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Home arrow Psychology arrow The Life and Creative Works of Paulo Coelho : A Psychobiography from a Positive Psychology Perspective
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Stage 1 - Intuitive-Projective Stage

Stage one occurs between the ages of 4-7 years and is labelled “intuitive-protective faith”. In Coelho’s life, it fell into the life period of childhood and schooldays (1953-1961). During this stage, Coelho entered kindergarten at four and a half years and entered school in 1954 (Morais, 2009).

Childhood and Schooldays (1953-1961)

The next stage of faith develops along with language development from the age of 2 years and proceeds through the age of 6-7 years (Fowler, 1981, 1984, 1987). During this time, gross and fine motor skills develop, as well as the cognition that is linked to the central and peripheral nervous systems (Fowler & Dell, 2004). The play of children in this age group moves from parallel play to associative play.

Coelho spent a lot of this time with his friends and extended family members in the Botafogo security complex where they were protected, playing associative games in a safe and secure environment (Morais, 2009). Coelho was separated from the world “outside of the estate”, which was defined as unsafe and unprotective in Coelho’s mind through the fears of his parents. On a deeper level, this classification into the “good” and safe world (estate) and the “evil” and unsafe world (outside the estate) is found to be a reflection of the images and pictures of “good and evil” (Fowler, 1981) created in this developmental stage of the faith theory.

During this phase, the child develops an idea of good and evil through symbols (Fowler & Dell, 2004). It is described as a magical world stage (Croucher, 2010). Coelho and his secret organisation were responsible for playing tricks in the estate - which were not in compliance with the community rules and regulations (Morais, 2009). Since they “specialised in sabotage” (Morais, 2009, p. 41), they were very aware of the concepts of good and evil and included the “evil” through symbolic acts of sabotage of the “good”. Through these symbolic acts, the friends built up a strong companionship, as emphasised by Fowler (1981). The evil acts became part of their collective self-image. Fowler mentioned that these self-images and acts could lead to feelings of terror, guilt or compassion; however, in this case it rather seemed as if the friends strived for a holistic and inclusive world within the security complex, balancing the good and the evil in their environment.

Fowler (1976) emphasises that during this period, long-lasting orientations to good and evil are coined and stories and pictures of good and evil are created. The data do not show explicit in-depth stories and images of good and evil in Coelho’s development; however, later in his life and creative works, Coelho wrote about the struggles of the good and the evil within communities (Coelho, 2002a). Coelho loved to read and write his own stories (Morais, 2009). He preferred novels and adventure stories; however, no information is available on whether these stories referred to the concepts of good and evil.

During this faith development stage, faith is “drawn to symbols and images of visible power and size” (Fowler & Dell, 2004, p. 23). The 6-year-old Coelho had already built up a “secret organisation”, that specialised in “sabotage” (Morais, 2009, p. 41) and was responsible for “odd things that were happening in the community” (Morais, 2009, p. 40). As mentioned by Fowler and Dell (2004, p. 23), topics of power and powerlessness became relevant in his life: he and his friends tested their boundaries and their power in their environment. They “sabotaged” and thereby included the unsafe, unprotective and maybe “evil” outside world into their security complex to make it complete. This sabotaging act might stand as a rather unconsciously used symbol for the importance of the inclusion of the “shadow side” of society and of the self. As assumed in the FDT, Coelho’s first interaction referring to good and evil therefore occurred between the ages of four and seven.

Fowler (1976) points out that during this stage long-lasting orientations for good and evil in terms of emotions and images are built. This orientation was important during this time of his life, as well as in his fifties when he reflected good and evil in his books, such as in “The Devil and Miss Prym” (Coelho, 2000) or in the text collection “Warrior of light” (Coelho, 2003a). The main question is, what will win in the human context: good or evil? Coelho refers in his sixties to the same question in “The winner stands alone” (Coelho, 2008a), by talking about the destruction of a universe in the name of love and the greater good.

In the text collection book, the warrior of light stands for the good, the light side. However, Coelho is aware of the “evil”, the “shadow”, and highlights that good and evil need to be integrated.

It is assumed that deeper knowledge of the importance of integrating good and evil through self-awareness and self-reflection, as well as through action, was already expressed in the acts of “sabotage” in the security estate that laid the foundation for his later orientation: light and shadow were encountered in a safe and protective environment, to balance the imbalances of systems (the safe and good estate and the unsafe and evil outside world) in which one part was neglected, separated or excluded particularly through his father’s wish to have his children grow up in the security estate only.

Coelho’s play with his friends in the estate was characterised by the questioning and testing of issues of autonomy, self-control and willpower, as described for this stage by Dell and Duncan (1998), not as much by shame and doubt. Fowler and Dell

(2004) highlight that the child’s meaning-making is mainly based on emotional and perceptional ordering of experiences, as well as on imaginative understanding, which is influenced by a reality that is understood as mysterious. This assumption might once more be an indication of the previous assumption that Coelho and his secret organisation aimed imaginatively for the integration of societal aspects into the life of the estate’s community.

Coelho’s stories, pictures and self-images, including questions on good and evil, were recorded in his diary when he was about 12 years old (Morais, 2009, p. 51). On Coelho’s tape-recordings, he described his actions as the “perverse side of his personality” rather than his generous and sensitive side (Morais, 2009, p. 52). This perverse side reflects evil, contradicting God.

Croucher emphasises that the understanding of God is central at the intuitive- projective stage. However, during this time of Coelho’s life, understanding of God was not raised as a main question. It is nevertheless assumed that because of his Christian parents and school (Morais, 2009), God was strongly contextualised with symbols, images and meanings, as emphasised in the FDT (Fowler, 1981, 1987), although the importance of symbols of God at this stage is not described in detail.

During this stage, children tend to experience a need to understand what is real and what is not real and the transition towards the next faith stage depends on the emergence of concrete and operational thinking (Fowler, 1981, 1986). The data do not provide any information on the questions of reality in Coelho and the emergence of concrete and operational thinking at this time. His love of stories and story-telling (Morais, 2009), might indicate that Coelho liked to live in different worlds, constructing “real” and “unreal” realities. No data are provided on how far Coelho realised the realities as real and/or unreal and therefore, no information can be provided on the change towards more concrete and operation thinking.

 
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