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Friendship Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Ego to Ego – finding a friend

At the age of 4,5, or 6, each of us had our first taste of what it meant to realise that what you felt, what you wanted, was not the same as everyone else. Yet, up until this moment, you assume that everyone is just, like, you. 

That realisation is one of the most challenging moves for a child to make. They shift their ego development focus into building social collectives. From the “I” to the “Us”. At this point, they often feel alone, isolated, and desperate to find someone who feels safe as a friend:

“…just like me!”

“…play the games I want.”

“They let me be the baby every time, which is what I want.”

“They laugh when I make horse noises!”

“They are just nice … you know, kind.”

This focus on the social group, the peer group, is normal and healthy. However, if your child has had a chance in their early ego development stage to learn to say “no” or “stop, I don’t like it”, the peer group will not subsume them. 

If, however, your child has not experienced using their voice to argue for their needs, the peer group can become their only focus. Your child may not have a deep sense of their inherent worth, leaving them very open to control. 

“Sonia said I had to!”

“But Mikey didn’t want to play, so I just went along with it; I didn’t want him to be sad.”

If we take this pattern into the following significant developmental shift, somewhere between 14 and 20, you will see the same language focus but around ideas and thought connection;

“They understand me.”

“We talk for hours. We believe in the same things.”

“We are on the same life trajectory.”

“They have the same sense of humour as me.”

“They just…you know, get what matters.”

At this later stage, your child may understand their interior world but don’t understand that those around them have different internal thoughts and feelings. Assumptions of ‘sameness’ can lead to many challenges as they embark on relationships and leadership roles if they have not had the opportunity to learn how to manage friendship dynamics. Fortunately, the early practice in primary school sets up these patterns to change by empowering them early. 

Our job as the adults in their lives is to support the development of these skills of differentiation, compromise, resilience, compassion, and empathy, from the earliest chance we get. We plant the seed and need to support its growth until it is strong enough to stand straight without us.