People I work with have often been unable to connect with emotions, sometimes fearing them and ashamed of having feelings, never mind talking to someone about them. Understanding emotions are not only safe to feel, but also necessary to be a healthy human being and to feel validated in your life.

Melanie Klein study of babies

Melanie Klein, a pioneering psychoanalyst, made significant contributions to our understanding of early childhood development and the formation of emotional bonds. Central to her work were her observations of infants and young children, particularly in relation to their experiences of anxiety, anger, and love.

Klein’s observations led her to develop the theory of object relations, which emphasises the role of early relationships, particularly with primary caregivers, in shaping an individual’s psychological development. According to Klein, infants form internal representations, or “objects,” of their caregivers based on their early interactions. These internalised representations influence the child’s perceptions of themselves and others, as well as their emotional experiences.

Anxiety was a central focus of Klein’s work, and she proposed that it arises from the infant’s fear of losing the love and support of their primary caregiver. She observed that infants experience anxiety when they perceive a threat to the bond with their caregiver, such as separation or perceived rejection. Klein believed that these early experiences of anxiety could have profound effects on the child’s emotional development, influencing their capacity for trust, intimacy and autonomy later in life.

Klein also explored the role of anger in early childhood development, viewing it as a natural and necessary part of the infant’s emotional repertoire. She observed that infants express anger in response to frustration, deprivation, or perceived threats to their well-being. According to Klein, healthy development involves the gradual integration and resolution of these early experiences of anger, allowing the child to develop a sense of agency and autonomy while maintaining positive relationships with others.

Love, in Klein’s view, was intricately intertwined with both anxiety and anger in early childhood. She argued that the infant’s capacity for love and attachment develops through their interactions with their primary caregiver, as they learn to trust and depend on them for comfort and security, to feel safe. However, Klein also recognised the complexity of love in infancy, acknowledging that it can be accompanied by feelings of ambivalence, jealousy, and aggression towards the caregiver.

Klein’s studies of babies and their emotions shed light on the profound impact of early experiences on psychological development. By highlighting the interplay between anxiety, anger, and love in infancy, she deepened our understanding of the complexities of human relationships and the importance of early caregiving in shaping emotional well-being. Her insights continue to inform contemporary theories of child development and psychotherapy, underscoring the enduring relevance of her pioneering work.