When a baby feels hungry, he thinks about food and the hunger goes away. If he’s cold he wishes for warmth and problem solved. If it’s a bit too noisy in the room, he lets out a cry and that’s that – instant silence…
It’s what psychologists call primary process thinking or magical thinking. The child “omnipotently” wishes for something and thinks that he causes the result. Mommy didn’t do it; he did it through his “all-powerful” thinking. To the infant, mommy hardly exists at all as a separate person – she is still undifferentiated since “mommy and I are one”.
How do we know that the baby thinks this way? Did a baby ever tell a researcher about his fantasies of grandiosity? The question always bothered me. But these days, I have more than science to answer my questions. Keep reading and the next time that you look at your baby not only will you understand “how he thinks” but you’ll understand the fundamental problem of our lives.
The main thing that we all suffer from is nagging doubts about our self-worth: “Do people like me?” “Am I competent at what I do?” “What have I accomplished with my life?” From doubts about our parenting abilities, to doubts about how to use our time best, to doubts about our faith, to doubts about our doubts!! We humans are so obviously using so much of our time trying to prove ourselves to ourselves and to others in some way.
The first question is why do we do this? Why do we need to assert our self-worth and prove our self-worth? Don’t we know that we have intrinsic worth by virtue of the fact that G-d created us and we exist?
The second question is related to the first. Since almost everyone is trying to prove their worth, in some way, the question is how are they attempting to do this? How are people attempting to master their feelings of existential inadequacy?
According to Rabbi Shalom Arush, the prevalent problem of our culture is narcissism and arrogance. We, especially, are a generation which prides itself on “The power is in my hands…”; “I am the master of my fate”; “I am the captain of my ship”; and “the power of positive thinking” (mine, of course) – these and similar expressions show how we moderns think. We like to take credit for any good fortune that comes our way. I’m not sure if it’s still in print, but there actually was a magazine that “modestly” captured the theme of our generation, it was called “SELF” magazine – it’s all about “ME”! Which are what interests people most – THEMSELVES.
It shouldn’t surprise us to know that there is also a psychotherapy by the same name. It’s called “self-psychology”. It’s not hard to see what Rabbi Arush is talking about when he says that our lives are really battle against our outdated arrogant, magical, omnipotent fantasies that we are G-d. This then answers question number two: we try to prove our worth through arrogance, narcissism and the massive denial that we are creations and not the Creator.
But don’t we have to build ourselves and give our children a strong sense of self as a foundation for a healthy life? Is the world really ready for “self-less psychology”? Continue here...