Fundamentals #3: The Importance of Internal & External Attention
Whether we focus internally or externally contributes a tremendous amount of influence on what we come believe about ourselves and how we expect life to progress. Let me show you the connections.
When we don’t receive the responses or nurturance that we need or want from our caretakers we are trained into focusing outside of ourselves more than paying attention to what we feel within. This is because our feeling for a lack of nurturance feels to us as a nebulous parental resistance and intensifies our feeling of yearning leading us to focus on and intensify our sensitivity to what is external in the anticipation of our desired response from them. In this interchange the majority of our focus has shifted to what is external through our “yearning” for that response. Through this experience and others that are similar we form “instincts” and expectations for future responses. Our inner feelings then become relegated to participate as a trigger for our future external expectations. It appears to be a felt and perceived lack that produces a polarity and draws our attention toward what is external. It is satiation that allows it to remain internal and free of polarizing influences. On other words, when we have no needs we tend not to focus outside of ourselves. An example of this is when we are in utero.
This whole process occurs pre-verbally. Later and post-verbally the mind will begin to develop language and thought leading to “morphing” those expectations into beliefs about our world (a belief is just a thought that we keep thinking). Thus begins our rudimentary pre-verbal expectation and post-verbal “belief” that our world is controlled by external forces and circumstances. This happens as a continual process cascading its effects throughout our lives but most strongly beginning from birth to age five. In psychological terms it is the developing of this externally directed perception of and attitude toward life that is labeled external locus of control (L.O.C.). In its extreme form this is the belief that all choices, all circumstances and all our needs and wants are determined by others and that we have no power of our own. The acceptance of this creates a partnership of perspectives. First, that we have no active part in what we will receive or what happens around us. This, as our developing mind begins to form a basic acclimation toward this, facilitates a very small jump toward justifying and projecting blame on those “external” to us for our circumstances if they become unpleasant and/or unwanted. Second, this perspective eliminates the possibility of developing any semblance of accountability for those circumstances. Conversely, the developed belief (remember, a belief is just a thought we keep thinking) that others wield all the power over our lives creates the perception that there is something missing or wrong with us. When we begin with this feeling and mental assertion of perceived inadequacy we spend the rest of our lives attempting to compensate for that lack by employing social defense mechanisms to assign blame and cloak the fact that we feel “inadequate.” This is in alignment with Alfred Adler’s theory that we all start life with an initial inferiority complex due to the fact that as newborns and babies we must be dependent on our caretakers for our initial support until we are able to fend for ourselves. They and all they are connected to are viewed as Omni powerful. When Self-Trust and Confidence are subsequently not developed through learning to make our own choices, or being allowed to do so, that inferiority complex expands and continues through life in a cloaked form.
At this point it’s important to note that it is believed by many professionals that all newborns, babies and young children start life with an “instinct” or feeling that they are “inferior” to the power of their caretakers and other “outsiders” due to their inability to satisfy their own needs. Obviously, without the mind being developed this is a very elusive perspective for us to contemplate. Perhaps, as adults, the closest we can compare to this nebulous feeling to is intimidation. Ironically and as a civilization we still don’t know what instincts or feelings actually are or where they come from. All we know is that they exist, are essentially involuntary and that we feel them. The point I’m moving toward here is that if our caretakers do not endeavor to begin allowing us, as children, to develop preferences, as simple as those choices may be, that we will continue to feel that we have no effect on satisfying our own needs or determining our own circumstances and conditions and will continue to focus outside ourselves for “direction” and permission. Currently, a very small part of our population focuses on teaching us to build trust in ourselves by allowing us to express preferences. This allowing gives us the feeling that we have some power over our conditions and begins to develop a rudimentary Self-Trust and Confidence within us. It’s important to note that it’s not that the majority of parents and caretakers don’t wish to attend us through our training; it’s just that many of them are not aware that it is necessary for the development of our Self-Trust and Confidence. Additionally, through dealing with the support of their family, career obligations, daily chores and requirements of survival, self maintenance and financial matters there are created such overwhelming stresses and demands that the parents and caretakers often just don’t have the energy to observe or perceive, clearly, our emotional needs or to invest in what is inwardly necessary for our growth toward independent support. There are so many external demands that now draw us all toward the tangible world that many of us no longer have the opportunity to invest in our own emotional needs and well being let alone knowing what is necessary for our children. To wit, how many times have we observed a parent asking a child what they think or feel? It doesn’t occur very frequently with most of us.
Our culture has become so material and so excessively outer directed that it is hard to recognize the need to “go inside” and attend our own feelings. If we don’t do it with ourselves, how can we guide our children to do so? The few of us that are trained and allowed to express preference in childhood grow into having a sense that we are able to have some effect on our own well being if not our environment. In having this experience we develop Self-Trust and Confidence in ourselves. As we grow into adults we come to feel and believe that we can, generally, control our own life and conditions. The psychologists call this having an internal locus of control (L.O.C.); that is, that our life path and circumstances are mostly directed and controlled by our own actions. We, as these types of children, often become the most effective leaders, pioneers and world changers.
Although it is not possible to second guess all our child’s needs and requirements, especially as pre-verbal babies, we do have the ability to take time and observe how they interact with the world and can generally figure out where to apply support so they can develop Self-Trust and Confidence in their ability to deal with the world, at the least, partially on their own terms. Most of us who don’t know what we want out of life are usually children who were never given the opportunity to think about our preferences and who were simply pressed into just following the social expectations that we were “issued.” Listening to our children has become a lost art and a sorely needed activity. Not having the time or energy is a poor excuse at best. For us as adults, even now, to feel Self-Trust and Confidence we must have the types of experiences and reinforcements that lead us toward developing them. Although, sadly, many of us have not had external reinforcement leading to those types of experiences in our childhood. But it is never too late for us to put them into place ourselves with our creativity and a little selfishness. Yes, I said selfishness…that tremendous social “taboo.”