4304, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33338-4304
|Books about positive values, spirituality, and counseling
The Importance of Being:
The First Fundamental Value
B. Conley, M.Div., LMFT
We all need to be taken
seriously by the people who first take care of us, at birth. As
infants, we need to have our mother, father, and others
caring persons communicate that they value our simply being alive. We
need to receive that caring through all our senses.
As infants, we need to
be responded to when we cry, to have our physiological needs met,
and to be valued for our existence. An infant is almost helpless,
except for the ability to cry and make generalized movements. These
sounds and movements are initially the means an infant has to "ask"
for what he or she needs from others.
An infant must be taken
care of in order to live. In addition to food, shelter, and warmth,
an infant needs to be held lovingly and stimulated by that human
contact in order to survive. Thus, an infant is in a precarious
position: if others upon whom he or she depends do not respond (either
because they cannot or because they refuse), the child will die.
In order to survive,
anyone (including a pre-verbal infant) will sacrifice a great deal,
even tolerate self-negation in order to live. For example, if the
infant's cries for attention go unanswered, he or she will eventually
stop crying even when hungry or wet.
This process of gradually
"giving up" on getting needs met by crying may be a type of "learning,"
a type of conditioned response, described by some researchers as
"state conditioned learning." Whatever the mechanics of the process,
the infant establishes a lasting pattern that can be described as
the negation of his or her "right" to exist, to be, and to be nurtured.
This negation usually leads to serious psychological symptoms.
When the infant receives
the needed care, he or she develops a lasting sense of the value
of his or her existence.
Adults who use words
and concepts an infant does not yet have might say the infant learns:
"I'm important because I am here. I have the right to be in this
world and to be responded to."
The following conceptualization
describes the process by which a child establishes his or her "picture"
of three sets of data:
- 1) a self-image,
- 2) an image of others,
- 3) an image of how
to get needs met from and relate to others.
If put in adult concepts:
"I need you to take care
of me, mom, and I'm glad you like me the way (gender) I am; I'll
be myself, and you'll be happy, and I'll get what I need to survive
and be happy just by asking for it; I'm important because I'm here."
- 1) The self-image
implied above is "I'm important and I deserve to live and be taken
- 2) The image of others
is "You are nurturing and will attend to me and give me enough
of what I need."
- 3) The image of how
to get needs met is "I'll ask for what I need and want and I'll
© 2001 by Benjamin B. Conley, All Rights Reserved