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Mahler’s S & I CYCLE (cont.)
S & I (6-24 mths) is divided into overlapping minor phases:
a. Hatching / Differentiation (6-9 mths) Using mother as base of operation – a point of reference or orientation – the infant is increasingly alert to & interested in events, objects & people in the outside world, beginning to ‘hatch’ from the symbiotic bond
b. Practicing (9-16 mths) Baby’s developing motor skills (crawling, then walking) allows it to explore its world & move a bit away, but is still fused with mother
• Emotionally – It’s about pleasure, energy & narcissism (“Aren’t I great?”), as long as baby can return to the stable caregiver for reassurance, encouragement & re-fueling
c. Rapprochement (15 – 24 mths) (“to turn away & then come back”)
Now a toddler, the child begins to realize limitations to its sense of omnipotence, so wants to be close to mother again, aware that physical mobility creates psychic separateness, which feels scary
Yet wanting some independence leads to ‘ambi-tendency’ – a need for separation AND for support, shown as pushing away alternated with whining & clinging. The child needs help resolving the conflict between autonomous functioning & frustration about parents who scale back earlier vigilance, which can feel like abandonment
• Emotionally – this ambivalence can lead to tantrums, sadness & anger, as in the “terrible 2s”. The child may cling to transitional objects, like a special blanket or toy, & will use earlier defense mechanisms, such as splitting important ‘objects’ into good vs. bad, to deal with the demands of leaving babyhood
Risk: that mother will be annoyed by this clinging & become impatient, or over protective or withdrawn, leaving the child feeling unsafe. Too much of any of these parental reactions creates fear of being abandoned – setting an emotional tone for life (constant anxiety from fear of loss).
IMP: Some ACoAs get stuck at this stage, afraid to stay & afraid to leave! Without Recovery, it can shows up as “Push-Pull / Come here – Go away” in adult relationships
i. Beginning – A desire to share discoveries with the mother
ii. Crisis – Torn between staying with parent to feel emotionally close vs. being more independent, as child begins to explore on its own
iii. Solution – Crisis is resolved by the newly forming personality, because of the child’s fledgling use of language, developing superego & interactions with the personality of the ‘good-enough’ mother
iv. Open-ended – allows the child to keep growing towards ‘Object Constancy‘. The child can then hold on to its own identity of being separate from everyone else, while staying mental / emotionally connected to others, whether with them or not, or no matter how it’s being treated!
IF available, it will minimize the terrible pain of anxiety, aloneness, isolation, being ‘different’ & feeling unloved
NOTE: For ACoAs to be fully ‘integrated’ (healthy adults) we need to resolve this stage – to hold on to our identity while staying connected to others!
d. Consolidation Phase (by age 3)
Object constancy is formed when he child’s split image of ‘good & bad mother’ is consolidated into a stable internal image (but only with a healthy parent), comforting the child in her absence. D.K.Lapsley & P. Stey
Adolescence (Second half of S & I)
It’s the time to shift from blindly following the internalized caretakers, and gradually form a distinct & unique sense of Self, slowly reducing the teen’s dependence on the Parental Introject for approval, self-esteem & rules. They have to learn to take over the tasks of self-regulation, self-definition & self-esteem.
• Emotionally : mourning the loss of childhood dependence & safety, as the teen experiences the old ambivalence of having freedom vs a return to earlier narcissism (“I’m all-powerful”) – to cope with the temporary lack of ego-strength & self-confidence.
IN ADULTHOOD (Vesna Andjelkovic)
Even though S & I continues from previous adult experience, it is not a copy of childhood stages. Some midlife tasks are TO:
1) accept the aging process in the body
2) exercise & then relinquish power in the workplace
3) come to terms with time limitation & personal death
4) build & maintain friendships
5) maintain sexual intimacy
6) transform relationship with grown children by letting them go & establish relationships with new family members
7) enjoy becoming a grandparent
8) care for aging & dying parents
NEXT: Lack of Individuation