Just recently I had another book recommended to me, this one called “The boy who was raised like a dog” by a well-known child trauma psychologist Dr Bruce D. Perry.
His work with children’s trauma and their brain patterns resonates very well with how we work in a Neuro-Training with Kinesiology session.
Therefore I thought I would share excerpts from his book, and as there was so much valuable information I have added an extra page onto the normal two page newsletter.
Dr Perry found that “complex interactions beginning in early childhood affect our ability to envision choices and that may later limit our ability to make the best decisions.”
He comments that “Resilient children are made, not born. The developing brain is most malleable and most sensitive to experience – both good and bad – early in life.”
“Through moderate, predictable challenges our stress response systems are activated moderately.
This makes for a resilient, flexible stress response capacity.
The stronger stress response system in the present is the one that has had moderate, patterned stress in the past.
If a system is overloaded – worked beyond capacity – the result can be profound deterioration, disorganisation and dysfunction.”
“Even in utero and after birth, for every moment of every day, our brain is processing the non-stop set of incoming signals from our senses.
If the experience is familiar and known as safe, the brain’s stress system will not be activated.
However, if the incoming information is initially unfamiliar, new or strange, the brain instantly begins a stress response.
How extensively these stress systems are activated is related to how threatening the situation appears.
It’s important to understand that our default is set at suspicion, not acceptance.
At a minimum, when faced with a new and unknown pattern of activity, we become more alert.
The brain’s goal at this point is to get more information, to examine the situation and determine just how dangerous it might be.”
“The brain evolved from the inside out, and it develops in much the same order.
The lowest, most primitive region – the brainstem – completes much of its development in utero and in early infancy.
The midbrain and limbic systems develop next, elaborating themselves exuberantly over the first three years of life.
The frontal lobes of the cortex, which regulate planning, self-control and abstract thought, do not complete their development until late in adolescence, showing significant reorganisation well into the early twenties.”
“Babies are born with the core elements of the stress response already intact and centred in the lower, most primitive parts of their developing brains.
When the infant’s brain gets signals from inside the body – or from their external senses – that something is not right, these register as distress.
This distress can be “hunger” if they need calories, “thirst” if they are dehydrated, or “anxiety” if they perceive external threat.”
“When this distress is relieved, the infant feels pleasure.
This is because our stress-response neurobiology is interconnected with the “pleasure/reward” areas of the brain, and with other areas that represent pain, discomfort and anxiety.
Experiences that decrease distress and enhance our survival tend to give us pleasure; experiences that increase our risk usually give us a sensation of distress.”
“Babies immediately find nursing, being held, touched and rocked soothing and pleasurable. If they are parented lovingly, and someone consistently comes when they are stressed by hunger or fear, the joy and relief of being fed and soothed becomes associated with human contact.”
“It is through the thousands of times we respond to our crying infant that we help create their healthy capacity to get pleasure from future human connection.”
“However, if a baby’s smiles are ignored, if they are left repeatedly to cry alone, if they are not fed, or fed roughly without tenderness or without being held, the positive associations between human contact and safety, predictability and pleasure may not develop.”
“The brain needs patterned, repetitive stimuli to develop properly.
Spastic, unpredictable relief from fear, loneliness, discomfort and hunger keeps a baby’s stress system on high alert.”
“The fact that the brain develops sequentially – and also so rapidly in the first years of life – explains why extremely young children are at such great risk of suffering lasting effects of trauma; their brains are still developing.
The same miraculous plasticity that allows young brains to quickly learn love and language, unfortunately, also makes them highly susceptible to negative experiences as well.
Just as foetuses are especially vulnerable to particular toxins depending on the trimester of pregnancy in which they are exposed, so are children vulnerable to the lasting effects of trauma, depending on when it occurs.”
“The major predators of human beings are other human beings.
Our stress-response systems, therefore, are closely interconnected with the systems that read and respond to human social cues.
As a result we are very sensitive to expressions, gestures and the moods of others.
We interpret threat and learn to handle stress by watching how those around us react.
We even have special cells in our brains that fire, not when we move or express emotions, but when we see others do so.
Human social life is built on this ability to “reflect” each other and respond to those reflections, with both positive and negative results.”
“To calm a frightened child, you must first calm yourself.”
“In fact, the research on the most effective treatments to help child trauma victims might be accurately summed up this way; what works best is anything that increases the quality and number of relationships in the child’s life.”
“Children who don’t get consistent, physical affection or the chance to build loving bonds simply don’t receive the patterned, repetitive stimulation necessary to properly build the systems in the brain that connect reward, pleasure and human-to-human interactions.”
“The term used to describe babies who are born normal and healthy but don’t grow, or even lose weight following emotional neglect is “failure to thrive”.
One study in the 1940’s found that more than a third of children raised in an institution without receiving individual attention died by age two.”
“Since much of the brain develops early in life, the way we are parented has a dramatic influence on brain development.
And so, since we tend to care for our children the way we were cared for ourselves during our own childhoods, a good “brain” history of a child begins with a history of the caregiver’s childhood and early experience.”
“Attachment between a baby and his first primary caregivers is not trivial; the love a baby feels for his caregivers is every bit as profound as the deepest romantic connection. Indeed, it is the template memory of this primary attachment that will allow the baby to have healthy intimate relationships as an adult.”
Often as adults we tell ourselves to “move on” or “get over” traumatic events from our past, however Dr Perry says that “What we feel now can also influence how we look back and what we recall from the past.
As a result, what we remember can shift with our emotional state or mood.
“When you retrieve a memory from where it is stored in the brain, you automatically open it to “edit”.
You may not be aware that your current mood and environment can influence the emotional tone of your recall, your interpretation of events and even your beliefs about which events actually took place.
But when you “save” the memory again and place it back into storage, you can inadvertently modify it.”
“When you discuss your memory of an experience, the interpretation you hear from a friend, family member, or a therapist can bias how and what you recall the next time you pull up that “file”.
Over time, incremental changes can even lead to the creation of memories that did not take place.”
“The problem with traumatic memories tends to be their intrusion into the present, not an inability to recall them. When they intrude, discussing them and understanding how they may unconsciously influence our behaviours can be extraordinarily helpful.”
Interestingly Dr Perry says that “Believing that you cannot recover unless you remember the precise details of a past trauma can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can keep you focused on the past rather than dealing with the present.”
As you know, in a Neuro-Training with Kinesiology session we often work with retraining the neurology’s response to past memory cells, however the benefit of doing that in a Neuro-Training session is that as we are working at a sub-conscious level there is no need to re-traumatise anyone by reliving the past traumas.
In conclusion Dr Perry points out that “We’re at a transitional point in history where people are recognising that modern societies have abandoned many of the fundamental elements required for optimal human mental health.
We can see the problem in the seemingly inexorable rise in depression rates around the world, which cannot be explained solely by better treatment and diagnosis.
A person born in 1905 had only a 1% chance of suffering depression by age 75, but by their 24th birthday 6% of those born in 1955 had had an episode of serious depression.”
And he attributes a large portion of blame should be on the fact that the “modern world has disrupted and in many cases abandoned the fundamental biological unit of human social life; the extended family.”
When I read this I remembered an old “hippy” saying I had heard on some television programme quite some time ago which was, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I took that statement to mean that there is so much to teach a child that one set of parents can’t be expected to know it all and so having many “helpers” was necessary.
Perhaps that sort of thinking had its merits.
It was very much the “norm” generations ago to have the wisdom of older relatives to help parents through all those “tricky” times when raising children.
Also, having other family members close by gave parents the opportunity to have a “break” from their child-minding duties in order to complete other tasks.
Admittedly back then those “other tasks” were probably to help out on the farm or to do house-keeping duties.
Over time it seems as though we have adopted more of a “we should do it all” philosophy where as parents we expect, and it is expected from us by society, that we should raise our children as a nuclei unit without the help of “others”, whether that be extended family members or good friends.
This seems to have put a lot of pressure on parents and has also in many cases restricted children’s exposure to other family members.
Perry says that “If we don’t give children time to learn how to be with others, to connect, to deal with conflict and to negotiate complex social hierarchies, those areas of their brains will be underdeveloped.”
“Children’s brains are shaped by what they do slowly and repeatedly over time.
If they don’t have the chance to practice coping with small risks and dealing with the consequences of those choices, they won’t be prepared for making larger and far more consequential decisions.”
Quite a thought provoking comment by Dr Perry.