A Stable Sense of a Separate Self is Developed
Thus, according to ego psychology, a stable sense of identity or separate self is not something that the human being is born with, but is a result of a developmental process -- what Mahler has called separation-individuation. At birth there is no awareness of an entity that is separate from its environment. A psychologically separate identity develops slowly as the infant interacts with its environment, especially with its mother. Thus the identity, with its mental apparatus (psychic structure), is a construction in the mind. The particular structure of the mind, the particular patterning of the contents of the psyche (ultimately resulting in the sense of self), is something that develops, something that grows. It is then something not ready-made at physical birth.
The Void, pg. 8
The Identity of the Child is not Dependent on Something External
At the beginning the child seems to have a significance. This is not a mental or inferred significance. The identity of the child is not dependent on something external. Children are real, true to themselves. They have a connectedness, a oneness, rather than disharmony. The child is one entity, responding and reacting and behaving as a whole, not as this part and then that part. That happens later. There isn’t even a distinction between Essence and personality. The child is simply one beingness. As the child grows older, this unity of experience is lost.
Diamond Heart Book Three, pg. 43
The Infant is Totally Identified with Presence without Knowing that He is, for His Experience is Nonconceptual
However, the main reason for the infant’s limited self-knowledge is that the capacity for self-reflection does not exist at the beginning. It develops as part of the maturation of the cognitive functions. Thus, the infant’s perception is always directed outward, so to speak. He does not have the capacity to turn back and look at his “inner” experience, let alone to turn back and reflect on himself. In some sense, he is aware only of the “front” of his experience. At the beginning, the capacity of the infant to simply be is intact. He is, without knowing it. His being himself is completely natural and nonconceptual. He does not know that he is being himself, for he does not even have the concept of self. He is being presence when he is being himself. Our discovery in the experience of self-realization reveals that in simply being, one is identified with presence; and when observing young infants we see that there is no self-reflection and no alienation from immediate experience. Thus, the infant is totally identified with presence without knowing that he is, for his experience is nonconceptual. He has no idea about presence, but it is his very substance, consciousness and identity. This state is due not only to the presence of Essence, but specifically to the fact of childhood self-realization: He is not simply experiencing Essence; he is being Essence.