Now that I have cleared my mental desktop with the writing of my two previous posts this morning I am going to write the one I WANT to write. For background I refer to a few earlier writings on this blog –
I also draw from my simple understanding of the work of Dr. Stephen W. Porges (search for his name with polyvagal theory online for articles) – his recent and upcoming books:
Clinical Insights from the Polyvagal Theory (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) [Kindle Edition] (2014)
I also refer at a minimum to the writings of Dr. Allan N. Schore as briefly mentioned in this post –
Now, talking in context of the critically important work of ‘developmental neuroscientists’ my thinking this morning seems to be taking a slightly different line of approach to what it is that can so powerfully communicate to a newborn and very young infant what the conditions of the world are like as those conditions are communicated to it directly through the interactions the infant has primarily and firstly with its mother.
I understand that an infant is used to the feel of its mother’s motion, the sound of her voice, from birth the continued and ever more clearly defined sound of her, the prosody (music) of her voice, the smell of her, and hopefully even the taste of her. I understand as Porges certainly specifies that it is the highly evolved ability of humans to communicate through eye-to-eye, face-to-face interactions (as Schore details in his work) that especially builds the rapid-growing infant brain (primarily the right social-emotional regulatory right limbic brain region) in the first months of life.
But today I am thinking about what a mother communicates to her infant through her HANDS.
Porges does a very good job in describing how our polyvagal system connects everything our BODY knows to our brain. I am thinking this morning about what a massive amount of information the feel of a mother’s hands communicates to her infant.
There is another stream of related information on this blog I need to refer to here –
I am thinking that just as researchers have discovered that REAL smiles and REAL laughter cannot be faked (DUH!), love, safety and security transmitted to an infant’s body through the hands of its mother (and other caregivers) cannot possibly be faked, either.
Nobody has to TEACH a human being to be able to read the genuineness of a smile or of a laugh, nobody has to teach an infant about the truth of the feel of itself in its mother’s hands. In fact, nobody HAS to teach these things because it is not POSSIBLE to teach these things. We know. We know a great deal, and we know this from at least the instant we are born.
Now, in my thinking this morning as it is also connected to my earlier post today about being carriers of stories that is intimately combined with our urge to transmit these stories, that how researchers can assess adult degrees of secure/insecure attachment patterns through the specific telling of our life narrative story (according to how coherent or incoherent our telling is) has to do with HANDS in a very direct/indirect way.
If you poke around in those links at the start of this post that have to do with attachment, narrative and Grice’s Maxims of polite conversation you will be able to follow what I am going to say next.
Because I know that the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) is the tool designed to assess adult attachment patterns, I know that it is a breach of ‘communication etiquette’ that signifies a person’s life story narrative is broken – in other words, is in need of repair (healing).
So I did my perfunctory online definition scan this morning to look at what ‘polite’ might mean. When I found that this word did not appear in modern English until the 15th century I decided to search further. In following my own train of thought I browsed next through ‘civil’ only to discover that this word has only belonged to the language I speak since the 14th century. Not good enough.
So I traveled next in the direction of ‘manners’. Oh, I LIKE this one!!!
Some might say it is ‘bad manners’ to say something ‘bad’ about someone else. Some might say that ‘dirty linen must not be aired in public’ and that ‘skeletons belong hidden in closets’. Some might say that to tell a story that involves horrific instances of harm, trauma, neglect and abuse is ‘bad manners’, too.
Yet when people cannot tell the true whole story they carry – if there IS trauma in that story its absence in the narration of the story will create a broken story. These broken story narratives are directly linked to the presence of unsafe and insecure attachment patterns (disorders) in adults.
What fascinates me about using the word MANNERS in relation to Grice’s Maxims is that this word came into English before the 12th century. For lay scholars like myself we can’t travel back any further to find what my art therapy professor referred to as ‘the animal image in the word’.
And what IS the animal image in this word, manners? Look at its origins: Middle English manere, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *manuaria, from Latin, feminine of manuarius of the hand, from manus hand — more at manual .
Feminine – of the hand.
Where does civility, civilization, anything we might think of as ‘polite’ begin to be taught to a human being? In the hands of mothers. What manner of world is an infant told through the hands of its mother that it has been born into – and thus must adjust all levels of its physiological development to in order to survive? A safe and secure world? An unsafe and insecure world? A world that is full of adequate resources? A world of scarcity and deprivation?
Communication from its mother’s hands teaches the truth to an infant after it has been born about all it needs to know about the condition of the world. The story told to her infant through her hands cannot lie. And most importantly this earliest information transmitted to an infant directly through the hands of its mother travels exactly through the infant’s body to build the infant’s body in response to the message received.
Safe and secure world = safe and secure attachment = one kind of body-brain is built for life in a benevolent world. Unsafe and insecure world = unsafe and insecure attachment = a different kind of body-brain is built for life in a malevolent world. Hands do not lie and a developing body cannot be fooled.
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