Emotional symbiosis

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Emotional symbiosis is when an individual has the limited capacity to be aware of, respect, appreciate, and comprehend the subjectivity of another. This occurs in the phase of early development when a child is completely dependent, and both physically and emotionally closely bonded with their mother. Emotional symbiosis is a very common occurrence as it originates from the early childhood treatment of babies. People who have emotional symbiosis tend to put others down in order to make themselves feel as if they have all of the right answers.[citation needed] Emotional symbiosis is usually hereditary and can have a negative impact on one's family life.

Average psychological stages of life[edit]

Infant – Basic Trust vs. Mistrust[edit]

In Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory, he cites that once babies are born, the first phase that they have to go through is figuring out whether the people that they are around are trustworthy or untrustworthy. Babies begin to trust the people that are around them by giving them their basic needs – care, food, and attention. Once infants have a bond with a person that has fulfilled their needs, they begin to put their trust into that individual.

Toddler – Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt[edit]

Once infants begin to form into toddlers, they begin to test out their freedoms and the extent that they should go with their freedoms. For example, a baby may want to play with the scissors on the ground, but once a parent snatches those scissors away from them, they begin to realize what they are expected to touch and not to touch. Also, they feel shameful because they notice the unhappy expressions that are on their parent's faces.

Preschool/Early Childhood – Initiative and Guilt[edit]

As children began to grow into their early childhood phase, they begin to take charge of their actions and see how far they can go until someone stops these actions. A child may shred paper on the ground and laugh, but once they get caught, they will feel guilty because they know that they were not supposed to do that certain action. Again, in this phase, children try to find out the extent that they can go until someone stops them.

School Age/Play – Industry vs. Inferiority[edit]

As a child begins to grow, they fully realize that they as children are expected to act in a certain type of manner. A question that children may ask themselves in this phase is, "Can I make it in the world of people and things?". Children typically began to realize how small they are in the world during this phase, and how much they are able to achieve on their own.

Adolescence – Identity vs. Role Confusion[edit]

In this phase, peer influence really begins to take control of an adolescent's mind. Children began to wonder, "where do I truly belong?", and the way that most children find out who they really are is through peer influences, which can be positive influences or negative.

Young Adulthood – Intimacy vs. Isolation[edit]

When an individual is transforming into a young adult, a common question in their mind is, essentially, "can I love?". In this phase, an individual begins to wonder if there is someone for them in the world, if they will ever find love, or if love just isn't for them. Also, they wonder if it's better to be in a relationship, single, or just completely be alone.

Adulthood – Generativity vs. Stagnation[edit]

In this stage, an individual wonders whether or not they want to contribute to the society. In Generativity, the individual would want to set an example for the generations to come, and leave their mark on society. On the other hand, a person who chooses Stagnation would care less for the society and the generations who are coming. People who are in favor of Stagnation are usually self-absorbed and would rather focus on their own well being.

Old Age – Ego Integrity vs. Despair[edit]

In this final stage of life, people began to figure out whether they are mentally prepared to move onto the next stage of life, whatever they choose to believe in. The other alternative is to stay as strong as they possibly can to remain on earth and make these last moments of life count. When an individual is in despair, they focus on death more than the last moments that they have on earth. On the other hand, a person who chooses to have ego integrity chooses to make the best of their life, and they have more confidence for what's ahead of them in the future.

Separation-individuation theory of child development[edit]

This theory, created by Margaret Mahler, explains how infants begin to get self-absorbed in 3 phases. These phases are the normal autistic phase, normal symbiotic phase, and the separation-individuation phase. [1]

Normal autistic phase[edit]

This phase shows that infants are usually self-absorbed, because they spend most of them time sleeping and crying, and spending less time actually trying to figure out the world that they are living in and the people they are around.

Normal symbiotic phase[edit]

In the normal symbiotic phase, infants grow a very close connection with themselves and their mother. This relationship is very essential to them, and they focus on this relationship more than they focus on the outside world. During this phase, the infant realizes that it is living in order to please its mother.

Separation-individuation phase[edit]

This is the phase where an infant begins to separate from its mother in order to find out its purpose in the world. This phase is divided into 3 subcategories that go further in depth into how infants begin to grow into an individual.

Hatching (first months)[edit]

In this phase, infants begin to have a certain alertness about the outside world, and they're wanting to look at the world in a more enthusiastic way.

Practicing (9–16 months)[edit]

In this phase, usually, infants begin to crawl and look for ways to explore their surroundings.

Rapprochement (15–24 months)[edit]

In this phase, the infant wants to further explore the world, but wants to have the mother's attention throughout their exploration. If the mother doesn't pay attention to the child's enthusiasm to observe their surroundings, the infant may feel abandoned or anxious.


  1. ^ Margaret Mahler. N.p., 22 June 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

Further reading[edit]

Taylor, Graeme J. (1975). "Separation-Individuation in the Psychotherapy of Symbiotic States". Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal 1975). 20 (7). doi:10.1177/070674377502000703.

Grim, Deanna R. (28 December 2017). "Disturbances of Symbiosis in Infancy and Early Childhood". Transactional Analysis Journal. 7 (3). doi:10.1177/036215377700700312.