We turn now to the built-in negative feelings.
These are terribly important: they represent your baby’s way of sending an SOS signal, saying “Help! I’m in trouble! Please help me!” Later we will talk about how these feelings work and why they are SOS signals, but for now let’s just describe these feelings.
There are six negative feelings.
Distress is an “SOS” signal – the baby is saying “I need help! Something is wrong!” The eyebrows arch in the middle, the corners of the mouth turn down, and there may be tears and crying, or fussiness.
Anger is really an “SOS” signal! While most of us feel assaulted and hurt by someone’s anger, anger from the baby really means “I need help!” Why? Because anger is simply excessive distress. There may be a clenched jaw, red face, slit eyes, distended nostrils; or you may see the “roar of rage,” with screaming, kicking, hitting, or biting.
Fear occurs when something happens too quickly for the baby to control or understand. Fear is quite toxic and may be expressed in several ways. The baby’s eyes may be frozen open, skin pale, trembling, hair on end; she may be very still or cry out.
A shame reaction occurs when your baby’s interest or enjoyment feeling is interrupted. Shame is marked by slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, and sometimes head averted.
This is a reaction to bad tastes — it is built-in to protect your baby! Disgust is shown by a protruding lower lip and tongue, sometimes with spitting things out or becoming nauseous and vomiting. Later, this reaction is expressed psychologically, as in “this situation left a bad taste in my mouth.”
This is also a protective device — it protects the baby from substances with bad odors. The baby raises and averts his head, raises his upper lip and wrinkles his nose. Later this reaction turns into the feeling that “this idea smells bad.”
This, then, completes our list of nine built-in feelings. Next time we talk about how these feelings work — and when you understand how they work, your life as a parent becomes much easier!