a reply to: Kali74
they are trying to communicate that they are hungry, tired, need a diaper or need physical, social or emotional contact.
So much of what we do is due to a lack of awareness. For whatever complex sociological - or perhaps, evolutionary - reason, human beings of the past
200 years began to think in utterly ridiculous ways about human nature. But that was probably a consequence of the fanfare and excitement generated by
the industrial revolution happening around them. They were so impressed by the thinking that went into creating that organizational efficiency - with
machinery - and thought: hey, human beings are like that (sorta!). And thats why basic emotional reality was lost sight of.
Perhaps, if Darwins thinking about human relationships and animal and human emotions were taken into account and not ignored, humanity would have
thought about human nature - and the existence of emotionality in mammals - as, just like the physical attributes of an organism - a product of
evolution affording the individual and species special advantage.
Humans represent the peak, the cream of the crop. If emotions are understood as an evolutionary mechanism to bring individual members of a species
into organizational "symbiosis", then human beings possess a capacity for connection and cooperation well beyond any other species that exists. That
we can cooperate to build a rocket ship to get us off this planet speaks to the complexity and abstraction of our relationships.
This is why the discoveries of Freud, Piaget, Klein, Kohut, Bowlby, Winnicott, Ainsworth etc have been so wonderful to the type of understanding
developmental psychologists and educators and social neuroscientists: it gives us a tremendously elaborate and precise understanding of how human
beings develop, and what we can do to offset the development of psychopathology.
The other day I was reading a vignette about a person named Tony. It was horrific. Tony's mother and father had been desperately trying to get
pregnant before Tony was born, so much so, that Tonys mother wanted to sleep with him every night - with the dad sleeping elsewhere. To make matters
worse, this practise continued up until the age of 10. Naturally, this stereotypical oedipus dialectic wreaked havoc on family dynamics, weakening the
relationship between Tony's parents, and and severely handicapping Tonys own psychological development.
Basically, the 2 most important factor for normal development are markedness and contingency. This means parents needs to be aware of and attuned to
the emotional messages in their child's behavior. If a child is crying and it extends its arm outwards, it's asking to be hugged, to be consoled.
Conversely, if a child is happy being alone, and you go in there and begin coddling him, you are actually hurting your child by doing this.
Contingency implies control: children seek to know that they can "control" the outer world. The first budding awareness of this is motor
contingency: knowing they can control their limbs. This contingency is called perfect contingency, because the internal awareness of moving and the
sight of seeing your body move is perfect: there is no incongruence between outer action and inner experience. The next stage in contingency seeking
is imperfect. When the infant relates with others, its been shown and proven countless times that infants have a bias to seek close to perfect
contingency situations, as opposed to perfect contingent situations. This would mean they are curious about the "others" that exist in the world.
This is important, because recognizing the reality of the "other" is actually intimately bound up to experiencing your self as unique and different
from others. So in order to develop this capacity and experience yourself as different, your parent needs not only to respond to you in a contingent
way, but for infants, in particular, they need to respond to you in marked
way. Marked means to exaggerate your tone of voice and way of
responding. This, by the way, is an instinctive human behaviour. We speak to all babies with a higher inflection in our voice. Why do we do this?
Developmental psychologists theorize that we do this because it allows infants to recognize that the other is interesting and "different" from our
self. It promotes attraction and curiosity. But most of all, it get us interested in EXPERIENCING this external reality which I - the baby - have some
control over. When the parent responds with this "marked" style, and doesn't actually respond to the baby with their real emotion, the beginnings
of the self begin to emerge.
Parents with borderline personality tendencies who respond to their children without any markedness - we see this all the time, by the way - end up
traumatizing their child, whether it be big or small, by preventing the child from experiencing themselves as "different" from other selves. If mom
always responds to me with "stop crying! What do you want" in a stern or casual tone of voice, the child will experience the "external" reality,
the environment, as scary. It'll instinctively sense it cannot control the world beyond it. And this, in effect, constricts the development of
mentalizing faculties which enhance social cognitions and self awareness.
Anyway, to return to Tony. His mother #ed his development big time by coddling him. His fathers abuse of his mother was experienced by Tony as the
father beating him
. This over-identification with the mother, and his alien self, hated within, and projected onto the father, literally acted
out Freuds Oedipus complex.Tony was put into a special youth center to help him with his problems. While there, all the kids were afraid and disliked
Tony. Tony made only one friend, another girl, with a similar issue to Tony's. One day, she attempted suicide, and Tony was really shaken up by it.
Long story short, Tony attempted to rape his therapist, then Tony, who was 15 at the time, was punished and put on tranquilizers. A day later, he
broke out, went to this house and killed his father. 24 hours later he was found. Till this day he is incarcarcerated in an adutl mental institution.
Isn't that just amazing? Love is subtle. Love, in order for it to be truly "Whole", needs to be applied intelligently. Tony's mother no doubt
loved Tony. But what she didn't recognize - no doubt to her own pathology - was that she was hurting Tony by coddling him. She over-identified with
him, preventing him from developing his own sense of self. Tony, instead of developing normally, and becoming interested in the "interesting world
out there", expressed by an adult with a "marked" quality of interest in the baby's reality, was daily exposed to a mother who never let him feel
like he could be anything "but" connected with his mother. He never did good on his own, because his only sense of self was bound up with his
mother; and his utter frustration with this situation, his alien self, was projected onto his father. And his father, not knowing any better, beat his
mother, which was experienced and felt by Tony as if he were being beaten.
Such a tragic situation, and yet this happens all the time. Not to the extent of murder, but in the sense that minds are disturbed by parents who
don't relate to their children in a way that will promote their psychological development in a healthy and constructive direction.