12 senses continued—the life sense
Sunday, January 27, 2013
This week I want to write a little more about the life sense, as this is one of the foundational senses that children develop in the first seven years of life and as it is one that you may not be familiar with. It is also described as the sense of well-being. Children generally feel secure and comfortable within their bodies—feel at home and whole—this is due to the life sense. Whenever there is some kind of bodily disturbance, the life sense is disturbed, just as when we hear a loud, unpleasant noise, the sense of hearing is disturbed. This is true for us as adults, too, but we have a sense of ourselves in time and know that the disturbance is temporary. Therefore, as we grow older, the life sense also serves as the “biographical sense.”
In the first few weeks of life, however, we can see that the life sense is not developed. Newborns sleep a lot and often only wake up when they are uncomfortable. They certainly don’t seem to be at ease in their bodies. As she begins to wake peacefully and play with her fingers or smile at her parents, we see the life sense beginning to develop. Henning Kohler, in his book Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children says that this sense is developed by “relaxed, reverential devotion to nourishing and warming acts of bodily care; they must be done with inner participation.” It is not developed through mere physical care, but by letting children experience goodness—gentle, loving care. “For this we need an unhurried sense, patience, foresight, a capacity for inner quiet which allows for what might be called a reverential atmosphere. We cannot always achieve it, of course, but occasional success is important. Making everyday functions rhythmical is a great help if it is done consciously rather than as an empty practice.” He suggests setting aside even a half an hour in the evening to devote ourselves to this practice. He also discusses that in the young child feeling cannot be separated from metabolic processes and consciously provided rhythm can help to establish the rhythms in the organs, supporting the child in having a healthy life sense.
Nervousness and excitability can be signs of a disturbed life sense, and the adult can support the healing of this sense by developing what Kohler calls “active tolerance,” accepting the child exactly as he is. If we find ourselves unable to deal with the child’s behavior, we can picture the child before we go to sleep and ask for help. Surprising insights and changes can happen from this practice.