Second: three developmental pathways for seeking

The developmental pathway for seeking human relatedness and intimacy

From their experience in the intrauterine environment, neonates bring a differential recognition of their mother’s voice, a pattern of sucking to self-soothe, and body movements to move away from noxious stimulation. They are responsive to a human face, preferentially to the eyes and mouth areas, and to the human voice, with a heightened reactivity to higher pitch and especially to prosody and musicality. Their 10-12-inch visual focal point concentrates gaze, attention, and interest on the sphere of motherinfant feeding, holding, and social interchange, and then gradually expands with a comparable expansion of interest to the broader environment. Along with vision, auditory, and kinesthetic interactions, their heightened sensitivity to their mother’s smell contributes to a strong discriminating recognition. In addition, they are predisposed to recognize, respond to, and be affected by the emotions of their caregivers. When distressed and disrupted, they respond to a caregiver’s comforting with the restoration of a calm state and a return of the ability to activate interest.

They readily initiate a high percentage of interactions with a caregiver. These frequent initiatives (Winnicott’s spontaneous gestures) give the caregiver an opportunity to recognize, affirm, and validate the infant’s budding agency, his/her affects, intention, and goals. For the infant, this experience coheres into a sense of self as a doer doing with others. They respond to a stimulus presented in one or more sensory modes both in that mode and in alternate (cross) modes as well. They imitate and mimic observed movements and gestures.

By the end of the first year, well-adapted infants have acquired from their face-to-face interactions with a caregiver an integrated package of:

  • 1. knowing how to read cues about the affects and intentions of others, the affects and intentions of themselves as a doer doing, and the reciprocal interplay of dyadic affects and intentions - the foundation for empathy, mentalization, a theory of mind, and a secure base at a time of danger and loss
  • 2. a warmth of greeting, a means of showing affection, of lighting up at the sight of a loved one
  • 3. the cues of how to carry on a conversation - first nonverbal, later verbal with all the subtlety of stops, pauses, and starts coordinated with the affect-laden prosody and musicality of speech
  • 4. the beginning affect-laden narrative of identity: who the infant is in the mirror of the caregiver, who the caregiver is in the interaction with the infant, and what affective ambiance they create between them - the emotional vitality of their intimacy, the foundation for creating imaginative characters and dramas in mind wandering and play sequences
  • 5. patterns of behavior based on each’s attentiveness to the intentions and goals of the other, coordinated with the caregiver’s guiding the infant’s intentions through mirroring, approval, and redirection - thereby providing the foundation of the infant doer’s socialization.

A child’s or adult’s capacity for intimacy emerges from an aggregate of developmental experiences: 1. Knowing the interplay between the emotions and intentions of others and his or her own, 2. Being able to converse through affectively rich subtle verbal and nonverbal means, 3. Having a creatively rich imagination, and 4. Being able to socialize with an expanding range of contacts.

 
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