The Hierarchy of Psychological Development:
The transition from the false self (the ego, image, or trauma-induced identity) to Our True Self
Traumatic experiences when we are young divert us from the natural cumulative course of psychological growth, from infancy to adulthood. The more traumas we experience, the more we evacuate from the human qualities that sense the traumas, feel the pain of their impacts, and obsessively think about what happened. We lose our humanity as a result, descending the evolutionary ladder. For example, if our animal body motivates the majority of our decisions, we are in the Animal Stage. When the ups and downs of our environments control our lives, we function like a Vegetable. When we have evacuated so completely from our humanness that we no longer grow, change, or have choice, we exist as a Mineral. Minerals fiercely defend against their humanness or violently attack it, having concluded that it is to blame.
Stage of Woman
Focus—OURSELVES as contained within each individual body and within our collective Self. Theme—"Moved by this collective Identity, I give whatever is required to grow each member of our human family, inside myself and outside."
The Woman is mindful of the whole in every part and the parts in each whole. Through passionate rearing of each “young” family member and receiving the care of each adult, she herself matures. By fiercely championing and lovingly nurturing the spiritual life in every person, new Life is created within her. This collective spiritual Identity grows the more she values all as direct or inverted expressions of this worthy Self.
This is the psychological stage where men and women naturally become aware of their inner infants and begin to care for them. You may be thinking, “Hardly anyone achieves this stage of development!” Yes, and yet the Woman still exists inside everyone, often locked away in their unconscious minds. We have banished her because she speaks the truth of our experience, and for most of us, this is not a pretty picture. She grieves the disaster we’ve made of our lives and the harm we’ve perpetrated on others. Most of us would prefer feeling “happy” or not feeling at all. If we allowed her presence, our inner Woman would be busy doing everything in her power to rescue us from our traumatic lives and to move us steadily on our developmental path. Many of us, in our “infancy,” would prefer staying where we are, psychologically speaking. And thus the “infant” rules our consciousness instead of this more mature aspect of our being.
The Wonder Woman: Juanita runs a community center for struggling moms and their families. She and her group of volunteers distribute free baby supplies and food. They offer parenting classes and counseling sessions. They have a 24 hour hotline where the operator answers questions about child-rearing and personal growth. They have posted signs and billboards all over their city to remind people of the destructive long term effects of child abuse and to give constructive alternative techniques of dealing with stress. Juanita is deliberate in tending to the children in her community as well as those in her own family and self.
The Woman consciously chooses her defenses, in order to defend the true Identity of those around her and within her. These mechanisms are therefore not ego-defensive, but Self-rejuvenating! As she rejuvenates this Self more and more in her experience, she progresses to the ultimate developmental stage, the Stage of Man.
These stages have nothing to do with physical age or gender. Assessing largely in terms of the physical is a sign that we have not yet grown past the Animal Stage. The character traits of any stage exist in both males and females. People must negotiate all stages within themselves and outside themselves, if they are to reach maturity and become fully human.
Note that our stage differs in the various aspects of our lives. For example, a woman may ignore household repairs, considering them “men’s work” and a distraction from her roles as wife and mother. She is in the Vegetable Stage in these specific areas (rigid roleplay). But, she is progressing into the Animal Stage (stepping beyond rigid roleplay into effective action), when she calls a reliable plumber to fix a continually running toilet. She is in the Child Stage when she humanly relates to this plumber and expresses her genuine, heartfelt feelings of appreciation. A man who was reared to strictly climb the academic ladder and a have successful career may never develop his emotional self. He is stuck in the Vegetable Stage in the realm of feeling. He may be in the Child Stage in his ability to enroll others in his innovative course of action at work, yet because of his emotional immaturity, he sabotages the process of implementing it.
Each part of us has its place within ourselves and our world. When a part is absent, what we experience, know, express, and do is incomplete. However, the more a part is present and developed, the more it contributes to our experience, knowledge, expression, and action. It is never too late to adjust our standards and receive attentive instruction and care, so each young pupil within us can catch up. And it is never too late to give this instruction and care to young pupils around us so they can also develop to their greatest potential. If we are abusing or neglecting any of these pupils, we are stuck in the paradigm of post-traumatic stress, still passing on to others the truth of our traumas from which we have yet to recover. The degree that we prayerfully receive and give help in each moment shows our current stage of development.