Early patterns of relating become a template for relationships throughout life. There has been much research into theories of attachment. Winnocotts theory of the ‘good enough’ mother (or principle carer) describes the early experience of the infant as having a loving mother who responds to the basic need of feeding, changing and general physical comforts of the baby. Notice how babies seek out the face of mother or carer and in particular the eyes. This attention and eye contact is important for the development of the infant’s sociability. The ‘good enough’ mother is sometimes busy, perhaps attending to other children, and the baby’s needs are not immediately met. This is how the baby learns to tolerate the tension of waiting to be held and cared for. We have all seen infants grow red-faced and angry waiting for attention, and how quickly they settle down when soothed and attended to. As the infant grows, and if he or she is cared for reasonably well, he/she will develop a healthy tolerance for life. He/she will be able to self-soothe when necessary, but have an optimistic enough view of the world as a place where he/she may expect that most of his/her needs will be met. If mother is over-protective and responds immediately to baby’s every whim, the infant will not learn to tolerate not having their needs immediately met, and lifes let-downs will be harder to tolerate.
As the infant grows and looks for attention, and if he receives enough encouragement and mirroring, he/she will grow in confidence and self esteem. The child has a need to be mirrored and is often heard to say ‘look at me’ and want to know they are special and wonderful and are welcome in their environment, or in other words that they belong, and this is called ‘mirroring’. The child will look to the parents to respond like the mirror in the old fable ‘mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all.’ If this mirror responds positively, most of the time, and the perceived reply is yes, ‘you are marvellous’ this will help a child to love himself/herself and to become confident. The ‘good enough’ parent cannot possibly be there to affirm the child all the time, so the well mirrored child learns to compensate by drawing on the positive memory to grow into a confident adult with this good internalised self image. The good enough parent will surely fail at times but the child will have had lots of opportunities to identify with a secure structure and will discover some strengths of their own and come to see himself/herself as powerful and gain confidence in his/her own ability to cope.
If these basic needs are not met and lets say the infants mother or main carer is depressed, for whatever reason, and not psychologically available, or not capable of responding to the child’s emotional or even physical needs may not be met the result may to know they cannot depend on the world to fulfill or even nearly meet his/her needs. They may grow into an adult that thinks: ‘if I am really good I will be loved, but if I do not please people, then I am bad’. As an adult we may be stuffed full of ‘acceptable’ thoughts which do not reflect our true nature.
Under the constant barrage of criticism a child, or a bullied adult, can develop a fragile sense of self which may lie at the core of depression.
If a safe space can be established in therapy the old and sometimes unconscious patterns can be reworked to more truly reflect the person you truly are, so that you can achieve your potential.
A good sense of your true self would be a good start and an ability to regulate and to manage your own feelings.
If you would like to arrange a counselling and psychotherapy session simply call text or email me to make an appointment.