Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

I Want To Hold Your Hand and The Mind/Body Connection

There is one.  A connection, between the mind and the body.

We’ve already talked about how memory is stored.  It isn’t stored just in the cognitive brain.  It is stored much, much lower inside our bodies.  All the way down to the cellular level.  Trauma, especially so.

I have talked to so many people who understand this.  Yet more that don’t….sadly.  And the ones who don’t just keep trying to “talk it out” in traditional therapy or with traditional parenting.  They don’t understand that just talking does not reach deeper than the cognitive level.  But the fact is, not everything is something we can “talk out”.  We must also rewire our entire neurological system at the same time.

So how do we do that?  There are many options: massage therapy, neurological “reorganization”, psychosomatic experiential therapy, etc.  But the first step is simply education.  Do the research.  Read the books.  One excellent book on this is written by Candice Pert and is entitled Molecules of Emotion.  Dr. Pert also recently appeared on the Larry King Live show and talked about how this connection is not just figurative.  But literal.  What happens to the body also happens in the mind.  And what happens in the mind also happens to our bodies.  Much of this wiring occurs within the first three years of life.  But we also know that the human brain is plastic, meaning that it continues to change and grow forever.  Nothing is ever etched in stone.

When we experience something, our bodies literally wire itself to fit into that experience.  If it was a positive experience, our cells literally remember that and will seek it out again.  An example of this is human touch.  If we had positive experiences with our mother holding us, we will find pleasure in it throughout life.  Our brains have learned that being held was satisfying.  Hormones were created, pleasure was felt.  We want it again.  And we will attempt to replicate that throughout life.

The same thing happens with negative experiences.  If we have negative or traumatic experiences, our cells will remember that and could lead us to avoid that experience again.  For instance, if we lacked human contact in those first three years, our brains have not been wired to appreciate the closeness of another human being.  When someone does hold us now, we feel much less satisfaction than the baby that was held a lot.  We haven’t yet learned that human touch feels good.  This is the case of many fostered/adopted children.  They fight us when we pick them up.  They dig their chin into our shoulder.  They cry and cannot be soothed with a back rub or a hug.  They do not quite feel the same sensation as mom does in this moment.

But it’s not all lost.  Because the brain is amazingly malleable.  We can change it.  Just like when a person devotes themselves to learning an instrument.  At first they struggle.  There is far less pleasure in it.  It is uncomfortable and hard.  You force yourself to practice.  Every day.  Day after day.  But as you do this, the brain begins to literally change.  Connections between neurons form that were not there before.  Synapses fire that have never fired before.  Eventually, the more you practice, the more pleasure you find in playing.  Every part of your body craves it.  You have learned that it is, in fact, something desirable.  You will continue to seek it out and recognize it through out the rest of your life.

When we have a child with a trauma history, it can be hard to parent them.  They don’t find pleasure in us.  Not at first.  But we can teach them to.  But it depends on us.  We must reach out to them everyday.  Offer affection, smiles, eye contact, soft touching and lots of physical contact.  It is through this repetition that the brain will change.  The entire neurological system will change.  Over time, this child will begin seeking it out.  More and more.  And each time, they will find a little bit more pleasure in it.  Pretty soon, you will be their drug of choice.  Oxytocin and all of that.

So keep “practicing”.  Keep touching each other.  They might not “get it” at first.  Maybe you won’t either.  But eventually you both will.  You just need to breathe and just be in the present moment.  Regulated and safe for them.  And it will change.  I promise.  Science promises.  So do John and Paul.  Now THAT’S a pretty good reference!  🙂

November 8, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | Leave a comment