Excerpt About Birth

Recognition of the Essential Identity in the Infant

To recognize the factor responsible for the sense of identity, one must recognize a certain essential quality, the essential aspect of Identity. The Essential Identity is one of the pure forms in which presence manifests in the soul. (In previous books we have referred to this quality as the Essential Self.) When we know the Essential Identity, the Self of Essence, it becomes possible to see and understand the behavior and attitudes that express it. Our understanding, based on both direct observation of infants and reconstruction of adult experience, is that this manifestation is present in the infant from the beginning of life. It can be observed even in intrauterine existence. In most infants, however, the Essential Identity is present only occasionally, becoming more predominant in the differentiation subphase, and then becoming the dominant essential aspect in the practicing subphase of the separation-individuation process. The Essential Identity can be seen from the time when we notice a certain look of alertness and directedness suddenly appearing in the infant. This look can appear even right after birth, but rarely, and for only short periods of time. Some infants seem to have it more than others. The presence we see in the infant at these times is the Essential Identity. It is related to this specific look of alertness. This look, which gives the feeling that the infant is present in the look, is one of the behavioral manifestations of the Essential Identity which Mahler observed.

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