A little reminder from our Mental Health department that our little ones need more hugs, more cuddles and more of our warmth than ever before. Stability is our healing goal.
Science keeps telling us to #cuddle our children. It’s interesting how many scientists are now focusing on the thinking that happens not in your #brain but in your #gut. You have #neurons spread through your innards, and there’s increasing attention on the vagus nerve, which emerges from the brain stem and wanders across the heart, lungs, kidney and gut.
The #vagus nerve is one of the pathways through which the body and brain talk to each other in an unconscious conversation. Much of this conversation is about how we are relating to others. Human thinking is not primarily about individual calculation, but about social engagement and #cooperation.
Stephen Porges is well-known for his “Polyvagal Theory,” which focuses on how the concept of #safety is fundamental to our mental state. Porges tells us that those who have experienced #trauma have bodies that are highly reactive to perceived threat. They don’t like public places with loud noises. They live in fight-or-flight mode, stressed and anxious. Or, if they feel trapped and constrained, they go numb. Their voice and tone go flat.
Physical reactions shape our way of seeing and being. When we’re really young we know few emotion concepts. Young children say, “I hate you!” when they mean “I don’t like this” because they haven’t learned their culture’s concepts for hatred vs. badness. But as we get older we learn more emotional granularity. The emotionally wise person can create distinct experiences of disappointment, anger, spite, resentment, grouchiness and aggravation, whereas for a less emotionally wise person those are all synonyms for “I feel bad.” A wise person may know the foreign words that express emotions we can’t name in English: tocka (Russian, roughly, for spiritual anguish) or litost (Czech, roughly, for misery combined with the hunger for revenge). People with high emotional granularity respond flexibly to life, have better mental health outcomes and drink less.
Cuddles help develop emotional granularity. If bodily reactions can drive people apart they can also heal. Martha Welch of Columbia University points to the importance of loving physical touch to lay down markers of #emotional #stability.
Under the old brain-only paradigm, we told people to self-regulate their emotions through conscious self-talk. But real emotional help comes through co-regulation. When a caregiver and a child physically hold each other, their bodily autonomic states harmonise, connecting on a #metabolic level. Together they move from separate distress to mutual calm.
When we step back and see the brain and body thinking together, the old distinction between reason and emotion doesn’t seem to make sense. Our very perceptions of the world are shaped by the predictions our brains are making about our physical autonomic states. And we can also see how important it is to teach emotional granularity, starting from birth.
#neurochild #regulate #relate #reason #childdevelopment