Fisher on psychological smallness of children

Seymour Fisher, Body Consciousness: you are what you feel, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1973, 121-2

In his first few years of life the child has the same relationship to adults that Gulliver had to the giant Brobdingnagians.  The seven-pound infant may be outweighed twenty-fold by each of his parents.  We do not know how this tremendous disparity registers and how much of a trace it leaves.  But even by age three or four, when the child is capable of clear registration of his interactions with others, he is still many times smaller than adults and there is little doubt that he must be intensely impressed by his own relative smallness.  it is not uncommon for the child’s concerns in this area to be expressed in all kinds of wishful references to himself as big.  The child makes statements like “I am a big boy” or “Look how tall I am.”  He becomes offended if someone openly refers to him as “little.”  It should be remembered, too, that most of the inanimate objects the child encounters are built to the scale of adults and so they only serve to magnify how tiny he is.  If adults had to sit repeatedly in chairs much too large for them or ride in vehicles obviously constructed for a giant species, they would get a taste of what the small child encounters.  It is difficult to find out what fantasies are aroused in the child by the presence of others who tower so high over him.  But some of these fantasies are probably represented in the pervasive stories and myths involving encounters between giants and their little opponents.  “Jack and the Bean Stalk” is a good example of such an encounter.  You may recall the explicit and implicit themes that emerge.  Jack experiences dread, anger, fear of being eaten, and the urge to outwit his foe.  In almost all stories about battles with giants there are strong elements of both fear and anger.  The fear often involves possibilities of being crushed, dismembered, and devoured.  Interestingly, the defeat of the giant is usually engineered by virtue of his clumsiness or stupidity.  The small one is portrayed as more agile and clever than the big one.


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