Wednesday, September 16, 2015
“Grandpa, can you see what’s in my mind?”
It’s easy to take things for granted. I was reminded of that when my 6-year-old granddaughter recently said to me, “Grandpa, can you see what’s in my mind?”
As an adult, I experience that the world of my own thoughts is mine and mine alone. (Of course, there are some people who have access to others’ thoughts, but that is rare.) A young child does not have this experience. She can sense what others are feeling and thinking. We all have had experiences when a young child somehow received our unspoken thoughts or feelings. Adults have filters that are not very developed in young children. Additionally, the neurology of the young child is not mature so the capacity for reasoning and understanding abstract ideas is minimal. (See my previous recent posts for more on this.)
Alongside neurological development a complementary process is taking place in the young child. The experience of the separateness of her own self is arising. The newborn experiences a oneness with all sense experiences. That experiencing is of the sense perceptions themselves, but not of a center, a self that is having those sense experiences. You can say it is perception without conception, of experiences without thinking about those experiences. You could say that the newborn lives fully in her periphery without an experience of a center, a self. Relating to the world from a ‘self’ develops slowly over years and is not complete until one is in her twenties.
When I wake up from a dream, I am aware that I have had a dream. When my granddaughter, or any young child, wakes up from a dream she does not have the same awareness that it was a dream. Dreaming and waking experience have the same sense of reality for the young child.
So, the combination of an immature neurology and an immature sense of self leads to my granddaughter’s questioning of whether her mind is her own private domain. And I celebrated her curiosity and questioning of what she experiences and her reflections on that experience.
I am going to keep this post short and sweet and I hope you take away this important thought:
Young children experience the world differently that adults do. In part it is because of the developing brain, and in part because of the developing sense of self. Your young child experiences the world differently than you do!
Repeat after me;
Your young child experiences the world qualitatively differently than you do!