Sir Godfrey Gregg
Infant life is naturally scary
As infants, we are extremely sensitive to the nuances in the behaviour and reactions of our parents. After all, they already know about this world and we only just arrived.
Recall that survival depends upon our connection with our parents and/or primary caretakers. As such, there are many ways abandonment fears can get triggered and imprinted in an infant, thus setting the pattern for how the grown-up will relate to loved ones in the future.
The conditions that give rise to these patterns don’t necessarily require that Mom/Dad permanently leave the scene. For instance, they can be physically there but not emotionally present, a situation that is easily and painfully recognized by the infant.
Or Mom or Dad could get sick, or be so preoccupied with their own thoughts and stress that they’re not there for you. (It’s like talking to a friend who’s obviously thinking of something else and not listening to what you say).
Parents can also abandon you emotionally if they find another interest that absorbs their time and energy, such as a new relationship, a new child, etc. This is why birth order or the time spacing between children can have such a strong impact on the growing child.
Indeed, research shows that an infant will show signs of clinical depression if Mom is absent for more than two weeks. These “depression” neuropathways develop at a time when early experiences have a crucial impact on the developing brain. Susceptibility gets imprinted so that in adulthood we’re at higher risk for depression.