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I. We feel helpless as individuals
Even as we enter this world, we are held upside down and are given a smart slap on our back and we squeal! Until then, we had a cozy time within our mother with total care and protection. We have now become separated from our mother and are totally exposed to the world that we have never experienced before. Our physical and mental abilities are still to develop to face this situation. We are not like the turtle, which on emerging from the egg on the shore, immediately rushes to the sea and looks after itself. Our eyes are yet to open and we can only lie on our back and move our hands and feet. Even when we are lifted to our feeding source, we cannot even place our mouth on it. Starting from a state of total care and security, we begin our life in this world in a state of complete helplessness!
We are, however, not without some abilities. When we feel uncomfortable, we cry. When we get the feel of compassionate touch, we place absolute trust in it. When our need is taken care of, we are quite at ease until the next discomfort arises. We have no sense of time and are not concerned as to what would happen next or whether the next feed would come or not. As we are adequately taken care of, we keep growing physically and mentally.
Initially, our world is small but we do not think that things are outside us.2 After two months, we start becoming aware of our main caretaker and are able to make eye contact with her and smile. We start developing attachment to that person. This is the earliest sign of our awareness becoming personal. Gradually, in our functioning, there is a shift from the initial physical mode to an increasingly psychological mode. By seven or eight months, we clearly differentiate all our caretakers from other persons and feel distanced from the latter. When they pick us up, we become anxious and begin to cry. We start identifying ourselves with the name that others call us. But our I-sense associated with it is yet to develop fully.
Our cognitive capacities keep increasing and we become fully aware of our mind. Our I-sense is becoming well defined. We experience varieties of emotion and want to communicate. We try to do so by body language and by babbling. When we are two years old, we learn to use the language and are able to articulate. At this stage, we recognise the I-notion only with reference to ourselves and do not yet know that others also have a similar I-notion about themselves. So, we insist that whatever we want should happen and are considered “terrible”. Only when we start playing with others, we come to know that they are also “I” to themselves. This revelation disturbs us, as we begin looking upon ourselves as one “I” amidst the numerous “I”s. Our insecurity is further heightened when our mother gets a new baby and diverts her attention to it.
We now become very keen on gaining acceptance from our parents who look after us. We are attached to them more than before. We think that they are the very best and are infallible and we want to be liked by them. With them, we feel comfortable and secure. We do what we think would please them and desist from actions that would be disliked by them. If they are pleased, we are happy; if not, we are disappointed.
When we are sent to the school, we feel uprooted and are frightened of the new faces and surroundings. While being there, we try to make good the absence of the support of our mother by developing attachment to our class teacher. We think that she is dependable like our mother and trust her completely. We accept her words more implicitly than even of our parents. By our conduct, we try to please her and feel comfortable as long as she is happy with us.
Unfortunately, as we grow, we keep discovering deficiencies in them and our trust in them steadily diminishes. We find that our mother is not always available when we need her. We are also not sure what would please her. With the same action, sometimes she is pleased while at others she is upset. She is not answering our questions completely and sometimes she brushes them aside or wants us to approach our father. She is as much afraid of the cockroach as we are of it and wants father to deal with it. Sometimes she becomes ill and has to be taken care of. As for our father, we find that he is generally not available for us. When he comes back from office, sometimes he is very happy with our company while at others he does not even take note of us and when approached wants us not to disturb him. He does not also keep his promise. At the school also, we have similar experience with our teacher. Often, we find her to be partial in her behaviour. She does not also effectively protect us from the bullies in the class.
Even though we initially blame ourselves for discovering their limitations, our trust in them gets undermined. We have similar experience in regard to others also when we seek their support. We soon realize that there is no one whom we can readily approach when problems arise and be sure that they would be taken care of. While we had a sense of security earlier, we now feel wary. We are distrustful and feel helpless. We become stressed whenever a problem arises and hanker for the constant availability of unfailing support and care.
Even when we become adults and keep advancing in age, the seeking of support continues. The safe world is as small as it was in our childhood. We find that in the competitive society everyone seems to be out for the kill. We always run the risk of being taken advantage of and of being exploited. We feel quite vulnerable and are on the guard all the time. We are ready to defend ourselves and fight. And, we are still to find the support on which we can depend with full assurance. The net result is that the deeply felt poor child’s sense of helplessness stays with us. We continue to want to be cuddled. We continue to want to be worried about and taken care of. And, we continue to seek the substitute for the loving mom and the big dad for regaining the assured security and happiness of our innocent childhood.
Even as a child we have been told of the existence of almighty Bhagavän who is compassionate and that sincere prayers to him do not go unanswered. When we trust him and depend on him, we find that he also lets us down. We are unable to entirely rely on him even though we would very much like to do so. We try to reinforce ourselves with gurus having extraordinary powers and through various other means and discover that all of them have their own limitations. Eventually we find that there is no one, who is sure to rescue us when we are deeply in trouble. We sadly miss the infallible support that we seek in our life.
Go to Part 3