Hate is a strong word, it is not frustration, irritation, anger, or annoyance, it seems as if it is so much more. It can feel as if that is all there is and this is why this emotion can feel deeply unsettling. You might thoughts of hurting your baby, which can come in different ways. They may feel intrusive, that they come unbidden into your mind and cause you distress. It might be that you have dreams or see in your mind harm coming to your baby, by your hand or though some other means, such as an accident and you find yourself devoid of feeling. All of these images will likely be causing you worry and upset, maybe even thinking of yourself as some kind of dangerous monster. These feelings are so hard to share with anyone. It is likely that you would fear the judgement of others, that they may see you how, at times, you think of yourself, as someone dangerous. Thoughts of Children’s Social Care may come into your mind and a fear that if you speak, then you may lose your children[i].

What underlies these thoughts? One of the prime reasons that feelings and ideas of hate and death can come into your mind, may be because of how you experience difficult types of emotions. It might be that ordinary feelings of anger prompt powerful feelings of guilt, even shame or fear of retaliation. It is almost as if that feelings or thoughts are in some way equated with action. This means that you feel as if you need to guard against the emergence of such ideas and feelings into your mind and are quick to push them away, or even deny their existence. It might be that you find it hard to recall the last time you felt such an emotion. Why is this? Well, if your association with emotion of this nature prompts feelings of guilt, shame and fear, then it cannot be tolerated, it cannot be allowed. However, these emotions exist within you, they remain active and will emerge. If an emotion is unacknowledged, it might remain out of your conscious awareness, but it remains present and powerful in the way in which you perceive yourself and the world around you. This is because to push and turn away from a feeling, imbues it with greater power, as it is feared. Turning away confirms its power, that it cannot be borne and needs to be avoided and so may become manifest in thoughts and ideas of hate and harm to your baby. What are in fact ordinary feelings of frustration and resentment build into these much greater emotions, as the ordinary itself is equated with extremes.

There are plenty of reasons that you might feel irritated with your baby. They keep you up at night, take all your time and energy. You can feel as if your sole purpose is to look after your little one, that all your other identities as a partner, friend, colleague, sibling have all but disappeared. You may feel at the beck and call of this tiny person, your freedom has been stripped away and all the things you used to enjoy you can no longer do. All of these thoughts are to be expected. However, if you feel guilt and shame at such ideas, that you are somehow causing harm to your baby by not being continually positive, then you will not permit such feelings to remain in your mind for very long, or even to be aware of them. You have likely had very good reasons for coping with such emotion in this manner. It was probably unsafe for you to show such feeling in your own childhood, leading to either direct hostility from those who cared for you, or you were turned away from. So of course, in adulthood, to keep yourself safe and people you care about with you, you hide away what you feel. This is rarely done consciously. Babies bring such challenges to the surface, as they are so vulnerable. When you had these experiences that led to this management of your emotion, you would have been very vulnerable, so these emotional memories are prompted by your baby’s presence. In your emotional mind, your baby is in the position that you were in growing up, so your memory of this, not necessarily as a thought, but in the emotion you feel, comes closer to the surface.

If you manage emotion in this way of splitting ‘bad’ and ‘good,’ it can mean that you also do the same with how you see yourself and others. You can idealise or do the opposite, denigrate. What we hope to be able to do, is to allow the possibility of both these experiences to be merge, to be integrated. To accept that the person whom we love, can also sometimes behave in unkind ways. This is to also accept the different aspects of yourself, the varied ways in which you can think, feel and act. This will ultimately allow for a wide range of thoughts and feelings to be noticed and accepted, reducing the enormous internal energy you spend defending yourself from awareness of such emotion. This to a large extent is the goal of therapy, helping you to recognise and come to accept the many varied parts of yourself.

[i] On the rare occasion that Children’s Social Care are needed to support a family, their overriding intention is to offer help. It is to ensure that children stay with their parents and are able to look after their children so that they thrive and are happy. The stereotype of this Children’s Social Care is that they want to take children away, that they tell parents they are no good and do not deserve to care for their children. This has led to this organisation being feared by parents and their involvement seen as a statement of parental incompetence.

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