whom Janov encountered in therapy had one principal complaint: they did not feel adequately loved by their parents. Here it must be recognized that what creates a feeling in a child is the child’s perception and interpretation of the situation and not the intention of the parent. A parent may love h/her child but find it difficult to show physical affection. If the child needs the physical affection, the lack of it will be interpreted by him as lack of interest on the adult’s part. The child will feel unloved even though the adult feels love for the child but has difficulty showing it.
So whether the lack of love is due to outright willful neglect or emotional withdrawal on the part of the parent, or cultural mores, the deprivation felt by the child is registered nevertheless. Cultural mores can help someone stay unconscious of the betrayal of h/her needs, but it cannot eradicate nor re-script those needs. Regardless of the reasons for a given pain, the ensuing effect brings with it a sense of deprivation on the part of the child, a resulting lack of self-esteem, and a troubled emotional state that now requires the child to use h/her energy to adapt to surroundings without feeling what these surroundings are doing to h/her feeling self. When movement towards h/her objects of affection is repeatedly met with responses that frustrate h/her, h/she subsequently avoids the frustration by no longer moving towards what is needed. Thus, the body and its reality is falsified.
Now to study the habits of a falsified body is to remain stuck with the study of secondary symptoms. To study suicide, for example, as did Durkheim, and accept it as an act which can attract anyone provided there are adequate levels of “anomie” in society is to neglect the primary pain which would wear a person down to such an extent that h/she would not be able to cope with “anomie.” Durkheim failed to ask a question which any good multi-variate analyst would have asked: how was it that certain individuals undergoing high levels of anomie killed themselves while others did not? Was there an antecedent factor? Why a person is obsessed with the latest fashion, therefore, may be less instructive than what the person would feel if dressed in plain jeans for a few weeks running. The former consideration would address a portion of the person’s “second nature” while the latter question would seek knowledge of the person’s feelings on a primal level.
And substitute gratification is a cultural habit of developed materially-prosperous societies. Such substitution mirrors a substitution process adopted by the individual in early childhood. When a particular need is completely blocked, then the child remains unaware of it and adopts a character that manages to get by without the direct expression or satisfaction of that need. But if the need surfaces in h/her consciousness, h/she then has three options: 1) To direct the need again towards the object of affection and risk rejection, or 2) To redirect the need to a substitute object of affection, or, 3) To become withdrawn and keep a lid on the need through denial, thereby rerouting the energy of the need into psychosomatic pressure and tension.
The first mode of adaptation leads to further frustration because the object of affection does not respond in the needed way. The only reaction available to the child here is feeling the pain of h/her unfulfillment. Most children are too fragile to give in to such devastating insights. They adopt other measures of coping. The second mode of adaptation, on the other hand, allows the child to pretend that the need h/she is feeling is really connected to the substitute h/she has chosen. Needing a father who is caring, h/she moves away from h/her father and approaches a friendly uncle or teacher. H/she learns how to “act out” (i.e. symbolize and displace) with substitute parent figures. And as h/she grows into an adult, h/she remains a prisoner of h/her own symbolic behavior. Adults with whom h/she could otherwise maintain relationships based on democratic equality suddenly take on emotional significance for h/her beyond the emotional charge contained in the actual exchange. Objects become symbols carrying with them potentials for gratification; thus, needing admiration from a parent, the person may go into deep debt buying a flashy car to impress bystanders, confusing the here-and-now with h/her past. In fact, much of the promises of the modern consumer society are psychological as much as they are material. The offer of ultimate happiness keeps millions buying what they don’t truly need. The “greed” of consumer society is not greed but displaced need. The third mode of adaptation puts tremendous pressure on the person’s physiological functions because the feelings are not being exteriorized and no move is being made towards the external world. The only outlet, in such a case, lies in psychosomatic illness.
The behavioral mechanism that permits individuals to remain unconscious of the genesis of their needs is this process of transference and symbolization. By projecting onto one another feelings and needs originating from childhood adults successfully avoid conscious realization of the real meanings of their needs. They do not “connect” their needs to their original source but seek interpretation by referring to present reality. This dis-connection permits the person to avoid acknowledging the source of h/her discontent by identifying h/her innate discontent with sources existing in the present. Here, the mind becomes enlisted in keeping the truth of the body suppressed, for the truths of the body are “time-specific.”
An example of this disconnection of time frames is found in the person who continuously finds uncaring mates and then pleads with them for love and understanding, not realizing that the emotion propelling h/her into these situations comes from childhood. The real object of affection being pursued is placed somewhere else in the person’s childhood. The person is not seeking as much to find a caring person but seeking to successfully change an uncaring person into a caring one. The script is ancient, the setting is current. What is regrettable is that children are born from this struggle and remain secondary subjects, subservient to the psychological dramas played out by their parents.
The implications of the above discoveries are profound and wide-reaching. Particularly, they help shed light on the issues of violence and criminality. Bly and many other cultural analysts bemoan the rise in violent crime in America. They quote statistics which show that youth are getting into trouble at an earlier age than before and that the incidence of suicide is higher than before. What we have discovered through dealing with thousands of individuals who have undergone the process of “feeling” therapy is that the complex behaviors observed in criminals and violent youth, barring organic brain syndrome, have a very simple origins: feelings of lack of love and self-esteem.
In previous époques, where notions of original sin were prevalent, such anti-social behavior was termed the “work of the devil” or the product of some innate evil human nature. But in a society which has learned that “human nature” is subject to environmental influence and that changes in the environment can cause radical changes in human comportment, the easy laying of blame on the child becomes another rationalization process designed to remove accountability from the parent and other agents of socialization, schools and media included.