Each of us is connected to not only the web of Life but a web of stories.
In early life, we develop neurobiologically grounded stories based on how we are treated—with kindness and empathy or with cruelty and manipulation. These impressions form the base of our social personality before our conscious mind comes fully online. These are implicit, tacit stories our unconscious carries throughout the rest of life—in a direction toward openness or toward bracing against the world. (Narvaez, 2011; Tomkins, 1965).
Communities have a choice in what orientation—openness to or bracing against others—that they will foster in young children. Supportive communities allow parents to be responsive to and supportive of their young children. Born so immature, parental treatment shapes the functioning of our physiological systems and psychological functioning (Narvaez, 2014). We are biosocial constructions: Our biology is shaped by our social experience. The characteristics of the Evolved Nest are what helped our ancestors survive and thrive, fostering openness and wellbeing (Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013).
The stories that rescuers in World War II tell are those of connection—'before me, there was a human being in need, how could I not help?” This was not bracing against others but openness to the other. Such an orientation appears to have been grounded in early life social support they experienced, support that builds secure attachment to parent or caregiver (Oliner & Oliner 1988).
As children grow they take up the stories the community promotes. What is the nature of our connection to the natural world, to the universe, to one another? We adults can talk to our children and the children of others about their connections. What connections, webs of relationships, do you notice? Tell the world.
We can tell our stories of connection and transformation in the natural world.
We can tell stories from our area of expertise.
Your Primal Pilgrimage
Primal wounds, from lack of community support and harsh or neglectful treatment in early life, or from trauma later, lead us to brace against the world. But in those wounds may be our salvation and our gifts. They make us sensitive to certain aspects of the world and, if we are brave, our journey to healing can make us wise in ways that help others.
Each of our lives is a pilgrimage, a journey led by our spirit, our unconscious awareness of things. We can describe this pathway as a hero’s journey. Many of us face challenges in figuring out who we are, what our gifts are, what our purpose is. But if we start to follow “our bliss” or our passionate interests, we have started on the path (Campbell, 2008).
Once you take up the journey, guides and mentors will come. You will notice stories that encourage you. Despite obstacles, if you stay focused, help will be provided. Of course, sometimes the challenge is to discern the difference between the necessary obstacles we must overcome to reach our dream and the signs telling us we are on the wrong path.
The hero’s journey myth helps frame the process of our becoming. Hollywood movies use this myth (or monomyth, according to Joseph Campbell, mythology scholar). The first film where it was most intentionally used was Star Wars.
Have you noticed a new idea or tantalizing path that keeps popping into your head or turning up in your life? Will you say yes? Will you take up the hero’s journey?
More on many of these ideas see, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom (W.W. Norton)
Primal Wound Series
7 Stories of Connection To Heal the Primal Wound
8 Healing Stories of Connection from Native Americans
Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces, 3rd ed.. New York; New World Library.
Dillard, Annie. (1999). Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Leopold, A. (2016). A Sand County almanac. New York: Oxford University Press.
Narvaez, D. (2011) The ethics of neurobiological narratives. Poetics Today, 32(1): 81-106.
Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, early experience and human development: From research to practice and policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Oliner, S. P. & Oliner, P. M. (1988). The altruistic personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. New York: Free Press.
Schweitzer, A. (1997). Memoirs of childhood and youth, trans. by Kurt Bergel and Alice R. Bergel. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Tomkins, S. (1965). Affect and the psychology of knowledge. In S.S. Tomkins & C.E. Izard (Eds.), Affect, cognition, and personality. New York: Springer.