Let me introduce something fun now! This exercise is about how we order, organize, regulate our nervous system-brain, our body, our emotions, our SELF in direct face-to-face communication with others of our social species.
Here is some basic (useful) information from Dr. Daniel J. Siegel’s book about brain-mind building as he talks about the growth of our early right and left brain connections. As you read the paragraph below, and connect it to the information in Dr. Allan N. Schore’s mother-infant brain building of the earliest foundation of our social human brain, realize that the exercise of our brain regions, circuits, pathways and neurons in our social-emotional right limbic brain never ceases throughout our lifespan.
“From the beginning of life, the brain has an asymmetry in its circuitry, which leads to the specialization of functions on each side of the brain. The ways in which the mind creates representations of experience is shaped by this lateralization of function. The capacities to sense another person’s emotions, to understand others’ minds, and even to express one’s own emotions via facial expressions and tone of voice are all mediated predominately by the right side of the brain. In certain insecure attachment patterns, communication between parent and child may lack these aspects of emotions and mental experience. In contrast, secure attachments seem to involve the sharing of a wide range of representational processes from both sides of the brain. In essence, such balanced interpersonal communication allows the activity of mind to sense and respond to the activity of another. Such sharing of activity can be seen as the sharing of states of mind….” (Page 7) from Dr. Daniel J. Siegel’s book, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (The Guilford Press, 1999))
The more we were deprived in our own infant-childhood of deprivation-trauma, the less we experienced the kinds of safe and secure social-human attachment experiences that allowed these brain patterns to grow and develop in our brain – during the formative stages when they were most needed and necessary.
Except in very rare situations of complete infant-child isolation (and my experience did contain 95% isolation except within the school environment), most people (which DOES include me or I would not be able to talk!) have at least a rudimentary social-brain in existence.
We are long past the earliest stages where our neurons where assigned their place in our brain regions and given their job to do. We are long past the earliest stages where the superhighways of connection between our social-emotional brain and the regions it is intimately connected to were carved into place through our earliest mother-caregiver interactions. BUT, we continue as human beings to exercise these brain functions as long as we breath.
For those of us who suffered Trauma Altered Development through severe malevolent treatment, we especially need to understand – intellectually and consciously – the vital information contained within Shore’s article because we need to do TODAY as much as we possibly can in our interactions with people what Schore is describing in order to strengthen and improve the functioning of our emotional-social brain.
Remember, what I am suggesting here is meant to be enjoyable. We can best benefit from these kinds of exercises if we approach them from a playful stance within ourselves. This process, even from the beginning when our brain was built, always best happens in safe, secure and play-filled mother-infant activities. That is no less true – ever.
Social-brain, emotional, right brain exercise happens in close communication through signals exchanged through ALL OF OUR SENSES directly with another person. It can be really hard to find an adult who will do this with us, yet it is MOSTLY this kind of interaction with a trained, skilled and caring therapist that is effecting the most beneficial healing for us. Because most of us don’t have access to a therapist who can help us with this, we need to learn how to do it ourselves.
Most importantly, do not feel any pressure to do this RIGHT. Certainly no brain-building infant ever has that thought! It is even best to simply watch other people from a distance in the beginning as they interact in signaling communication with one another. Of course, as Schore points out, the facial signals are being transmitted – received – and responded to so FAST that we cannot consciously detect them. But we can try to!
I cannot read other people’s ‘social’ or ‘emotional cues’ correctly. This contributes to my sense of depersonalization and derealization (not to mention dissociations). I am always an outsider – really – when it comes to human interactions because of the Trauma Altered Development I experienced from birth. This does not ever mean that I can’t continue to learn more about what being a member of a social species is all about! Every single positive human interaction we have improves the social-emotional regulatory region of our right brain.
So – – – –
Try this once you have completed some serious, focused outside watching of other people as they communicate with one another (and if you have family or ‘party’ holiday gatherings you have a perfect crowd for the watching!). Having paid attention of the nature and quality of their interactive signaling, through body movement, facial expression, gestures, tone of voice, pitch, patterns of pauses, etc. you will already have an idea about how what I am going to suggest next might feel TO YOU.
I call this ‘in situ‘, or ‘in place’ communication. You can do this with anyone you feel safe and secure with, even a child who is old enough to engage in conversation.
Sit comfortably FACING ONE ANOTHER with your knees about a foot apart. Relax. Feel yourself inside your own body. Breath. Notice the physical sensations of your feet on the floor (don’t cross your legs or ankles), your bottom on the chair, your back, etc. These are feelings (tied to emotions) recognizable by your right brain.
Concentrate on letting anxiety leave this PLACE. I know this is hard for some of us to ever accomplish, but the point of this exercise is to connect the sensation of NO ANXIETY with feeling calm in social interaction that is safe and secure. ‘Ordinary’ safe and securely attached (from birth) people get to NOT feel anxiety nearly all of the time! Survivors don’t really even know what this feels like.
So here you are with your chosen partner. Look at one another’s faces and begin to speak. You can talk about ANYTHING! Remember, at least two-thirds of all human speech is about other people – or gossip. So, gossip if you like.
Tell a story about something that happened during your day – and your partner’s day. Nothing deep or heavy here. Just communicate, and as you do begin to THINK ABOUT how you two are transmitting, receiving and sending back communication signals. Because we are working to exercise the earliest forming regions of the social-emotional brain, it is important to particularly notice the face – expression conveyed through muscles, eyes, and position of the head.
Notice PARTICULARLY how both of you both make eye contact and break it! The actions that accomplish this are social-emotional regulatory actions. The fun thing to begin to see is that we all do this! We have always done it!
If a person moves their eyes away from another person’s eyes, either also turning the head or not, you can tell which region of their brain they are INWARDLY sending their energy to. When a person looks to the left and/or turns their head to the left they are ORGANIZING and ordering the information into their RIGHT BRAIN.
If we move our eyes to the right and/or the head, we are ORGANIZING and ordering information into the left region of our brain. This information we are dealing with is very complicated and involves both the external information we are receiving from the other person and our own INTERNAL information that we get at the same time.
Even without consciously noticing that it is happening, a person in face-to-face direct dyadic (two person) communication might eventually shift their ENTIRE BODY in one direction or the other. If they do this, pay attention to the direction they are shifting toward and realize it is the OPPOSITE side of their brain that is being organized and ordered. (These patterns might be a bit different depending on which hand, right or left, a person is dominant with – though the basic underlying structures are the same, the information itself can be processed differently depending on which is our dominant side.)
Once this exercise feels comfortable, and as you have noticed how you feel during the entire process, you can experiment with more emotionally laden conversation and watch what happens next! Because part of our intention is to strengthen particularly the right social-emotional regions of the brain, every time you notice a shift toward the RIGHT in eyes, head or body, intentionally compensate with a shift in the OPPOSITE direction toward the LEFT so that you reinforce, through this action, activity that is ordering and organizing the right brain regions.
Every time one or both of the people engaged in this kind of direct fact-to-face conversation make this kind of BREAK away from one another, this is a rupture that will be or not be repaired by a return to facing one another and continuing to communicate – after each takes the time that they need to process the information inside of their own brain. These interactions continually build themselves within the pathways of our brain into patterns of pauses that help regulate us back to CALM so that we can return for more stimulation – again!
These rupture and repair pauses and returns to activity happen all the way down to our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) level where our – you got it!! Where our parasympathetic STOP (‘pair a brakes’) arm of our ANS balances itself with our sympathetic GO ANS arm!
There you have it – neuroscience exercise to help build better and better internal emotional regulation into your body-brain through safe and secure social interactions!!
Have fun! And please continue to read and study Dr. Allan N. Schore’s baby social-emotional brain building article!
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