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Sea Anemone

Here is a poster with a picture of a sea anemone. I saw this type of anemone in tide-pools, clinging to the rocks on the California coast where I grew up. The poster says, “I’m little and my feelers are out. Don’t poke me too much or they will stay in.” If you have interacted with anemones, you know that when you touch them their feelers draw in quickly.

I offer the image of a sea anemone to illustrate how a child’s sense of self is developed. For the most part, children come into the world naturally curious and when they are born, their feelers are out attempting to find food, comfort and security. As a child matures they become even more curious and want to touch things, put things into their mouths, climb onto tables, pet animals and play with toys; these are but a few examples of the healthy exploration and curiosity of the developing child. If the primary caregivers are warm, safe and loving, a child has the freedom to explore and discover the world around them and this is what I mean by allowing: their feelers to stay out. To the degree those feelers are notblunted (and thus pulled in) they can expand their sense of attachment to self, others, and their environment.

On the other hand, if a child’s primary caregivers are detached, abusive, neglectful or rigid, then a child’s feelers are often blunted and can eventually pull in altogether. The dictionary defines blunted as, “to weaken or reduce the force of something.”

Synonyms include: dull, deaden, dampen, soften, numb, and weaken. The point is, that for many children their environment does not provide the safety and freedom necessary to explore, attach, and stay curious (keep their feelers out) and because of this, individuals will grow up on the outside but stay deadened on the inside or grow physically but not emotionally.

Here are some examples of traumas, some of the occurrences that blunt a child:

  1. violence (both at or around the child),

  2. sexual abuse,

  3. bickering (betweenparents and or family members),

  4. verbal abuse(being consistently criticized, yelled ator ridiculed),

  5. neglected (being ignored) *caregivers distracted by technology is increasing this problem,

  6. over-protected and over-parented(minimal allowance for adventure, imagination or self- expression),

  7. over-responsible (having to perform and meet the needs of adults).

Any of these experiences affect a child’s development and may hinder them from reaching their potential or experiencing a secure attachment and a sense of well-being.

As you reflect on your childhood remember the sea anemone. If your feelers were blunted, I assure you, that healing can occur and those withdrawn feelers can come alive again. Consider counseling, which is designed to be useful in this regard. If on the other hand when you were growing up, you were safe to be curious and free to express, then use that as leverage to become a safe person, an encourager to others, to those who may need understanding and coaxing; helping them to get their feelers back out and into the sunshine.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.”

Proverbs 18:15

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

G.K. Chesterton

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney

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