For around the first two or three years of someone’s life, they will see themselves as an extension of their mother. During this time, they won’t be able to realise that they are physically separate from this person.
Through being this way, their mother is going to more or less define their experience, not to mention whether or not they survive. So, their inner state will be totally dependent on their mother.

A Mirror

In a way, it will be as if they are a mirror for their mother’s emotional state. Therefore, assuming that one feels comfortable with this person, whether or not they feel calm and soothed will depend on if they are around this person and on if this person is also calm.

What this means is that if this person is unsettled, they are also likely to end up feeling unsettled. The fact that this person is there won’t be enough to soothe them as it usually would as a result of their inner state.

One Reality

What stands out here is not only that one won’t have their own sense of self at this stage of their life; they will also be incredibly empathic or tuned into their caregiver. Having this ability is a vital part of their ability to survive.

Tuning into this person will be a way for them to adapt whenever it is necessary and as a result of how dependent they are this will be an essential ability. Their mother’s world will be their world and they will do everything they can to stay noticed in this world.


Now, as long as their mother provides them with ‘good enough’ care, their sense of self will slowly develop throughout this period and after a few years, with their help of their father, they will start to separate from their mother. Ones fight instinct/aggression will have kicked in, giving them the urge to break away and to explore the world.

This is not a case of one going from one experience to another, though; as this will be a time when they will continually go from one experience to the other. After they have explored, they will come back to their mother to make sure that she is still there and to emotionally refuel.

Strong Energetic Boundaries

This stage is essential as it is something that will allow them to go from being enmeshed to their mother to being emotionally separate from her. It will allow them to know, at the core of their being, that they are not an extension of this person; to know where they begin and end and where their mother begins and ends.

This will allow them to have their own reality as opposed to being caught up in their mother’s reality. In other words, their emotional state will no longer be defined by their mother’s emotional state and they will be able to act as an autonomous human being.


Consequently, this will allow them to fully show up in the outside world as they won’t have the tendency to lose themselves and to merge with others. They will feel safe enough and strong enough to act as an individual.

Their life will be a reflection of who they are, not a reflection of what other people want it to look like. This will be a life that is in alignment with who they are and thus, a life that is worth living.

A Different Experience

What has just been described is not something that always takes place and when it doesn’t, someone won’t receive what they need to receive in order to individuate and to activate themselves. This stage of someone’s life won’t be a time when will have a mother who is emotionally available and in tune with their needs; they will have a mother who is neglectful and emotionally unavailable.

They will be like a plant that doesn’t receive the nutrients that it needs and this will stop the plant from growing. Along with this, their father could also be emotionally unavailable or absent, which will stop them from receiving the support and guidance that they need as the years go by to start the individuation process.

Developmentally Stunted

The years will pass and their physical self will change, but their inner, emotional self will stay in an undeveloped state and how they experience life will have a lot in common with how a small child experiences life. As they didn’t receive the care that they needed, they will continue to see themselves as an extension of others.

On the inside, they will be like an empty vessel and so, whether or not they feel safe, secure, valued, loved or even happy will depend on what is being mirrored back to them. What is going on around them is then going to be in control of their emotional state and how they behave.


Not only can they effortlessly take on other people’s emotional states, they can also just as easily be affected by energy, smells, sounds and other things, both seen and unseen, in their environment. It will be like they are a blank screen and other people can just project whatever is going for them onto them.

This will make it easier for people to hold them accountable for what they themselves are accountable for and for one to feel responsible for things that they are not responsible for. By not having strong energetic boundaries, it will be incredibly difficult for their true-self to see the light of day.


When it comes to maintaining their sense of self around others, it will be very similar to what happens to a candle in the wind. This small flame won’t stand a chance and will soon be blown out.

Without the inner strength and protection that is needed to assert themselves, they will be overwhelmed by the outside world. This will naturally cause them to experience a lot of anger and frustration, and they could be used to feeling powerless and helpless.


If one can relate to this, and they are ready to change their life, they may need to reach out for external support. This is something that can be provided by the assistance of a therapist or healer.

Author's Bio: 

Author, transformational writer, teacher and consultant, Oliver JR Cooper, hails from England. His insightful commentary and analysis covers all aspects of human transformation, including love, partnership, self-love, and inner awareness. With over two thousand, five hundred in-depth articles highlighting human psychology and behaviour, Oliver offers hope along with his sound advice.

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