We are born into the world as little creatures, tinier than everyone, looking up at tall buildings, eyes reaching as high as the knees of people who are older, bigger and taller than us. We trout and crawl in this reality where we either see ourselves as diminutive or the world as a place made up of giant, monstrous things. Our vantage point starts out to be closest to the ground, a reference point that most people around us don’t have. Therefore, for others to see our perspective or for us to get theirs, we depend on them to either look down or to lift us up. We stay down there anticipating that we could be trampled over and crushed OR that we could be lifted and loved.
What remains as a constant, however, is the unconscious awareness that I’m small, dependent, vulnerable and therefore, powerless.
It is an experience where our safety, both physical as well as emotional is dependent on the people around us. Our soma carries that childhood experience of feeling unsafe and seeking safety. This reality of childhood somewhere also seems to build a belief of “I’m small and I’m powerless” within each individual, especially when our needs are not understood and met. As we grow up carrying this script, externally or from the outside it may seem like we have become adults, but our internal realities maybe something very different.
Today, as I observe the adults around me, I sense and see us engaging in power struggles or getting into unhealthy competitions; I see us either hiding ourselves or hiding behind a facade of superiority. While that script remains alive, we keep feeling little, inferior like we did as children and find different ways or create realities in which we can feel powerful.
These scripts play out right from being toddlers to schooling to adulthood. In my school, I remember that the tools given to a child to feel powerful (via being appreciated, respected, adored, admired) were studies and extra-curriculars. In retrospect, power and inferiority played a major role for all of us. Kids would study secretly, then lying to their competitors how they hadn’t studied a thing! It seems funny today, but it also gives me an understanding of how each one of us have needs to be visible, understood, and loved, and we’d do everything in our power and capability to get them met. Even as kids, we pick up that although achievement and love may essentially be two separate things, if love is going to come through achievement, we’d fight for that! I saw children in my class who did not score well, neither did they outshine on stage at dance or sports or music and that sense of feeling little, dependent and powerless stayed with them. For many, it’s present even today. In our engagement with the environment, we keep on picking standards or rules that are sure-shot ways of receiving whatever we need, and unconsciously, we submit ourselves to those standards. It may range from standards of physical appearance (like fairness, thinness- fatness, tall-short, long or straight or curly hair, lean or sturdy, etc.), to emotional bandwidth (being mature, responsible, more sensitive-less sensitive, being a giver or taker, being more controlled in dealing with emotions or throwing tantrums etc.), to the standards of what value systems or spiritual inclinations, customs or religions we follow!
As adults, we play out emotional patterns of a child self in us, where we try to meet our needs or receive love, as entities who believe we are powerless. Vulnerability makes us feel little in the most intimate of our relationships. In friendships or romantic relationships, people gauge what works for their partners, what standards they follow, unconsciously trying to meet them, thus maintaining their script of powerlessness. For instance, a husband may understand about his wife that if he does the dishes or cleans the house, his wife would be more emotionally available. Instead of communicating his needs as an adult or confronting his wife with the difficulties he may be facing, he operates from a child place doing things that please her to gain her acceptance.
Similarly, in a certain sense, a mirror image of a classroom scenario would be the workplace environment where colleagues may compete with another, especially with people who may pose a threat to whatever it is that is likely to get them acceptance, approval, respect or so on. We start to play children in the presence of a person or people who are likely to represent in our world as figures who are more ‘powerful’, be it in terms of status, position, wealth, age, intelligence or talent!
While we grow up, and aren’t those tiny little beings anymore, cognitively we may still be able to see the world as a not-so-terrifying place; we may be able to see it at an eye-level or at an equal level. But unconsciously/without awareness (internally or psychologically), we may still find ourselves terrified and tiny.
The journey towards feeling vulnerable yet capable and EMPOWERED is the process of truly becoming an ADULT. It is the process of allowing our entire being including our soma to experience a sense of safety that is not so binding but liberating.