Friday, March 10, 2006

Differentiation and Attachment

Today I got an increasing glimmer of self-awareness from the Monkey. Maybe it was the vaccines talking -- they tend to make him surly for a while, although he weathered these shots better than previous ones. But this time he was a little pensive, even.

As he grew a little dissatisfied in the baby carrier, he started reaching to escape from it. He realized he was in there for good, but on the way he was trying to figure out the relationship between him, the carrier, and the Monkey Daddy.

This implies that he was seeing himself, the carrier, and his Daddy all as distinct elements, separate from himself. My understanding is that newborns can't differentiate all the sights, sounds, sensations and emotions from themselves: these stimuli are so raw, so unfiltered that they can overwhelm the baby. As the baby grows older, he might play games while nursing: experiencing his mother as a separate entity, but within the comfort and safety of the nursing environment. Later, play develops his ability to relate to other objects. Here, the inability to achieve the desired result (escape from the carrier) seemed to make him turn inward: relating to himself -- and his dissatisfaction -- as an entity distinct from those other objects. In this way, he differentiates himself from his experiences and sensations, perceiving himself as a perceiver rather than as the perceptions themselves.

And then I tickled his nose with an early magnolia blossom, and he laughed with his whole heart. So things aren't too bad.

Maybe it's time to get the Monkey an attachment object: a special blanket or toy, for example. I read in this book called Families (notable for having a Monty Python cast member as a co-author) that said attachment objects ease the difficulty of reformulating the baby's entire conception of the world. The attachment object, introduced before a lot of differentiation and endowed with a lot of pleasant, nursing-related memories, allows the baby to retreat back to the simpler, undifferentiated time. Then the baby can regroup, get a good night's rest, and work his way back up to some potentially challenging awareness.

I don't think we get to choose the object, though: it could be anything, and he gets to pick.


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