As we thought in ‘Why do I feel I hate my baby,’ thoughts about harming your baby can come in different ways and with different types of feelings. 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. We will explore a little more why these thoughts or dreams have come to be in your mind.

If we think generally about why we feel as if we may want to harm another person, it is often connected to feeling threatened, a worry that we may be harmed or that we have been. To feel such from your baby may seem perplexing, as your baby poses no threat to your physical safety. Consequently, this suggests that what you feel may be a threat in some ways to yourself emotionally. This is illustrated from the reaction of a father to his newborn baby, a video posted online by a well known newspaper. The newspaper describes the video as ‘the hilarious moment a fed-up father turns the tables on his screeching baby son by wailing back at him.’ What we see is a baby crying with some force, we do not know what has led him to be upset. His father, as described in the strapline, imitates his babies cry and maintains his own wail until baby stops and says to his son ‘you don’t like that, it’s not funny’.  It seems to me that is if he is saying ‘see how you like it, it’s not very nice is it.’ What this suggests is that this father felt in some way under assault by his baby’s cries. He felt as if his little one was doing something almost intentionally hurtful. His response suggested he wanted to hurt his baby back, ‘you don’t like that.’  It is this type of attribution and feeling that can lead to thoughts of wanting to hurt your child. You may feel as if the cries of your baby are a demand, a statement of you failing, an intrusion that makes it hard to think or notice anything else, you need it to stop. You may be able to stop yourself responding as the father described above does, but of course your fear and anger will likely remain in some way and become expressed through these thoughts and images of harming your baby.

What is it about your baby that may prompt such emotion? If we think about crying, it draws our attention powerfully and it is a request, a pleading, a demand from your baby for help. They are helpless to assist themselves and to manage what they feel and sort out what they need, be it feeding, played with, or to fall asleep, they need you. They are dependent on you, in need of you. This can feel terrifying, as to allow yourself to notice their utter dependency, means to allow yourself to come in to contact with these same emotions that you would have had as a tiny person. If you were responded to in the way that the father did above, shouted at, ignored, or roughly handled, then you would have learnt that being vulnerable and showing what you may need was unsafe. You would have learnt to turn away from feelings of need, of a belief that you can reach out for help from others. You may have developed a feeling of control within your life and your circumstances, to protect you from these feelings of vulnerability. What you know now, is that you cannot control your baby.

If we think about the little boy above, what happened to him? In the video, it appears as if he is in a heightened state of fear. This is suggested by how still he becomes, his eyes grow wide and his hands are clenched and in the background we hear another little boy ask, ‘why is he breathing like that?’ his chest falling and rising rapidly, suggesting his heart is racing. If as his body suggests he is frightened, this creates an enormous dilemma for him. The person he needs help from, is also the person that he is fearful of. One of the ways to find a resolution to this, is to suppress what he may need, in order to keep his father near. If this was something of what you experienced, you would have learnt to keep away from others and even from your own conscious awareness perhaps, emotions of distress. Inevitably, when your baby then expresses these very same feelings, they can feel intrusive and overwhelming, sending you straight back to your own early felt experience, something you have tried so hard to hide from and escape. The thoughts of harm to your baby are then possibly a way to be rid of this vulnerability, to want to destroy this aspect of your own experience. It is also important to acknowledge that these thoughts or feelings are suggestive of hostility and is a mirror of what was perhaps in your parent’s mind and their communication towards you. It might be that you have memories of these types of experiences later on in your childhood.

I imagine that it is helpful to state that these thoughts about your baby are not uncommon and it is very rare for a parent to harm their baby, although we of course now this unfortunately happens. Therapy is an avenue to enable you to explore these thoughts and emotions, to be able to begin to make sense of what emerges in your mind and so separate out your own experience from your baby’s expressions. Therapy can support you to begin to allow yourself to feel vulnerable, to acknowledge the wide range of emotion that you feel, thus reducing your need to feel as if you need to protect yourself by maintaining continual control. This can free you to support your child with what they feel and also introduce more spontaneity and a sense of fun into your relationship.

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