Here the unfulfilled need was for nurturance. The deprivation happened during the first few years of life, usually in relation to feeding. The child didn’t get or couldn’t take in the nourishment and soothing she needed, so she never felt full and satisfied. The tension of being hungry or otherwise upset was not fully released, so some anxiety always remained in her system. This anxiety further inhibited her ability to take in and metabolize nourishment and she got stuck in a cycle of needing, not being able to effectively receive, and never getting full. This left her feeling hollow and empty inside.
There are two ways that she can handle this situation. She can identify with the need and wait for rescue, or she can project her need onto others and then try to fulfill their needs. The first method leads to the pure merging pattern, the second to the compensated merging pattern. These are fundamentally the same survival pattern, but in the compensated merging pattern the feelings of need and helplessness are covered over by a pretense of self-reliance and power.
A child in the pure merging pattern will be clingy, fragile, and need a lot of attention. A child in the compensated merging pattern will act self-reliant too soon by rejecting her own needs and focusing on helping others instead. While the second child looks more functional, the compensation is only a mask covering the unfinished work of this stage of development. In both situations, she practices referencing others, but avoids referencing herself. The gift of this strategy is that she then becomes skillful at sensing the needs of others and providing what’s needed.
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