Childhood consists of a time when the paradoxical pull between a parent’s dreams for their child and the innate destiny a child will pursue spurs the process of development forward. I feel a joy in my heart as I watch my two son’s grow into their own being. When they laugh, my heart grows wider with emotions that I had never felt before I had the experience of becoming a father. Their smile brings a smile to my face. Their pains and sorrows strike me at the deepest level of my soul. However, I would be mistaken if I did not admit that I have specific dreams for my children.
A mother also keeps an innate connection with her child; the dynamics that exist between a mother and a son are evident in the provocative language Hesse (2002) used to explain the relationship that existed between Siddhartha and his mother.
Bliss leaped in his mother’s bosom as she watched him—watched him walking, watched him sitting and standing—Siddhartha, the strong, the beautiful, moving with his lithe-limbed walk, greeting her with perfect grace. (Hesse, 2002, p. 4)
Siddhartha’s mother engaged her son with passion and unconditional love. However, Siddhartha did not reciprocate his mother’s love; he only knew that the love both parents had for him would not be enough to fill his awaiting psyche. While this indicates the oedipal dynamics, social pressures also play an important role in the maturation of the individual.
Love stirred in the hearts of the young daughters of the brahmins when Siddhartha passed through the city streets, with his radiant brow, with his imperial glance, with his slender hips. (Hesse, 2002, p. 4)
As a toddler matures and enters their early school years, a transition occurs. A child begins to interact with other people in a way that promotes gender identity and the ability to act in an ever-increasing social manner. Through the development of social relationships, the child begins the process of exiting the parental house and the established rules of the family in order to learn the social expectations society imposes on all individuals. While learning a cultural industry occurs at a later stage of development, the developmental milestone of social interaction begins during the stage of infancy and lasts throughout lifespan.
The ability to initiate relationships with other individuals represents a major developmental milestone. Relationship building begins with early object attachments and lasts throughout the lifecycle. While Siddhartha sought to relate only with himself, his friend Govinda provided the initial antagonistic quandaries that drove the early plot of Hesse’s (2002) story.
But his friend… loved him more than any other. He loved Siddhartha’s gaze and his sweet voice, he loved his way of walking and the complete grace of his movements; he loved everything Siddhartha did and said, but most of all, he loved his mind – his elevated, fiery thoughts, his burning will, his lofty inspiration. Govinda knew Siddhartha would never become an ordinary brahmin, a purveyor of rituals, a greedy dealer in charms, a vain mouther of empty phrases, a base and devious pries, nor would he become a mindless good sheep in the common herd. Certainly he would not; and Govinda, too, would not become a brahmin like ten thousand others. His desire was to follow Siddhartha, the beloved, the magnificent. And if Siddhartha ever became a god, if he ever entered the light, then Govinda would follow him – as his friend, as his companion, as his servant, his spear bearer, his shadow. (Hesse, 2002, pp. 4-5)
Govinda was Siddhartha’s shadow, a person that was antagonistic to the protagonist’s independence. Govinda loved Siddhartha, primarily because the antagonist did not love himself. Siddhartha’s need to transcend consciousness and take part in the divine denied him the ability to fully take part in his early developmental sequence. Jungian typology (Jung, 1971) suggests that two personality types (introversion and extraversion), and four personality functions (thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition) make up the psyche of any given individual. Govinda was attracted to the outer appearance Siddhartha portrayed to other individuals. Govinda, extroverted in psychic predisposition, believed Siddhartha was destined to achieve great things in life. Siddhartha differed from Govinda; Siddhartha controlled his own destiny through thoughts and intuition. Govinda represented the inferior function that provided the symbolic mirror from which the protagonist began his life quest to understand his true nature.
In the above passage, Hesse informed the reader of the intense passions that arise between friends during the early developmental stages. Govinda realized Siddhartha was destined to do great things, and was determined to follow him along his journey. In this passage, Govinda represented the mirror by which Siddhartha realized the journey he must undertake. Govinda was Siddhartha’s shadow, the inferior side of his personality that drove him to begin his journey towards Self.
Reveries of Symbolism and Archetypal Childhood Development
As a child, I have specific memories of practicing adult roles with my friends. It was normal in preschool to play with other boys and girls. During this time, it did not matter with whom I associated. I also remember that my friends and I practiced at domestic roles during this age. As I look back on the playtime events of my childhood, I now believe that these experiences constituted my first attempt to make friendships outside of my familial situation. While it is obvious that a child is not ready to assume the full responsibilities of an adult during their early formative years, children do emulate the roles of adults through their playtime activities. Emulation of adult roles assures that the developmental sequence will circle back upon itself as a child grows into a reproductive adult. Children practice to become adults from their earliest formative years. As I look back, I continue to have fond memories of the innocence I had during childhood, playing those beginning games of adult life. I also look forward to being a mirror by which my son’s can learn to relate with a woman of their own choice through the relationship I have with my wife.
As a child, I remember how slow time appeared to move. In a way, the innocent form of consciousness associated with childhood proves that time is relative to the means by which it is evaluated. My parents decided everything for me. My emerging psyche was sheltered from the true nature of the world that surrounded it. I remember having friendships, which I believed would last forever. I would then dismiss these friendships as soon as I did not get my way. Although I remember intense feelings of love and hate, I was unable to differentiate between the two feelings; I had to learn how to redirect these feelings into appropriate behaviors. I remember that these intense feelings and narcissistic rages lasted until nearly the third grade, as I became acclimated to the social expectations of the grade school classroom.
Primary narcissism wanes as the psyche becomes primed to accept social rules. By accepting the words and rules of others, my psyche became primed to adapt to the social world. At this time, I no longer wished to be a child; I yearned for adult life so that I could make decisions for myself.
As early childhood evolves into middle childhood, the world presents the emerging psyche with a seemingly endless array of environmental opportunities to explore. This is most evident in the almost daring behaviors children undertake when they explore their environment without inhibition.
The psychological world of a child represents a period of reverie for the adult whom has left their youth behind to pursue matters of adult life. The adult world differs from that of the child. Because of this difference, the paradox that exists between the world of an adult and the world of a child provides the means by which society passes on values and customs to children. As a child, I remember longing to grow up so that I could receive more freedoms. I believed that work would allow me to buy more video games and toys. While some children may long to become adults, they continue to remain a child until life experience takes away the magical thought processes associated with childhood from their developing psyche. During this period of my life, I can remember that dreams were ample in my awaiting psyche and flowed from an active imagination that was unrestrained by adult responsibility.
Hesse (2002) claimed that Siddhartha began to feel “that his father’s love and his mother’s love would not bring him enduring happiness, would not bring him contentment and satisfaction, would not be sufficient to his needs” (p. 5). When the love of parents no longer suits the growing needs of a child, that child must begin to take part in a process of forming relationships with other individuals. Children must find activities that satisfy their emotional needs. While parents should provide emotional support for their child, consciousness assures that a child will become increasingly independent from their parents because of the influence outside social factors have on the development of a child’s psyche. Social institutions such as schools, political institutions, and the church place pressure on parents to indoctrinate their children into socially acceptable behaviors that foster moral character. This stage occurs after the resolution of the oedipal conflict; a time when the ego becomes more prominent and the superego begins to form within the psyche.
Hesse, H. (2002). Siddhartha: A new translation with an introduction by Paul W. Morris. (C. S. Kohn, Trans.) Boston, MA: Shambhala.
Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological types. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. Hull, Trans., Vols. 6). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press