Psychological Early Stages

Early Stages of Development

These early, first-person stages of development begin in infancy. While rare, it is possible for adults to be at these early levels as well, usually due to disability or significant trauma. It is also possible to access these earlier stages in moments of stress when shadow is activated.

1.0 Stage of Development (Impulsive)

Concrete. Individual. Receptive.

This stage is the generally oceanic stage of experience that infants are born into. Individuals, generally babies, are inside of their individual experience of the gradual awakening of their concrete self and concrete interior emotions: sad, glad mad, surprise, and startle.

Here, mirror neurons activate, and copying mechanisms within the brain support the learning of the child at this early age. For example, when the caretaker sticks out her tongue the baby is likely to do so as well, even at birth. This copying approach serves the learning of the child as they begin to grow and develop into language and relationships.

People experiencing this stage

  • Are "had by" the stage, are receiving information from their environment through their senses.
  • Learn from repeating and copying in speech and in action (echolalia).
  • See concretely from their own perspective; they don't know that others see.
  • Experience that there only exists what they can see, hear, taste, (etc) physically.
  • Exhibit their emotions/feelings physically on their face and body: happy, sad, mad, etc.
  • Are learning the contours of their physical body as distinct from the concrete world.


At this early level, an infant is just learning about the contours of their physical body, and they are learning the technical skills of detecting the boundaries between their body and everything else, and how to move their limbs, how to eat, see, etc. If a trauma occurs at this developmental level, such as inadequate affection and love, they may have difficulty identifying with their own body, or differentiating between their body and the rest of the world physically. The resulting trauma could lead to attachment disorders. Attachment disorders lie on a spectrum and are often described as 1) Inhibited, an inability to bond to others, 2) Dis-inhibited, indiscriminant bonding to anyone. Other aspects may include 3) insecure bonding or clinging attachment. And 4) ambivalent bonding: a kind of approach/avoidant style of bonding. Having no one to bond to can in extreme cases lead to death, even if all other physical needs are met. With trauma a schizoid withdrawl or avoidance can start here, where the infant (and later the adult) is in a chronic state of fearfulness. in order to cope the defense of dissociation/withdrawal and avoidance are often used. This will influence attachment/bonding.

Next, the interior sense of the concrete self arises and this is when infants begin to understand the limits of their physical self. They begin to understand auditory, visual and tactile symbols such as words (labels), pictures, and gestures, largely through copycatting and imitation. A trauma at this level may disrupted this process, so they may have a fixation on, an aversion to, or a disassociation with one or more of these senses, resulting in hyper or hypo-sensorial capacities such as being easily over-stimulated by sound, smell, hyper-vigilance, or having an aversion to touch and thus connection to others.

Also, at this level the concrete emotions arise, such as sad and happy, mad and shrink, fright, and safety. If trauma happens at this level these emotions may be compromised, mutated or frozen. This may result in erroneous perceptions of being in a more hostile or more trust worthy place than the true situation warrants, and thus they may have multiple issues with normal testing of reality.

All these disorders can follow one through subsequent stages.

Adults can also be centered at a later stage, but have a shadow pattern that is trapped at this level. In this case they will act at this level (or regress) in certain circumstances that bring their unconscious and unresolved shadow material forward. This is true at every level and at this level what might manifest is Adult Attachment Disorder.

1.5 Stage of Development (Ego-centric)

Concrete. Individual. Active

Children at this stage now know they have a physical body and have power over it, so they are active in using their body to get things they want. The word "mine" comes up a lot at this stage; they don't yet understand the concept of "yours", so even when they take something that others believe belongs to someone else, they often will still claim it as "mine". This is because they have not yet developed a second person perspective where they can see that others have their own wants, needs, experience and ownership like they do.

This is a stage where the individual self is foregrounded, so it is all about "me" although this person is not technically selfish as is sometimes presumed. They assume that everyone sees just as they do.

They are now beginning to use symbols, such as a string on the finger, for example, to help them remember. The limits of experiencing primarily with direct external senses, even though the use of symbols and constancy is active, has a profound sense of how a child sees the world: magically. They can pair two events, connecting them together, concretely projecting their experience onto an object in magical thinking: rabbit's feet, worry stones, and nature spirits as symbols with various powers are all examples of this late first person perspective where the concept of "luck" often develops.

Adults at this level often have the same characteristics related to perspective taking; that is, they can be very confused about what is "mine" and "yours", so when they take something they tend to have no remorse for the feelings of the other person. They can't yet easily see that others have experiences just like they do, for their experience is still "all about me". Their interior senses are likely quite limited so they can't easily predict (visualize) consequences for their behavior, nor learn from (visualize) their past. However they do have many more years of experience than do children, and an adequate vocabulary has been built so they are much more agile in life than children are.

Those adults whose development has been arrested at this stage, for the most part, have been afflicted with some kind of trauma during this stage as a child, which prevents them from growing into a later perspective; or they are developmentally or physically disabled and have only been able to develop this far. These adults generally need a lot of compassion and strong boundaries around them in order to maintain a safe and happy life.

Adults can also be centered at a later stage, but have a shadow pattern that is trapped at this level. In this case they will act at this level in certain circumstances that bring their shadow material out.

People experiencing this stage

  • See concrete either/or choices – I will choose what I want!
  • Want to do it themselves, now!
  • Are in touch with their concrete desires and seek to gratify impulses and senses immediately.
  • Think others see only what they see.
  • Are confused between yours and mine, thus don't fully understand the concept of stealing.
  • Feel no guilt or remorse for others they have harmed but regret getting caught.
  • Experience feedback as an attack because they can't take a perspective on themselves.
  • Express power as fight, flight, freeze; from their view, they get what they want, or get away from what they don't want.
  • Are living parallel lives with others: Talking "at" and not "with".
  • Can't visualize the past so don't remember past experience, and can't visualize the future so can't imagine consequences.
  • Can have a normal, or even high level of intelligence.


Trauma at this early stage and the next stage can cause a myriad of continuing difficulties. At this point, the infant grows into their body and they own the contours of their body and begin to extend this outward to what is seen as mine. Ownership of objects arises, so everything is seen as belonging to them. A first person perspective is beginning to mature.

If they are traumatized at this level a pathology that may proceed is the appearance of lying, and stealing for they cannot yet see that other people own things. Therefore "Everything is mine for the taking", and if anyone says they are stealing they will likely deny that, for to them this clearly isn't a lie. Levels of antisocial and narcissistic behavior may arise as a result.

At this level, children also tend to play alongside of, others (Parallel play) but not with them. Second person reciprocity hasn't arisen yet, so a trauma at this level could support continued incapacity to listen to or take in what others are saying. We see this described when people say they don't trust someone because "they won't look me in the eye". This is one indication of a trauma at this level, for looking people in the eye is a quality that is often born out of reciprocity—a second person perspective stage; "I see you see me" is a requirement of that stage.

It is important to distinguish this kind of looking, from cultural qualities where people have been trained to not look others in the eye.

It is very important that children or adults learn how to visualize and have interior auditory and feeling capacities in order to have a memory-they must have the capacity to remember the past in order to remember consequences of their behavior, and to remember to follow social norms. It is in the late first person Opportunists stages that these capacities begin to arise as states, and at the second person stages they become strong enough to support the building of reciprocal relationships, which isn't yet possible here.

Trauma at this later level may support a lack of remorse for anything a person has done that is hurtful to other people. At this level, a person is only sorry if they themselves were hurt. This is another narcissistic trait.

Later the interior urge of wanting comes up which fuels more wanting. A trauma at this level might support hoarding, or not being able to throw anything away.

In this stage the subtle senses begin to activate, and one can use these developing interior senses to visualize something out of concrete sight—for example, that someone is around the corner, or to visualize where something has gone out of sight, and will start looking for it.

When you pair the wanting desire with these developing interior senses, trauma at this level may support a hypersensitivity of the interior visual, auditory and kinesthetic senses which at this point are not distinguished from the exterior senses, or what is real. A number of possibilities arise here including fearfulness of the images that arise for them which could inadvertently trigger depression, fight or flight (or to be repulsed by them and run away) and the continuance of not being able to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined including grown up versions of imagined "monsters under the bed" such as imagined aliens or conspiracies (for example) as they grow older. In addition, combination of internal and external hypersensitivity to others may give them a gift of reading people's external facial features in the moment allowing them to groom others for their own desires or for self protection.

Also people who have had trauma at this stage may become devious or "sneaky." This stage is one in which the person is learning to want their own way, and to do things their own way. Sneaking allows them to have their own way that is different, and sometimes opposite, from what others want them to do; even if they are rewarded for doing something someone else wants them to do sneaking allows them to serve their sense of "I want to do it myself."