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|"For Want of a Better Good" (In process)|
Author: Alan Challoner MA (Phil) MChS
(Attachment Theory Researcher Counsellor in Adoption & Fostering, and associated child development issues. MA awarded by thesis on the psychology of handicap – A Culture of Ambiguity; 1992):
"A developmental line for narcissism has been devised by Temeles, and it consists of twelve phases that are characterised by a particular relationship between self-love and object-love and occur in a precise order."
(Temeles, M.S. – A developmental line for narcissism: The path to self-love and object love. In Cohen, Theodore, B.; Etezady, M. Hossein; & Pacella, B.L. (Eds.) The Vulnerable Child. Volume 1; The Vulnerable Child. International Univ. Press; Madison, CT, USA – 1993.)
PROTO-SELF AND PROTO-OBJECT
As the infant is incapable of distinguishing either the self or the object as adults do, this phase is marked by their absence. However he is competent in certain attributes particularly those that allow him to interact with his environment. From birth his moments of pleasure, often the instrument of infant-mother interaction, are high points in the phase. He will try to avoid the low points of un-pleasure by creating a bond that is marked by early maternal intervention to restore the status quo.
BEGINNING SELF-OBJECT DIFFERENTIATION AND OBJECT PREFERENCE
The second phase can begin as early as the third week, and by the fourth month the infant has prescribed his favourite individuals (apart from mother). However he is still not really discriminating between self and subject. He is now ready to engage in a higher state of interaction with others. He babbles and smiles and tries to make some sense out of his local environment. If he should fail to make the sort of contact that he is seeking then he will turn away in a manner that is unequivocal in its meaning. His main social contact at this stage is by the eye, and he makes no bones about his feelings of pleasure or displeasure.
His bond with his mother, at best, is now flowing and, if he is fortunate, there is a mutual admiration society established. This is not however an isolated practice for there is a narcissistic element on both sides that is reinforced by the strength of the attachment. His continued development allows him to find an increasing number of ways in which he might generate, autonomously, personal pleasure. He finds delight in making new sounds, or indeed doing anything that brings him his mother's approbation. He is now almost ready to see himself in contrast to others.
SELF-CONSTANCY AND OBJECT-CONSTANCY
The infant is now becoming able to know himself as "me", as well as being able to know familiar others as "them". His fraternisation with father, siblings and grandparents or any other closely adjacent person, endows this interaction with a tone of special recognition as "one of the gang". This is of vital importance to him because he gains a very special feedback from these people. They love him and they shown their approbation for his every ploy that he constructs in an effort to seal this knot. He is now at the beginning of a period when he starts to feel some early self-esteem. Again if he is lucky, he will be delighted at being himself and in his situation. Also at this stage he can often create a special affinity for the same-sex parent. He throws up expansive gestures of affection, and yet can also become totally self-absorbed in his growing confidence that he is on a "winning streak".
AWARENESS OF AWARENESS: SELF-CENTREDNESS
This is an extension of the third phase and he is continuously becoming more aware of himself and is adept at gaining the pleasures he seeks. The phase also coincides with the beginning of the decline of maternal feeling that he is the best thing on this earth. His activities both positive and negative have started to draw on maternal resources to the point where they may at times be sapping. Thus at the beginning of the child's second year the mother starts to realise that the time has come when she must "shout the odds". She begins to make demands of him and, at times, to punish him, albeit in a discrete way. She may not now respond as quickly as she did before, or she may not seem quite so adoring as she was three months ago.
The most dynamic intervention that a child can have at this time is the fear of the loss of love. He needs to be loved so that he can still love himself. This beginning of a time of self-reflection needs him to be aware of being aware. It is now possible for him to be injured narcissistically, for example, perhaps through sibling rivalry. His relationship with his same-sex parent takes on a new importance. It now goes beyond just a "mutuality club". Because he is becoming aware of his limitations, he needs to know through this relationship with the same-sex parent, just what he may become. This allows his narcissistic image of himself to be regularly re-polished after any lapses that might have tarnished it.
OBJECT-CENTRED PHASE: THE FIRST LIBIDINAL DISAPPOINTMENT
This is what has been described as the Oedipal period, when genital and object-directed sexuality comes to the fore. He must continue to recover whenever he receives a blow to his self-esteem; but more, he must learn not to over-compensate. As Temeles puts it, narcissistic supplies from both the adored Oedipal object and also the loved rival are threatened as the child's libidinal investments are sporadically supplanted by negative impulses. [Idem.]
The child will refresh his relationships on a different platform, but nevertheless maintains and is sustained by his attachments to his parents, and other subsidiary figures. At a time when he begins to divest himself of some of the libidinal baggage he may enter into a new "love affair" with a peer. The normal pattern is for these to disintegrate when the child enters the period of latency, and for the interregnum to be typified with a period of sexual segregation. By now he is going to school and is acquiring a new level of self-sufficiency that continues to enhance his narcissism.
BEGINNING PROMINENCE OF PEER GROUPS: NEW OBJECTS
This phase, which begins sometime in the third year, is marked by a resolution of the Oedipal period and a lessening of the infant ties with the parents as the child turns his attention towards his peers and some other special adults (such as teachers or other role models). In some respects these new objects start to replace some of the narcissistic supplies that he continues to gain from his parents.
This of course has its dangers because other objects can be notoriously fickle, especially peers. He is now at a stage where he has journeyed into the outside world and is vulnerable to the inconstancies of those who now are around him in greater numbers. However all is not lost for the world revolves in circles and the input that he requires from others is shared by the input that they need from him.
On an individual basis therefore if he "falls out" with one person then he very quickly will "fall in" with another. The real potential problem here is for him to be disliked by so many others of his peers that his self-esteem is endangered. Sometimes this can be rectified by his mastery of other elements; particularly if they contribute a steady flow of narcissistic supplies. However the group-ideal is of great significance and seems to have become more so in recent times.
The development of a burgeoning independence together with a sense of group recognition are both in the nature of self-preservation issues. The parental influence, if it has been strong and supportive and consistently streaked with affection and love, will be the launching pad for an adequate personality and a move towards eventual independence.
BEGINNING PROMINENCE OF SELF-ASSESSMENT: IMPACT ON SELF-LOVE
This pre-adolescent phase encompasses a child who still needs the reassurance of his peers, and hereabouts his attachments to certain individuals or groups will intensify. The assaults on his self-esteem now come from a different quarter.
There is an increased concentration on physical attributes, and other comparisons will be made that might diminish or raise his narcissistic supplies. His self-confidence can be strained at this time, and whilst the same-sex peer is still dominant, the opposite-sex peer starts to catch the corner of his eye.
At this time, when he needs all the support he can gather, he may find to his chagrin that a certain ambivalence is coming to pass in his relationships with his parents. They in turn are discovering a rapidly changing, not so compliant, and more independent child. They may be astounded by the group ideals that he has adopted, and whilst in reality he still needs to receive from them abundant narcissistic supplies, the affectionate ties may be strained and the expected or desired support may be somewhat withered.
BEGINNING SEXUAL MATURITY: IMPORTANCE OF THE SEXUAL OBJECT
At this stage ties with parents continue to slacken, but there is an important change taking place as the affectionate characteristics are converging with libidinal ones. The need to be loved is still there and the adolescent version of narcissism begins to trail its coat. Gradually the narcissistic element is enhanced as the subject becomes more self-assured and develops the need to win the frank admiration of a sexual object. Hormonal mood swings can underlie the degree to which rejection reduces the narcissistic supplies.
Where there is a blatant over-valuation of the self it is often the result of a defence mechanism coming in to play to protect the subject. Individual subjects compare themselves with others in their group and may become aware of either shortcomings or advantages that add to the feelings in self-assessment. Over-inflated Ego ideals may bring about a negative assessment, and the need arises for young people to confront themselves with reality. A failure to do this will result in a much more severe assault on their narcissism later.
RESURGENCE OF MASTER ISSUES: IMPACT OF SELF-LOVE
Having now experienced the change of love object, and tasted the new relations that stem from it, there is a need to resume the issues of mastery. These are no longer childhood fantasies but are the basic requirements for a successful future. On them depend the acquisition of a successfully completed education, skill training and employment. At this stage narcissistic supplies depend upon success, and if this is not obtained legitimately then it may be sought by other means. His culture and to some extent his peer group will tend to dictate what the criteria of success will be. Within some societies there is still a gender difference here but it is reducing with time. Temeles suggests that, If the woman's narcissistic supplies are, in fact, more dependent on maintaining a relationship with the libidinal object, then perhaps it reflects a greater need to maintain more affectionate ties reminiscent of the past. [Idem.]
When the time comes for parenthood earlier ties tend to be reinvigorated; parents become grandparents and the cycle begins again.
THE BALANCE BETWEEN SELF- AND OBJECT-GENERATED NARCISSISTIC SUPPLIES
Each culture has its unit of social characteristics. These often revolve around family, work, leisure and on the extent to which they are successful will depend the amount of contentment and pride that is generated. A continuance of narcissistic supplies will continue to flow from partners, colleagues, children, parents etc. The more success the greater the flow; and the greater the flow the more success can be achieved and the better the subject will feel about life. The downside of this is when things go wrong. We are in a situation generally where many people have lost jobs and homes; where marriages have broken up and children are separated from one of the parents. This causes great stress, a diminution of self-esteem and a loss of narcissistic supplies. This may result in the loss of the power to sustain an effective life style and with a continuing diminution of narcissistic supplies the result may bring about a negative aspect to life.
ACCOMMODATION VERSUS SELF-CENTREDNESS
The subject has now arrived at middle age. Whatever success has been achieved it may well be that he will be at the summit of his personal mountain, and the only way forward is down. From here on mastery is waning and there is a tendency to rely more and more on relationships to supply the good feelings. The arrival of grandchildren can herald a return to earlier mutuality and may account for narcissistic supplies for both generations. In the long-term the threat of, or the reality of, a reduction in physical capacity or ill-health may play a part in the reduction of narcissistic supplies.
SELF VERSUS OBJECT
Advancing age will develop its threat. Not only is this at a personal and physical level, but often it is at an emotional level. Long gone are the inter-generational family settings. Grand parents, parents and children now not only reside in different houses, but in different counties or even different countries. The more one is separated and possibly alone the more one feels threatened by mortality which is of course the ultimate in the loss of narcissistic supplies. When loved ones disappear it is important to try to crate substitute associations either through re-entering into group activities or perhaps the solitary pleasure that can be gained from a domestic pet. Loss of the good feelings that were present in earlier times can lead to depression. This is countered by those who have developed a degree of self-sufficiency and who have maintained interests that provide a continuance of narcissistic supplies. Once any or all of these start to disappear there enters a factor of dissimulation, and we can no longer reconcile what we were to what we now are. We lose our self-esteem, often our will to live, but even though this is not consonant with a will to die it often leads to a failure to thrive.
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
Neonates have no psychology. If operated upon, for instance, they are not supposed to show signs of trauma later on in life. Birth, according to this school of thought is of no psychological consequence to the newborn baby. It is immeasurably more important to his "primary caregiver" (mother) and to her supporters (read: father and other members of the family). It is through them that the baby is, supposedly, effected. This effect is evident in his (I will use the male form only for convenience's sake) ability to bond. The late Karl Sagan professed to possess the diametrically opposed view when he compared the process of death to that of being born. He was commenting upon the numerous testimonies of people brought back to life following their confirmed, clinical death. Most of them shared an experience of traversing a dark tunnel. A combination of soft light and soothing voices and the figures of their deceased nearest and dearest awaited them at the end of this tunnel. All those who experienced it described the light as the manifestation of an omnipotent, benevolent being. The tunnel - suggested Sagan - is a rendition of the mother's tract. The process of birth involves gradual exposure to light and to the figures of humans. Clinical death experiences only recreate birth experiences.
The womb is a self-contained though open (not self-sufficient) ecosystem. The Baby's Planet is spatially confined, almost devoid of light and homeostatic. The fetus breathes liquid oxygen, rather than the gaseous variant. He is subjected to an unending barrage of noises, most of them rhythmical. Otherwise, there are very few stimuli to elicit any of his fixed action responses. There, dependent and protected, his world lacks the most evident features of ours. There are no dimensions where there is no light. There is no "inside" and "outside", "self" and "others", "extension" and "main body", "here" and "there". Our Planet is exactly converse. There could be no greater disparity. In this sense - and it is not a restricted sense at all - the baby is an alien. He has to train himself and to learn to become human. Kittens, whose eyes were tied immediately after birth - could not "see" straight lines and kept tumbling over tightly strung cords. Even sense data involve some modicum and modes of conceptualization (see: "Appendix 5 - The Manifold of Sense").
Even lower animals (worms) avoid unpleasant corners in mazes in the wake of nasty experiences. To suggest that a human neonate, equipped with hundreds of neural cubic feet does not recall migrating from one planet to another, from one extreme to its total opposition - stretches credulity. Babies may be asleep 16-20 hours a day because they are shocked and depressed. These abnormal spans of sleep are more typical of major depressive episodes than of vigorous, vivacious, vibrant growth. Taking into consideration the mind-boggling amounts of information that the baby has to absorb just in order to stay alive - sleeping through most of it seems like an inordinately inane strategy. The baby seems to be awake in the womb more than he is outside it.
Cast into the outer light, the baby tries, at first, to ignore reality. This is our first defense line. It stays with us as we grow up.
It has long been noted that pregnancy continues outside the womb. The brain develops and reaches 75% of adult size by the age of 2 years. It is completed only by the age of 10. It takes, therefore, ten years to complete the development of this indispensable organ – almost wholly outside the womb. And this "external pregnancy" is not limited to the brain only. The baby grows by 25 cm and by 6 kilos in the first year alone. He doubles his weight by his fourth month and triples it by his first birthday. The development process is not smooth but by fits and starts. Not only do the parameters of the body change – but its proportions do as well. In the first two years, for instance, the head is larger in order to accommodate the rapid growth of the Central Nervous System. This changes drastically later on as the growth of the head is dwarfed by the growth of the extremities of the body. The transformation is so fundamental, the plasticity of the body so pronounced – that in most likelihood this is the reason why no operative sense of identity emerges until after the fourth year of childhood. It calls to mind Kafka's Gregor Samsa (who woke up to find that he is a giant cockroach). It is identity shattering. It must engender in the baby a sense of self-estrangement and loss of control over who is and what he is.
The motor development of the baby is heavily influenced both by the lack of sufficient neural equipment and by the ever-changing dimensions and proportions of the body. While all other animal cubs are fully motoric in their first few weeks of life – the human baby is woefully slow and hesitant. The motor development is proximodistal. The baby moves in ever widening concentric circles from itself to the outside world. First the whole arm, grasping, then the useful fingers (especially the thumb and forefinger combination), first batting at random, then reaching accurately. The inflation of its body must give the baby the impression that he is in the process of devouring the world. Right up to his second year the baby tries to assimilate the world through his mouth (which is the prima causa of his own growth). He divides the world into "suckable" and "insuckable" (as well as to "stimuli-generating" and "not generating stimuli"). His mind expands even faster than his body. He must feel that he is all-encompassing, all-inclusive, all-engulfing, all-pervasive. This is why a baby has no object permanence. In other words, a baby finds it hard to believe the existence of other objects if he does not see them (=if they are not IN his eyes). They all exist in his outlandishly exploding mind and only there. The universe cannot accommodate a creature, which doubles itself physically every 4 months as well as objects outside the perimeter of such an inflationary being, the baby "believes". The inflation of the body has a correlate in the inflation of consciousness. These two processes overwhelm the baby into a passive absorption and inclusion mode.
To assume that the child is born a "tabula rasa" is superstition. Cerebral processes and responses have been observed in utero. Sounds condition the EEG of fetuses. They startle at loud, sudden noises. This means that they can hear and interpret what they hear. Fetuses even remember stories read to them while in the womb. They prefer these stories to others after they are born. This means that they can tell auditory patterns and parameters apart. They tilt their head at the direction sounds are coming from. They do so even in the absence of visual cues (e.g., in a dark room). They can tell the mother's voice apart (perhaps because it is high pitched and thus recalled by them). In general, babies are tuned to human speech and can distinguish sounds better than adults do. Chinese and Japanese babies react differently to "pa" and to "ba", to "ra" and to "la". Adults do not – which is the source of numerous jokes.
The equipment of the newborn is not limited to the auditory. He has clear smell and taste preferences (he likes sweet things a lot). He sees the world in three dimensions with a perspective (a skill which he could not have acquired in the dark womb). Depth perception is well developed by the sixth month of life.
Expectedly, it is vague in the first four months of life. When presented with depth, the baby realizes that something is different – but not what. Babies are born with their eyes open as opposed to most other animal young ones. Moreover, their eyes are immediately fully functional. It is the interpretation mechanism that is lacking and this is why the world looks fuzzy to them. They tend to concentrate on very distant or on very close objects (their own hand getting closer to their face). They see very clearly objects 20-25 cm away.
But visual acuity and focusing improve in a matter of days. By the time the baby is 6 to 8 months old, he sees as well as many adults do, though the visual system – from the neurological point of view – is fully developed only at the age of 3 or 4 years. The neonate discerns some colors in the first few days of his life: yellow, red, green, orange, gray – and all of them by the age of four months. He shows clear preferences regarding visual stimuli: he is bored by repeated stimuli and prefers sharp contours and contrasts, big objects to small ones, black and white to colored (because of the sharper contrast), curved lines to straight ones (this is why babies prefer human faces to abstract paintings). They prefer their mother to strangers. It is not clear how they come to recognize the mother so quickly. To say that they collect mental images which they then arrange into a prototypical scheme is to say nothing (the question is not "what" they do but "how" they do it). This ability is a clue to the complexity of the internal mental world of the neonate, which far exceeds our learned assumptions and theories. It is inconceivable that a human is born with all this exquisite equipment while incapable of experiencing the birth trauma or the even the bigger trauma of his own inflation, mental and physical.
As early as the end of the third month of pregnancy, the fetus moves, his heart beats, his head is enormous relative to his size. His size, though, is less than 3 cm. Ensconced in the placenta, the fetus is fed by substances transmitted through the mother's blood vessels (he has no contact with her blood, though). The waste that he produces is carried away in the same venue.
The composition of the mother's food and drink, what she inhales and injects – all are communicated to the embryo. There is no clear relationship between sensory inputs during pregnancy and later life development. The levels of maternal hormones do effect the baby's subsequent physical development but only to a negligible extent. Far more important is the general state of health of the mother, a trauma, or a disease of the fetus. It seems that the mother is less important to the baby than the romantics would have it – and cleverly so. A too strong attachment between mother and fetus would have adversely affected the baby's chances of survival outside the uterus. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence whatsoever that the mother's emotional, cognitive, or attitudinal state effects the fetus in any way. The baby is effected by viral infections, obstetric complications, by protein malnutrition and by the mother's alcoholism. But these – at least in the West – are rare conditions.
In the first three months of the pregnancy, the central nervous system "explodes" both quantitatively and qualitatively. This process is called metaplasia. It is a delicate chain of events, greatly influenced by malnutrition and other kinds of abuse. But this vulnerability does not disappear until the age of 6 years out of the womb. There is a continuum between womb and world. The newborn is almost a very developed kernel of humanity. He is definitely capable of experiencing substantive dimensions of his own birth and subsequent metamorphoses. Neonates can immediately track colors – therefore, they must be immediately able to tell the striking differences between the dark, liquid placenta and the colorful maternity ward. They go after certain light shapes and ignore others.
Without accumulating any experience, these skills improve in the first few days of life, which proves that they are inherent and not contingent (learned). They seek patterns selectively because they remember which pattern was the cause of satisfaction in their very brief past. Their reactions to visual, auditory and tactile patterns are very predictable. Therefore, they must possess a MEMORY, however primitive.
But – even granted that babies can sense, remember and, perhaps emote – what is the effect of the multiple traumas they are exposed to in the first few months of their lives?
We mentioned the traumas of birth and of self-inflation (mental and physical). These are the first links in a chain of traumas, which continues throughout the first two years of the baby's life. Perhaps the most threatening and destabilizing is the trauma of separation and individuation.
The baby's mother (or caregiver – rarely the father, sometimes another woman) is his auxiliary ego. She is also the world; a guarantor of livable (as opposed to unbearable) life, a (physiological or gestation) rhythm (=predictability), a physical presence and a social stimulus (an other).
To start with, the delivery disrupts continuous physiological processes not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. The neonate has to breathe, to feed, to eliminate waste, to regulate his body temperature – new functions, which were previously performed by the mother. This physiological catastrophe, this schism increases the baby's dependence on the mother.
It is through this bonding that he learns to interact socially and to trust others. The baby's lack of ability to tell the inside world from the outside only makes matters worse. He "feels" that the upheaval is contained in himself, that the tumult is threatening to tear him apart, he experiences implosion rather than explosion. True, in the absence of evaluative processes, the quality of the baby's experience will be different to ours. But this does not disqualify it as a PSYCHOLOGICAL process and does not extinguish the subjective dimension of the experience. If a psychological process lacks the evaluative or analytic elements, this lack does not question its existence or its nature. Birth and the subsequent few days must be a truly terrifying experience.
Another argument raised against the trauma thesis is that there is no proof that cruelty, neglect, abuse, torture, or discomfort retard, in any way, the development of the child. A child – it is claimed – takes everything in stride and reacts "naturally" to his environment, however depraved and deprived.
This may be true – but it is irrelevant. It is not the child's development that we are dealing with here. It is its reactions to a series of existential traumas. That a process or an event has no influence later – does not mean that it has no effect at the moment of occurrence. That it has no influence at the moment of occurrence – does not prove that it has not been fully and accurately registered. That it has not been interpreted at all or that it has been interpreted in a way different from ours – does not imply that it had no effect. In short: there is no connection between experience, interpretation and effect. There can exist an interpreted experience that has no effect. An interpretation can result in an effect without any experience involved.
And an experience can effect the subject without any (conscious) interpretation. This means that the baby can experience traumas, cruelty, neglect, abuse and even interpret them as such (i.e., as bad things) and still not be effected by them. Otherwise, how can we explain that a baby cries when confronted by a sudden noise, a sudden light, wet diapers, or hunger? Isn't this proof that he reacts properly to "bad" things and that there is such a class of things ("bad things") in his mind?
Moreover, we must attach some epigenetic importance to some of the stimuli. If we do, in effect we recognize the effect of early stimuli upon later life development.
At their beginning, neonates are only vaguely aware, in a binary sort of way.
l."Comfortable/uncomfortable", "cold/warm", "wet/dry", "color/absence of color", "light/dark", "face/no face" and so on. There are grounds to believe that the distinction between the outer world and the inner one is vague at best. Natal fixed action patterns (rooting, sucking, postural adjustment, looking, listening, grasping, and crying) invariably provoke the caregiver to respond. The newborn, as we said earlier, is able to relate to physical patterns but his ability seems to extend to the mental as well. He sees a pattern: fixed action followed by the appearance of the caregiver followed by a satisfying action on the part of the caregiver. This seems to him to be an inviolable causal chain (though precious few babies would put it in these words). Because he is unable to distinguish his inside from the outside – the newborn "believes" that his action evoked the caregiver from the inside (in which the caregiver is contained). This is the kernel of both magical thinking and Narcissism.
The baby attributes to himself magical powers of omnipotence and of omnipresence (action-appearance). It also loves itself very much because it is able to thus satisfy himself and his needs. He loves himself because he has the means to make himself happy. The tension-relieving and pleasurable world comes to life through the baby and then he swallows it back through his mouth. This incorporation of the world through the sensory modalities is the basis for the "oral stage" in the psychodynamic theories.
This self-containment and self-sufficiency, this lack of recognition of the environment are why children until their third year of life are such a homogeneous group (allowing for some variance). Infants show a characteristic style of behaviour (one is almost tempted to say, a universal character) in as early as the first few weeks of their lives. The first two years of life witness the crystallization of consistent behavioral patterns, common to all children. It is true that even newborns have an innate temperament but not until an interaction with the outside environment is established – do the traits of individual diversity appear.
At birth, the newborn shows no attachment but simple dependence. It is easy to prove: the child indiscriminately reacts to human signals, scans for patterns and motions, enjoys soft, high pitched voices and cooing, soothing sounds. Attachment starts physiologically in the fourth week. The child turns clearly towards his mother's voice, ignoring others. He begins to develop a social smile, which is easily distinguishable from his usual grimace. A virtuous circle is set in motion by the child's smiles, gurgles and coos. These powerful signals release social behaviour, elicit attention, loving responses.
This, in turn, drives the child to increase the dose of his signaling activity. These signals are, of course, reflexes (fixed action responses, exactly like the palmar grasp). Actually, until the 18th week of his life, the child continues to react to strangers favorably. Only then does the child begin to develop a budding social-behavioral system based on the high correlation between the presence of his caregiver and gratifying experiences. By the third month there is a clear preference of the mother and by the sixth month, the child wants to venture into the world. At first, the child grasps things (as long as he can see his hand). Then he sits up and watches things in motion (if not too fast or noisy). Then the child clings to the mother, climbs all over her and explores her body. There is still no object permanence and the child gets perplexed and loses interest if a toy disappears under a blanket, for instance. The child still associates objects with satisfaction/non-satisfaction. His world is still very much binary.
As the child grows, his attention narrows and is dedicated first to the mother and to a few other human figures and, by the age of 9 months, only to the mother. The tendency to seek others virtually disappears (which is reminiscent of imprinting in animals). The infant tends to equate his movements and gestures with their results – that is, he is still in the phase of magical thinking.
The separation from the mother, the formation of an individual, the separation from the world (the "spewing out" of the outside world) – are all tremendously traumatic.
The infant is afraid to lose his mother physically (no "mother permanence") as well as emotionally (will she be angry at this new found autonomy?). He goes away a step or two and runs back to receive the mother's reassurance that she still loves him and that she is still there. The tearing up of one's self into my SELF and the OUTSIDE WORLD is an unimaginable feat. It is equivalent to discovering irrefutable proof that the universe is an illusion created by the brain or that our brain belongs to a universal pool and not to us, or that we are God (the child discovers that he is not God, it is a discovery of the same magnitude). The child's mind is shredded to pieces: some pieces are still HE and others are NOT HE (=the outside world). This is an absolutely psychedelic experience (and the root of all psychoses, probably).
If not managed properly, if disturbed in some way (mainly emotionally), if the separation – individuation process goes awry, it could result in serious psychopathologies. There are grounds to believe that several personality disorders (Narcissistic and Borderline) can be traced to a disturbance in this process in early childhood.
Then, of course, there is the on-going traumatic process that we call "life".
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