A child's imaginings


Invariably a child's earlier fantasies enter into the strivings that drive him. They influence his teenage behavior. They have significant bearing on what he feels about himself and consequently about others.

Because as a child the teenager was too fearful and ashamed of his so-called "bad" feelings and fantasies, he locked many of them up, as it were, and hide them in his unconscious mind. This he did not only to hide them from us but, far more imperatively, to hide them from himself.

But making feelings disappear from view does not make them disappear from existence. They still press. They still push. In one way or another they must come out.

The more fearful or ashamed a child is of them, the more adept will he unconsciously become in protecting himself from seeing them. The more cunningly will he manage to hide what his feelings truly are. The more adroit will he become in going after what he craves in devious, hidden ways and in having feelings come out in forms that keep them unrecognizable to himself and others.

All unconsciously in his childhood he does many such things.

All unconsciously in his teens he still does them.

When he feels "bad," anxious, angry or desirous of what he senses he should not be wanting--he hides by running back, by denying or by disguising through sundry means what he feels.

Let us glimpse how he does these various things.

The teenager who has felt or imagined that he missed out on emotional nourishments in infancy or childhood may either sit tight in his baby ways or return to them from time to time. In effect he is trying to make up belatedly for things he feels he has missed.

It's as if he were saying to himself, "If I stay young I can perhaps capture what I failed to have enough of earlier," or "Maybe if I act like a baby I can get to do now what you didn't let me do enough of then."

He may turn back to striving for satisfactions in ways more childish than befit an adolescent.

"My child," writes a mother, "doesn't seem to want to grow up. She doesn't want to go with girls her own age. She invariably chooses children three or four years younger . . ." Quite obviously, for whatever inner reason she has, this girl is trying to run back to an earlier period.

"My girl," reports another mother, "can't think of anyone but herself. It's not that she seems to think well of herself. She doesn't. I think she's got an awful sense of inferiority. But she always has to hold the center of the stage. She does it by acting silly. She does it by being fresh. She'll even skin a knee or stub a toe if she has to. And she acts so helpless! Everything has to revolve around her every bit of the time."

What better description is there of a baby to whom his whole world is himself and around whom all his world must revolve?

"My boy," a father complains, "is as bright as a whip and still he has to cheat. He keeps copying off the other kids' papers. I asked him why, and do you know what he said? It was the strangest thing. He said, 'It's like tasting from somebody else's plate. When I get the answers off somebody else's paper they seem better to me than when I do them myself.'"

Again the description of a hungry baby is appropriate. This boy goes to his friends as though they were his mother from whom he still is bent on taking more food than he feels he should have. In what he said to his father he disclosed how in his fantasies, albeit unconsciously, this was the sort of act he was playing out. By adding the unethical element to it, he added hostility so that it became an act of sly grabbing with anger concealed except to the eye that reads below the surface.

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