A friend of mine sent me this gorgeous clip of his baby daughter laughing. As well as making me smile, it made me think about babies and emotions. The relationship that babies have with their emotions is so different to that which we have as adults.
The first thing that struck me is how wonderfully spontaneous the baby’s laugh is. There is no part of her that is questioning whether she should laugh or not, looking at how others might respond to her laughing or wondering whether she should not be doing it. She is laughing because she finds something funny, and she stops when it no longer is. It is her amazing lack of self-consciousness that enables her to do this. When self-consciousness begins to emerge in children, they often start to inhibit their natural, emotional response to things. In Chinese medicine, emotions are seen as a potential cause of disease. One way that an emotion becomes a cause of disease is when it is repressed or held on to for too long. If we could all continue to be as emotionally spontaneous as babies, we would all be much healthier (as well as happier).
The other thing that struck me watching the video is how the baby almost becomes the emotion. When she is laughing, it is as if the whole of her is laughing. This made me think about the strong connection in babies and toddlers between their body and their emotions. If a baby’s body is uncomfortable because, for example, her tummy is too full of food or milk, she is likely to be grouchy and unhappy. Conversely, if she is feeling lonely because she wakes up to find she is alone in her cot, then she will often feel and manifest the distress in her body. Chinese medicine does not really distinguish between the mind and the body, but babies are a fantastic example of how truly inter-connected these two parts of us really are.