Developmental Community Part II: Nurturance Community

In Part I of this series I talked about how if things do not follow a healthy course we can develop tragic scotomas or blinds spots to our sense of Good, which includes blindness to the experience of trust, if not faith itself. The next three parts of this series talks more about how things might look on a natural, healthy developmental path.


The relationships we are about to consider are easiest understood arrayed as a succession of developmental rings.  As with the tree, the origin all that subsequently develops in developmental community is the central ring.  That central ring will be called the Nurturance Community.  This central ring represents  for the individual, a core of nurturing and sustaining relationships that support the individual from the beginning and throughout the balance of their life.  These first and primary nurturance relationships constitute a stable foundation making it possible for the individual to initially physically survive, and subsequently thrive in the life journey.  We seem to be rediscovering what has always been known. It is on the strength of these first relationships that human children successfully move and develop out of dependence into the realm of interdependence.  The human developmental process demands every individual draw on the benefits of nurturance relationships with a circadian regularity, or fail to thrive.  The absolute and life long dependence on a specific kind of relationship shapes human culture, enterprise and behavior in every dimension of life and vocation.  The Nurturance Relationship is defined by these central characteristics:

1.  They are bonded relationships with minimal conditionality.

2.  They have opened ended commitment.

3.  They sustain out of subjective choice. 


The absolute and long-term vulnerability of the human infant places an extraordinary importance on the initial bonds he or she has with mother, father and/or the first community of caretakers.  The infant bond must be strong enough to hold the caretaker in a focus of nurturing for an extended period of time at great personal sacrifice for the caretaker.  Bond, in this model, is a separate force that works at the sufferance of both infant and caretaker.  This “life and death” nature of the infant’s need for certain levels of attention and safety is continuous for years, and in that period of time the individual caretakers will encounter conflicts between their own system of personal needs and those of the ever needy infant and young child.  The birth of the nurturance community and its intensely unique strength originates out of this universal, cultural, and biological event.  Regardless of who provides the caretaking, the network of care must be seamless or, depending on the nature of the rupture, damage up to catastrophic may be done to the child’s emerging basic patterns of belief and trust.  The effects of this damage to the primary belief system will find expression throughout the child’s future life.  For this reason the needs of the child must be met by a network of caregivers who can consciously compensate for one another’s needs and conditions.  The members of the nurturance community then must operate at deep levels of intimacy not only with the child, but with one another.  The effect for the child though is a community that will not abandon, condemn, or judge beyond the reasonable rituals of training and requirements of safety.  The health of any society’s culture and future is measured by the strength of its nurturance networks.  A successful childhood immeasurably increases the child’s capacity as an adult to enter with trust into bonded friendships, relationships, marriage, parenting, and enterprise.   The healthy child sustains a continuous central ring of nurturance throughout the productive life.  It is this community that serves as an anchoring balance to the storms and tribulations of the vocational relationships found in the next ring of relationship.  The impressive social service network of our culture devotes its huge energy and resources largely to those individuals who through accident, misfortune, biology, or neglect, have had breaks in nurturance.  


The nurturance community operates outside of time.  Time is a learned concept.  It seems to be an aspect of human consciousness created to help manage the affairs of Vocational Community.  Nurturance relationships are built around filling the need of both child and adult for regular encounters with “timelessness”.  Perhaps the word rhythm more accurately reflects the flow of nurturance relationships.  The infant expresses need and receives gratification more out an internal rhythm than “by the clock”.  Marriage vows, friendships, and certain commitments are made in nurturance communities and very frequently those vows are characterized by timeless commitment language such as; “forever”, “happily ever after,” “till death do us part”.  As the infant and elder represent the human experience either entering life from a timeless place or exiting life toward a timeless state, it seems again part of the necessary nurturance rhythm of the human is to encounter relationships which are not defined by the limitations of time.  


One of the ever-present mysteries of life is how parents love children who, to members community outside the nurturance ring, appear to be unlovable.  Why certain relatives or friends connect with a person and “stay the course of a lifetime”  goes beyond objective analysis and control.  There exists no definitive, objective criteria around which these subjective connections occur.  While affection is very often present in this level of relationship, that affection may not always be apparent to the observer.  While it is doubtful this thing called co-dependence could ever be completely absent from any relationship, in terms of determining the difference between a grossly co-dependent relationship and a nurturance relationship, the co-dependent relationship reveals itself objectively in terms of one or both parties having points of absolute dependence requiring exploitation of that relationship.  Nurturance relationships are, on balance, more supportive than exploitive.  The participants of nurturance relationships are capable of sacrifice for one another.  This unique level of relationship defies conventional wisdom and explanation.  It is the wellspring of inspiration that fuels artistic and creative expression.  The volatility and vitality of this relationship is its strength and weakness.  Simply because this relationship defies rational explanation it serves the critical need for humans to be connected to and by a “process of mystery” larger than comprehension.

A final point about nurturance relationships is they are ultimately based on choice.  Even the basic parent child relationship reaches a point where choice enters into the consideration.  Many parent/child relationships slip quietly into the vocational realm, where a parent or child may simply objectively provide support, but does not continue to be a deep nurturer.  The need to choose out the authority of one’s unique life experience can override the genetic and blood lines and this lends a kind of vitality along with unpredictability to community and relationship.

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