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Re: [xmca] Imaginary Friends
I can attest to the fact that imaginary friends do appear as early as three.
When my daughter was 3 we travelled around Australia in a motorhome,
apparently accompanied by an extra imaginary girl (whose name escapes me), a
pair of imaginary twins called Hog and Sock (not sure what gender!) and a
fluffy white imaginary dog called Maddi. I'm sure there were people right
across the country scratching their heads as we had to wait while Hog and
Sock had a turn on the swings before we could get back in the truck, and a
very confused waitress in Darwin who got snapped at by a 3 year old when she
tried to take all the extra (empty) chairs away from our table to give us
more space! I sometimes wonder if this was a coping mechanism Natalie
developed to deal with the fact that we were in a new place every couple of
days and life was suddenly quite unpredictable, although I think these extra
friends had appeared even before we left on the trip. I am sure it helped
her gain some measure of control over her (and our) life. If it wasn't
inconveniencing anyone we were happy to pander to the imaginary friends, but
fortunately she was realistic enough to realise that the needs of real
humans came first (i.e. if someone else was waiting for the swing or needed
the empty chairs). When you are living in a confined space for 3 months you
do whatever it takes to keep everyone happy!
On 12 August 2011 12:26, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Gadzooks, TWO of my favorite hobby horses in one posting: Julian Jaynes and
> imaginary friends. I don't want to fall between two hobby horses; I get
> wobbly at the knees writing about even one of them
> I used to think of imaginary friends as what Vygotsky referred to as a
> transitional neoformation: something that appears around age 7 or 8 and
> lasts until the the child is able to attach roles (which are functional
> versions of imaginary friends) to actual people (around twelve or thirteen).
> Vygotsky describes it like this:
> "Neoformations such as self love and self-evaulation remain, but the
> symptoms of the crisis (affectation, posing) are transitional. In the crisis
> at age seven, because of the fact that a differentiation of the internal and
> external develops and intellectual experience first appears, a sharp
> conflict of experiences also devleops. The child who does not know which
> candy to choose--the bigger or the sweeter--finds himself in a state of
> internal conflict even as he vacillates. The internal conflict
> (contradiction of experiences and selection of his own experiences) becomes
> possible only at this time." (The Crisis at Seven, in "The Essential
> Vygotsky", p. 494).
> I still think that some imaginary friends are like this: something that
> comes out of the same differentiation between internal and external that
> gives rise to role play. Like me, the child hesitates between two hobby
> horses: imaginary friends and real ones.
> The imaginary friend then "volatilizes" into abstract rule play and
> conceptual thinking (particularly the concept of "me" "myself" and "I").
> Just as the child learns to rise to the concrete, by abstract away the rule
> from the role in instances of game play, the child learns to attach
> the ideal figure to the behavior of actual people. This is particularly true
> of imaginary friends connected with adolescent diary keeping (e.g. Anne
> Frank's imaginary friend "Kitty").
> My wife's imaginary friend (also associated with keeping a diary), for
> example, was called "Yi Lin" or "One Forest". As an adolescent she later
> changed her name (which is the Chinese equivalent of "Jane Smith") into
> "Spring Thunder", and although she insists that she did this for political
> reasons ("Spring Thunder" has a certain Cultural Revolution ring to it in
> Chinese) it seems to me that it is more of a continuation of the
> naturalistic imagery we see in "One Forest".
> But I read a book recently ("Imaginary Companions and the Children Who
> Create Them", by Marjorie Taylor, OUP 1999) which suggests that imaginary
> companions often appear MUCH earlier than I thought they did (as early as
> three or four years of age).
> So it seems to me that they are not just reifications of imaginary play or
> ideal reconstructions of real people; they might be connected to the child's
> (very early) discovery of things like television, fiction, and the child's
> attempt to reproduce them in diaries (as WRITTEN self-directed speech).
> ("One Forest" is also a homophone of a name of a popular magazine in China
> which publishes translations from abroad.)
> David Kellogg
> --- On Thu, 8/11/11, Rod Parker-Rees <R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> wrote:
> From: Rod Parker-Rees <R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk>
> Subject: RE: [xmca] Living metaphor and conventionalized language
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> Date: Thursday, August 11, 2011, 2:19 AM
> Hi David,
> I hope you won't mind if I reply to just one little corner of your very
> eloquent message (I have not been able to keep pace with recent
> I am particularly interested in very early communication which, I think,
> has much more of the 'meaty sensuousness' about it - not yet pared and
> polished to the clear austerity of a sign system. It occurred to me that
> 'internalised' verbal thought 'usually' involves a considerable degree of
> paring and polishing - we perhaps learn to think with concepts rather than
> simply to 'relive' relational experiences in all their meaty sensuousness. I
> wondered, then, whether the fairly widespread incidence of 'imaginary
> friends' might be understood, at least to some extent, in terms of an early
> reluctance to forego the relational richness of interpersonal communication
> as this comes to be 'internalised'. The feeling of relating to another
> person is importantly different from the feeling of 'having a thought' and
> may, at many levels, feel more satisfying. This could lead on to echoes of
> Julian Jayne's argument about the relative recency of our 'ability' to
> thoughts as internal 'products' of our own minds (how much our minds are
> indeed our own is the question here!) but also into dangerous territory
> where our preferred imaginary friend is omnipotent.
> Being 'in' relation with another person is an altogether richer, more
> complicated and sensually elaborate experience even than remembering or
> thinking about being with someone and I think a lot of the yearning of
> poetry relates to this sense of the gates of perception being clouded by
> knowledge - once you have tasted the forbidden fruit there is no going back
> (or at least no easy going back - some people devote their lives to
> contemplation, meditation, prayer and other ways of trying to still the
> distracting ruckus of 'roof-brain chatter'.
> All the best,
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] On Behalf
> Of David Kellogg [firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: 10 August 2011 16:27
> To: Culture ActivityeXtended Mind
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Living metaphor and conventionalized language
> Did I use the word "system"? I suppose I did. What I really mean is what
> Halliday calls "meaning potential", the way that a traffic light can
> potentially be red or yellow or green. It is what we might call leaving
> things that we could say unsaid.
> I guess I think of a system as being just a set of options, you know, like
> a traffic light, or a dictionary entry or the system of tense or negation.
> It's the semiotic resources that Mommy and Daddy provide you with, the set
> of metaphors that have already been made with the language, what Vygotsky
> calls signification.
> One of the key unresolved problems in CHAT (which you can see, for example,
> in the way Ratner disagrees with Wertsch, and even in the early
> disagreements between Vygotsky and Leontiev over "activity" and "semiosis")
> is how culture gets "in": is it "internalized" or is it "appropriated"? Is
> it somehow co-constructed, by the individual on the one hand and the society
> on the other?
> Of course, BOTH "internalization" and "appropriation" are metaphors. I
> don't flee from the "internalization" metaphor the way that Martin does,
> partly because I think of it as referring not to a body but as to a nation,
> a country, a city, a community, a family...or some particle thereof. In this
> sense (a sense which I suppose is better captured by "interiorization" than
> by "internalization", just as "reflection" is better captured by
> "refraction") there is no duality; when you move from one nation to another
> you do not change worlds, nor do you change nations when you move from one
> city to another.
> But I do have a problem--I think that we can't just get culture into the
> picture by referring to cultural artefacts like signs and tools. The map is
> not the territory, and human relations are not, in essence, about signs and
> tools; they are about flesh and blood other people. It is here that I think
> distinguishing between meaning potential in a cultural artefact and the
> actual meaning making that goes on between flesh and blood persons is
> important, not least because BOTH of them develop and develop each other in
> a way that's not really explicable by just looking at the artefacts
> Consider, for example, the dictionary as a cultural artefact. You know, in
> the eighteenth century, dictionaries were a little like Bartlett's today.
> They did contain definitions for the really thick-skulled (there was a newly
> literate middle class that had to have everything spelled out) but the
> definitions were sometimes rather whimsical (e.g. "pensioner: a man whose
> flattery is repaid with insolence") and the main thing people read them for
> was the learned quotations and snappy put-downs that were provided as
> examples (hence Johnson's dictionary and of course the "Devil's Dictionary"
> of Ambrose Bierce).
> So the function of a dictionary was not to systematize the language but
> rather to provide resources for sense. It was to make you sound witty and
> creative and original in the chocolate houses. I suppose it must have been
> rather annoying that dictionaries were so widely read, because it meant that
> many people in your chocolate house would know the joke before you told it,
> or, heaven forfend, try to tell the same joke themselves.But of course
> dictionaries WERE widely read, and they became guides to meaning potential
> rather than a set of instances of actual wit.
> In the late twentieth century, though, the pendulum began to swing the
> other way, because CoBuild and other dictionaries began to inspect computer
> corpora of actual uses, and they discovered (for example) that it is much
> more common to say, metaphorically, that you "run a business" than
> concretely, that you run a hundred yards on your own two feet. To me,
> though, all that means is that the new systemic "meaning potential" has to
> start with running a business, and that what I did this morning for exercise
> was a kind of metaphorical extension of running a business to my muscles and
> achilles tendons.
> There is a good poem about the relationship between meaning potential and
> actual meaning by Cecil Day-Lewis. It's metaphorical, of course! He begins
> by defining a sign for us, and pointing out that a tree is a sign too
> (because it stands for itself, or if you want to be physiological about it,
> it produces an image on our retina which is interpreted by our brains as a
> tree.) But it's a sign without a system, without much unrealized meaning
> This tree outside my window here,
> Naked, umbrageous, fresh or sere,
> Has neither chance nor will to be
> Anything but a linden tree,
> Even if its branches grew to span
> The continent; for nature’s plan
> Insists that infinite extension
> Shall create no new dimension.
> >From the first snuggling of the seed
> In earth, a branchy form’s decreed.
> You have to admit the Creator was original. He was certainly forceful in
> his creativity. But rather limited, when you look at it; in His later career
> He kept repeating Himself with only minor variations, and most of what was
> new was not very good. Human creativity is a different matter!.
> Unwritten poems loom as if
> They’d cover the whole of earthly life.
> But each one, growing, learns to trim its
> Impulse and meaning to the limits
> Roughed out by me, then modified
> In its own truth’s expanding light.
> A poem, settling to its form,
> Finds there’s no jailer, but a norm
> Of conduct, and a fitting sphere
> Which stops it wandering everywhere.
> Human creativity, unlike nature, is an embarrassment of riches; we need
> rhyme (which you notice Day-Lewis adheres to quite rigorously) and meter to
> keep us honest. As Adorno says, the bourgeoisie would like life to be
> austere and art voluptuous, but we would really be much better off with
> things the other way around: life full of actual meaning, and art full of
> things left unsaid.
> Now here Day-Lewis notes that there is a third thing--and it is the thing
> that Bakhtin wrote almost exclusively about, something that is neither
> system of meaning nor instance of meaning making, something that is neither
> signification nor purely individual sense: it is human relationships in all
> their complex, meaty sensuousness.
> Are interpersonal relations more like intra-personal relations or are they
> more like societal relations? Are they more intra-psychological or more
> trans-psychological? Are more things to be left said or unsaid? Half said?
> Are these going to be austere or voluptuous? Will they depend on potential
> or upon realization?
> As for you, my love, it’s harder,
> Though neither prisoner nor warder,
> Not to desire you both: for love
> Illudes us we can lightly move
> Into a new dimension, where
> The bounds of being disappear
> And we make one impassioned cell.
> So wanting to be all in all
> Each for each, a man and a woman
> Defy the limits of what’s human.
> Voluptuous then, and almost intrapersonal--but this is a romantic, young
> person's view. Day-Lewis wrote this late in life, after many years of what
> we would have to call development. Human development is not like natural
> development; it means creating more potential rather than simply realizing
> it (and thus leaving less unsaid).
> But when we cease to play explorers
> And become settlers, clear before us
> Lies the next need – to re-define
> The boundary between yours and mine;
> Else, one stays prisoner, one goes free.
> Each to his own identity
> Grown back, shall prove our love’s expression
> Purer for this limitation.
> Love’s essence, like a poem’s, shall spring
> >From the not saying everything.
> David Kellogg
> --- On Wed, 8/10/11, Larry Purss <email@example.com> wrote:
> From: Larry Purss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: [xmca] Living metaphor and conventionalized language
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 10:59 AM
> Hi David Ke
> Your response to Nickolai mentioned the constant movement of living
> and language as a conventionalized SYSTEM. This seems to me to be one more
> example of this living GENERATIVE movement of consciousness.
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PhD Student, Teaching Associate
Faculty of Education
Monash University, Peninsula Campus
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