In the last week or so, I have been introduced to the work of Melanie Klein who was an amazing British psychoanalyst and whose work with children further refined Freud’s concepts about what foundations we lay for ourselves during infancy. I had known that we all begin to interact with the world at least at the time of birth, and the more I am reading and studying her work and the work of others who have synthesized and who work with her theories and models, the more I am understanding what babies do and how we learn.
All of us come into the world with a fundamental lack of experience with what we are about to face and how we need/want to interact with our surroundings. We also have no language or concepts to express ourselves, so we use whatever skills we have at our command – peeing, pooping, spitting up, crying, drooling, staring fixedly, going to sleep. We only know our mother’s bodies and relate only to them at the time of birth and have to learn about what is internal to us and external to us, what makes us feel good or bad, and what we do about things that make us feel good or bad. And the choices that we are making in our first days of life are laying in habit trails that we follow the rest of our lives subconsciously and nonverbally.
I have come to learn in working with weight-challenged clients that their relationships with food have associated feelings that date back to infancy and are preverbal. So if we are feeling emotionally empty, as a baby we are likely to associate that with wanting Mommy’s breast which is the source of nurture in the forms of food and touch. Thus we have an automatic emotional bond to food that is either moderated as we mature and our adult selves step in, or it can continue to function only at the baby level, subconsciously. If eating puts us to sleep in the evening, and that is the only thing that works, then think about how this scenario plays out in the baby. The lack of separation in the conscious mind between food intake and emotional nurture can continue to support habits that undermine weight loss and maintenance. It sounds so simple, but our baby selves are so much a part of us, and they have had a much longer interaction with our destructive parts of self that they are well trained to act using subconscious habitual patterns. And thus night eating and binging in the middle of the night.
Hypnotherapy is an excellent tool in many of its modalities to address these subconscious patterns that we use to undermine ourselves every day. Knowing that we all have them helps us realize that our baby selves are just doing what they think is needed to protect and support us. The challenge is to activate the adult parts of self, bring habits to light consciously, identify triggers and emotions that we use so well to start our baby processes into action, and then take some corrective actions to change what we are doing now and set goals for development into the future. All of this is supported with EFT, guided imagery work, foregiveness work, and regression to take corrective emotional actions, releasing energy for use by our adult parts.
There is a considerable amount of information out there about Melanie Klein and her work with children, much of which is so dense that unless you are in tune with the psychoanalytic literature it can be pretty incomprehensible. And while psychoanalysis is one approach to long-term work at resolving baby issues and developing our adult selves, there are others including hypnotherapy that can help move clients into increasing contact with their minds, bodies, and environments, and help them start to work on their inner selves in ways that allow the conscious mind to support corrective actions for subconscious and no-longer functional coping habits and beliefs.
So when you next have a fit because someone isn’t meeting your expectations, or you find yourself putting yourself to sleep with an extra snack, think about yourself from the perspective of the baby inside you. What needs aren’t being met? How is what I’m doing right now a way to address my baby needs? I think you’ll be surprised to see how much of what we do is exactly the same sort of thing as a newborn, and that recognition has opened my eyes to all sorts of behaviors that I hadn’t understood before.