This initial and first stage of the human journey can be known as "I Am About Me". It is familiar to all of us because we have been there and we often go back. I am about me is the most basic and elementary stage of development and maturity or should I say immaturity. The fact of the matter is that it is also a necessary stage. The description of this stage has the continuum of a toddler to a teenager. It is typically from the age of birth to about 15 to 16. I think both ages still fit into the stage because both are still about oneself. They just use different mechanisms to try to negotiate what it is they want. Simply put, it is our screaming child and / or our angry adolescent. It is the toddler screaming on the floor of Target mad because they are not getting the toy they wanted. Or it is the adolescent on the iPhone taking selfies and posting with the hope of receiving a lot of likes.
These are age appropriate behaviors. The problem is when our age doesn't match our behavior...i.e. an adult raging by hitting walls or adults trying to relive their high school years. If one received consistent nurture, structure and security in the home, then they are usually able to move to the next stage. In this stage, it is vital one receives consistency and dependability. If we don't receive that loving support then we find that we are stuck in this stage going often to illegitimate ways to get these needs met. During our early years of development, it is important and good to have the space to be I am about me. But when we grow up too early, parts of our(selves) never get and receive the appropriate attention. The problem arises when we shift to over-thinking / over-functioning too early instead of having the space to "go about being about ourselves" whereby we eventually outgrow it. The results can lead to addiction, severe depression, psychosis, narcissism and other dysfunctional behaviors. It is due to not having the support needed to grow and move into the next stage. Also, a pattern begins to form and this fundamentally marks an ongoing struggle for the rest of our lives that we learn to undo in our latter years. It is the need and desire to change and control situations and emotions instead of honoring them. We begin to experience an emptiness / wounds that we desperately want to manage. Thus, our ego also known as our smaller or provisional self begins to form. The solution is that we need to receive love and understanding in this stage in order to begin giving love in the next stages. But when one didn't receive it (by ourselves and others), he or she goes to artificial means to get that love and keeps going back until the pain gets so intense that he / she hits a rock bottom. That is where they find themselves looking and needing behavior modification to help them get to the next stage which is about behavior / morality code.
All of us regress to this stage at various moments in our life even when we evolve and mature. I have found it to be helpful and more authentic to think of ourselves as various parts. It is through these various parts that some grow to become more assertive and managerial while other parts of us lag behind and remain wounded. This is where the idea of our inner child / children begins to make sense. Some of us grow up to become adult children where we learned to take on various survival skills such as over-responsibility or helpfulness all the while never receiving the attention one needed during those developmental years of life. Thereby, never fully being nurtured in all parts of oneself (i.e. inner children needing to grow up). As a result, these child like parts are abandoned and forgotten. It is out of these wounded parts that others have formed in order to protect our(selves). These protective parts/personas show up in the form of power, image, beauty and the like, all trying to receive, control love and attention in the way those parts know how. The problem is that it is not whole. It’s a split part therefore it will not fulfill or be whole. The healing has to go back to those wounded parts so there is no longer a need for the protective personas. But it is vital to know we could not have done it any other way. We had to utilize certain survival skills (over-responsibility, avoidance, dissociation, lying, workaholism, perfectionism, people pleasing) so we could navigate through our family, friendships and communities. This is also how we begin to see our our unique ego (or Enneagram number) beginning to develop which I will discuss in more detail in the following posts.
Rohr had called this stage I am about my body and recently referenced a quote I want to share. It was given in a different context but speaks beautifully to this stage.
"The body is a sacrament...a visible sign of invisible grace...All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touch. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. The body is a sacred threshold; and it deserves to be respected, minded, and understood in its spiritual nature...The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. - John O'Donohue.
The point of all this is that we need and require others to help mirror what it is our soul is calling forth. We need help calling it forth. We fundamentally need compassion from others and for our(selves) so we can heal. Once we receive this...we can then move onto I am my behavior and I am my group.