Birth: From a Life of Peace and Predictability to a Life of Challenge and Change


There is a debate about when life begins.  I believe that at some point in the womb, the growing fetus becomes conscious of its surroundings: the warmth, the safety, the peace, the predictability.  At the moment of birth, however, the infant enters an environment that is hostile; it is cold, loud, intense, and bright.  The excruciating journey from the security of the mother’s womb is full of struggle and pain.  Arriving naked and confused, this new setting is harsh and demanding in comparison.  The pain of birth instantly creates dissonance between one’s current environment and past peace.  The arrival begins with the need for food and reassuring touch.  Pain leads to tears, and crying leads to relief.  To exist, strong instinctive survival behaviors take over to ensure safety and security.  Initial peace at this level is equated to the attainment of food and touch, as well as the avoidance of pain.  It is soon learned that tears and noise influence the surroundings.  Control of the hostile environment has begun.

Speech is the most significant development in the pursuit of environmental mastery.

It doesn’t take long to perfect these crude survival skills.  As long as there are caring attendants near to communicate with, the newborn begins to sense confidence and pride in his/her growing ability to control.  This advances to thinking and reasoning, and eventually speech: all are a direct byproduct of this struggle.  Great effort is expelled in developing this more effective and efficient method of needs gratification.  The challenges and struggles involved in learning to speak are overcome by the even greater desire to get serviced quicker and at a higher level. Speech is the most significant development in the pursuit of environmental mastery.  As the mind develops and increasingly greater psychomotor skills are acquired, additional desires appear.
Beyond safety and security, satisfaction and pleasure now surface.  As the infant’s circle of concern expands exponentially, more opportunities present themselves, but alongside this is the notion of competition, as mentioned in a previous post titled, The Challenge of Life.   When other persons are introduced into the infant’s world jealousy, enmity, opposition, and hostility follow.  This is due to the perception of limited resource availability including competition for food, shelter, safety, security, and attention. “Mine” is a well rehearsed response of this phase of development, and sadly, it is easy to become stuck here.
Once the survival needs are satisfied, we are open to the desire for pleasure.  Soon we are seeking out stimulation and avenues of pleasure and self gratification.  When impulses surface we naturally react to them.  The more we engage, the greater the desires become.  These drives are associated with appetites and passions for food and fun.  As with our competitive survival needs, there are similar feelings of rivalry for limited social attention and esteem.  Envy, jealously, vanity, and greed lead to anger and wrath when wants and desires are not fulfilled.  We soon learn the behaviors required to secure these wants as they quickly become self-imposed needs.  As we grow and develop, behaviors become linked/chained together creating patterns of response.  Over time these links can grow strong and automatic.  The very existence of a routine, even the most disruptive one, provides a degree of stability.  Changing these routine behaviors places us in a vulnerable situation that often results in a digression of performance for a while.

Originally posted on September 15, 2011 on