*EMOTION AND ATTACHMENT

ATTACHMENT AND EMOTION

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Emotions come with maturity.  The wiring required for the experience of emotions is built into our growing fetal bodies along with everything else, but because they intimately require further development of our brain to become fully operational, they are designed to wait until we are born so that they can develop in interaction with the world we are born into.

I have come a long way in my understanding about emotions and feelings in the 28 years that have passed since my first introduction to “recovery” through a seven-week inpatient alcoholism treatment program in Minnesota in 1980.  At that time I was 29, in my second marriage, mother of a 4 year old and 9 year old daughter, and thought that having to go to treatment was the best indicator of being the worst failure a person could be even though I had no idea what treatment even was.  All I knew was that it was about learning to live without alcohol or having to smoke pot every day.   I knew I could not accomplish this on my own.

I felt scared.  I felt ashamed.  I felt hopeful.  I felt guilty and grim, and certainly not happy, but I had no understanding of what those feelings actually were or how to talk about them.  One September afternoon I sat in an old oak rocking chair in front of our picture window watching yellow leaves float silently to the ground. I turned my head as my oldest daughter walking across the living room toward me.  It seemed as though she was walking in slow motion as she approached and then stood in front of me.  I lifted my hand and lay it on her arm.  I knew I was obviously touching her but I felt so remote from her, so distant and far away it seemed like I wasn’t even there at all, or there was a universe between us I could not cross it to “feel” her and neither was there any way she get any closer to me.  As she spoke to me her words seemed to come from somewhere far away and at the same time I heard a voice inside of myself, distant and faint, and it whispered, “Linda, there’s something terribly wrong with you. You cannot feel your children.  You are their mother and they need you and you cannot feel them.  You have to get help.”

I knew nothing about the terrible state my emotional brain was in from the 18 years I had spent with my mother.  The 7 weeks I spent learning about alcoholism in treatment helped.  It was the only place I knew where to start “getting better.”  Now I know there are things about the way my nervous system including my brain, my stress response system and my immune system developed that are never going to get better.  I began my own research to find out what was wrong with me, and ended up discovering that something is different about me.

My numbness has gone away and in place of it I have a direct connection to my dysregulated emotional brain and all the intensity of my emotions that literally feel at times as if they have possession of my body.  As I describe to you the basics of what a secure attachment system is compared to an insecure one, and then tell you how it goes “down” from there, you will begin to understand as I have that self soothing for those of us with a disorganized insecure attachment has to be a continual conscious effort.  You will understand that well being is the furthest thing that was built into our bodies from birth (or before) and therefore also requires conscious effort to obtain.  What should have developed smoothly and effortlessly in our growing infant bodies, what at least half of the population take completely for granted, is fundamentally completely out of our reach to obtain.

I am not disillusioned and I am not pessimistic.  This is my reality as it is for others whose infanthoods and early childhoods were completely lacking in what the experts refer to as secure attachment relationships and adequate social support.  What needs to be absolutely understood is that these deprivations built themselves into our growing brain during critical windows of developmental growth, and once those brain regions are built and their operating pathways, networks and circuitry established, they will never change.  We end up with altered phenotypes from the ones that we would have developed in a benevolent world.  If you are one of the people who have deeply felt that you are different from other people, and even at times have voiced the thought to yourself that you don’t belong here, that you must be alien or came from another planet, I am most definitely talking to and about you.

(Infant’s are born communicators and begin at birth to illicit caregiving.  I am reminded of what it’s like when things go wrong.  Our cell phone service here on the Mexico-Arizona border is inconsistent and nearly more problematic than it’s worth.  Dropped calls, unintelligible conversations, phone going continually in and out of “service area,” on and off of roaming, reception bars going continually from zero to full band back to zero.  The phone doesn’t ring on incoming, gives the callers strange messages, doesn’t always let me call out so that I have to redial the number I am trying to reach 3, 4, 5 times.  Service is so bad I couldn’t even continue to talk with the service rep and he couldn’t call me back.  The next day I tried to call customer service, my telephone told me I couldn’t call this number..  This is kind of what infants experience when their caregivers are insensitive to them and unable to meet their attempts to communicate, and when the caregivers respond inappropriately to the infant.)  Inappropriate cell phone service creates an inconsistent and therefore undependable condition of stress (I call that and computer problems “techno stress.”)

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(Have you ever slipped and almost fallen, or fallen so fast you never saw it coming?  That sensation when one slips and almost loses one balance is one I live with all of the time.  When we are about to lose our balance our body tells us.  This isn’t something our left logical brain has time to inform us about with multiple options presented for response.  Nearly losing our physical balance instantaneously triggers our body fear and triggers the body reaction to right itself.  If an infant has been maltreated from birth, it cannot find that center point of balance because the developing body was pulled off track so it developed in a different way and in a different direction from the start.  And yet the body always knows this, too, that it did not have a chance to form around centered balanced equilibrium.  The experts talk about the set point in the developing nervous system being altered through infant maltreatment.  One is then perpetually in a state of slipping, near slipping, being on the edge of falling.

Even if one can go back as an adult and attempt to change this set point, we have to realize that all the “ruts” formed in the beginning are deep and well used by the body so that anything that threatens us later on in our new found “recovery” will cause our bodies to fall back on their pre-formed circuits of assistance to survival in times of threat.)

Even though the experts are making progress in identifying the reality of and consequences of insecure attachments in infant and childhood, we have a long way to go before we both understand and begin to accept the reality of these alternate phenotypes that are our reality.  We are not like other people.  I am not talking about minor changes, either.  Our bodies grew and developed in, by and for a malevolent world that few others can begin to imagine.  If we survived it we did so because our bodies were able to adjust and adapt.  They did so, however, at great cost to our bodies, brains, minds and selfhood.

For us, the term “abandonment issues” is almost a ludicrous assessment of our condition.  Our abandonment was so early, so pervasive and so fundamental as to end up being best described as the glue that not only holds the cells of our bodies together but also orchestrates every molecular operation within them.  It affects how we feel, what we feel, why we feel, how intensely we feel, and what we do.  I believe for us, more than for any other people on this earth, we have to understand that emotions and resulting feelings are an immune system response to being alive in the context of our bodies in interaction with our internal and external environment.

When something happens, our bodies feel it on some level because our immune response system tells us everything.  It signals us constantly, and it is our best friend unless its operations are disturbed.  At that point, it will become our worst enemy.  We could not have been as maltreated, neglected and abused as we were and not have “mishap” written all over inside our skin.  So let’s be perfectly clear about this kind of treatment to infants and young children:  our genes will change in order to adapt to extremely malevolent circumstances as infants develop, will change our phenotypes and the way our genes operate for the rest of our lives.

We are of course more related than anyone else is to the phenotype of the person we would have become if we had been able to develop in a benevolent world.  I think of each of us as a unique rubix cube with collections of colors that are all a unique part of being an individual person, only the colors that we had to develop through the abuse are different than the ones we could have developed under different circumstances and these changed colors are showing in altered patterns.  Yet while all the particular shades and combinations and patterns of our colors are changed, the rubix cube that is our individual personhood is still uniquely us.

Our biggest problem is that we can be such complete strangers to ourselves to ourselves as a result of the severe early abuse we endured.  It helps me now to know how profoundly my mother’s abuse of me has not only affected me, but completely changed the person I became as a result of it.  I grieve for the me I could have become as I grieve for the person my mother could have become had she not, too, been so inadequately cared for during her early years.  This fundamental a level of damage, of woundedness, is important for me to realize so that when I think about returning to who I was before the abuse – I can’t.  When I think about recovering who I was before the abuse – I can’t.

Early in my 7 weeks of inpatient treatment when we were beginning work on the 12 steps that were a foundation to their therapy approach, I asked my therapist how I was supposed to be restored to sanity when I had never had it in the first place.  She criticized me for that question and told me that I was resisting treatment and being defensive and would never recover if I didn’t stop “intellectualizing” and “rationalizing” and get down to working my program.

I know now I was right, and I knew then that I was right.  My question deserved a serious and sincere answer.  I did not need to be dissuaded from my own inner understandings and told, yet again, that something was wrong with me or that I was doing something wrong.  I give this as an example of what I mean when I say we need a paradigm shift in our thinking and in our understanding about the long term consequences of early, severe and chronic child abuse that occurs without intervention during the crucial, critical windows of body and brain development, especially and pivotally, during early childhood.

We need a whole new kind of kindness about the realities of these consequences that completely alter people from the inside out.  We need new thinking, new vocabularies, new understanding of and appreciation for the awesome adaptive abilities of the human species to endure and survive what should have killed us.  If our bodies stayed alive, they were changed, and they are different ones from the ones we would have developed if we had not been abused.

Think about poker chips on a table.  You can pick them up, pile them up, move them around, shove them here and there.  But watch out for the ones that end up near the edge, and pay serious attention to those that fall off and hit the floor.  We are like the chips down below.  Nobody really understands what life is like there unless you are one of those “chips are down” people.  The researchers don’t understand us.  They sincerely design studies and look from the outside to begin to comprehend what life must be like on the inside of us.  But we are outside of them.  Our realities are different.  We are different.  The only ones who can truthfully describe what life is like inside one of our bodies is us, only us.  We are the chosen few who know from the inside because terrible abuse happened to us as infants and children.

We did not get to become who were meant to become, which could only have happened in an adequate, benevolent, “good enough” early environment.  So who did we become?  Who did our adaptive physical bodies determine that we would become?  Not only were we deprived of secure attachments with our early caregivers so we became insecurely attached as a result, but we didn’t even get to have what’s called an organized insecure attachment as a result.  We became what the experts refer to as the disorganized, disoriented insecurely attached infants and young children.

I believe that any time circumstances before birth or afterwards during the critical developmental stages up through the second year of life become dire enough that the individual’s body has to make physiological “epigenetic” alterations in development to adapt to this “toxic” world, an altered phenotype will manifest itself.  The changes that can be made are limited to the possible interactions that person’s genes can make.  If the person can’t adapt, they will die.  The immune response system will do anything possible to prevent death from happening.  The more toxic an environment is, and the more fragile or vulnerable an individual’s genetic combinations are, the more drastic will the alterations become.

When I talk about the good having to outweigh and balance out the bad and the ugly during crucial early developmental stages, I am including genetic potential, both in terms of the individual’s actual DNA and in terms of the range of possible changes the DNA manifestation mechanisms can make.  I will say this more than once:  everyone has a breaking point, especially from conception to age 2.  If the developmental trajectory is altered in parallel with adaptation to a toxic environment, the end phenotype, the final product, will be unlike anything that could have been predicted in consideration of the DNA potential alone.

Individual development is like the evolution of our species as a whole.  It happens in interaction with the conditions of the environment.  Perhaps the most important single statement I can make in this book is that as far as I can tell, our species reached a point in the past that can be mirrored in our present, that is, to develop in near perfect conditions of safety and security to become nearly perfectly calm, peaceful, happy and in a state of well being.  That is the optimal state for all that is best in our species to manifest, allowing us to develop into our best phenotype.

Nature has also determined that the world is a varied place and should anything less than optimal confront an individual during its most critical growth windows of opportunity, we are given a wide range of possible adjustments and adaptations our bodies can make.  The further from optimal our early developmental circumstances are, the further we will end up away from our best possible state.  Any and all of these adjustments, I maintain, are first and foremost immune system responses to a less than optimal environment.  These adaptations force us to “abandon” our most perfect bodies so that we can develop ones that are better suited for and more perfectly adapted to harsher, less than optimal and therefore – to some degree or another — toxic environments.

Just as I say that all emotions are signals from our immune system about our condition in relationship to the environment we live in, I will also say that our attachment processes require corresponding immune system responses.  If the environment is safe, secure and benevolent from our beginnings, our immune system operates accordingly in a state of secure attachment.  Anything less that this condition requires an immune response related to the lack of benevolence in our environment and results in an insecure attachment within our body in relationship to the world.

I did not end up with an insecure disorganized attachment as a result of the extremes of abuse I suffered from birth only in relationship to and with other humans.  My attachment pattern built itself into and operates on all levels of my body.  Although it is the quality of our early caregiver relationships that determines how our attachment system develops, once established it governs all of our interactions and manifests itself through all our behaviors down to the actions of our molecules.

  1. No boundary, no nourishment, no defense, no life.

So I have an insecure disorganized attachment processing system.  What does that mean?  My entire body was designed by, for, and built in a malevolent rather than a benevolent world since my birth.  That I am not a malevolent person is because enough good was available to me to balance the bad and the ugly.  I call this goodness “nutritive resources,” and include anything as a nutritive resource, both internal and external, that enhanced the preservation of my life.  Good is nourishment, bad is toxic.  But I cannot emphasize enough that adaptation to severe early developmental adversities requires great effort and comes at great cost.  Balancing goodness against badness involves complicated compromises that place a heavy burden on the body and on its interactions with the self of the person who has endured such developmental tragedies.  They will pay the price for having survived them for the rest of their lives.

My immune system was organized from the time my first cells divided.  It remained organized throughout every moment of my fetal existence, and it operated through attachment starting with the attachment of the egg and sperm that originated me.  It moved to my attachment to my mother’s uterine wall and continued through the attachment of the umbilical cord that nourished me.  The developing cells of my body and brain were also nourished by my mother’s movements and rhythm, the sound of her heart beat, her voice, and the sounds of her world around me.  I was completely at the mercy of her hormones and body chemicals as they interacted with my developing body.

Twilight Sleep, no longer used during childbirth, had a conflicted history.  A combination of an opiate derivative which gave women hallucinations and a night shade derivative which gave them amnesia, it was introduced into America’s hospitals around 1920 as the first anesthesia after ether used (or misused) to give women a supposedly painless childbirth.  This drug needed to be strictly monitored in its usage and given in specific doses at specific times during the stages of a progressing labor.  Because my mother’s labor was prolonged and difficult, it is easy to imagine that if they gave it to her at all, they could have given her too much.

Queen of Angels hospital in Los Angeles where I was born no longer exists so I have no idea how to track my birthing records even should they exist.  But I am certain that if doctors gave it to her it had the power to cause the psychotic break that happened to my mother as she was giving birth to me.  She believed that we were both dying as I was trying to be born, and that the devil had sent me to kill her.  As you read my mother’s childhood stories and the commentary I provide about them, remember that troubled girl’s troubled mind and realize that if at that time she was already in a pre-borderline personality disorder condition, the hallucinations that she experienced while in labor with me were enough to precipitate a final descent into a condition from which she never recovered.

What made my mother’s nightmare my own is that once I was born, she believed that even though I had not succeeded at fulfilling the mission I had been given by the devil to kill her, my existence was proof that I was not human, that I was the devil’s child, that I was essentially and fundamentally evil and sent as a curse upon her life.  She knew this from my first breath and so did I.  This psychosis was at the root of my mother’s terrible abuse of me without reprieve for the next 18 long years.

It still stuns me that I had no clue about the true nature of my childhood until I was almost 30.  I had never talked to anyone about that past, not even to myself.  The abuse had no context and therefore had no place in whom I had been or any connection to who I had become.  I don’t think I had particularly buried it.  I don’t think I even denied it, knowing what I now think about denial as being a form of magical thinking that takes effort to apply to a situation.  More accurately the abuse vanished the day I left home except for a few direct connections with the misery later on.

This isn’t where I planned to take this deviation into what I suspect about dissociation, but I guess there’s no way to avoid it.  Obviously I had so dissociated my childhood experiences from whom I became once I left my parent’s home that I felt more like I was hatched fully grown at age 18 and never had a childhood at all.  Only my grief in missing the homestead kept me aware of any connection to ever having been a child on an ongoing basis for over a decade after I had left Alaska.

I will also say here that one of the hallmarks of having an insecure attachment history is the inability to tell a complete coherent life story.  There are too many slippery slopes, jagged cliffs, precipices rimmed with lose gravel, bottomless pits into disaster.  There are too many pathways to terrible misery, too many places not to remember anything at all, and too much effort to remember only the “happy” times.  There is no easy flow.  There are too many things best forgotten, never remembered, never felt again.  Nothing about these malevolent childhoods makes sense to those who grew up in and live in a mostly benevolent world.

During the last session I had with my primary counselor before I graduated from the 7 weeks of inpatient alcoholism treatment I mentioned to you earlier she told me that she was recommending me to therapy once I returned home.  She told me that I “had depression” and that I “was a victim.”  I felt awed that they knew that mystery.  How could they tell?  How did they know?  What did that mean?  I had no idea what she was talking about, no clue, but I dutifully did as I was told and found a therapist.

After some weeks of attending therapy sessions alone (and being “put on antidepressants) my husband attended a session with me.  My therapist asked me to tell him of an experience in my childhood that had made me sad.  I told them about the Bubble Gum Incident that I share with you in this book.  Before I was half way through the telling both my husband and the therapist were crying, and I spent the rest of the session telling them “it wasn’t that bad” and “I was all right, really” as I tried to make them feel better and stop crying.  I still didn’t have a clue!

I am bringing this all up now so that I can tell you what happened nearly a year after I had finished treatment, had been attending my 12 step meetings, talking to my therapist, and beginning to see that perhaps I could talk to my mother and tell her…..what?  What did I think I could tell her?  What did I expect her to say to me in return?

What I did try to tell her was that I needed to talk to her about some of the things she had done to me in my childhood.  I told her that I couldn’t have a phony pretend loving relationship to her in my present if we couldn’t talk about some of the things that bothered me from the past.  Guess what happened?  Twelve years after leaving her home I was again listening to her on the other end of the telephone screaming her abusive litany at me, about how I had tried to kill her when I was born.  About how I was such a horrible baby she had nothing good to say about me so she couldn’t make me a baby book, about how my kindergarten teacher had been teaching for 40 years and told my mother I was the worst child she had ever had in her class.  She told me I was sent as a curse upon her life, that she cursed the day I was born.

On and on and on and on she went, only this time, for the first time in my life, after listening to her screaming that I knew was without end, I was finally able to say to her, “You are a damn liar!”  I took the pointer finger on my right hand and “Click!” pressed the button on the phone and disconnected her.  I stood there for a split second of disbelief at what I had dared to accomplish, and then started shrieking with joy. I jumped up and down in celebration.  I was in rapture.  I ran and leaped and skipped around the house whooping and hollering and flapping my arms, acting and feeling like I had never before in my entire life.

The phony relationship with my mother did continue sporadically for another eight years, but only if she initiated contact.  I eventually realized after reading Scott Peck’s book, “People of the Lie,” that my mother was incapable of feeling remorse.  Yet another of my many therapists I’ve had over the years recommended this book to me after she had listened to me describe my childhood to her.  “There’s a line between good and evil that people can cross,” she told me.  “Your mother crossed it.  Yours was not an experience with intermittent fits of rage.  Your mother persistently and consistently persecuted you.  What your mother did to you was not child abuse.  It was evil.”  (It makes me think about when I say I am writing a book.  It is always in the background of my life, even when I am not directly involved in the actual writing.  My mother’s abuse of me was like that, always running in the background even during times when she was not in some way directly attacking me.)

  1. She was distraught, I know, but there was nothing in that room for her.   It would be hard to say as I look back which of them was the more pitiful.

Please pardon these infamous words, but if I had known then what I know now, perhaps I would have handled that situation differently.  But I was in full immune system response and I saw her as my enemy.  Speaking of that word, enemy, I was nearly 40 before I realized that I had no personal sense of what that word meant to me.  I asked my two best friends who lived in different towns and had never meant one another what that word meant to them.  I remember this well because both of them used the exact same words to answer me.  “An enemy is someone who does not have your best interests in mind.”

It is hard for me to believe that the order of my thoughts as I am writing them here and now will be retained once this book begins to be edited.  Yet at the same time I think about what it means to have an insecure attachment system, especially one that remains disorganized into adulthood, and I know that the inability to tell a coherent life story might be both a detriment and a gift.  Both of these conditions share in common an alteration in brain activation patterns.

Dissociation is, to me, is essentially linked to incoherent life stories because it is fundamentally about how memories are processed, stored and accessed.  Researchers have found that people who score highly on scales measuring dissociation tend to be more “fantasy prone” than most people and can also hold two or more thoughts together in their minds at the same time more easily than most people can.  The question then becomes, “How does one express one’s self and communicate coherently in a linear world?”

Researchers know that the right limbic emotional brain develops during the first year of life, and is directly constructed by the quality and nature of an infant’s early interactions with its caregivers.  Researchers have developed ways to assess an infant’s attachment system in relationship with its caregivers and know that a mother’s own attachment pattern can accurately predict her offspring’s attachment patterns when that child is six years old.  This also works the other way around.  By assessing a child’s attachment patterns researchers can predict the mother’s attachment patterns even before they assess her.  What the researchers are seeing are the patterns of communication signals being exchanged between an infant and its mother.

In other words, a mother’s face to face interactions, verbal intonations, inflections, the rhythm, pitch and “music” of her voice, how sensitive a mother is to an infant’s states of feelings, how she responds to them in her infant, how she mirrors it back to itself, is building the circuitry and networks in her infant’s brain as surely as if her brain was a computer downloading itself into her infant’s right emotional brain as she forms it.  She is literally giving her infant its brain through the operation of her own brain the same way that her body governed the infant’s development while it was still in her womb.

Through evolution nature has determined that it happens this way.  Yes, I am being simplistic, but we all know that life is so complicated that individual specific interactions are as marvelously varied as there are people in situations to have them.  The actual processes by which we grow our brains are basic to us all.  In music we might call this the silence and the sound.  Between human beings in social connection, we call this rupture and repair.

Our endogenous (that means inside our own bodies) opioid (like opiates, the feel good system) lies at the bedrock of our attachment system.  If a newborn is fine, the opioid receptors in the brain are full.  As the infant has a need, the opioid receptors are empty.  Our attachment system is designed to ensure that the infant has dependable and accessible early caregivers that are paying close attention to its cues so that as it needs something and feels bad with its empty opioid receptors, someone will come take care of it and the infant’s empty opioid receptors will fill back up and the baby will feel good again.  Rupture and repair.

The amniotic fluid and the placenta are full of endogenous opioids.  Mammals that eat their placenta are both receiving nutrition and pain killers.  Breast milk is full of natural opioids that make the baby feel good.  The mother’s body releases natural opioids when she nurses her baby.  Nature has all kinds of ways to make mothers and infants feel good in one another’s company which motivates them both to keep doing what makes them feel good and to be attached to one another.  All in a good day’s good world.

But what happens when things are not good?  Stress in a mother’s body alters the environment even before conception so that a fetus can start off responding to the changes stress causes in her hormones to prepare itself for a less than good world.  By the time an infant is born, its body has already prepared itself in response to environmental condition signals from the mother, and it will keep on adjusting if the stress of a less than good world faces it on the outside.

Besides keeping the infant alive, another central purpose of an infant’s attachment relationship with its early caregiver is that it signals to the infant about the condition of the world so that it can continue to prepare itself by adapting and adjusting for the future in the same way that it did before it was born.  If the mother’s past experiences in the world have been optimal, safe and secure, that condition will signal itself to the infant through the mother’s interactions with it.  If her past experiences in the world have been less than optimal, those threat and scarcity conditions will also signal themselves to the infant so that the infant’s body, on the molecular and genetic level, can and will make adjustments.

In a safe and secure world, ruptures are minimized and repairs are maximized, contributing to a state of well being.  If someone needs something, the environment will respond with more than enough and the internal natural opioid system is in a state of satiety and calm peacefulness most of the time.  In an unsafe and insecure world, it’s the other way around and ruptures are maximized and repairs are minimized.  If someone needs something there is never enough, the opioid receptors (think of them as the little grasping fingers at the ends of our cells) are left mostly empty, and that resulting discomfort, translated to pain when it gets to be too much, translates into direct action to find a way to repair the rupture.

We have a highly evolved natural opioid based attachment system because we are a social species designed to solve problems together in groups.  The less frequently infants are left to be uncomfortable for any reason without someone coming to tend to their needs, the less they suffer from empty opioid receptors and the more their attachment system develops in relationship to people.  The more frequently infants are left to be uncomfortable with their empty opioid receptors, the less they will be convinced on the molecular level that people are their solution, and the more they will be likely to extend their need outside of human contact.  Variations in degree in either of these directions will result in variations in how human brains grow and develop from the beginning of an infant’s life.

An infant’s body will know through its interactions with its mother or other very early close caregiving relationships what the condition of the world is like.  From those signals it will be preparing itself for the same conditions in the world it is growing into.  Either an infant can safely and securely trust their needs to be met on all levels or they can’t.  In its early brain developmental stages, an infant certainly doesn’t care that it isn’t fed because there’s no food available to its caregivers.  It doesn’t care why its mother neglects or abuses it.  An infant’s brain is not going to use nutrition it receives as efficiently if there’s too many stress hormones in its body, anyway.  Stress overload in an infant’s body creates a condition of malnourishment in the growing brain no matter what food the body is fed.   Under any adverse condition the infant’s body will simply do its best to adapt to harsh circumstances, no matter what they may be or what causes them.

All early caregiver interactions are contributing to an infant body’s adjustments either to a balanced world of rupture or repair, or to an unbalanced world of rupture without repair.  There isn’t a single interaction that a young infant has with its environment that doesn’t involve some combination of these two factors.  The resulting patterns being built into the brain are about how these two factors are regulated in relationship to one another.  In the beginning the infant’s brain and body are not developed enough to regulate more than necessary bodily functions by itself.  It can’t regulate its temperature, its sleeping patterns, its elimination, its physical movement, or how it feels.

Most physical functions mature on their own as the infant’s needs are met and it gradually gains control over them.  Brain development, on the other hand, is not automatic but happens directly in interaction with its caregivers’ relationship with it.  The infant’s developing brain is processing its caregivers’ facial expressions at millisecond speed.  It has only been with recent technological advances that we even have cameras capable of recording how fast these face to face signals are transmitted and received between infant and caregiver.  Every single one of these interactions is responsible for telling the neurons (brain cells) in the infant’s developing brain where to go and how to operate once they get there.

Once I was born and that cord was cut, I continued to be attached through my complete dependency on my mother to keep me alive.  If an infant is breast fed the mother’s immune system continues to benefit the baby.  I was bottle fed, so my own immune system had to be sufficient from the start, and what a startling start it turned out to be!

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