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Kannon (Guan Yin)

A Working Model of the Psyche, Cont.

2. Mother

The second instinct which promotes survival is the mother instinct. The baby must be absolutely devoted to his mother since his survival totally depends upon her. He is sheltered by her arms and pacified by her caresses. In her breast is his only source of food. If his mother dies, he perishes. For other reasons too, Nature wants him to fix his attention on her. He must cling to her and stay within her ready grasp since babies who crawl away from mother are eaten by predators or are left behind in emergency flights or are killed in falls over precipices or into rivers. (Babies who crawl away from mother do not usually survive to pass this unfortunate tendency on to offspring.)

3. Child or Adorable Little One.

This instinct is not felt by Baby but is experienced by others in their responses to Baby. It is the instinct that not only keeps Mother's attention on Baby but causes Father, brothers and sisters actually to welcome this noisy, troublesome intruder into the family.

Calling this instinct the Adorable Little One avoids the limiting designation of Child since the tenderness that every human being feels in his heart for babies extends to the young of any species. We can adore a pet every bit as much as a child.

When this instinct is evoked, we become watchful and protective towards Little Ones. We fondle and feed them and are extraordinarily tolerant of their behavior, forgiving them easily for acts which others do at their peril. If our puppy messes on the living room rug, we dutifully clean it up. If our old dog does the same we consider euthanasia. If Baby deliberately smashes an expensive vase, Mother picks up the pieces and sings "all gone." If Daddy deliberately smashes the same vase, Mother gets a lawyer. We are not alone in this happy indulgence of babies. Even the irascible King of Beasts will con- tentedly let cubs chew his eyelids and stuff their paws into his sensitive nostrils. He enjoys the attention.

We can easily understand the survival value of this behavior. If the young did not instantly engender love in our hearts, if they did not immediately arouse our desire to indulge and protect them, they very likely would not survive their first night of screeching. Nature intends that we be slaves to cuteness.

The reciprocal mother/baby bond is probably the strongest and most enduring of all instinctive bonds. It will not take Baby long to learn what the rest of us have happily discovered: Mother is the one person in the world who will insist that we are decent, intelligent, industrious and good looking despite all evidence to the contrary.

By the time that Baby is old enough to protest the injustice, Mother has a new Adorable Little One to occupy her attention. Fortunately Baby now has teeth and is able to eat the food which Father, who farms, hunts, and fishes, brings home and gives to Mother who cooks and distributes it to the family.

4. Friendly Shadow and Enemy Shadow.

The friendly shadow, who is usually the same sex as ourselves, is our frequent dream-companion. Since it grows up with us, it assumes a variety of developing forms.

No longer anybody's Baby, our Child must establish new relationships with his family. For many years to come they will be his indispensible support group. They will protect him, teach him and act as his companions and guides. They will share their food with him in time of scarcity, nurse him when he is sick or help him when he is in trouble. This relationship is special; for while he must be extremely close to his family, he must not consider them as potential mates. Nature does not intend that they should be breeding stock since inbreeding is so frequently a genetic disaster.

The instinct that promotes mutual support of family members while simulta- neously nullifying sexual attractions is the Friendly Shadow. Father, brothers and sisters who guide, protect, and provide for our model child are the first persons upon whom he will project this archetypal regard. It is worthy of note that this instinct is apparently evoked between all developing youngsters who share the same domestic environment. Not too long ago the Israelis reported that of several thousand young adults who had been raised together from the time of their infancy in Kibbutz nurseries, there was not a single instance of inter-marriage. Each toddler instinctively regarded all members of the group as his brothers and sisters and, accordingly, the sexuality of all members of the opposite sex was neutralized. The fraternal attitude overrode the biological fact.

Our model child, at the age of two or three, is now diverting much of the attention he had lavished on Mother to the other members of his family. Additional projections of the Shadow upon friends, particularly a best friend or buddy, will occur later as he becomes older and more socially involved.

As the child is taught right from wrong, he becomes confused whenever his own desires conflict with those of his family. He may know, for example, that he is not to eat food that has been set aside for a later meal, but he may become so hungry that he cannot resist eating it anyway. Discovered, he is shouted at, struck and shunned. He is called a rat, a coyote, a snake or any animal which the family associates with the sneak-thievery of food. Temporarily pushed outside the family circle in rejection and disgrace, he broods about his fate. The hunger pains have vanished and he is no longer quite so sure why he stole the food. It is now that the Shadow rises to the occasion of his distress. The Enemy Shadow has many functions but the most important one is to defend the ego against attack. It is the miscreant alter-ego. It accepts the blame for the theft. Unconsciously the child understands that it was someone else who took the food and brought this punishment on him. In the most insidiously subtle way imaginable, his ego heals the wounds of insult by removing him from responsibility and blaming his shadow. (The devil made him do it.) This is necessary for, in order for him to go on living happily with people who have physically harmed and rejected him, he must be able to differentiate his ego from the bad boy/animal that they punished. He does not consciously recognize this alien individual; but deep within his psyche, the 'evil one' thrives. The Enemy Shadow will grow stronger each time the boy commits an anti-social act. If he does something bad and is not caught, the Shadow rewards him with feelings of superiority and insight into human duplicity. If he is caught and punished, the Shadow comforts him with delicious plans for revenge. In either case the Shadow has fulfilled its function: the boy develops a suspicious awareness. He's ready for trouble. He understands deceit.

By the time our model child reaches maturity, his definitions of evil will be carefully recorded in his Enemy Shadow's lexicon; but he will not be consciously aware of his constant reference to the entries. He will always believe that the person he despises or distrusts truly deserves to be despised. Not easily will he come to understand how much of himself he has conveniently projected onto the despised target.

The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
Chapter 7: A Working Model of the Psyche, Page 2 of 5

Last modified: July 11, 2004
©1996 Ming Zhen Shakya (Chuan Yuan Shakya)