Recently, on the sidewalk outside a store, I saw a woman and young child sitting on the concrete. It was winter and the child lacked gloves, shoes and socks. The child was crying so hard that he was hiccupping. I estimated the child to be two or three years old. The woman was also siting on the sidewalk. She was yelling at the child in equal volume about his crying and about his taking off his socks, shoes and gloves. The child was exhausted with crying and protesting. The woman’s loud voice did not appear to de-escalate the situation. She did not calm the child and instead kept him in a frenzy of tears and exhaustion. Her talking appeared self-serving, designed to get the attention focused on her of the bystander audience who entered and left the store. By her physical motions, she tried to get shoes and socks back on the child. However, her unconscious message to this young child was one of dismissing his frustration and exhaustion. She was not giving attention to calming him and gaining more cooperation from him. She was focused on her own needs for admiration by her going through the “motions” but without emotional attunement to the child’s needs. What was this child learning about himself? About the woman charged with his care? What kind of person would he grow up to be if this was his mother and he continued to get these emotionally-conditioned messages from her that failed to soothe or calm him and that shifted the limelight to her when he was distressed? This is a good example of how emotional conditioning occurs.

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