This Little Girl is Terrified by Her Own Shadow
Bless her heart you just want to scoop her up and assure her it’s not a thing separate from her that’s chasing her around.
At this developmental stage children are magical and live in an imaginary world. Their minds are far from being fully developed especially the cognitive part of the brain, the frontal lobes which analyze and distinguish real from pretend. Doctors say by the age of two and a half they should be able to tell the difference between what’s actually happening and what’s the product of their very active imaginations. As always, it’s an individual thing so it depends on the child as to what stage of growth they grasp this distinction.
They are also in the alpha/theta state where they are deeply imprinted with what their mind perceives as real events, which early on, is everything. They are ‘unconscious’ in the psychological sense of the word and completely programmable not only by modeling, parenting, and their environment, but by movies, TV, and books. Fears internalized at this stage, recorded in the unconscious mind, are retained until deliberately removed and can turn into phobias.
The subconscious, which cannot distinguish fact from fiction, what happened to us or happened in a story to a character, is controlling their perceptions, not the rational conscious mind. Unable to discern real from what appears to be real, they are often afraid of what they think is an actual threat to them which is frequently out pictured in nightmares during this phase.
This is a major developmental task in early childhood and one we must understand and give them comfort when needed until their brains evolve out of this state. It is a natural normal part of brain development and there is nothing wrong or bad about a child’s imagination and inability to know that’s what they are experiencing as real phenomenon. Too many children are punished, labeled, and brainwashed out of using their imagination which is a harmful and unfortunate practice. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Adele Tartaglia, Psychology Today Therapist, thelifemangementcenter.com
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