The conscious mind is like a gigantic camera with the ego directing the view and focus”. Jane Roberts “Nature of Personal Reality”

If you observe your thoughts, you will notice how like attracts like:  a positive memory will tend to recall other associated thoughts or memories in much the same way as iron filings are drawn to a magnet.   Similarly, it is also true that a negative frame of mind inclines one to find supporting instances:   So for example the statement “I suck at maths” will elicit all the evidence one needs to reinforce this belief.   Arguably, “maths sucks” is preferable in that it creates a buffer between the child and the subject. So much hangs on these early proclamations.  “Maths sucks” at least leaves the child’s self-esteem intact, projecting disdain onto the subject matter. Either way, these are early signs of distress where learning is beginning to be tainted by negative experiences.

This assault on the child’s inner self and self confidence comes in many shapes and forms, through interaction with other children in the playground or through a harsh comment from a significant other such as “you’ll never amount to anything..” Judgements and labels abound and competition is the order of the day.

What we don’t realise is the extent to which these beliefs govern our lives, our attitudes and choices without us being aware of them. There are instances where young adults have been so frozen in fear by the subject I teach, mathematics, that I have asserted: “If you don’t understand what I am telling you, it’s because I haven’t taught it to you properly,” thereby inserting myself as a buffer between the subject and the student’s beliefs.

Cultivating an inquiring mind

The relationship between the teacher and the child needs to allow space for internal thoughts to be expressed and brought into conscious awareness.

Teaching is the noblest profession – if it can be called a profession at all.  It is an art that requires, not just intellectual attainments, but infinite patience and love.  To be truly educated is to understand our relationship to all things – to money, to property, to people, to nature – in the vast field of our existence.” J Krishnamurti Life Ahead, Introduction.

“What has occurred to make you think you suck at maths?” is the beginning of a dialogue which can reveal much to the child as well as the parent/teacher…

The point is that whether the child turns out to be a math genius or not, you have opened the doors of perception.  This is a great opportunity to do so.

A bullying incident in the playground creates the same possibility : “What happened in the playground to trigger this incident? “ Thinking about this enables self-awareness to grow gradually, moment by moment so that the focus of the camera is enlarged to take in a broader vista and compassion arises for oneself and others.

Limiting beliefs restrict and constrict body, mind and soul.

They narrow one’s focus on certain judgements to the exclusion of other possibilities.  If one remains unaware of these ingrained assumptions and views they will persist throughout one’s life, coloring and influencing one’s attitudes and behaviour to oneself, others and the environment.

In the January 2024 newsletter I wrote about the manner in which the Lifeworld of the child is eclipsed because of adults insisting that the child adopts the values and judgements of the wider community even if they run counter to the child’s own insights and inner knowledge.

The awakening of intelligence is the greatest gift you can give a child: the ability to be self- aware, trusting his or her insights and having the confidence to see that all of life is learning; not merely the experiences confined to a narrow focus on the classroom.

The child (or parent for that matter!) needs to feel safe and confident enough to call out: “The emperor has no clothes” even when those around are succumbing to the illusion of the emperor’s narrative, the assumption being that If enough people pretend to go along with a certain view point, it must be correct. After all, the emperor knows best, or does he?  Hans Christian Andersen “The Emperor’s new clothes”

Placing one’s trust in  an external authority and overriding or suppressing one’s own inner judgements leaves one disempowered and confused.  When a child realises that his/her own inner voice can be trusted over and above other voices and that personal lived experience matters, a door is open for self -healing and agency.

The Teacher as Mediator of Learning

The academic and personal development of a child does not happen by osmosis.  The vital role of the teacher, parent, caregiver or peer cannot be overlooked.  This relationship is one of trust and mutual respect.  Prof Reuven Feuerstein’s life’s work in mediated learning involved painstakingly mapping out the step -by -step stages of the child’s cognitive development and developing instruments that the mediator adopts in order to navigate the child’s learning:  from mediating the purpose of each interaction; to mediating the feeling of competence of the learner; to mediating the awareness of self- change (even micro-changes); to mediating the psychological individuation of the learner; and last but not least mediating the development of metacognition.

After four decades of a career in education I am alarmed by the number of businesses that have sprung up in recent years offering to educate children (online and offline) with little or no understanding of learning processes and based primarily on a transmission model of learning.   The moment -to -moment interaction between the child and the teacher is entirely dependent on the skill of the teacher and there are dire consequences if this fact is overlooked.  I refer here to the article I published in 2021:  “What to watch out for when choosing online tutoring for your child.”

Reclaiming the Lifeworld of the Human Being

Unquestioning obedience and the tendency of people to place their faith and trust in an external authority is a symptom of the eclipsed lifeworld. The school system world-wide is geared towards this type of conformity and media has played its role in forging consensus rather than critical thinking.

Ideologies and idealism can often lead to mass mobilization, conflict and violence.  In the 1960s Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a neuropsychiatric doctor, was charged with the treatment of PTSD in war veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The western scientific methods including shock treatment and drug therapy had failed. In seeking a more humane alternative, Caycedo visited a colleague and mentor Prof Ludwig Binswanger of the Bellevue Sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, who founded existential psychology based on the existential phenomenology of Edmund Husserl who first coined the phrase:  the Eclipse of the Lifeworld.  Over a period of 60 years Caycedo developed the Caycedian Sophrology Method, incorporating various eastern and western philosophies and methods of changing states of consciousness.

In 2001, Caycedo presented the Caycedian Sophrology method at the Geneva Declaration in Switzerland as a means of mobilising inner resources hitherto inaccessible to the individual.

With this method I inaugurate a new axiology where the primary value is the human being…inspired by existential phenomenology that uncovers consciousness so that it shines with its own light.”  Prof Caycedo

The Sophrology method leads the individual to the recovery of universal values transcending nationalism and patriotism which Fromm described as a form of idolatry or incest. Whereas the emphasis of western culture was to promote the development of the individual identity, the fixation on nationalism rather than humanness warps his objectivity.  The writing of Erich Fromm is instructive in this regard:

He judges the “stranger” with different criteria than the members of his own clan.. and not only poisons the relationship of the individual to the stranger, but to members of his own clan and to himself. The person who has not freed himself from the ties to blood and soil is not yet fully born as a human being; his capacity for love and reason are crippled; he does not experience himself nor his fellow man in their – and his own – human reality.”  Erich Fromm: “The Sane Society.”

In a world such as described by Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach over one hundred and fifty years ago and no less relevant to our world today, education needs now more than ever to address the overlooked and undervalued Lifeworld through conscious awareness training as part of our future curriculum.