Human children have a longer childhood than any other species, during which they depend upon caregivers for survival and for feeling good about themselves. Whilst the mother gathers food, an infant gorilla can hold onto her mother’s back and it is much more independent at a much younger age than a human; So the bonding and the centrality of relationship is crucial to its development. As the saying goes, the development of the individual recapitulates the development of the species. As we develop and grow individually to adulthood, especially during the recent stage of human evolution, we rely increasingly on relationships.
Social brain theory claims that, as the human brain tripled in size, it helped our ancestors to get good at relationships and navigate the passing on of genes. Relationships increasingly became the focus of everyday life.
For example, mammals and birds have bigger brains than reptiles and fish. What do mammals and birds do that reptiles and fish don’t do – they form pair-bonds and are very adapted to group living. As the human brain grew larger, childhood grew longer, the bonds grew too between parents and children, leading to the building of the larger support system of kinship to keep a human infant alive.
As the bonds developed, capabilities such as empathy, compassion, love, loyalty, language, romance, altruism, social skills as well as social emotions such as embarrassment, hurt, shame and envy developed too, along with various inclinations of connection, attachment and fear.
This leads to attachment theory – that young children have powerful needs for empathic, emotionally available, compassionate, skillful, valuing and loving caregiving. The child’s experiences gradually accumulate to establish “secure” (sense of worth, self-regulation, trust in others and expectations that they will be caring) or “insecure” (sense of inadequacy, over or under regulation of self, low trust in others and oneself, expectations that others will be unreliable) feelings toward the self. These various patterns we acquire in early childhood persist into adulthood.
Rick Hanson reminds us that we can heal whatever relationship patterns we acquired in childhood. We may not forget what happened but we can gradually stabilize this shift from insecure modes of attachment to secure modes of relationships. One of the ways to make this shift is to repeatedly internalize the felt sense of being cared about, included, appreciated and loved. Dr Hanson urges us to look for any opportunity to use the practices of positive-neuroplasticity for these feelings to really sink-in.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ― Albert Einstein
“In the cherry blossom’s shade
there is no thing
as a stranger.” – Issa
humor: Why do pandas like old movies?
….They are in black and white 🙂