I’ve never been one for maps, preferring to meander my way to destinations - often enjoying the experience of getting lost, but..
This map did not begin life as a conventional one (still isn't), but rather as a way of looking at and explaining child development.
I was a researcher at the time, looking into the shopping dynamics of families. 'Pester Power' was the buzz phrase of the day, and neatly described the emotional blackmail, bribery and general mayhem going on in many households, particularly between mums and kids.
To my delight and fascination I discovered that just beneath the surface of all that accumulating, discarding, making and filling spaces that we call shopping, something far more deep and meaningful was going on.
Mums surprised themselves as they explained the intricacies of choosing this or that juice, wet wipe or buggy brand. On the surface, rational concerns around health, safety and good parenting were cited, but so often
It was the emotional stuff that closed the deal:
"Ah the smell of Persil - takes me right back to my own childhood."
"It's white, less harmful, purer. Milky Bar's the first chocolate. My dad gave it to me."
Nostalgia, idealised childhood and separation anxiety were routinely played out down every supermarket aisle. And it was life's big themes - success, failure, the search for belonging, freedom, independence, control that were being confronted behind the wheels of a shopping trolley.
Through the portal of whatever seemingly boring entry point I arrived (baby food, confectionery, lunchbox crazes), I consistently found myself in a rich and revelatory world furnished with hopes, fears, expectations and desires way beyond the scope of any consumer good or chocolate brand. No matter how delicious. I knew I was onto something so I dug and delved, prompted and questioned, looked and listened until I ached.
As I pieced together the underlying and recurring themes , I realised that
- in our insatiable appetite for goods wrapped in clever brand stories, it was the story, its ideas, images
and associations as much as the product we were buying into to satisfy our needs.
- I was inadvertently looking into the heart of what makes us, well 'us' - my research with children and
parents across the globe was tapping into fundamental questions of ‘identity’:
‘Who am I?’. ‘Who do I want to be?’. ‘Where do I fit in?’.
Who'd have thought it?
In their clear and guileless way, children had helped me to understand some common and consistent truths behind our teeming behaviours.
It was from insights such as these that The Map evolved, helping us to see the invisible emotional tides at play on behaviour, to get a birds eye view on and be able to trace the routes and routes of children's growth and development.
But the map of childhood also opened up a lost, forgotten or (for me at least) undiscovered story about adulthood that I could never have imagined. And set me on a revelatory trail that changed my life.
The Map showed how this journey continues way beyond childhood.
Long story Short, it turns out that the map of childhood is just as relevant and telling for adults; we continue to traverse the same terrains repeating our journey in different areas and phases of our lives, carving out our own contours, grooves and routes and learning at new and deeper levels of experience as we go. The territories become more complex, with labyrinthine corridors and openings to inner worlds which, like a video game, we learn to navigate at new and challenging levels.