‘Psycho-sexual development & the Prima’
How are our sexual identities formed? From where do our sexual selves come? In hunter-gather society the vital biological imperative of reproduction could unfold without the imprint of neurotic individualism: in the nomadic band developing children would continually have before them dozens of gender models, of both sexes, with whom they were daily familiar. There was no place (or space) for the dark secrets of the nuclear family: two individuals, who’d been deformed in isolation by two previous individuals, in the process of deforming the next generation – and so on, down all the generations of civilisation!
During the 200,000 years of human hunter-gather experience, before the imposition of the dubious psychological ‘blessings’ of civilisation, the business of courtship was conducted at great gatherings of the regional tribe; spiritual festivities, seasonal meetings, bartering marketplaces. (The healthy impulse to outbreed is hard-wired in all complex organisms.) Adolescents would arrive together with their nomadic band, meeting up with many other bands. The adolescents would be on the look out for potential mates. All the adults in their band had been through this process before and were on hand to provide advice and support – even to act as ‘go-betweens’ and match-makers with the other bands.
What happened to the mating process when child-rearing fell into the nooks and crannies of the Isonuc (the isolated nuclear family)? Within the confines of the Isonuc, the psycho-social development of each child became dominated by just one male and one female role model: parenting withdrew further and further into the dark corners of the Isonuc. In profound and desperate privacy, the ugly forms of psychological pathology could flourish in the darkness. Aldous Huxley, in his novel ‘Island’, described the Isonuc as a pressure cooker: you throw in two neurotic adults with 2.4 children, pour on a lot of watered-down Christianity and add some vague liberal ideals, plus whatever rags and bones of values the adults have picked up. Then screw down the lid and boil for 20 years. As R.D.Laing once commented, “modern man has severed his head from his heart and his heart from his genitals.”
Little wonder that the results are overwhelmingly suboptimal. (We’ve lost touch with what ‘optimal’ in this context might actually mean.) Adolescents emerged from the pressure cooker deformed by its constrictions and pressures. They then set about the process of searching for a mating partner whose particular deformities are tolerably compatible with their own. (This is know, colloquially, as marrying your father/mother.) But, as we are all too aware, this bonding of the psychologically damaged is often too fragile to provide a basis for stable partnerships; parents separate and their children are exposed to yet another trauma, which they will then dutifully reproduce for their own children, and so on, down the generations.
What’s the way out of this dismal, downwardly spiralling cycle? Give up our cherished delusions about romantic love and our idealisation of the nuclear family! Give them up and go back to where humanity started; return to the psychological environment in which our brains have been ‘designed’ by evolution to flourish. That’s what the concept of Prima is all about: reproducing, for new parents, for five and a half years, the psychological environment of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. And what advantages would this provide? Solidly reliable, intimate and continuous support, both practical and psychological, immediately available for new parents and their young children.
Prima doesn’t, however, require a return to the culture or knowledge-base of hunter-gatherer society: we can now combine the benefits of child-rearing in an intimate, group-living community, with our modern knowledge and skills in epigenetics, brain development and psycho-therapy. It’s this combination which can make the Prima a great leap forward in human cultural evolution and enable our species to escape from the dead-end of Isonuc civilisation.