Developmental Considerations

In its essence, this visual representation provides an opening framework for you to begin to think about your childhood and reflect on the scenes informing your Experiential State.

In her book Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, Alice Miller relates:

“The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our bodies tricked with medication. But some day the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.”

It is helpful to find a way to explore what we know about our early family of origin experiences. Alice Miller notes none of us received everything we needed in childhood. She supports the importance of remembering and telling our stories. She suggests the proper attitude is grief, not blame and shame. This is how we begin to reconnect with lost parts of ourselves.

In terms of evidence of hardwired sensitivity, it is noteworthy that infants as early as two weeks of age demonstrate both “mother sparing” behaviors and the capacity for episodic memory. On the mother sparing dimension, infants have an innate capacity to sense the mother’s stress level and to some degree effectively prioritize the mother’s well being over their true infantile needs. Conditions which trigger mother sparing behaviors set the stage for the development of a false self or co-dependence adaptation.

Episodic memory encapsulates emotionally charged experience as if the entire scene could be swallowed whole and there remain largely intact. This specialized memory “allows an agent to travel back in time… A current situation may cue retrieval of a previous episode, so that context that colors the previous episode is experienced at the immediate moment. The agent is provided with a means of associating previous feelings with current situations.” (Tulving, Endel, Wikipedia on Episodic Memory)

While we may check with our memories and report an absence of memorable events, it is probable early known troubles and traumas have been recorded.

More on the early Conditions – Either/Or: Before we learn to bind time, in the moment is all there is, and we’re either soothed and satisfied, reflected in a meditative state characterized by D.W. Winnicott as “going on being,” or frustrated and retaliatory, which over time conditions a “reactive” state.

Essential self-care skills are acquired through the infant-caregiver dance and the quality/sophistication of the attunement. Attunement refers to all the ways the caregivers connect directly with the infant experience and help bring to life and consciousness a shared view of what is really going on. Where there is initially only diffuse tension, gradually the infant begins to experience conscious intention. An orientation to the modalities of holding, refueling, and releasing can help us think about how we go about negotiating our attachments today.

The attachment pole here represents one’s total bonding experience. Without boundaries, what is in the room, in the mother/father, is in the infant. The holding environment consists of all the ways the infant is physically and emotionally held.

The separation/individuation pole here refers to physical separation as practice/preparation for achieving psychological separation, first from mother, and through that, from the world. With the beginning of the capacity to push off, crawl, and walk away, the infant experiences separation for the first time, and this sets the stage for conscious refueling.

Support for exploration of the environment requires caregivers to release the infant/toddler to practice being in the world. Individuation here refers to the emergence of the child’s unique individual characteristics and increasing capacities for self regulation and autonomy.

During the rapprochement phase, about 18-36 months, countless experiences of practicing being in the world that is “other than mother,” coupled with return to the mother/other as needed to take in essential holding and refueling, contribute to the establishment of a more or less secure internal representation of self and other.

At this time, transitional objects are increasingly utilized as concretized symbols of the caregiver functions supporting self-soothing and self-care. They are essential to enabling the toddler to begin to connect with resources within, allowing self-regulation without an actual holding/refueling encounter. Because food has been a primary shared experience with the nurturing other, the toddler finds this transitional object to be a powerful and available bridge. In this regard, routines associated with how to manage/accomplish the priority task can also function as transitional objects. When practicing being in the world, if/when I run into difficulty, if I can picture what mother/father might do to help me, I can perhaps try that, and continue with my independence. If/when the picture fails to inform me, I will need to return to the actual other, or their function’s symbolic other in form of transitional object, for reinforcements/refueling, in the service of recharging the internal representation picture.

“On the road to object constancy” was an early descriptor used to recognize the child’s achievement of the capacity to find the helpful other within, in such a way as to allow moving into the world with increasing autonomy.

In their discussion of developmental issues associated with eating disorders, Johnson and Conners have observed: “… the adult’s reliance on a concrete object (such as food) for tension regulation implies a regulatory vulnerability associated with the rapprochement phase.” (Johnson and Conners, The Etiology and Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa, 1987, p. 93.)

We want to consider the connection between these early childhood experiences and their influence in setting up character defenses. We live in a culture with a very large incidence of over-reliance on all manner of food, drugs, alcohol, and other concrete objects. Vulnerabilities associated with rapprochement phase experiences point to unresolved conflicts with early caregivers.

We can consider CAREGIVER UNDER-INVOLVEMENT as shorthand for early experiences associated with problems finding and engaging the caretaker in a way that was both helpful and satisfying. When stressed today, this condition predicts for an OVER-RELIANCE on transitional objects rather than risk engaging human holding/refueling connections.

CAREGIVER OVER-INVOLVEMENT refers to early conditions characterized by overly present or intrusive parenting, reflecting some failure to recognize/respect personal boundaries, support release to allow for practicing autonomy, or actual emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. This end of the continuum predicts for an UNDER-RELIANCE on both transitional objects and human contact. Having the controls to deny the need for essential nourishment of all kinds, this adaptation may manifest in a kind of pseudo-self-reliance which may or may not mask deeper crippling anxieties. This compensatory posture disallows the vulnerability intimacy requires.

We want to recognize the fact of our hard-wired inter-dependence and embrace opportunities to recognize competing needs for holding, refueling, and releasing, in the service of achieving a full and intimate experience of mutuality.

A “good enough” attachment history is reflected in one’s ability to trust in the beloved and feel truly connected even when physically separated. This growing capacity to experience separateness-within-connectedness supports the development over one’s lifetime of an increasingly secure internal mooring.

One Comment on “Developmental Considerations”

  1. […] At the level of at least doing no harm, the father in his unconsciousness is likely to be initiating a reenactment of his original wound.  From this perspective, what he puts on the child and what the child experiences, will quite likely be an out-picturing of the father’s core experiential state scene. Almost from the beginning, any two who would love will be generating a core internal image or representation of what it means to be in relationship. See Developmental Considerations) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: