PREVIOUS: Autonomy & Attachment (#3b)
REVIEW: Ego States – CHILD
• As infants, all humans are born with a built-in biological & psychological set of tendencies, which interacts with & responds to their specific environment in their own unique way – but not with a formed personality. The child’s first connection is to the mother (usually) & at first is not aware of a difference between it & it’s caretaker. This symbiosis (one-ness) is normal & appropriate. It allows the child to feel safe & protected while it gradually becomes acquainted with oneself & the big world it has come in to.
• Regardless of the type of home environment, nature & nurture (how we’re treated) combine to form what we think of as our SELF. If born into a reasonably healthy family, the child is allowed & encouraged to develop it’s own way of being, true to the pre-set template they came into the world with.
✶ This creates a sense of external & then internal safety & gives permission to be oneself, which gradually makes it possible to function in the world as an individual who is comfortable in one’s skin & with other people.
a. BROKEN Symbiosis – BUT, if the mother is not available or unable to connect with the infant so that the mother cannot nurture the infant from a deep place of love, the symbiotic bond is never formed or it too soon broken, before the child can tolerate it.
This can be:
— because of’ illness or death, spousal abuse, external trauma such as natural disasters/ war / an accident…
— OR most commonly – a personality dysfunction like narcissism, anxiety, depression, rage at having to be a caretaker, not wanting to be tied down..
✶ This creates intense & long-lasting terror in the baby, with the message that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. This can lead such children to spend the rest of their life trying to create that missing link with someone – anyone, to stop that terrible, relentless anxiety, SO –
• they may find another wounded soul they can attach to & live together in isolation – OR
• keep being attracted to emotionally unavailable people, reproducing the very abandonment they so fear (trying to symbiose with the ‘distant’ mother)
b. UNBROKEN Symbiosis – at the other extreme – some mothers who did not have that bond provided in their own infancy will try to get it from their child – creating a captive which can never leave them! This type of mother will make every effort to negate the child’s individuality in favor of her own needs & wants, to make that little person her clone & will punish any disagreement or separation.
If there is no one else available or strong enough to interfere with this suffocating attachment (father, sibling or other…) the child never has the freedom to develop it’s own identity but stays dependent on the mother (& family or substitute) for it’s very existence throughout life.
This creates a child who grows up to (some or all):
• never leave home • not have any rights
• be depressed, isolated, suicidal
• have weak boundaries
• be unable to have healthy, autonomous relationships
• be terrified of abandonment in any form
• be unable to support oneself
• not trust one’s judgment
• not have one’s own opinions about things
• have only symbiotic relationships with domineering people….
If the child is able to get away – then as an adult, they’ll be terrified of any close involvement with others – & the fear of being engulfed again is so unbearable that it’s expressed as fear of commitment. Even when they are in some form of relationship, they do it with extreme emotional detachment, need for total control, endless sexual conquests, come here – go away interactions, irresponsibility…. or just walking away & never look back!
➼ Both types are ripe for any form of addiction, trying to fill that big emotional hole inside – but it never works.
INFO: Symbiosis can best be explained with the use of the ego state model. In a relationship with a symbiotic pattern, both people use only some of their ego states to relate to each other, resulting in less flexibility. It’s as if both partners take on stable roles and don’t come out of them again. In symbiosis, two people function as if they only had one set of ego states between them.
NEXT: Symbiosis (#2)