Rio Chama Publications

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Posted by on in General Topics

From the get-go infants can show interest, surprise, happiness, and even distress. This was made very evident to me when I was a nurse assisting at the birth process. What a delight to watch when a newborn nestled into Mother’s arms in total comfort or looked into Dad’s face with wide-eyed interest! We now know that infants’ facial expressions are the first signs of their emerging egos.

Because the ego is the system of our personalities that both helps us survive and give us a sense of self, it fulfills its needs through connecting with people. The connections between an infant and her caretakers are emotion laden–an infant cries when hungry, smiles and coos when talked to in a pleasing manner, and can actually mimic emotions displayed by others.

Each interaction with each caretaker carries an emotional flavor. . . the stronger the flavor, the more likely there will be an imprint on the infant’s malleable sense of self.  If caretakers habitually ignore the infant’s cries of distress, she learns she cannot expect to have her needs met. Unable to develop trust, development of her emotional life is greatly impaired. What do you know about your arrival into this world? Do you have the sense you were lovingly welcomed? Are the stories told about your infancy and early childhood filled with pleasurable words? Or, do they reflect annoyance and impatience with your behaviors?

Tagged in: sense of self
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Posted by on in General Topics

In studying infant-caretaker interactions, behavioral researchers have classified attachment styles into three main categories:

(1) 65%  of infants fall into the secure category. These infants had caretakers who were sensitive and responsive to their needs.

(2) 21% of infants fall into the avoidant category. These infants had caretakers who were rejecting and did not respond quickly to infant distress, seemed uncomfortable with close body contact, and were somewhat rigid and minimally expressive.

(3) 14% of infants fall into the ambivalent or resistant category. These infants had caretakers who sometimes engaged with their babies and other times were ignoring and insensitive.

Fortunate are those who begin life in a secure environment. That doesn’t mean the ego is home free in its growth. Even in the best of settings, periods of parental fatigue and stress interfere with parent responsiveness. Nonetheless, it’s important to know how research shows that infants of the secure category have a much better chance of growing up into emotionally secure adults. And it’s also important to understand that infants who fall into the avoidant and ambivalent categories will be more challenged in achieving an emotionally secure adulthood.

Do you feel confident and secure in your interpersonal relationships? Or do rigid and minimally expressive behaviors characterize how you relate to people? Or do you sometimes engage with others while at other times you ignore and dismiss what others are trying to share with you?

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Posted by on in General Topics

What about discipline? How can parents effectively handle unacceptable and even perilous behaviors that children sometimes demonstrate? For example, when parents forbid a toddler to run out in the street, play with knives, or turn the knob on the stove, Mom and Dad shout or they physically remove the child from imminent disaster. The child feels shame. But wait. Aren’t we supposed to keep children from feeling shame?

Surprisingly enough, research suggests that the disciplining experience when properly handled helps the frontal lobe of the brain develop an internal adaptation to negativity. Just as the child can call on a positive memory to self-soothe, he can bring to mind the memory of Mom’s reaction to forbidden behaviors. He can then curb his impulsive behaviors by anticipating his caregivers’ reactions to them. This is a necessary move toward social adaptation–it’s time for the toddler to learn the world is not always his oyster. Not only are there dangers out there, other people have needs and feelings as well.

But this is only half of the story. When researchers speak about the proper handling of shaming experiences, they have something very specific in mind. Stretching of the brain into an adaptive pattern means that soon after feeling shame the child has a reconnecting experience with his caretaker. Here’s how it works: the caretaker reinitiates eye contact and engaging behaviors after a misattunement, temper tantrum, or other disrupting event. These repeated “reunion experiences” of talking, hugging, and soothing ease the overwhelming isolation surrounding shame and allow reconnection. In other words, the child learns that while risky activities and emotional fracases, may result in disconnection, the disconnection is not permanent. The links he had with others are supple, allowing for the humanness of emotion and frailties of behavior.

Tagged in: emotions reunion shame
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Posted by on in General Topics

When I was a child growing up in a Catholic family, I was very confused about the relationship between emotions and spirituality. I knew that attending mass every Sunday was meant to be spiritual, but going to confession on Saturday afternoon was another matter. Recounting my wrongdoings to the priest through the latticed window in the dimly lit confessional and being given five Hail Mary prayers to recite as penance didn’t sit well with me.

What were my wrongdoings? What did I confess?  Such misdemeanors as “I got mad at my sister three times.” “I had impure (i.e. sexual) thoughts twenty times.” The sense of dread prior to my admissions was followed by a very brief period of relief when I left the confessional. The problem was I know I would be back the next week with the same items to confess.

This situation was compounded by how my family with their German background kept emotional reactions and discussions completely under wraps. I had no idea that feeling anger and sexual energy are part of our humanness. It wasn’t until graduate school that I learned differently—that when we acknowledge our feeling states and make appropriate choices on how to express their energy we are both advancing our holistic wellbeing and walking right into spiritual territory.

The more I researched this topic the more I realized I had to write about the relationship between emotions and spirituality in words anyone could understand. Grow Up Your Ego: Ten Scientifically Validated Stages to Emotional and Spiritual Maturity is the holistic result. And that’s what this blog is all about: holistic healing of mind, body, spirit, and soul. What are your thoughts about the ego being too big or would be best gotten rid of?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Super User says #
    Barbara’s words rang true for me as well. I’m anxious to hear more about helping the ego work in my favor, rather than against me.
  • Super User says #
    You’re at the right place to learn more! Ongoing blogs on this site will not only explain the scientific importance of the ego in
  • Super User says #
    I always thought of the ego as something I needed to get rid of. I’m looking forward to learning more factual information about it
  • Super User says #
    Yes, as you continue to read these blogs you will learn ways to help your ego work in your favor and thus improve relationships bo

The answer to both questions is no.  Behavioral research now shows that the ego not only is real but is also responsible for two very important jobs. It keeps us alive and gives us a sense of self. Just as we physically grow up, our egos have to grow up as well. When the growing doesn’t happen, the ego unable to cope with life’s contingencies, resorts to detrimental behaviors and emotional mayhem. On the other hand, scientific data solidly indicates that as the ego emotionally matures, spirituality emerges as its natural companion.

Nonetheless, the mythical ego is often viewed as a spiritual culprit. Early on in my clinical practice I was surprised by the number of clients who came to my office confused about feeling depressed after months and even years devoted to one spiritual practice or another. I had naively figured that those who pursued such paths had built in constitutions suited to the task. Even more distressing were those who came after the downfall of a guru. Burned by the aftermath of a leader gone wrong, too often the client’s focus turned to “getting rid of ego.” Reactions of feeling bummed out, disappointed, or angry were considered ego bound and did not pave the way to enlightenment.

This is not to argue with the way in which Eastern philosophies speak about the ego or refer to its demise. This is about what psychological theory and research from the Western perspective have to say about this important facet of our psyche that shows itself from the moment of our births. And the purpose of this blog is to show how solid investment in ego growth can change your life for the better including having loving relationships that support your individuality. Being spiritual is not equivalent to a monk-like sacrificial existence.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Super User says #
    Excellent question! #1 The more you learn about growing up your ego and apply what you know to yourself, the more you will advance
  • Super User says #
    What can parents do to help children develop a healthy sense of self?
  • Super User says #
    It has been a lifelong habit to believe that when things get tough, such as distress in relationships, people’s egos can take over

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