We have reached a point in The Magical Child Papers where the child has the biological opportunity, perhaps even an urge or some sort of internal guidance, to switch matrices from the 'mother' or primary caregiver to 'nature' or the physical, concrete world.
First it was relentless exploration of this physical world that taught the child how to relate to it. The child oscillated between the mother (its Matrix) as a safe place and the unknown that had to be discovered, whose obstacles had to be overcome. It was a pattern of exploring until either physical exhaustion or a painful experience drove the child back to its safe place, its Matrix. As long as the child was physically and mentally 'normal' or 'average' (whatever those terms may mean to any one of us), the only way a parent could stop a child was either verbally prevent it from doing something, or physically barring that child.
Verbal opposition created an incomprehensible paradox for the child. The toddler had only two unconscious, genetic (or biological) motivations: to explore the unknown and to integrate those explorations through introspection in the safety of its mother. If the mother prevents the child from exploring at this early age, the child does not yet have the conceptual power to reason like its mother, so it continues to follow its internal drive: exploring must be continued. If that child continues to receive punishment for its explorations, it will repress that internal motivation and its Mother will continue as its Matrix well into the stage where the Matrix should switch to nature and the physical world.
Physical prevention of exploration, such as a playpen, will also produce a paradox for the child. Instead of repression of its motivation, the child will develop frustration and possibly rage. In time, it will lose its motivation to atrophy.
The problem is that a child who experiences either of these paradoxes loses its motivation for life!
Secondly, we have reached the point where a child will begin to employ both its right and left hemisphere (of the neocortex) in a new reality or use of the concrete world, play. We will now look at the progress of a child at play whose biological urges have remained intact. We will look at the brain itself and establish some working model of the child's reality-producing consciousness. Then we will examine how interference in 'play' can distort that reality. Later we will look at a child who reaches the 'playing' stage after having encountered either of the two paradoxes mentioned above, the paradox of its matrix preventing its exploration, and the paradox of being physically restrained from exploring.
Starting with the brain, there is the simple categorization of Old, Middle and New brain. The Old brain, also called the Reptilian brain, is in charge of the sensory/motor functions of the body. It has a single, overwhelming direction: homeostasis, or NO CHANGE!!! If the child is able to explore and play, the Old Brain gracefully accepts or habituates the newly learned aspects of the world and more than likely sends out the message, 'that's enough, don't learn anything more that is not a matter of life and death.'
Fortunately, the Old brain is only the size of a ping-pong ball and it is completely covered (except for the Central Nervous System extending from it into the spine) by the Mid-brain. Still only the size of a fist, the Mid-brain's functions are emotional/cognitive. It is the center of our limbic system and most likely has two major roles to play. First, the Mid-brain recognizes whether a thing or an idea, or even an emotion, is new or a repetition. Once recognized, the Mid-brain most likely warns the Old-brain either that something familiar is coming, so the Old-brain can relax, or that something new is coming, in which case the Mid-brain accompanies the new experience with an appropriate strong emotional response to overcome any resistance from the Old-brain.
This picture is very simplistic, but bear with me because it is only a prelude to an impending complexity!
Ten times bigger than the combination of the Old and Mid brains, the rest of our skulls are filled with the New brain, or neocortex. This neocortex is an exclusively primate phenomenon. In essence, it does exactly the opposite of the Old brain: it demands of the individual a constant stream of new experiences, new ideas. From one point of view then, the human brain provides its own paradox! From another point of view, however, the human brain provides it own balance!!! When we talk about the cycle of going from the known to the unknown, we are talking about the oscillation between the Old-brain and the New-brain.
The difference in the toddler stage between a child whose internal drive to explore has been honored, and one whose drive has been repressed by a controlling parent or blocked by a playpen, is vast. In the former, the Old-brain habituates a new experience and makes the child feel safe through its Mid-brain, ready to embark upon a new experience with joy. In the latter, the habituation of anything new becomes a traumatic experience and the Old-brain, as it were, enlists the Mid-brain through fear to prevent any more new experiences from happening. "Control" becomes the overwhelming factor, unconsciously perceived from the parents and imitated by the child.
At the 'play'-stage of a child's development, the child whose explorations were honored plays with both left and right hemispheres fully functional. A child, whose experience of the concrete world has become associated with fear and trauma, cannot play. Play has become displaced by manipulation.
Childhood psychologists often mention this manipulative nature of children. Many apply it even to the newborn, claiming that manipulation of its environment is a survival mechanism. The concept itself is a Freudian trap. It is a cognitive trap for all childhood caregivers because it deals only with the child's pathology without asking the question what happens with a child who does not succumb to that pathology. During Freud's lifetime, it was the eastern European and German custom to break the will of the child and make it obedient to the parent's will, the earlier the better. Mediterranean and Latin countries were much more lax with their children. Looking at the general stereotypes of these 'northern' and 'southern' countries, we have a stark contrast of hardworking, often humorless societies driving themselves to control nature and dominate the world on the one hand, and the lazy, easygoing, wine-drinking and happy-go-lucky culture of the Mediterranean with its flourishing creative arts, literature and humor. Even the Italian Popes could not keep themselves from wine, women and song!
Stereotypes, of course, do not support either scientific research or a good argument. But as long as we keep this study as simple as possible, we can still ask what reality a controlled child constructs around itself as opposed to a child who is more or less free to explore and play as long as it does no harm to itself or to its environment. The sad fact is that the differences will more or less align with the differences between the above stereotypes.
In the next segment of The Magical Child Papers, we
will leave bhind these generalities and take a closer look at the inner
working of the brain, the other parts such as the corpus colossum, the
hypothalamus and some very tiny clustsers that have sensory functions and
interact with the outside environment to produce internal cycles such as
our circadian rhythms.