Anxiety in Children and Youth

youths Dr. Gordon Neufeld has spent his professional career teaching and theorizing as a developmental scientist in the university setting as well as practicing as a clinical psychologist. His attachment-based developmental approach is articulated in over twenty courses he has created for parents, educators and helping professionals.
“I am most pleased to have this opportunity to share with you the culmination of my life’s work - making sense of children. For some reason - whether it be healthy or  neurotic I do not know - I have been moved to assemble all the puzzle pieces of child development until a consistent and coherent picture emerged regarding the unfolding of human potential.
From a developmental perspective1, the unfolding of human potential is of utmost concern. As a developmentalist, I begin with the assumption that every child has the potential to become fully human and humane, but not every person comes to realize this potential. In other words, the unfolding of human potential is spontaneous but not inevitable. This undoubtedly is the essence of the human condition, so to speak, that we all grow older but we don’t all grow up. To truly ‘raise’ a child, then, would be to bring that child to his or her full potential as a human being. I am not referring to individual potential but rather human potential - that which we share in common as homo sapiens. This definition of well-being must also be differentiated from societal or  economic success.

Firstly, every single child is born with the potential to become a separate being: able to think for himself, function independently, differentiate himself from all others.This is
the fundamental yearning of development whether it be of a cell, an organ, a emisphere of the brain, the fetus. This is also true across all domains of development: biological,
physical, emotional, psychological. Every child has the potential to stand on his own two feet, have his own boundaries, make his own decisions. But not all children and not all adults come to realize this potential.
Secondly, every single child is born with the ability to adapt to circumstances that are beyond their control; to be deeply transformed by that which they cannot change. Adaptability is an essential part  of our human nature. But once again, it is not inevitable. Children and adults vary tremendously in the realization of this very basic human capacity.
Thirdly, every child possesses the potential to become truly social, capable of seeking togetherness while maintaining a sense of separateness, at least to some degree. Our social potential as humans is for much more than simply being together or getting along with each other. We can be nice to each other for quite neurotic reasons, sacrificing our integrity out of a fear of upset or out of our need youyh1
to impress or to be liked. Our potential, however, is to experience togetherness without a loss of separateness, and conversely, our separateness without a loss of togetherness. An example would be  to have integrity without a loss of diplomacy or to be diplomatic without losing one’s integrity. This is no mean feat and takes years to develop. Consider, for example, how hard this kind of maturity
is to achieve in marriage. Children and adults vary tremendously in how much they have come to realize this integrative capacity.

When all the dots are joined, the answer to the unfolding of human potential is in the process of maturation itself. The surprise however is that there is not just one maturation process, but rather there are three distinct processes corresponding to the three human potentials.
The most well-known of these processes is the emergent process, also known as the separation process, the differentiation process, the individuation process, or the actualization process. When there is some release in a child from the pursuit and preservation of proximity or togetherness, there is a venturing forth kind of energy that springs forth, manifesting itself in the spontaneous forming of separate boundaries, a quest for independence, a predisposition to explore the world outside of his attachments.
The second of the trilogy of maturing processes drives human adaptation. This too is a deeply emotional process, requiring the right kind of feelings to get the right kind of results. The key to this  process lies in what happens when a child encounters futility, that is, something outside the child’s control. There are dozens of these kind of experiences everyday in a young child’s life, the most
common being a parent’s ‘no’. Other everyday experiences of futility include not getting one’s way, not being best at everything, not being first all the time, not
being able to possess mommy for oneself. The third maturing process is called integration, the catalyst for which is the experience of inner conflict. This understanding has a very rich history in developmental science, including the likes of Freud, Erickson, Jung and Piaget.
Piaget discovered that young children lacked the capacity for cognitive dissonance and that the experience of conflicting ideas and thoughts was the motor for the unfolding of intellectual  development. Conflicting signals are key to developing depth and perspective in many arenas of growth, including vision, muscle tone, sensory integration, problem solving, brain hemispheres, and so on.
We have found the role of conflict to be absolutely pivotal in emotional development, the current subject of interest in neuroscience."


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