Dr. Matthew Paldy

On the Mental World of Infancy: Defenses and Fears

"A group of pathological defenses has been observed in infants between three and eighteen months of age who have experienced danger and deprivation to an extreme degree. The early defenses, "avoidance," "freezing," and "fighting," are apparently summoned from a biological repertoire on the model of "flight or fight." Before there is an ego, pain can be transformed into pleasure or obliterated from consciousness while a symptom stands in place of the original conflict."
.... "When we speak of "defense" in infancy, something within us resists the word and its connotations. The infant is helpless in the face of danger. His parents are his protectors, and so far as they serve as protectors we are unlikely to see a baby coping with external threats or physiological stress unaided. Under all normal circumstances the infant will not experience helplessness for more than brief periods, because distress is alleviated or modulated by the mother, usually before tension becomes intolerable. Even in the early weeks and months of life, the normally reared baby begins to turn expectantly to the mother for comfort and the alleviation of distress or pain."
-- from Pathological Defenses in Infancy, by Selma Fraiberg.