Last week I attended a seminar about early childhood sexual development, normal vs abnormal behavior, and learned again how subjectively we see the world. The attendees of the class were all psychotherapists and other mental health clinicians; trained to be objective observers.
The first class assignment, everyone in small groups, was to draw a picture of a child that represented its culture. The two men next to me and I grouped up and one guy began the drawing with a large doughboy looking child; no hands or feet. One of the men was wearing a yarmulke (Jewish beanie), the other person had a crucifix around his neck so we gave Doughboy both those items. We went on to add various peripheral pictures to the drawing paper, schoolhouse, foods, musical instruments and other culture related items. After a couple of minutes the four or five groups stood up and displayed their drawings.
All of the groups had drawn many of the same peripheral items, different renderings of school houses and whatever but the same basic concepts were displayed. What I found most striking was the basic representation of the child figure itself. My group had Doughboy, clearly white/Anglo, group of women in front drew an African American child, next group, middle aged white women, drew a little girl with Barbie doll like flowing pony tails, group in the back, each from a different Caribbean island, displayed an island child. Each of us drew ourselves; no one went out of their own box and drew a child of a different ethnicity.
Since the focus of this seminar was to understand and analyze “normative” childhood development it was apparent from the onset and then the discussions afterwards, that regardless of intellectualization, we judge the world from our own background and experiences. What might be statistically normal will none the less be judged through our own lens.
“If you would walk a mile in my shoes” might be a phrase known to all of us; taking a moment to reflect on the significance, the truth of that statement might give us a new perspective and ease some tension.
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