By Orna Ben Dor
Drawing: Michael Angelo
Age 9 is also called: the birth of self-consciousness. Until that age (more or less) the child feels united with the world. This is manifested in the natural way in which he shares his life with his parents, without concealing or creating a secret private space, one that will gradually formulate toward puberty.
At that age shame is born, which originates from a child’s sense of separation from the world with which he felt till then in unity with.
From an evolutionary standpoint, age 9 parallels eating from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, as is described in the book of Genesis:”Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.” (Chapter 3, verse 7).
Until eating from the forbidden fruit, man was an inseparable part of the Garden of Eden. God placed him in the garden to “work it and take care of it”, and be part of the overall creation – the animals, the trees and nature. After eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, his eyes opened up to see his separateness from the creator and creation, resulting in a deep sense of loneliness.
The child might face his loneliness through a single event that occurs in his life. Biographical investigation summons that event, raises it to awareness, and exposes the sense of loneliness associated with it and its causes. The reasons for the loneliness event may vary from person to person and are associated with the specific karma of each one – one person might feel loneliness as a result of a disease that inflicted him at that age, another as a result of other children’s snub, and another by finding out things about his family he didn’t know before, etc.
The biographical event at age 9 need not be a big or traumatic event. Even a ‘minor’ event may introduce the child to the experience of loneliness, as long as that event is connected to the specific karma of the person who experienced it.
The experience of loneliness threatens everyone, especially a child who has not yet established an independent centered self – that’s why he will try to distance himself from it at all costs.
The manner by which a child does so would be by relinquishing an act, a behavior, a trait of his, or whatever led to that experience. The cost would be giving up authenticity and wholeness.
For example: if the experience of loneliness was caused by standing-out in class, within the child’s soul a warning sign would be etched: do not stand out! And for the rest of his life he will relinquish his ability to stand out and be seen.
The unconscious decision of the child to relinquish part of his whole being is a survival decision and as it relates to the first part of life (up until the age of ~35), it is always correct. The reason for that is the fact that it serves his existential security and enables unthreatened fulfillment.
In order to turn into ‘citizens of the earth’, we are supposed to grow safely in a society, a community, family, educational institutions etc, that prepare us for adult life in order to fulfill ourselves in our studies, work, intimate relationship, family, etc. The decision at age 9 serves that process. Nonetheless, that decision should be reviewed again, this time consciously by the adult, starting from age 35. At that period which is the stage of transformation to mid-life, a person must consciously reflect upon the first part of his life. Age 33 which is life’s turning point (see dedicated essay), calls a person to transfer from survival mode to self-realization, from physical actualization to spiritual fulfillment, to realizing his individuality – in order to reach increasing freedom that will enable the consummation of his vocation and new creation. Returning to the authentic being demands re-examination of the decision taken at the age of 9, while willing to relinquish the safety and security it granted in life.
Like any spiritual development, this transition entails sacrifice and yield. We are supposed to sacrifice the aspiration for existential security and risk the one thing we couldn’t during childhood in order to fulfill our whole being. This is the transition from past to future karma, from slavery to freedom.
Dafna’s Age 9:
“I grew up in a Kibbutz with joint sleeping arrangement, my parents were key figures in the community, especially my father who for many years held key positions. When I was 6 years old, I traveled with my family on a mission to the USA, and at around age 9, we returned to the kibbutz, after 3 years in which I lived only with my core family.
I was looking forward to returning to the kibbutz, I thought I was returning home, to a place that is very safe, where there was security and supervision. Once we returned, I had to re-adjust quickly to the joint sleeping arrangement of the children and kibbutz life in general. In addition, shortly after our return, there were national elections in the country and my father decided to join a party that was opposed to the official kibbutz stand. From that point onward, the kibbutz revealed its “true face”. My father was personally attacked and insulted, he received hate letters, even from people who were supposedly his “friends”. This atmosphere leaked also to the children’s community, and I as his daughter, had to suffer insults and scorn from children and adults alike.”
This event and additional ones that happened in those years spurred the feeling that there is no one to rely on. The adults whom I trusted to care and protect me could not provide that security: my father and mother, who up till then were a source of safety, were now viewed as weak, and the other adults were untrustworthy and treacherous. My conclusion from that experience was that there is no higher guidance, there is no one to rely on, I must rely only on myself. I stopped seeking the assistance of adults, I withdrew and disconnected from them and begun to trust only myself, and in the deeper sense I stopped relying on God (for a child at that age, parents are like God). I relinquished the belief that “God looks after me”, since that belief led me to loneliness.
Biographical analysis of the event:
The relinquishment of Dafna at the age of 9 was of her connection to a source of strength that was larger than her, that protects and leads the world with wisdom. Her reliance on herself throughout the years protected her from the anxiety to which she was exposed at the age of 9, but denied her the possibility of trusting others, and the comfort in leaning on them. Also she lost the connection to the spiritual world and divine supervision.
At age 33, which is the reflection of age 9, she encountered the possibility for correction.
“Close to age 33, when my son was a bit over one year old, we slept over at our friends’ house. Carelessly, we laid the child on a mattress over which was a huge shelf loaded with heavy books and folders. Until 11pm all was fine, when suddenly he started crying ceaselessly and all our attempts to console him failed. At that period, I was trying to wean him from nightly breast feeding, that’s why I was reluctant to pull him over to the close-by mattress on which my husband and I were sleeping. Eventually, after almost two hours of futile attempts to relieve his misery, we gave up and moved him to our mattress. The moment I did that, he immediately quieted down.15 minutes later, that shelf came crushing down with all its content in a big loud noise on his mattress. Had we left him there he would probably not have survived. A feeling of shock and terror struck me, but also of awe and amazement. How did my son ‘know’ that he shouldn’t remain on that mattress? Someone watched over him and by that also over me, his mother. At the age of 33 I slowly regained the sense that there is supervision, there is order in the world, and there is someone to rely on. That belief, that was emerged then as a seed, materialized and deepened years later when I gradually entered more and more into the course of spiritual development”.