Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Crisis of Turning Nine

Thursday, October 2, 2014

“The change in the children’s self-awareness grows stronger at the age of nine, and you find that they understand much better what you say about the difference between the human being and the world.  Before they reach the age of nine, children merge far more thoroughly with the environment than is the case later, when they begin to distinguish themselves from their surroundings.  Then you will find that you can begin to talk a little about matters of the soul and that they will not listen with such a lack of understanding as they would have listened earlier.  In short, the children’s self-awareness grows deeper and stronger when they reach this age.”
-Steiner, Lecture 7 of “Practical Advice to Teachers
Have you ever reached a certain birthday and considered it a significant milestone?  Has reaching a certain milestone ever caused you, perhaps ironically, to feel catapulted into an immense and consuming feeling of doom and gloom?

I think it is safe to say that most of us associate crisis with the challenges typical of adulthood.  There are moments (and sometimes whole stretches of life that come to feel agonizingly long) when we may gain a deeper sense of the current circumstances of our lives and feel positively bereft of hope or inspiration.  Sometimes crisis can strike quite suddenly.  Other times it may build slowly over the course of many months and years until one day we wake up and find ourselves wondering how we came to be living the life we are 'living'.

You can well imagine my own surprise as I have explored the tender age of nine.  Some claim this is a particularly tender moment in the development of a child.  The focus of my blog today is on my own work excavating the life and associated thoughts and memories from the time between my ninth and tenth birthdays.

My session with my therapist yesterday has provided me fresh initiative and energy to focus specifically on the time when I was nine years old.  I found the above quote on The Parenting Passageway website while surfing around doing research on what I am coming to realize is a significant milestone in child development.

According to an article posted on the above site “children at this age (nine) often have a quiet, not verbalized, ‘inner crisis’ where they begin to have questions about themselves and their purpose in the world, about whether or not rules are really justified, whether or not adults really do know everything…”

It has been difficult for me to recall much of my life experience from the period of June, 1982 to December, 1983.  This period includes my ninth and tenth birthdays.  Looking back with the benefit of fifteen months of regular weekly therapy sessions as well as substantial insight borne of my own innate intelligence I can now better recall how I felt at that time.  I still cannot seem to really bring forth memories that contain any visual imagery.  And perhaps this will always be so.  And I have come to accept the very real possibility that visual imagery of this time period will never be sharp in my recollection.  But there are worse things that gaps in my memory.  Continuing to live a life that is not worth remembering is but one example.

I certainly did experience a crisis around the time I turned nine years old.  And I most certainly did not verbalize it.  And my primary reason for not verbalizing it was the fact that I had already come to believe that I wouldn’t be given an authentic hearing anyhow.  By the time I was nine years old I had developed some fairly warped ideas about myself and the world at large. 

What follows is just a sampling of my beliefs and thoughts I had developed by that time:

  • I had come to believe that adults generally could not be trusted. 
  • I had also come to believe that people are (perhaps by inherent nature), for the most part, self-absorbed and thus disinclined to pay much attention to the needs and lives of others.
  • On a related note I came to believe that many people are so invested in avoiding pain that they will fashion their whole lives in accord with a strategy which they believe will somehow help them avoid pain.  I think the life my father has chosen to live is a perfect example of this.
  • I didn’t really have much of a sense of my own purpose in the world when I was nine.  As I have noted elsewhere in my writing in this blog I can recall feeling skeptical that I would even survive my childhood.  It thus didn’t occur to me to contemplate what my purpose was nor how I would achieve it as an adult.

Given the thoughts and core beliefs that had begun to predominate in my mind by the age of nine it is no wonder my nine year old would be carrying something that could be used as a weapon when he appeared during my session yesterday.  By the time I was nine years old I had already become something that I find truly tragic for nine year old children to be.  I was weary.  A child of nine who is weary has, in my opinion, likely endured something detrimental to his own healthy development.  To undergo such difficulty so early in life can indeed prove to be shattering to future healthy, timely development.  To this day I still marvel that I became as high functioning, educated and motivated as I did.  And yet we all have our limits.  Without sufficient love, support, stability, play and kindness I believe most all of us will be at higher risk of becoming alienated, physically ill or worse.

Through the work I have done thus far it has become apparent that I need to really zero in and focus on this particular time in my development.  In my future therapeutic work I thus plan to offer my nine year old boy self a hearty and warm welcome.  I welcome him to consciously journey with me.  I welcome him to offer me access to his heart and mind.  And in doing so I hope to find deeper healing and excitement for my own future than what I already experience now.

For those of you in recovery reading this piece I ask you to ask yourselves the following question:

What was life like when you were nine years old?

Post Script

Fifty Day Challenge, Day #7

Healthy activities I did today:
  • I had an important meeting focused on my future career
  • I met with a gastroenterologist as a preventive measure to be proactive about my diet
  • I enjoyed an unexpected and beautiful rainbow in the evening

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!