Critical patterns of the neonate and young infant’s experience that contribute to the three pathways and an underlying ...

Freud first proposed sexuality, and later the dual drives of sexuality (libido) and aggression (death instinct), as humankind’s essential motivations. He regarded the neonate as living in an oceanic state until recognition of reliance on a caregiver for basic needs awakened the infant to the presence of others. Other influential views of early infancy are Mahler’s concept of an undifferentiated state, and Klein’s paranoid schizoid position dominated by projective identification.

We offer a different view of the neonate’s and young infant’s state and the essentials of their motivation. Our view focuses on the neonate developing an attachment to a primary caregiver concurrent with forms of regulation and modes of communication. Together, attachment, regulation, and communications provide a foundation for the three developmental pathways in seeking. Success or failure in the development of each pathway activates a generalized underlying affect tone of affection, competence, power, and bodily well-being. The interrelated developments of attachment, regulation, and communication are experienced in nonverbal, largely sensorimotor narratives: “You are there for me”; “I calm or enliven in sync with what you do with and for me”; “We get each other, and I get better at getting you to get me”; “I have the ability and power to carry out many of my intentions”; “I am a doer doing - seeking, exploring, playing, arranging, and rearranging, crawling, standing up”;

From all we do together, and I do alone, I experience lots of different discrete emotions, but, in addition, I experience a more generalized underlying affective state - a tone, a hum, my sense that the world and my doing in it stirs emotion in me.

The underlying affect tone derives from each of the three pathways for development: a sense of affection - of loving and being loved; a sense of the power derived from successful agency; and a sense of bodily well-being.

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