Love and the Brain

This is a great article. First published in the Courier-Post

Survival of the Nurtured
Driving Lessons
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.

Trick Your Brain Into Success

Trick Your Brain Into Success
Stevie Ray

People who are about to face a stressful situation will often get advice from others. Some advice is solicited, some not; some helpful, some not. Luckily, brain research has begun to catch up with old Aunt Edna’s sage wisdom and it has provided some useful tidbits when facing a mental or social challenge.
For instance, we have all heard the old adage that, when you are about to deliver a speech and you are hit with stage fright, just imagine the audience in their underwear. I don’t know who first thought of this trick, but not only is it completely ineffective, but it borders on creepy. More importantly, it actually takes the brain in the opposite direction of being able to deliver a great speech.
The trick to overcoming stress and ensuring a successful outcome is to activate the parts of the brain needed in order to meet the challenge. Imagining an audience in their Underoos distracts the brain from the task at hand and inhibits the kind of thinking needed to present well. Instead, just before taking the stage you should imagine with as much detail the last time you gave a really successful presentation. If you take the time to recall the situation in rich detail—the image of the stage, the smell of backstage, the warmth of the room, the sounds of the audience—your brain will engage positive memory activities, helping you stay mentally sharp. Also, remembering positive situations from the past causes the brain to assume that the best is about to happen again; greatly increasing your chances of success.
Distraction is a great technique for overcoming negative or obsessive thoughts, but that is about as far as the technique will take you. For true positive control over your thoughts, you must make a conscious effort to link happy outcomes from the past to lay the foundation for positive outcomes in the future.