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Old 06-06-17, 08:59 PM
mildadhd mildadhd is offline
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Re: Understanding Counterwill: "Oppositionality cannot arise on its own"


Counterwill is a natural inclination and does not mean there is anything intrinsically wrong with the child.

It is not as if the individual does it; it happens to the child rather than being instigated by him.

It may take the child as much by surprise as the parent.

"It really is simply a counterforce," says Dr.Neufeld.

"The counterwill dynamic is simply a manifestation of a universal principle. The same principle is seen in physics, where it is considered fundamental to keeping the universe together: for every centripetal force there has to be a centrifugal one; for every force, a counterforce."

Like all natural phenomena and all stages in the child's life, counterwill has a positive purpose.

It first appears in the toddler to help in the task of individuating, of beginning to separate from the parent.

In essence, the child erects a wall of no's.

Behind this wall, the child can gradually learn her likes and dislikes, aversions or preferences, without being overwhelmed by the far more powerful force generated by the parent's will.

Counterwill may be likened to the small fence one places around a tender young shoot to protect it from being eaten.

The vulnerable little plant here is the child's will. Without that protective fence, it cannot survive.

In adolescence, counterwill serves the same goal, helping the young person loosen his psychological dependence on the family.

It comes when the sense of self is having to emerge out of the cocoon of the family.

It is a defense mechanism to protect this fragile, threatened sense of self.

By keeping out the parent's expectations and demands, counterwill helps to make room for the growth of the child's own self-generated motivations and preferences.

-Gabor Mate, "Scattered", Chapter "Oppositionality", p.187-188.

*The term counterwill was originally coined by the psychoanalyst Otto Rank. The description of the concept in this chapter is based on the synthesis arrived at by Gordon Neufeld and is, by his kind permission, adapted from Dr. Neufeld's lecture series on counterwill.
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