Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Child Man — personal development by Ashok Malhotra Apr 1, 2011

Ashok Malhotra is an organisation development consultant in Bengaluru who works in a group setting to resolve the human interface problems in corporations.
The book develops the thesis of the Child Man (CM), inherent in each of us, a basic duality that is at the bottom of human difficulties in acting appropriately in trying situations. It is a summary of Mr Malhotra's reflections, based on experiences gained from guiding organisations. In essence, he says, we are all a bundle of contradictions, not easy to fathom, passionate, yet surrendering to impulses. The CM is highly self-centred, but glad to help others too, endearing yet exasperating. S/he gets entrenched in self-defeating positions, said Mr Malhotra.

 The audience at David Hall for the Kochi book launch of the 'Child Man'
In today’s society the CM gets pushed from all sides. There's a pressure to be non-emotional at work. Therefore, finding space for the CM is difficult today, although it is the most delightful part of who we are. In modern times we are seeing only the ugly part of the CM, Mr Malhotra regretted. 
One has to remember that people in the corporate world are not purely rational, not purely calculating; plenty of non-rational processes are also going on.

  Jose Dominic and Mathew Antony at the Kochi book launch of the 'Child Man'
In an aside he addressed what might be the subject of his next work. It arises from a flaw in the theories of management currently held, namely that the desirable part in a manager (whether she be female or male) is only Man, dominant, forceful and rational, not Woman. This is in spite of the fact there is a Man and a Woman in each of us. And just as men have oppressed women historically, we are now oppressing the woman inside us in the corporate world and foregoing many of the benefits of the woman's qualities in us.
Mr Malhotra paid tribute to works of literature like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984 by, and Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.
For further details of the book and the Question/Answer session please click below and continue reading.

Joe Cleetus and Mathew Antony engaged Mr Malhotra in a conversation. And then the session was thrown open to the audience in David Hall.

 Ashok Malhotra and the hostess of the event, Padmini Jai Krishnan, field questions

Questions and Answers
Q1. The title of the book is not meant to disregard women, as you make clear. Imagine then if your were to title the book “Child Woman.” Which female protagonists of what mythological story would you employ to illustrate it?
AM: There is no gender bias intended in the book's name. The aspects of Child and Man are present in both genders. It is hard to say which mythological protagonists would parallel Balarama, Duryodhana, and Bhima whom I have chosen from the Mahabharata.
Q2. In this book the Child is set against the Man, and and the ideal is to become a Man, would you say? If so what about the good qualities in a child.
AM: Yes, spontaneity, guilelessness, a sense of freedom and playfulness, are all good qualities we recognise in children. However, they are mixed with peevishness, impulsiveness, petulance, and egotism.
Q3. You characterise Balarama, Duryodhana and Bhima as different, but all imbued with the Child-Man psyche. Can you define what you mean by the “CM psyche” in plain language, shorn of terminology from Jung, the Vedas or the Upanishads?
AM: The CM is a powerful part of our psyche. It holds our heroic potential, our creativity, our innocence, and our ability to persevere. But we encounter his negative side, the destructive and villainous facets of his being. The CM regards maturity as his enemy, as something that would reduce him to blandness and conformity..
Q4. You draw a diagram to demonstrate behaviour with X axis as Static (-X) and Dynamic (+X) and on the Y-axis Masculine (+Y) and Feminine (-Y); each is further divided into a creative and a destructive aspect. Therefore, 8 octants of behaviour altogether. Are you saying an individual should preferably operate in some part of the these 8 octants to be successful? If so where? In my experience in a typical working week of my life I would traverse all 8 octants of the graph!
AM: You are right. We are all those things at different times, but the self-aware person will recognise when s/he is giving in to the negative aspects of each form of behaviour. Though you say a person may traverse all the octants, in reality we each conform to a predominant type or two, often assuming one aspect in the workplace, and another with our families.
Q5. You refer to Anima as as the feminine in men and Animus as the masculine in women, and cite Jung. Animus = mind; anima = soul. Please explain.
AM: These are terms used by Jung, not quite with the meanings you state. He looks at Anima as the feminine in men, and Animus as the masculine in women.
Q6. I wish to recall Transactional Analysis, so popular in the 60s and 70s to analyse the behaviour of people in organisations. I see some difference. They have the Parent-Adult-Child stratification of behaviour in a person and between persons in a dialogue. Can you comment? What is the relationship of TA to your work?
AM: TA has little to do with my theory of the Child Man. In TA one looks at transactions between people in organisations, and Eric Berne recognises three character roles we assume: Parent, Adult, and Child. He points out that all nine combinations of back and forth transactions are valid. e.g. Parent to Child, can result in a response Child to Parent, or Child to Adult, or Child to Child. They do not stipulate that Adult-to-Adult is necessarily the best behaviour in every circumstance.
The CM theory does not deal with external manifested transactions, but with the internal make-up of the psyche which causes different kinds of behaviour, some positive, and some negative.
Q7. I am well recognised in my family as being near zero in Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), that is I have so few social skills, they say, that I cannot pick up hints and cues about matters unstated, that are nevertheless as plain to them as if they were explicitly stated. What is the importance of EQ for the Child-Man? Is there a positive and a negative side of high EQ?
AM: EQ places too much emphasis on Social Skills. I agree EQ is useful and adequate as far as social skills and interface management are concerned. However, the issue for the CM is: what happens to the inner ecology and the sense of well being with oneself? 
There is a certain sense in which it is dangerous to read too much sub-text in what a high EQ person hears in conversation. But sensitivity to the emotional needs of others and due respect for them as individuals is an important social skill. Besides, it is important to remember that evidence is not only what is manifest.
Q8. Are you a practicing psychiatrist?
AM: No, I am mostly an organisational development consultant. I work with people in groups, helping them come to grips with their failings as a group. I am not a one-on-one clinician, though I have worked with individuals to help them realise their full potential. 
Ashok Malhotra reads from the last chapter, titled 'Ashok Speaks' 

In conclusion Mr Malhotra read from the last chapter (“Ashok Speaks”), which tells his personal story of growing up in a household, full of women, where his grandfather was the one with whom he was intimate, but his father was the person he admired from afar, but could not approach. It is an affecting story of the conflict between the idealised self and the experienced self.

Jacket Blurb
There is a part of us which neither listens to the voice of reason, nor easily submits to social and moral conventions. Like a child, it- relentlessly pursues whatever catches its fancy and keeps playing with fire. This energy can, equally, help us. actualize our heroic potential or set us on the path to self destruction. The key to ‘ making this energy positive lies in what we do with the emotional and psychic wounds which are a necessary part of our growth.

Through the stories of such mythological figures as Balarama, Duryodhana and Bhima, The Child Man explores this potent but deeply ambivalent aspect of the human psyche. We encounter Duryodhana's firm resolve to remain discontent and examine the forces which compel him to turn away from Suyodhana, his other half. We see Bhima's intense craving for giving and receiving love but in ways that eventually become counter-productive. We witness Balarama‘s unconditional love for Krishna and his struggle to be an older brother to someone he regards as his superior in every way.

This pathos of human potential turning against the self has become an integral and ever growing part of our everyday lives. This book looks at the underlying forces in the contemporary human context which fuel this process, simultaneously enhancing both our prowess and our helplessness.


geetha oommen mathen said...

If i see/realize that a kid/student is a Narcissist,how would the parents take it?Is it a positive or negative quality?

Management - Learning from Experiences by Reflection said...

Dear Ms Mathen,

You should write to the author for clarifications on this, since he is the expert. You can reach Mr Ashok Malhotra at

I may draw your attention to a passage in his book:
"In Freudian terms, all three [Balarama, Duryodhana, and Bhima] show strong streaks of the oral-sadistic character, i.e., one who believes that no one is going to give him what he needs voluntarily and hence he must grab it by force. However. this is accompanied by a predominance of "narcissism" over "self interest"— each of our protagonists has a tendency to get carried away with his own thoughts, feelings and impulses with very little objective reality appraisal and consequently, has to be restrained by someone like a Krishna or a Shakuni. In this sense, the narcissism of the Child Man is quite "self-less." One can even argue that, in fact, he has no positive sense of "self." His self definition is primarily defined by his "wounds" and thus, he stubbornly holds on to his wounds and resists any healing. To an extent, the preservation of these wounds becomes equated with the preservation of self-identity. In this sense. Duryodhana’s case is particularly tragic because the non-healing of his wounds also has a contextual element. As Suyodhana points out. he also becomes a carrier of other people’s demons and negativities.

My impression is Mr Malhotra confirms there is Child Man in each of us, and this underlying psyche comes endowed with a positive and a negative aspect. So there is nothing intrinsically bad about the narcissism, in your case, of a student. Nothing to worry.

All that's needed as a teacher is to channel that aspect into its positive manifestations, and away from the negative. To quote from the blog:
"Yes, spontaneity, guilelessness, a sense of freedom and playfulness, are all good qualities we recognise in children. However, they are mixed with peevishness, impulsiveness, petulance, and egotism."

I hope this clarifies. If you are not satisfied, please apply to the author!