Firm Foundations

Those with an insecure sense of self inhabit houses with poor foundations. They live in constant fear that their home could at any moment crack and crumble. Because the self is in constant danger of falling apart, they will not risk anything that may pose a challenge to its integrity. Harsh weather and heavy blows are avoided.

These people will often be turned inwards, constantly checking for cracks and frantically applying cement, gaffa tape, or elastoplasts to whatever wounds appear. Every blow becomes magnified.

They look for constant reassurance - yes, your house is good (so, no, it won't fall down) - but all reassurance amounts to little more than a superficial and temporary remedy. They've seen the cracks in the basement, and they know how serious things really are.

A secure sense of self rests upon firm foundations, which are, according to some thinkers, put in place during the early years of a person's life. If a healthy relationship is not established with primary care-givers (most especially the mother) then whatever is built subsequently will rest upon an infirm sense of self. A bad start can, according to some, affect everything that follows.

Inflation of the self (self aggrandisement, narcissism, etc) can be a distraction from the worrying reality that remains to be confronted, down in the basement. Make enough noise about your wallpaper and maybe nobody will notice that your house is subsiding (not even you).

If we feel insecure about our foundations, then we may be adverse to leaving our house, lest it should fall over whilst we're gone. We don't believe that it will stay standing without us there to hold it all together. A firm sense of self, on the other hand, allows us to leave home and travel to new, and perhaps unfamiliar, surroundings. We're able to sample foreign customs, and try new ways of being; safe in the knowledge that our home will still be there when we return.

When we have a firm sense of self we're more able to look outwards, and what we see becomes less coloured by our own viewpoint: we project less of ourselves onto things. We stop taking things so personally, and realise that everything isn't about us. Maybe that person spoke to you sharply because you're inherently bad - or maybe they were just having a bad day. We're more inclined to grant the benefit of the doubt. As more colours are allowed into the picture, a more balanced view emerges.

Before feeling my way into Ladakhi culture, I had thought that leaving home was part of growing up, a necessary step toward becoming an adult.

I now believe that large extended families and small intimate communities form a better foundation for the creation of mature, balanced individuals.

A healthy society is one that encourages close social ties and mutual interdepedence, granting each individual a net of unconditional emotional support. Within this nurturing framework, individuals feel secure enough to become quite free and independent.

Paradoxically, I have found the Ladakhis less emotionally dependent than we are in industrial society. There is love and friendship, but it is not intense or grasping - not a possession of one person by another.

I once saw a mother greeting her eighteen-year-old son when he returned home after being away for a year. She seemed surprisingly calm, as though she had not missed him. It took me a long time to understand this behaviour.

I thought my Ladakhi friends reacted strangely when I arrived back after being away for the winter. I had brought presents I knew they would like. I expected them to be pleased to see me and happy at the gifts. But to them it was as if I had not been gone. They thanked me for the presents, but not in the way that I was hoping. I was wanting them to look excited and confirm our special friendship. I was disappointed. Whether I had been away for six months or a day, they treated me in the same way.

I came to realize, however, that the ability to adjust to any situation, to feel happy regardless of the circumstances, was a tremendous strength.

I came to appreciate the easy, relaxed attitude of my Ladakhi friends and to like being treated as though I had never been away.

Ladakhis do not seem to be as attached to anything as we are. 

Most of them are, of course, not completely without the attachments that so affect our lives. But again, there is a difference - an all pervasive difference - in degree. One may be unhappy to see a friend leave or to lose something, but not that unhappy.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.86-7

The infant moves slowly out from the mother, but it "can do this fully and sucessfully only to the extent that the mother is his absolutely unquestioned safe place to which he can always instantly return and be nurtured.

Only when the infant knows that the mother matrix will not abandon him can that infant move into childhood with confidence and power [...]

[...] The physical mother remains the primary matrix even though we separate from her and move into larger matrices [...]"

[Marion Woodman, quoting Joseph Chilton Pearce]
Addiction to Perfection, p. 18

Task performances sometimes are a means by which children hold onto self-esteem. This is particularly clear in the group Dweck and her colleagues term "helpless" children. These children hold performance goals (goals of demonstrating they have skill) and are experiencing failure.

They aren't able to maintain self-esteem with good performances, so they engage in self-inflating verbalizations: talking about skills in domains other than the one pertaining to this task, or boasting of wealth and possessions.

Such behaviours seem to reflect a desire to regain threatened self-esteem in domains other than the one that's responsible for the threat.

[Charles S. Carver & Michael Scheier]
On the Self-Regulation of Behavior, p. 79-80

Once adequate support is developed within the individual and/or in the environment, greater awareness and new ways of being in the world are possible.

[Herb Stevenson]
'Paradox: A Gestalt Theory of Change'

[When something anamalous occurs] how do we construe the occurence? Is it a major event, or a minor event?

And my advice would be, unless there’s strong reason, presume its a minor event and start operating at that level, because otherwise every argument becomes a catastrophe. And if that’s the case you actually can’t solve any problems - you won’t be able to discuss anything - because as soon as you bring up an anomaly - something unpleasant - the other person will assume that everything’s over and get so shorted out that you won’t be able to talk with them.

Those are the sort of people who will cry if you bring up anything negative - their value structure is so fragilely constructed that anything you toss at them - that’s a question - is enough to shake the entire structure to its foundations.

[Jordan Peterson]
2017 Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & MetaStory

Related posts:-
Knowing Your Place
Growing Down
Life Support
Lost Tribe
A Safe Space
Love Your Self 
Forget Your Self
Communal Benefits
Community Service
Alone Together
Rooted in blood and soil
Carry Each Other
What are the people saying?
One Love?