Diane Kern of the Phenomenal Mind blog has been a practicing psychotherapist for over thirty years. She is credentialed to teach college level psychology, social science and anthropology. She has taught at California Community Colleges and Universities. She studied psychoanalytic theory and practice in the School of Criminology at the University of California at Berkeley where she earned her doctorate degree. She traveled to India to study cross-cultural conceptions of mental illness. Research was undertaken in Social Work Agencies and at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. She has had a balanced yoga practice for twenty five years.
Empathy, the ability to really ‘get’ the world view of an ‘other’ is consciousness-expanding for us. It equips us to engage the other in in the most respectful and helpful manner possible.
Tapping our own experience as a child, helps us identify with, and better understand our own child. We must be aware, however, of the potential error of projection. With projection we superimpose what we felt or might have felt under particular circumstances and as a result overlook cues about the experience of our child. Interestingly, as we rein in projection and see our child react differently in a variety of circumstances we learn from them.
To empathize with your infant, remember he or she has acute hearing but vision is limited. Over time vision improves but infants lack a mental map (schema) of the big picture. To experience something akin to this, seat yourself in front of a television set. Put it on mute and have someone else change channels every 3-4 seconds. Try making sense of the part pictures. Wow! And this is without any experience of incomprehensible auditory input. No wonder your baby needs you.
Foundation for a Mental Map
Keeping your infant in familiar surroundings permits the creation of a mental map that gives your child comfort. This comfort is an early form of mastery of the environment. The environment becomes comprehensible and repeat positive and negative associations allow your child to develop the rudiments of internal balancing mechanisms, no small gift.
Your Child’s Psychic Immune System
Those internal balancing mechanisms are the foundation for the development of a psychic immune system. Most mental difficulties that may arise later in life, as life throws us curve balls, may be managed with deployment of our internal psychic defense system. If you’d like to read more about this, please click here.