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Notes on counselling

Dealing with childhood libido — a consciousness perspective

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Childhood libidinal behaviour is complex and may be associated with other behavioural problems. In the absence of a mental ego, the pre-school child at the physical-vital level of consciousness is susceptible to negative vibrations. At the vital-physical level that characterises adolescence, exploratory behaviour is invested with emotions needing sublimation and refinement. A true solution to this problem includes the aspiration for a noble soul by would-be parents.

One of the most agonising experiences I have as a counsellor occurs when I am confronted with mothers complaining about their otherwise intelligent children making libidinal advances to them. Typically the child is at pre-school stage, mostly a male and may be as young as 3 years. It is not necessary that such a child has a history of being sexually victimised. When mothers take a decision to consult a counsellor, they no longer think that the behaviour is merely exploratory but something more that would sooner or later be characterised as offending in nature. However this kind of behaviour is not usually isolated but exists in conjunction with other behaviour problems. It may be a part of obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder. It may be associated with ADHD. At times, the child may exhibit other conduct problems, especially aggression. In rare cases, the child may be showing early indications of developing psychopathic traits. It is difficult to understand a child’s psyche. While Freud’s contentions about childhood libidinal behaviour no longer hold the fort, it is also difficult and complex to unearth negative childhood experiences and memories of being victimised. Exposure to profanity through audio-visual media or titillation through the culture of consumerism may be precipitating factors but do not explain the vulnerability of affected children to act on such cues.

The Consciousness perspective

Freud dealt with libido as a sex-drive. Carl Jung considered libido in a wider framework as a totality of psychic energy, perceived subjectively as striving and desire. The consciousness perspective that emerges in the Aurobindonian context would perceive it as one of the many aspects of the vital plane which is the repertoire of all our energies, dynamisms, desires, emotions and conflicting bipolarities of mood and behaviour. The vital plane itself has many layers ranging from the lowest which harbours elementary desires and lusts, to higher levels where the movement of desire can be transformed into the will for progress. The vital plane is situated between the physical and cognitive planes and an integral approach to personal growth needs to integrate them around a principle that is more meaningful than the ego.

The pre-school child would not have yet developed the cognitive repertoire to a remarkable extent and is receptive to the vibrations and energies all around. In the hierarchy of the evolution of consciousness, the pre-school child is at a physical-vital level, where vitality has started emerging and asserting itself after the physical plane of consciousness has consolidated itself to an optimal extent. At this point it starts getting connected to the corresponding physical-vital plane of the cosmic consciousness. In absence of a mental ego that imparts a sense of defence around the emerging individuality, the child’s psyche may be invaded by disruptive vibrations and energies which exist in the cosmic consciousness. These energies remain free and floating in the cosmic consciousness as libido is a very strong force needed for the perpetuation of the species and claims a right to be preserved. In certain cultures, these energies are more archetypally consolidated in the cosmic consciousness, especially where childhood eroticism is eulogised as in the Tobriand culture or Tahagmyut families of the Ungava peninsula. The current consumerist scenario with an over-exposure to audio-visual media and easy access to adult content may foster new archetypal consolidations.

As the child grows up to be an adolescent, the plane of consciousness shifts from the physical-vital to the vital-physical plane where vitality overawes, dominates and exploits the physical plane. What was once a simple exploratory libidinal behaviour now gets invested with emotions, that unless sublimated, refined and acted upon, may lead to experimental depredatory risks and deviance from cultural norms. Even though the vital-physical plane has developed, the earlier physical-vital is retained and modified with the powers of the vital-physical making matters more complex.Modern culture poses another risk to the growing adolescent. The ego is still more vital than mental and can get easily misled in the alleys of cyberspace to succumb to disruptive influences. Cyberspace itself is a gateway to the nethermost recesses of the cosmic consciousness but one can enter in an immature mode to be overawed by giant negative forces.

The consciousness perspective needs the thorough exploration and development of all the three planes that are the building-blocks of the emergent personality — the physical, vital and mental — and subsequently integrating them around a soul-principle that is more meaningful than the ego. The ego is at first necessary to impart a sense of individuality and defence against extraneous forces but needs to be surpassed at an optimal time by a more harmonious soul-principle.


Though behaviour therapy and play therapy are recommended for pre-school children with libidinal disturbances, there are finer issues to be considered. Children who are affected seem to spend more time with adults but it is a fact that children are better managed and counselled by their peer group. Of course, the peer group interaction has to be supervised so that it is constructive and meaningful. Games are very important to deal with the buoyant energy of childhood but for affected children there should be preferably a judicious combination of two types of games. There is the big, wide game like football which allows an outlet to the pent-up energy. There is the finer game like tennis where the mind and the body have to coordinate with finesse so that the mind does not roam elsewhere during the game. Both types of games are necessary to deal effectively with the libidinal energy so that it is channelised in the right direction.

Together with the physical discipline, the child needs to have the augmentation of aesthetic and creative potentials. The left-brain activities of analytical pragmatism need to be balanced by the right-brain endorsement of artistic and creative potentials for a more balanced growth of the personality.

In addition, as we have already noted, libidinal discrepancy is most often associated with other problematic behaviours that also need to be addressed while simultaneously boosting the self-esteem of the child.

The New Creation

When I am confronted with a child who has been brought for making libidinal advances to parental figures, the first thing that strikes me is whether the child was born only in the flux of lust and desire. Was there no aspiration to be gifted with a noble soul? The psychological attitude of the would-be parents perhaps needs to be addressed in a world where pregnancies are increasingly being planned to suit material conveniences. The Mother illumines this subject with vividness and certitude:

“For to bring children into the world as rabbits do their young — instinctively, ignorantly, machine-like, that certainly cannot be called maternity! True maternity begins with the conscious creation of a being, with the willed shaping of a soul coming to develop and utilise a new body. The true domain of women is the spiritual. We forget it but too often.

To bear a child and construct his body almost subconsciously is not enough. The work really commences when, by the power of thought and will, we conceive and create a character capable of manifesting an ideal.

And do not say that we have no power for realising such a thing. Innumerable instances of this very effective power could be brought out as proofs.

First of all, the effect of physical environment was recognised and studied long ago. It is by surrounding women with forms of art and beauty that, little by little, the ancient Greeks created the exceptionally harmonious race that they were.

Individual instances of the same fact are numerous. It is not rare to see a woman who, while pregnant, had looked at constantly and admired a beautiful picture or statue, giving birth to a child after the perfect likeness of this picture or statue….

But if we can obtain such results on the physical plane where the materials are the least plastic, how much more soon the psychological plane where the influence of thought and will is so powerful. Why accept the obscure bonds of heredity and atavism — which are nothing else than subconscious preferences for our own trend of character — when we can, by concentration and will, call into being a type constructed according to the highest ideal we are able to conceive? With this effort, maternity becomes truly precious and sacred; indeed with this, we enter the glorious work of the Spirit, and womanhood rises above animality and its ordinary instincts, towards real humanity and its powers (1).”

The true solution to the problem of childhood libidinal disturbance is augmenting the creative psyche of would-be parents along a spiritual perspective, perfecting the aspiration for being gifted with a noble soul. Like an artist who creates a marvellous art on a strip of canvas, the aspiring parents have embarked to bring forth a new consciousness in the matrix of space and time.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 2. Cent. ed. Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1978, pp. 153-4.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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