I've been reading around this a lot recently. One of the things I am increasingly noticing is that I "regress" into child mode in certain situations. On particular occasions, this has been quite pronounced and obvious. So I've been reading to try to work out why this might be and what I might be able to do to change this. It's not a conscious decision, it's much more instant and automatic and out of control than that. It scares me, it's inappropriate and it's something I want and need to change.
One of the first quotes that grabbed my attention was this one:
From birth the key to psychological growth is the abilty to master control over your emotional and behavioural states. Initially the child learns how their carers comfort them when upset. Then they discover that when their carer isn't around, they can comfort themselves. Initially these will be physical methods (rocking, sucking their thumb, humming, stroking their hair), but later there will be cogntive strategies. If these skills are not developed then when a crisis occurs the person will feel helpless and out of control.
So the ability to self-soothe is clearly something developed young. I know I use the physical methods at times. So what needs to happen for a child to develop the cognitive strategies, and what are these cognitive strategies?
Another quote from the same site suggested that,
At times of crisis most young people can draw on an internalised representation of a parent to comfort them, and that Many people who self harm have difficulty with attachment and separation.
Well, I know that I have problems with attachment and separation. I certainly don't have a memory of my parents comforting me - quite the opposite in fact; I was more likely to be criticised for upsetting my mother by being upset, or to hear that my father had told my brother I was a cry baby. So maybe one clue is that my parents did not provide the emotional comfort I needed as a young child.
This is backed up by comments in this paper that
"insecure” infants did not receive consistently sensitive and responsive caregiving and reliable distress-alleviation, and they tend to hold negatively valenced views of self and others.
A reinforcement of the importance of parental modelling is provided in the same paper, where the authors explain that,
the degree to which a child’s family regularly seeks and expresses positive experiences and emotions in the face of negative events might prove particularly important early in development, when children begin to solidify their strategies for distress regulation
and that "emotion coaching parents"
actively communicate understanding and empathy and help their children to confront distress and frightening experiences with a sense of control and optimism.
So from all this it seems likely that my childhood didn't provide me with experiences and examples of how to approach problems optimistically. My memories back this up. I suspect I also didn't experience the closeness I needed in order to feel secure. There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but I don't feel that attempting to delve into them (or my past) further is going to help. What I need now is a way of redressing that past history, learning those skills I missed. More to think on. Suggestions welcomed.