(Editor’s note: the following is an excerpt from a larger work that will soon be posted on the BOOM, enjoy).
Upon emergence from the womb, these formative notions are reinforced as a stark contrast to the sensory-motor traumas the newborn child immediately confronts as part of its introduction to its new, extrauterine reality. The experience of the extreme differences between its pre and post-natal existence mark a watershed moment in the child’s cognitive development and become conflated to form the earliest primary metaphoric concept, LIFE INSIDE THE WOMB IS NOT LIFE OUTSIDE THE WOMB. Because it is the result of complex, neural mapping mechanisms of the sensory-motor systems, the resulting metaphor, “remain(s) in place indefinitely within the conceptual system and [is] independent of language.”
As the child develops, it remains aware of the existential dichotomy represented by its memory of life within the womb and its present awareness of life outside the womb. Only when it is physically and intellectually able to embody space independently, does it begin to recognize within the spatial patterns that surround it, similarities to the environment it recalls from its experiences of life within the womb. These patterns form the prototypical designs that will eventually emerge formally as child caves, little houses, and special places. It is at that moment, when the child’s memory of life within the womb becomes conflated with the fully realized spatial reconstruction of that environment, that a new primary metaphoric concept is created: THE CHILD CAVE IS A WOMB.
While many who read this essay will argue that its hypothesis regarding a prenatal origin to the child cave is ‘purely speculative’ and, perhaps, ‘impossible to prove’, the fact is that it is not the first time such a link has been proposed. As Roger Hart noted in his work, Children’s Experience of Place, “Freudian psychologists have ‘explained’ these so-called ‘cozy places’ as a desire on the child’s part to return to the womb.” By this, he refers to Freud’s theories regarding, “regression.”