Excerpt About Mother

Imbibing Mother's Personality

Thus during the time of symbiosis, much of the mother’s personality is imbibed, so to speak. This has great significance for ego development, as Sullivan saw. When the mother is happy the infant will feel happy, even if she is not interacting with him. When the mother is suffering, the infant will suffer, even if the mother is not expressing her inner state in her interaction with him. For instance, the mother might be angry at her husband. She knows this and is not directing her anger towards the baby. She holds the baby gently. However, the baby feels her anger completely, and the resulting experience is negative merging. This point becomes painfully clear in the deeper stages of essential development, when the student begins to deal with the merged representations. He will realize that many of his traits, conflicts and emotional proclivities are not his own at all. He will see that he is living not only his own life, but also the life of his mother (and his father to some extent), and her
mother before her, and so on. One will realize, with horror or perhaps with humor, that he has literally inherited the deeper layers of his personality. One lives, to a greater extent than one cares to face, the emotional lives of people long forgotten.

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