TRANSITION TO THE “I” STAGE
by Anne Dranitsaris, Ph.D.
Frustrated needs are a hallmark of the next stage. As the child grows, parents begin to expect them to wait to get their needs met and parents saying “no” when they ask for something. They realize that others needs and feelings have to be taken into account, shattering the illusion that they are omnipotent and at one with a caretaker who is only their to meet their needs. The child now has to go through the process of figuring out their actual authorities.
During this state, children boldly assert their authority with declarations such as “that’s mine!” when they see something they want. Their self-concept is egocentric, believing the whole world and everything in it is about them. Unfortunately, this normal phase in a child is often a source of discomfort for the parent. Children are forced to share prematurely or they are told they are bad when they readily express their displeasure through sulking, tantrums and distancing behaviors. Should the mother or father take the child’s behavior personally or see it as a reflection of their parenting skills, their emotions will overpower those of the child, causing them to adapt. They may resort to using shaming language or punishing them for their behavior.
This interferes with the child developing a strong sense of self and their ability to perceive others as safe and not as a threat to their survival. Forcing a child to recognize the needs of other before they have developed a strong enough sense of self is the cause of varying degrees of developmental arrest and self-protective behavioral patterns. When a child is forced to recognize “other” too soon or if it is done abruptly, it can cause a traumatic shock for the child. By moving away from the child in well-timed small doses, the mother helps develop a healthy sense of self and independence.
As a result of the mishandling of this crucial stage of development, parents fail to become love objects. Instead, they become a threat to the ego needs of the child. The child may conform to what their parents desire them to behave like, however, their self remains fragile. Once a child becomes self-protective, they find covert and aggressive ways of getting their needs met in the social arena. The are either the inflated object for their parents or the devalued (not good enough) object. The two pathways will be determined by the psychological type of the child and how their brain is hard wired to behave to get their psychological needs met.
Stuck in the Dependent/Codependent Transition
Failing to successfully navigate through these early stages causes children to develop in a compensatory fashion. The two sides to the developmental coin is dependent on whether the image they created of themselves is an inflated or deflated one, with Narcissistic self-protective behavior on one side and Codependent self-protective behavior on the other. During this stage, everything is split in two: good/bad; dominant/submissive; passive/aggressive; perfect/imperfect. Survival behavioral patterns preserve the person’s idea of themselves. This also means that they are still dependent on others for self-regulation and they use people as objects to ensure their survival.