Consciousness is at once familiar to us all, and deeply mysterious. It is defined as ‘the state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings’ and ‘a person's awareness or perception of something’. There are many unanswered questions around consciousness yet there is still currently an accepted belief that babies grow into consciousness towards the end of their first year. What if we are so wrong with this belief? How well do we really understand the early experience of life from a baby’s point of view?
At a recent seminar Dr Wendy Anne McCarty talked about how babies have dual perspectives of awareness: transcendent and human. By transcendent, she was referring to the non local time, the awareness of self that functions outside of time and space. New clinical research findings from Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology (PPN) reveal that our earliest experiences in the womb can profoundly shape and set in motion physical, mental, emotional and relational life patterns that can be positive or negative. Indeed the research shows that we are conscious and aware from the very beginning of life...
Yet we do not often meet babies at that level (either as parents or therapists) - the transcendent self of the baby is disregarded and not seen. As a result we miss the chance of intentional and meaningful telepathy, for a multi-dimensional relationship – an intimate dance with each other.
Babies are so eager for us to develop our understanding of who they are. From the very beginning, they are seeking validation, heartfelt connection, love, safety (babies have an innate need for safety) and social engagement. They need to be heard on every level and to be listened to for then their life experience is affirmed.
So what can we do as parents and therapists to better understand the early experience of life from a baby’s perspective? How do we step into this expanded lens when we may not even hold that lens ourselves yet? This is the key question that has me pondering since Dr McCarty’s seminar and its answer feels rich and varied –here are some of the threads that resonate with me so far:
The more able we are to tune into our own internal states and respond accordingly, the more able we will be able to tune into the baby’s internal states and respond accordingly. When life is so busy, this is not an easy task – so mindfulness, breath, taking time to be in nature, all are ways to be more attentive to what our internal landscape is currently showing. And this will be resonant with the transcendent self of the baby.
Self-regulation (calming ourselves down from the emotional highwire) is our safety net – and is one we need to learn to offer the newborn infant, helping her to learn how to handle ever-increasing intensity of stimulation and building resilience/emotional tolerance. Giving space for the baby to calm down, allowing the pauses between stimulation for her system to reset – all of these add up to the safety net we can offer: a much needed thing in this world.
Finally, it feels important to let the baby take the lead so we follow their own spontaneous expression of self. I love the idea of a ‘love loop’, where the loving gaze of parent to child is reciprocated by the baby with a loving gaze back to the parents, causing their endorphin levels to rise, thus completing a closed emotional circuit. This is truly a dynamic, interactive system.
I believe that every child should be held in sacred trust, and I feel that the more we attune ourselves to the human and transcendental planes, the more we are able to offer ourselves and the next generations.
Craniosacral sessions are available with Ri in Bristol, Cirencester and Cherington.