From the get-go infants can show interest, surprise, happiness, and even distress. This was made very evident to me when I was a nurse assisting at the birth process. What a delight to watch when a newborn nestled into Mother’s arms in total comfort or looked into Dad’s face with wide-eyed interest! We now know that infants’ facial expressions are the first signs of their emerging egos.
Because the ego is the system of our personalities that both helps us survive and give us a sense of self, it fulfills its needs through connecting with people. The connections between an infant and her caretakers are emotion laden–an infant cries when hungry, smiles and coos when talked to in a pleasing manner, and can actually mimic emotions displayed by others.
Each interaction with each caretaker carries an emotional flavor. . . the stronger the flavor, the more likely there will be an imprint on the infant’s malleable sense of self. If caretakers habitually ignore the infant’s cries of distress, she learns she cannot expect to have her needs met. Unable to develop trust, development of her emotional life is greatly impaired. What do you know about your arrival into this world? Do you have the sense you were lovingly welcomed? Are the stories told about your infancy and early childhood filled with pleasurable words? Or, do they reflect annoyance and impatience with your behaviors?