Childhood and History by Lloyd deMause

Chapter 6----Childhood and Cultural Evolution



The child historically is usually either experienced as a persecutory parent ("When

he screams he sounds just like my mother") or as a guilty self ("He keeps wanting

things all the time"). Either way, the child must either be strictly controlled, hit or

rejected, usually in ways that restage the childrearing methods of the grandparent.

Since the grandmother is historically so often present in the home, strictly

controlling the childrearing, it is doubly difficult to break old patterns.


Psychogenesis takes place when the parent experiences the needs of the child and,

instead of restaging their own traumatic childhood, invents new ways of handling

their anxieties so the child can grow and individuate in their own way. When a

mother regresses to be able to experience her baby's discomfort and determine if

it is hungry or wet or just wants to crawl, she reexperiences her own infancy and her

own mother's fears of starving (for love) or wanting to explore and grow, and-given

some support by her husband-the mother can take the enormous step of making a

space for the child to crawl rather than tying it up in its swaddling bands. The

process is much like the process of psychotherapy: a regression to early anxieties

and a working through of them the second time around in a better manner.

Psychogenesis occurs at the interface between caretaker and child. It is a private,

joint process, a "psychotherapy of generations" that cures parental anxiety about

growth and reduces childhood traumas...when it occurs. Psychogenesis isn't

inevitable, so the psychogenic theory isn't teleological. There are in all modern

nations many parents who have not evolved very much and who are still extremely

abusive. In fact, there are whole cultures that did not evolve in parenting, for

reasons which we will examine. But the "generational pressure" of

psychogenesis-the ability of human parents to innovate better ways of childrearing

and for children to strive for relationship and growth-is everywhere present, and is

an independent source of change in historical personality, allowing humans to

"bootstrap"52 new neural networks that are more evolved than those of our