This is a great article. First published in the Courier-Post
Survival of the Nurtured
Lu Hanessian, CherryHill 6:03 p.m. EST January 21, 2016
Once in a while, we need a phrase to get right to the heart of the problem. Something that grabs our attention, makes us stop and take stock. A catch-all phrase that acts as a container clarion call to action.
“We are not the survival of the fittest, we are the survival of the nurtured.”
These are the words of attachment scientist Louis Cozolino.
How does this sentence sound the bell for action?
The last 20 years have given us 90% of the brain science findings we now know. It’s the tip of the iceberg. But it’s a huge tip, a tip that gives us a glimpse of how much more there is to add to the significance of what we have learned.
Five critical discoveries:
1. Neuroscience has shown us that love has real estate in the brain. Love lights up the right (hemisphere).
2. Brain scans and longitudinal studies have revealed that neglect, abuse and early chronic stress damages the developing brain and primes people for addiction, disease and premature death.
3. Lack of love shrinks the brain’s hippocampus. Neuroplasticity allows for some neural growth and rewiring, but the damage from early severe neglect and abuse may be permanent…however…
4. Attachment science tells us that it’s never too late to create a secure base in relationship. While we are wounded in relationship, it’s neurobiologically true that we heal in relationship too. Maybe we don’t always heal in the same relationship where the wound originated, but studies show that, through attuned, reliable emotional connection, we can grow the front of the brain, our pre-frontal cortex, which mediates empathy, trust, intuition, self-regulation, even morality.
5. Practicing sensitive and responsive communication, mindfulness and compassion (including self-compassion) change the nervous system, our chemistry and circuitry from an anxious, vigilant mode to a calmer, more connected state.
Trauma specialist Bruce Perry has often said, “States become traits.”
The science, we now know, is not unilateral, but interdisciplinary. Edward O. Wilson calls it “consilience.”
It’s no longer dualistic “nature versus nature,” but both nature and nurture. We nurture
When we actively, intentionally and consciously practice strong bonds, we nurture our nature.
Our collective nature.
That means that when we nurture our babies, our toddlers, our young kids, our adolescents in the varying degrees in which they need us, we ensure their survival and promote their health, their wellbeing and their longevity.
When we nurture our students, we enhance learning.
Nurturing is not coddling. It’s not quick fixes and helicoptering. It’s not avoiding struggle or shielding our kids from the pitfalls of life. It’s not about prevention of breaks, but perhaps prevention of a broken spirit. Prevention of hopelessness and despair. Prevention of self-hatred and self-harm.
Nurturing, then, is about preservation. Of heart. Of spirit. Of connection with self and others. Of perspective and hope. Of trust and will to grow and a yearning to thrive.
Survival of the nurtured is survival of the thriving.