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 humankinds 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
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 ( 1972: 81-82).
Reading Dr. Watsons 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. Watsons 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 infants 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 1950s, 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.
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 mothers
high heels and youll 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
The Cognitive Development Perspective
The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget was the developer of the cognitive
development theory. He argued that childrens 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 Meads (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 Meads 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, dont
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, dont
do that. The child has now internalized the adults 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 adults values...for
refusing to internalize the parents values may have meant a loss
of the parents love, a devastating thing for a child to say the
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 others 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 Johns idea of himself such as I look great in
this new shirt.
3. There is Johns idea of Marys idea of him, such as She
thinks I look great.
4. There is Johns idea of what Mary thinks he thinks of himself,
such as Mary thinks I think I look great.
5. There is Marys idea of what John thinks of himself, such as John
thinks hes really something great.
6. And there is what Mary actually thinks about how John looks, such as
Hes wearing the most horrendous shirt I have ever seen.
The same six phrases could be applied regarding Marys own conception
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 others 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,
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. Ones neighbors and ones 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
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
persons 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 50s. 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. Thats
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
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
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 youve known each other.
Goffmans 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
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
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 Janovs discovery of "pain" in the early 70s
has yet to enter social psychology as a mainstream perspective explaining
human behavior. Janovs discovery and my own perspective relate in
part back to Freud and Mead.
Arthur Janov (1970) quotes clients in therapy who confirm Millers
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 persons
feeling self and the consequences of its suppression. Janov provided the
What occurred in the late 1960s 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,
he couldnt 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 dont 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 Freuds 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 Freuds 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 didnt 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 therapists 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
The reliving of suppressed emotions and the remembering of the events
connected to these emotions seemed to help Janovs 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 therapists 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 Ive 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 therapists 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 persons 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
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 childs needs. It also results from the
accumulation of subsequent disappointments. It has a strong effect on
the body and the subjects later use of that body. It also has an
effect on the persons 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 persons 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 childs 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 infants 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 doesnt, 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/horseflys 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 persons 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 needs 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 childs 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 childs 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 adults 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
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 persons
second nature while the latter question would seek knowledge
of the persons 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
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 dont truly need. The greed of consumer
society is not greed but displaced need. The third mode of adaptation
puts tremendous pressure on the persons 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
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 persons 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.