– Heartwood Path Waypoint 98 –
Construct Your Sense Of Self From Your Interactions With Others
Doing so will help you understand your deepest attitudes about the environment. According to Object Relations Theory, we “construct our sense of self from our interactions with others, particularly the person who was our primary caregiver” (Winter and Koger, 2004, p. 43). If the caretaker fails to meet the basic needs of the child the child will “learn to build a false self in which the requirements of others are taken as his or her central being” (Winter and Koger, 2004, p. 44). This “false self” system explains much of the irrationality of our environmentally unsustainable actions. Without the development of an Actual Self one is likely to use external objects as a means of self-revealing expression. Writes Winter and Koger: “Adult character is built on an infantile pattern of neediness, and the accouterments of adult society function as symbolic expressions of those needs” (Winter and Koger, 2004, p. 51). One buys cars and clothes, for example, to enhance status or becomes employed in jobs that offer status but little or no deep satisfaction. We do not function in a healthy way if we do not have faith that our needs will be met in the future. If one has damaged trust because one’s early primary caregiver gave inadequate attention or withdrew attention too early the result can be any of “four neurotic reactions that are likely to impact environmental behavior:
From this list the message is clear: Caregivers: give enough attention to your dependents to help them see nature as something of value beyond being a storehouse of goodies, give your attention long enough to keep your dependents from become compulsive consumers, hell-bent on gobbling up the environment; above sudden withdrawals of nurturance to stem the growing tide of depression; and enable your dependents to trust you so that they may not feel so threatened by others, including nature. With a start in life with the help of effectively compassionate caregivers, people will not have the wherewithal to do the jobs they need to do, including working to make people happy and the environment sustainable.
Almost all the activities in this book ask the sojourner to use her awareness to seek out an attractive natural being and to use this being for guidance, healing, or information. This call to be in the midst of an attractive natural being is done for a very good reason. We have a deep need to be in the midst of “powerful, safe, solid and loving beings, especially those “who hold us physically in their arms and who also hold us emotionally in their hearts” (Cope, 1999, p.142). Since it is not always possible to spend time with caring therapists, loving parents or grandparents, and understanding lovers, we will in the activities of this book usually use a non-human attractive natural being or scene in their stead. Heinz Kohut describes the “need for merger with idealized self-objects.” Being held and soothed has its transformative benefits, but, as we shall see, such acts of equanimity do not have to come from a human. Attractive natural objects (beings) and scenes can present to us much of the same thing that any good therapist, parent, or lover can bring forth in terms of spanning the therapeutic poles of both awareness and equanimity. Nature will be used to help us both see clearly (awareness) and to provide calm abiding (equanimity). We will present activities that provide self-object experiences aimed at helping us grow, not in purely mental, cold, and clinical ways but instead in ways that are emotional, warm, and earthy. We will be doing much Self-soothing, even Greater Self-soothing.
The warm and helpful Teacher-Mother is everywhere in Nature. She is available to us most readily and profoundly where we find our attractions in Nature. In its infinite wisdom, Nature knows we need both poles: the awareness side of personal growth assistance and the equanimity side.
Part of Nature’s intelligence is that it presents to us the benefits of both the Seer (which provides awareness) and the Mother (which provides equanimity). Anytime you see an animal being aware and anytime you see an animal being nurturing, you have an opportunity to learn very important lessons, for these (awareness and nurturing) are the two ways (polar sides) to be effective in your compassion to others. I say “polar sides” because Nature seems to know that it takes too much energy to stay on any one polar side, for eventually the pull in the other direction is too much to resist. There are examples in nature of animals being aware but not nurturing or nurturing but not aware, but these are hard to find because nature has brutal ways to eliminate those who linger too long on any one pole. The lesson is clear: be both a good seer and nurturing.
HumaNatureConnect Dream Activity
If this is not a day when you prefer to spend time in nature without an agenda, do the following activity: