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The First Task of Life? Survival and Our Quest to Be Loved


No wonder we cry at birth! From the get go, it seems, Mother Nature challenges us to learn and grown, for example, to get comfortable with totally new physical sensations, such as hunger, thirst and the pain of breathing oxygen into our lungs, etc., inviting us to see and make increasingly complex choices later in life that require us to cultivate the ability to make distinctions between pain that is there to grow us, and needless suffering.

It starts from the very first breath when our body invites us out of the painless comfort zone of our mother’s womb, and tells us we no longer can depend on our mother’s body to breathe us, to provide the nutrients and oxygen we need to survive.

Each task assures us we are fully equipped with everything we need inside to survive and reach our developmental milestones. Later we learn we have inborn miracle-making resources, such as for imagination and possibility thinking, that seemingly invite us to transcend the physical limits of our nature.

Born with a burning curiosity, not unlike scientists, we yearn to know everything there is to know about ourselves and our world. Learning is one of our key attributes as human beings, by the way. A healthy brain is most always in “learning mode” and only in “protective mode” in situations that pose real threats or danger.

How could we have known then, however, what becomes clear later in life, that: these developmental life tasks, as painful as they may be, are designed to grow us, to strengthen and to enrich us, and perhaps to grow our wisdom, every step of the way, so that we learn to live and love authentically with our whole heart?

-7 Comments to
The First Task of Life? Survival and Our Quest to Be Loved

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  1. I like how you’ve simply explained the concept of “early survival-love maps” and the impact on adult relationships where early attachment experiences were less than optimal.

    How our mind is influenced by our early relationships and its ongoing impact in the present is perhaps not as widely discussed or considered as it should be (outside of therapeutic circles).

    • Thanks for commenting Amanda, I appreciate your feedback, and also agree that the impact of these early neural patterns on adult relationships is not on the radar screen of the general public as much as warrants. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. I understand your article completely; knowing what I should do and doing it to free myself from early survival love maps feels like a monumental task. Back in the late ’80’s……I attended adult children of alcholics support group meetings….the people I met were incredible and for the first time in my life I felt truly loved and accepted..the meetings lasted a few years and then people stopped attending.

    My early life consisted of 2 mentally ill parents who were physically, verbally and sexually abusive. My father was a narcisstic sociopath and my mother had a clincal depression problem and used me to dump her anger on me.

    I know that the past is the past and the damage is done. Even at age 56, life is a challenge for me each and every day. I try to take it one day at a time and not dwell too much on the past or even on the future for that matter.

    It feels good to write this post………it is kind of a catharsis for me.

    • Hello Sue, so glad you shared your thoughts and insights. Writing thoughts and feelings down has been shown to be a healing tool… You didn’t mention whether you’ve tried deep breathing, yoga and other mindfulness practices. Keep in mind that your experiences do not shape your life and healing as much as your responses. Glad to know you have have faced the challenges on your behalf. You so deserve to give yourself the best of care emotionally, physically and mentally each day. Keep writing, and thanks again for commenting! : )

  3. Can’t wait to read more on this from you. I’d say my anxiety about abandonment and feeling of impending doom might have something to do with this, having had an abusive and disinterested single parent.
    Why hasn’t my therapist brought this up? Is this all considered part of the “is that a familiar feeling?” questions?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting AC, so appreciate the positive feedback and support, as well as your willingness to explore deeper parts of you. This perhaps speaks to progress you’ve made personally and together with your therapist. The concept of early lifelong patterns and their enduring lifelong impact has been with us from the early part of the 20th century, and credited to John Bowlby, the founder of Attachment theory, and other researchers who’ve continued and expanded upon his early findings, such as Mary Ainsworth. Recent advances in brain imaging technology however have substantiated the presence and the enduring impact of early neural patterns formed in the first 3 or 5 years of life. Some findings are so new and many therapists are increasingly integrating them in practice. And, yes, the question of “is that a familiar feeling” gets right to making the “connections” between an “interpretation” of a recent experience and past felt experiences that may be imprinted in memory. Thanks again for commenting!

  4. Thank you for that in depth response!

  5. I appreciate this article, as I have just had an “ah ha” moment in my life that validates the importance of human connection. Thank you for your wisdom!!

    • Thank you for the feedback and positive support, lovEternal! So glad to hear about the “ah ha” moment that “validates” for you the “importance of human connection”! So appreciate your sharing this and commenting! Thanks again.

  6. “They keep us thinking that we are dependent on others to love and value us BEFORE we can feel loved and valued.”

    Isn’t that an illusion itself? How does one feel loved and valued if they, in fact, are not? Or is that another way of saying we should depend on ourselves to love and value ourselves? Because if that’s what you mean, then it confuses me because if we’re social beings, and no man is an island unto himself, how do we get love and a sense of value in our independent self-containment?

    Seems still an illusion, a substitute for being loved and valued by others. Which, as long as we’re tricking our brains, may as well trick it for good outcomes for ourselves. But still, that doesn’t seem very self-honest.

    I will continue reading, these are very insightful so far. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the message and questions, Hypatia. Yes, we are social beings, yet it is only in childhood that we’re dependent on others to “love” us to survive. And yes, you are correct about both being illusions of sorts. In a sense, the way our brains are wired, we are creators of illusions and visions, and, in turn, these (quite literally) can shape us and the direction of lives. Thus, you may say it is a choice between “which” illusion one will choice. Yet, the choice matters!! An “illusion” that one is not loved, etc., causes physical harm to the body, whereas the illusion (vision) that one is loved and of priceless value in life nourishes every cell to health and well being! So, if we are always “creating” our lives with the “stories” of how we tell our lives, and we become what we think, why not choose an optimal one?

      • You asked, “So, if we are always “creating” our lives with the “stories” of how we tell our lives, and we become what we think, why not choose an optimal one?” One answer is that “the optimal one” is untrue and dangerous to our survival. If I believed that I’m loved and of priceless value I would be putting myself in unnecessary danger. No one values me even moderately, so if I value myself over others I would have NO others.

      • Thanks for commenting Menolly123. Recent findings have led me to conclude that love and esteem for self is intricately connected to love and esteem for others in our brains. It’s the effect of what is known as “mirror” neurons on our emotional system. Realizing one’s priceless value as an adult, and letting go of thinking we have to be loved by others before we can give ourselves permission to love ourselves, allows us to grow the compassion we need to fully accept others as priceless and yet imperfect beings and thus to love them with our whole hearts (and not just on the ‘conditions’ we set). Thanks again for writing!

  7. All the early survival maps that you talk about, I have them and they appear when I am having the best job offer or new opportunities in life, when I am in the verge of enjoying something new, so I sturggle a lot to overcome them and get the job done or enjoy the good things in life.
    I would really apreciatte it if you coul help me dilucidating this for me.
    Thanks

  8. I find your articles spot on with regard to my own life learning. I am searching for my “authentic self” and will do so until the end. The journey is life and there is no end point.

    That said, ridding myself of alcohol in order to do the real work needed to conquer my chronic depression. Then there is the effort to learn how to actually live a sober life. Next is the re-discovery of who I am without the artificial support. And finally, to move from isolation to engagement.

    Keep your articles coming. They give me a sense of hope that I very much need.

    Thank you!

    • Thank you Cat for sharing thoughts and insights. The process of growth and transformation is lifelong in many ways … the real challenge is getting comfortable with the uncomfortable aspects of feeling vulnerable in our relationships with self and other – which are inevitable. It great that you’ve addressed alcohol and lifestyle issues on this journey. In my experience, making lifestyle changes in what and how we eat, drink, exerciser, etc., make living a mindful and conscious lifestyle so much easier – simply because this gives us access to the amazing abilities of frontal cortex of our brain. The healthier our lifestyle, the healthier our brain and body, the more efficiently our brain and body work for us.

  9. Thanks for the good, clean, understandable writing about this complex reality.

  10. Wow. This makes perfect sense to me. It alm

  11. Hi. I so appreciate your article. I’m in the midst of doing this work. I specifically searched for “fear in relationship”. At 50 I am being faced with choosing my comforting belief that only feels safe among an animal companion and “not needing humans” OR taking the next step with my boyfriend. My focus right now is to keep myself open with a perspective that I can relate to him with the same trust, respect and acceptance that I give animals. I think that will also keep me mindful of finding within myself the love and tenderness I have looked for from others…

    I especially liked your part explaining why this process even got set up in the first place, from childhood thru adulthood. You helped make sense of this perfect journey for an imperfect creature. Our human condition. (And the first time I have seen that part addressed.)

    Your article is very profound. Looking forward…

  12. Hello, thank You for great article, I needed it 🙂
    …But can’t find Later task in life, which is mentioned in here? It is not available for reading on internet?
    So, can we conclude that someone can learn to be emotionally non dependant on others only when there are certain life conditions like good food, time and motivation for sport, good job,lot of reading and self exploring, or person can attract good life conditions by starting to love her/him self?
    What is the first? It seems paradox – you can’t start to love yourself if you don’t love enough yourself…

    Thank you very much!

  13. Thank you very much for great scientific article.
    I have a question: it seems like paradox, you can love yourself if you love yourself enough to start to work on yourself?
    Then – you have to have conditions for this: support, good food, time and motivation for sport, good job? Or you attract these life conditions by starting to love yourself or becoming emotionally self dependant?
    And, I can’t find the article Later task in life, is it available on internet for reading?

    Thanks again!

    • Appreciate your comment and interest in the article on “First Task of Life.” Yes, we are paradoxical in nature, truly complex, yet our brain is fully equipped to grow our capacity to know, understand, grow ever wiser as we engage our ability for reflective thinking. Part two on the later task has not yet been posted.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this complex information in insightful and simplistic terms. Your thoughtful and non judgmental communication style brings all this information together to “poke at the bear”, gently, and that is a gift. I have been on a journey of healing for soon 30 years and this article condenses the complexity and gives me words to describe this process in conversation with myself and others. I am fascinated by the brain science and connections and well anxiously wait for you next article!

  15. You’re so right about it not being simple or easy. It’s doable and worthwhile, and with determination, achievable. Thanks for commenting!

 

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