About the age of seven, the child’s attention turns for the first time to the world outside
himself and his home.
His focus shifts to others who are equal rather than superior.
He learned from his lost Oedipal battle that he cannot have a relationship by conquest, by capturing another who belongs to someone else, so he moves on to establish friendship with his peers.
Then his task is to form a special bond with a same-sex person within this new group, his “chum.”
The relationship with this best friend is intense, serious, and exclusive, based not on competition
but on cooperation.
The child learns that the bond with his chum can be taken for granted;
it has to be nurtured and develop.
As the chum becomes an object of care and concern, the child learns that interest
in his friend’s welfare is the best strategy for success:
it is an adaptive response, necessary for survival.
Since the chum is also a mirror of himself, he becomes more self-aware,
self-compassionate, and empathic.
Here are the rudiments of altruism, the foundation on which he may later learn real love.
During this period, part of the parental task is to teach the child social skills.
Healthy parents encourage the child’s forays into the world, remaining available
while keeping their distance as needed.
They are supportive of his peer relationships, and an particular show approval
of his friends and his “chum.”
Supportive parents recognize that the child’s friends are a mirror in which he sees himself,
and also objects for his new identifications.
Their approval enhances his self-esteem; any rejection is a personal rejection.
If the parent’s complements him on his friends, invite them to share family meals,
include them in family outings, encourage overnight visits, the child sees
that who he is in the world is of value.
The Lonely Child: Fear Of Others/Ostracism
Some children fail to make friends and are thwarted in their attempts to be included in the group.
Such setbacks produce an adaptation that Hendrix calls “the lonely child.”
He says that there are usually three possible explanations for this.
Often his parents, overprotective and overrestrictive, fear the loss of the child.
They are quick to voiced disapproval of his friends, criticizing them and the child’s social behavior.
Failure may also be due to the lack of social skills in his home;
his parents are unable to guide him in his new task of developing friendships and resolving conflicts.
Now that the child is out in the world, and subject to its judgments,
he may also be ostracized because he is different – too smart or not smart enough,
too tomboyish or too effeminate.
His religion, nationality, race, or economic background may isolate him.
Although he may have one close chum, probably a loner like himself, he has few other friends.
Rejected, socially inept, he turns his energy back on himself, becoming self-preoccupied
and immersed in a self-constructed fantasy world of relationships
that are closed off to him in real life.
Though he looks independent, and denies that he needs or wants friends, he is acutely lonely.
The Adult: A Loner
The lonely child becomes a Loner in adulthood, a rigid Minimizer, a private person
who has a hard time sharing his feelings.
At the core of his being is a void, for he has failed to satisfy his needs
for healthy dependency and interdependency.
He is filled with intense, often painful feelings, including the powerful belief that he is unlovable.
This may have positive value as the source of creative output,
but he is also vulnerable to addiction – drugs, alcohol, and work.
To make up for what he lacks, he is attracted to someone gregarious, intrusive,
and self-sacrificing, someone who will spearhead the making and keeping of friends
and draw him, kicking and screaming, out of his privacy, while at the same time
he does his best to exclude the partner from his inner life.
The Gregarious Child: Fear Of Neediness/Being Alone
The gregarious child is excessively interested in the welfare and care taking of others.
He asks little for himself, seeming prematurely to take on his parents’ role.
Outgoing and accommodating, he has many casual friends, but only his chum is close to him.
His care taking may focus on his chum, his classmates, his family or pet.
The problem is that his self is defined by the approval of others, and is sacrificed
to their views and needs.
Defined by others’ views of him, he cannot see himself.
So, he is terrified of being alone, for he feels invisible to himself, not sure that he exists
except in the eyes of others.
He is trapped trying to please others to validate his life.
Subservient, self-sacrificing, needy to be needed, swayed by the opinions of others,
is boundaries are diffuse, and he is easily dominated, and is often the scapegoat.
This pattern is the basis in later life of codependency.
Parents of the gregarious child convey their belief that self-care and self-worth are bad,
and that personal feelings and concerns are unimportant.
The child is trained to give, to feel bad when he doesn’t give,
and to overly appreciate whatever he receives.
The parent’s praise the child’s social responsibility and leadership skills,
selectively mirroring and supporting only approved caretaking behaviors,
while diminishing his desire for autonomy and self-care.
Once the child becomes involved with his peers, the parents of the gregarious child often
withdraw their support, relieved that they don’t have so much responsibility,
and turn their attention elsewhere.
Pushing the child away, they make the child feel he has to make himself valuable
in order to get their approval.
He forgets his own needs, or chastises himself for having them.
The Adult: A Sacrificing Caretaker
The Sacrificing Caretaker adult gets his recognition – at work, in his community,
in his relationships – by making himself indispensable.
He finds out what others need and provides it.
Often he is a community leader, a scout-troop master, a dedicated worker for local charities.
He is respected and admired; others see him as self-sufficient, and turn to him for advice and help.
He commensurate with his secretary about her life, he gives up his afternoon golf
to register voters, he helps his girlfriend with her sick cat.
He is a magnet for needy people, and sometimes supports them
when they should be supporting themselves.
If he doesn’t feel needed, if he can’t do something, he doesn’t know how he fits in.
But often, under his cheery “I can do it” exterior, he is depressed,
and feels that something is missing.
And sometimes, weary and exhausted, he is angry that no one cares about him,
or appreciates all that he is doing.