Escola de Teràpia d'Integració Psico-corporal (ETIP) - Escuela de Terapia de Integración Psico-corporal

The right to the desire to be conceived and cared for

By Isabel Mauricio

The conception of a child should always be the fruit of the parents’ desire, an act of love and of conscience. When I speak of conscience, I am referring to the necessity of the parents to be aware of the real significance of having a child and their responsibility to satisfy the child’s needs for contact, support, respect and affection.

The desire to have a child should be a decision shared by both members of the couple. If either of the two does not really have this desire, even though they end up agreeing, deep down they will not feel self respect nor feel respected by their partner. This should raise the question of what type of emotional bond a person can establish with a being that he/she did not desire. The consequence will probably be that the child will perceive an absence, a lack of presence, on an emotional level, of one of his/her parents. That a child should be wanted, and that both the mother and father share this desire, is a fundamental factor in acquiring a strong and healthy sense of self, in that not feeling fully accepted, in the earliest stages of life, causes a low level of self-esteem. The desire of the parents is fundamental in the experiences of their child and will have repercussions in their vitality, strength and pleasure in life.

When a child comes into this world, he/she instinctively knows what his/her needs are and has an instinctive emotional language for communicating with his/her parents, who must satisfy his/her needs. However, on many occasions, when the desire to conceive a child is based on fantasy, on the illusion that through this act their own affective deficiencies will be satisfied, it is with great difficulty that the parents will be emotionally available to their child. In their desire to have a child, they have imagined a child who is content, peaceful, satisfied, strong, sociable, generous, creative, intelligent… However, what happens when the child does not meet their expectations: he/she cries often, is too active, does not sleep, is very timid or does not entertain him/herself. Parents may easily become disappointed and reproach the child who does not satisfy their wishes. In this way a very negative type of relation begins to develop, as the child will end up blaming him/herself for not doing things well, for not being good and adequate enough, when in reality, the problem is with the adults who are unable to meet his/her needs, accept him/her as he/she really is, in his/her uniqueness, as the free and independent person he/she should become.

One of the most basic necessities of human beings is nutrition, which is not only food, but also the sustenance we receive through contact. When breastfeeding, the child satisfies his/her hunger, but also receives confirmation that he/she is loved and cared for by his mother, causing the baby to tend to associate feeding with sensations of affection and security. Nourishment is a basic necessity that begins at the very moment of conception, and the only thing a child needs in order to acquire good eating habits after birth, is that he/she be given the necessary space to learn how to regulate him/herself. However, parents, from very early in the child's life, begin to impose their criteria and they normally decide the frequency and quantity of food their child needs, turning meals into an authentic battle of opposing wills. When we force a child to eat without being hungry or without taking pleasure in food, we are favouring dissociation between the act of eating and the biological necessity for nourishment. The child, therefore, may end up swallowing his/her food without feeling the need to eat or may become disconnected from the physical sensation of hunger. 

Parents may also substitute one need for another. This is what happens when, if every time the child cries to release stress or express their fear or anger, the mother breastfeeds him/her, or gives him/her a bottle or a pacifier. This creates what is referred to as a psychosomatic indifferentiation in which the child ends up not differentiating hunger from his/her emotional needs.

If we do not adequately satisfy the needs of our child, he/she will end up repressing them. He/she will not be able to endure for very long, the pain and frustration that this situation causes him/her. The baby will try, therefore, to adapt to reality, at the price of becoming disconnected from their most basic needs, developing alternative behaviors based on false objectives, estranged from his/her own deepest internal reality.

From the moment of our conception, we begin to register everything that we receive from the person who engendered us, her state of mind, her peacefulness, her stress, her pleasure, and her desire. When a woman feels good about herself, she is able to respond quite differently than when she does not. If from the moment of conception a human being begins to record events, we must take into account what happens to us as mothers with respect to our contact, independence, responsibility, and pleasure, in that if we are incapable of feeling them, how will we be able to defend and transmit them to our children. When we consider having a child, we should ask ourselves if we will be able to meet his/her needs, in that if we do not have our own conflicts resolved, we are going to pass them on to him/her. We begin to nourish ourselves from our mother’s placenta, to move around inside of her. If all of this is not given to us with devotion, this will be perceived and we will suffer from any number of consequences. 

When people have not had their need for contact and nourishment consistently met, they may develop pathologies in the stages of latency and adolescence, such as eating disorders, that are difficult to eradicate because, as we can see, they originate in the very earliest stages of development. Young people who suffer from anorexia have the goal of maintaining themselves thin, at all costs, believing that in this way, finally, they will feel wanted and accepted and will receive the support that they needed throughout their development and did not get. They are firmly convinced that if they stay within the norms of beauty, established by the culture of image, they will never again feel rejected or abandoned and in this way will be able to defend themselves from the feelings of low self-esteem, lack of identity, and isolation that they suffer from. However, in spite of this, they do not succeed in feeling good, they continue to abuse themselves, certain that the problem will disappear when they are sufficiently thin. This eating disorder entails a distorted perception of one’s own body, which means that weight loss can reach extremes that put their very lives at risk. In reality, these boys/girls have a fear of change, of growing up and having to assume responsibilities, since due to their lack of affection, they have not yet experienced sufficient internal growth to be able to do this.

I would like to emphasize the necessity of child to enter into profound contact with his/her pulsional objects and that deficiencies, at these levels, have important consequences in the psycho-emotional development of the person. As adults, the greatest gift that we can give our children is the time we spend with them, with contact, support, respect and affection.