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There are many parallels between the developmental phase of adolescence and the concomitant process of leaving home, and the inner process of individuation; of becoming one’s bowl2 by you.own person. The transmogrifying process of adolescence begins at around age 12 and continues through age 20. Scientists tell us that the adult brain isn’t fully functioning until a person is as much as 25 years old, so an argument for a transitional period between childhood and adulthood that lasts as many as 12 years isn’t as crazy as it sounds. A marked changed often occurs around age 24-25 or so. The person who doesn’t heed the call of adulthood by his or her mid-20s often seems to respond around age 28-29, which happens to be about the time of their first Saturn return, when Saturn (the Father planet) comes full circle for the first time in a person’s life, metaphorically exerting the Father’s energy and influence.

According to Murray Stein, the Father symbol must emerge, for if he does not, the individual will be left with the Mother in the earliest stage of individuation, which is that of containment and nurturance. Just as Adam and Eve were sheltered, contained, nurtured and watched over in the Garden of Eden, so are children in the best circumstances contained and nurtured by their mothers. Under the Mother’s tutelage, the child receives only protected, selective exposure to the realities of the Father world. Mother at her best, though, must provide a balance between too protected and too exposed, lest the child suffer the consequences of imbalanced parenting. A child who experiences too much harshness, too little protection, too much life in the Father world too early on, must develop strong ego defenses that produce problems with attachments and what psychologists call “object relationships”–relationships to other human beings.

bowl13 by you.This failure to contain and nurture is a commonly experienced failure whose fruit we see whenever we encounter people with intimacy, attachment, or commitment problems in interpersonal relationships. Far too little containment can result in a wildly out-of-control adult or a rigidly self-controlled or controlling adult. These are the kids who, having had to contain themselves far earlier than is normal, catapulted themselves out of the family too soon, too. I have seen this in adopted kids who, though finally given appropriately containing and nurturing families could not benefit from them at later stages of development because their innards were already so self-contained.

One sees it in those who were never adopted as older children or teens, too, of course. These often present as angry adults, intent on having their bowl8 by you.ways at all costs. Sometimes they are over-involved parents whose needs for containment and nurturing have been projected onto their own children. They are unconscious to it, of course, until their kids grow up and fly the coop and suddenly all hell breaks loose in Mother and Father’s lives. The fact was, they had no lives, but met their own needs through the lives of their own children.

These are just a few examples of what can happen when a child’s needs for balanced containment and nurturance are not met in the family of origin, and they are unprotected and without nurture.

References

Maslow, Abraham H.  Motivation and Personality, 3rd Ed. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1970.

12 responses

  1. “I’ve found that I have to agree: a marked changed often occurs around age 24-25 or so.”

    I remember when I was 24, I had just turned 24 because I am inclined to think that I was 23.
    I was reading online one night trying to figure things out spiritually. All of a sudden things became clear, I felt solid and no longer out of control, I felt sure and stable. It felt like my brain grew up from childish emotional reactive thoughts and silliness to adulthood unamusement and grounded facts based proactive thoughts and jaded all in a split second. I actually felt this and observed my change of emotions becoming grounded, like a plane landing after a turbulent flight. I don’t know when I read about the brain growing up in the mid 20s but I think it was around the same time period. It was definitely a Weird feeling!!

  2. Librarian, no, you’re not getting ahead. You’re urging me on, and I am going slowly!

    I can never do justice to the whole Mothers Gone Wild theme, though. But I can give her a whirl, eh? ;o)

  3. “They are unconscious to it, of course, until their kids grow up and fly the coop and suddenly all hell breaks loose in Mother and Father’s lives. The fact was, they had no lives, but met their own needs through the lives of their own children.”

    Raising my hand here, sheepishly. Looking back I can see that having children meant I didn’t have to make decisions about what to do with my life. Having children kept me too busy, it was my busy work, stay busy, don’t think, just stuff all those feelings down.

    It’s not quite that simple. I know I seem to have strong biological urges to attract a mate, to have sex, to have babies and I think that is a part of it, the biological part but there was another part, the denial of something part.

    I was raised by a man and a woman who believed family was the most important thing, they made lots of mistakes but they did pass that belief onto me. Family matters to me, families help each other, even when we don’t want to.

    I’m going to email you about the dream I had last night.

  4. I notice that you mention a less than ideal exposure to the father’s world/experience, yet you don’t mention its opposite, when the mother is more Kali/Complex than archetype:

    “A child who experiences too much harshness, too little protection, too much life in the Father world too early on, must develop strong ego defenses that produce problems with attachments and what psychologists call “object relationships”–relationships to other human beings.”

    Am I getting ahead here?

  5. Discover magazine reports that aging starts at about age 27, though it really accelerates as we near 40 — this includes brain functioning. Does that mean our ‘brain’s prime’ is only between the ages of 25 and 27? Of course, the same article notes that we do still retain knowledge and learn — so our brain may not be as good, but we can make up for it in experience.

    How much of the “mother” and “father” roles are biological, and how much cultural? It seems to me parents working in partnership should ideally blend the proper balances of containment and protection.

    Finally, another movie reference. I finally watched “W” last night. Interesting on many levels, but also interesting to reflect on the (fictionalized) account of the Bush father-son relationship and Bush the Younger’s difficulties finding himself in his early life.

  6. “…..There’s good science, too, that suggests that the adult brain isn’t fully functioning until a person is as much as 25 years old………”

    If so, how important is this, given that we should continue to grow emotionally and intellectually throughout our lives, so that life is a process of continuous growth until the final breath.

    On the other hand, we seem most creative in our early 30’s, based on the average age of the those who created their greatest literary masterpieces.

  7. “……….This failure to contain and nurture is a commonly experienced failure whose fruit we see whenever we encounter people with intimacy, attachment, or commitment problems in interpersonal relationships………”

    Since this usually applies to males, could its genesis be because mothers treat their male children different than their female?

  8. Rudolf Steiner talked about the seven-year phases of human development (as have others). He believed that we were not fully developed in our consciousness and ego intelligence until around age 28! (0-7 develops the physical; 8-14 develops the etheric; 15-21 develops the astral; 22-28 develops the ego, his version of “ego” being quite different than the psychological version)

  9. Today in my class on “Italy Through the Ages” we finished watching “Cinema Paradiso,” a story told mainly in flashbacks of a young boy who grows up without a father in post-war Italy (his father died in the war) in a Sicilian town. The film begins with the boy grown up as a successful but unmarried movie maker in Rome who gets a call that “Alfredo died.”

    We then get the flashbacks — Alfredo was the projectionist in the local cinema, and the boy Toto, falls in love with the movies, and Alfredo becomes his father figure. It’s a superb movie, I won’t do a whole plot synopsis here. But as Toto comes back from the army, around 20 years old, Alfredo (now blind due to an accident) tells him “get out of here. Never return. If you return, don’t come to see me because I won’t see you. Promise you’ll never come back to Giancaldo.” So he leaves, and doesn’t return for 30 years, for Alfredo’s funeral. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth renting. In reading your last two posts about leaving home, I couldn’t help but relate it to the film I was watching.

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