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How to Raise a Happy Human Being

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posted on Dec, 10 2013 @ 11:46 PM
The knowledge neuroscience and psychology have given in the last 2 decades is immense. Along with the development of other fields - systems theory, chaos theory, etc - we are now able to give highly descriptive explanations of early childhood development. NOTHING is more important than the first 4 years of life in determining what kind of human being will emerge.

I'll use myself as an example for how this process works in a life narrative. My mom, and this deserves mentioning, was raised by pretty rough, hard-hearted yet strongly familial Portuguese immigrants from the Azores. Her father used to beat her and they made her work from age 12 to 21, in which she was required to give 80% of what she made. She was also raped by an older cousin, twice. I know this sordid detail, personal, may seem unseemly for me to mention, but in fact it is crucial do describing the dynamics which occur intergenerationally, between mother and child.

My mom was both very loving, and extremely prone to angry outbursts. She was also violent, whipping me with the belt, and neurotic about a wide array of things. As the child being raised by and around this woman, I am exposed to extremely disorganized emotional patterns.

Proper neural development requires a strong sense of internal integration. What do I mean by integration? Positive affect states are states of integration. As a child, affect state regulation occurs between a mothers nervous system and her childs. The child is constantly receiving stimulus with the mother; At birth, the brain is only 1/3rd developed. The rest occurs in the following 18 months, postnatally, with the mother acting as the chief source of environmental stimulation.

Attachment theory and developmental psychology have noted how infants respond to facial, gestural and focal clues. This also reveals the deep association mechanisms which govern prefrontal neural regions. If a mother smiles at her baby when the baby is making an effort to connect - via expressed emotion - and the mother reciprocates, then the child's nervous system is being positively and constructively regulated. If, conversely, a mother is not properly responding to her child's cues, for example, the children is resisting stimulus, and the mother nevertheless persists in her high stimulus overtures, the baby is likely to associate social interaction with stressful affect responses, thereby biasing emotional and cognitive brain systems. It is thus exquisitely important that a mother be cued to her infants affect state. When he seeks connection, you reciprocate; you also modulate the intensity of the reciprocation to match his arousal state; you can raise or lower intensity levels to help bring the infant to a more advcanced affect state, and thus, a deeper sense of internal regulation.

When parents aren't doing this, and unfortunately, many mothers nowadays shower their children in destructive affect states, you get children who grow up experiencing "bad" feelings all the time. Around these bodily feelings grow concepts of self and experience. You begin to think badly of yourself. The human being is extremely sensitive to the neural development which occurred in those first few years of life when your brain was completing its development. The individuals energetic states i.e. how their brains autonomic system regulates metabolism, via vagal connections between heart/lungs and subcortical limbic areas. The brain thus provides "this" much energy for conscious functions, believing that it needs this much to properly perform bodily functions.

Such are the consequences of developmental trauma to the developing personality. Every mother (or father who interacts with child very often) has the responsibility to augment positive affect states in their child. Of course, an important caveat to this notion is that the mother has to be "Aware" to do this. She needs to be integrated herself - to feel good herself. To feel comfortable and happy most of the time.

Neuroscience has also taught us about the wonders of the brains anatomy. The orbitofrontax cortex, for example, has neural fibres (axons) that extend into various other brain areas: the occipatal, temporal, parietal, as well as the brain stem. The oribotfrontal cortex, the brain area behind our eyes, processes attention, and integrates information from other parts of the brain to be something "attended to". In other words, the "mind" could be said to be located mostly in this region. This region, has fibres which allow the mind to become aware of autonomic body states, in brain stem fibres. The mind therefore has, as any person who has meditated knows, the neural hardware to influence autonomic body states.

This is all pretty amazing since many contemporary intellectuals define mind as an "emergent" property from the brain (which it may be). Yet how amazing is it, that this 'brain based phenomena" can influence the brain which gives birth to it? Trips you out.

For anybody reading this, I hope you can take away how much power and responsibility a parent has in raising their child. If you care for the type of person that develops - the type of general questions they will ask about life, their general tone of experience - you have to be careful about how we relate to our children. We should love them and promote development by being aware of their emotional states. We should spur, but we should be gentle; and if a child is not in the mood to relate, we should give them room as well.

Proper development seems to be hinged on a personality that feels comfortable socializing and connecting (integrating) with other people, but also has a definite sense of self and identity (is internally integrated). These two aspects enable fluidity and flexibility in tolerance, generating responses perfectly suited to the incoming stimulus. Being internally regulated, in my experience, seems to be connected with a positive sense of the body we have been given in life. What our assumed attitudes about our bodies? How do we generally feel, in tone, about it? We are beings who move through a physical world. Everything we do with our bodies in our actions emanate from an emotional and mentally moving mind, which paradoxically receives its general input from the bodies interoceptive networks. If you feel uncomfortable "in your body", in extreme cases, its difficult for you to feel any positive state when in "front" of other people. The body you are embarrassed of, when exposed to the judgement of other minds, becomes many times worse. Social anxieities often extend from an underlying negative sense of body.

There are to general concepts which seem to fly above this entire process. Interpersonal connections, how we relate to one another, has enormous power in regulating the affect states we experience. If for example you get angry and allow your emotions to fly into chaos, where you can hardly be said to be "there" attending to your thoughts and actions, this is probably due to a maladaptive relationship you had with a parent. You are merely perpetuating, transmitted from them, the same energetic dynamics that governed their nervous system. Also, there is the body. The body, as yoga teaches, is an incredible source of wisdom. The body is there to help us. It is not only our source of life, but our source of a sense of peace as well. Its always there, waiting for the mind to become aware of it, and modulate it.

posted on Feb, 25 2014 @ 05:02 PM
Thats a mighty fine post

There is so much bad parenting these days, but its not all the fault of the parents! In the uk the television is teaching parents to abandon their children! They have tv shows that tell parents not to go to a crying child, but to leave it until it stops crying! They have weekly shows at prime time where they fill parents heads with these rediculous ideas.
I am shocked that so many parents are acting on this bad advice.

I've always believed that what very young children experience from those around them, will have a huge influence on what they will become. Your post gives some great insight on this.

Fantastic. Please post more like this.

posted on Mar, 1 2014 @ 03:09 AM
I wonder how babies and children will develop now that people are so absorbed by the screens that they carry around with them everywhere they go. It seems that even driving does not keep the attention off of the mechanical devices. Mothers may not even look at their children if there is a screen in the room.
Divide and conquer. Five people can be in one room but they are all lost in a different screen world.
How will a child develop when it grows knowing that a screen is more important that itself? Eye contact with a baby or child is really important.
edit on 1-3-2014 by Itisnowagain because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 2 2014 @ 01:45 PM
Good Post!

My wife and I have been doing attachment parenting since day 1, it is harder than normal ways of parenting. but much more rewarding.

our child is considered "advanced" compared to other babies his age. not sure if it is just genetics, or if the 'AP' had some impact on that. anyways, It's always good to see that my views on parenting are backed by neuroscience! cheers.

posted on Mar, 2 2014 @ 02:03 PM
reply to post by VoidHawk

Controlled crying is not a tv thing, I think in the states they call it furbanization or something like that. It's actually seen as a little old fashioned.
Attachment parenting is actually the most common.

posted on Mar, 4 2014 @ 06:13 PM

reply to post by VoidHawk

Controlled crying is not a tv thing, I think in the states they call it furbanization or something like that. It's actually seen as a little old fashioned.
Attachment parenting is actually the most common.

Abandoning a child is hardly "Controlled crying". I say abandoned because thats exactly what it is when a parent always refuses to go to a crying child. There's a lot of research been done on this, and it's not good for a child to just be left when it cries.

posted on Mar, 4 2014 @ 06:15 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

Its not a pet or a reflection of who you are.

That was simple.

posted on Mar, 4 2014 @ 08:19 PM
reply to post by VoidHawk

Not only is it not normal, it is ABNORMAL.

Anthropological research on hunter-gatherer small band mother-infant relations - a condition humanity had evolved in, and is probably still highly dependent upon, for at least the last 100,000 years - elucidates how mothers and infants were simply always with one another. There are so many things we do nowadays that are contraindicated by evolutionary practices - that is, the adaptations human beings made to the environments they evolved in.

Infants NEED to be attended to when they cry. This practice we have of "not attending to infants" when they cry - laughably - emerged as a practice as a product of circumstance. It wasn't based upon any scientific research. It became custom after the first world war, and then after it become custom, behaviourism took over and started meddling further with the normal mother-infant context by discouraging contact between mother and baby after birth (a harmful practice), washing the highly antibacterial waxy-substance off the neonate body, which, paradoxically, was done to "promote cleansiness", which ironically enough increased the odds of infection, thus "justifying" the need to separate mother and baby following birth. Breastfeeding was also a BASIC fundamental practice that human beings - like all mammals - engaged in for millennia before "science" (read behaviourism) tried to replace it with infant formula. But as we now know, infant formula is a rather poor substitute for breast milk: sugar levels, oxytocin, and other nutrients present in breastmilk support infant emotional and immune development in ways that infant formula simply doesn't. Studies of breast-fed and formula-fed babies show differences in rate of infection as well as level of attachment - both advantaging breast fed babies.

Science has become arrogant to think evolution didn't develop ingenious ways to maximize health in children. But now that we know, more and more anthropologists and developmental psychologists are calling for a return to more natural mother-infant practices. Even a stand-up pregnancy - the way that human beings gave birth in the hunter-gatherer-small-band context, has advantages over the normal supine position: gravity provides a force for the child to pass more smoothly between the uterine walls with more natural contractions. Albeit, a woman would need to have very strong legs in order to maintain that position. Also, given that social-support educes the release of endorphins - endogenous pankillers - having supportive loved ones at your bedside could replaces epidurals/pain medications that may have a detrimental affect on early infant development. Also, this practice of "elective caesarians" is perverse - that our society would put the aesthetic concerns a woman has about her vagina over the potential developmental harm to an infant that does not go through the normal - and adapted - stress of vaginal birth I guess shows how deranged we've become.

posted on Mar, 4 2014 @ 08:30 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

Excellent post

Dr Peter Gray has done a lot of research on the Hunter Gatherer, he has a blog about it somewhere, its very interesting, I'll post it here if I can find it.

posted on Apr, 29 2014 @ 11:13 AM
I think this helps explain a lot of things about myself and my son. He is six now, but his entire life I've been in the peaks and pitfalls of depression and emotional upheaval. Anyway, when he was two he passed the Autism screening without any warning signs. A year later we noticed he wasn't developing communication skills and two years after that people started throwing around the big, scary A-word when other parts of his development were also not catching up to the 'norm'.

School has helped him a lot but, thus far I seem to be in a position of reactive...playing catch-up.. He is a smart kid, very empathic (kind of to a fault as he seems to pick up my emotions and wear them like a sleeve), but the past is past and pining over the hindsight does nothing. Now all I'm wondering is how do I salvage the two of us and get us to the point of not just surviving, but thriving?

Your bringing together of history and bounds made in sciences and psychology is awesome and encouraging for those who's families are just beginning or somewhere off in the future, but I seem to have already made some of those mistakes. I'd be lying if I said I was currently, successfully keeping my personal baggage from affecting him.

Also, I'd understand if you didn't want to bite into such a personal account. You probably don't come on ATS to 'counsel' or whatever. Great thread though. Thank you.

posted on Apr, 30 2014 @ 08:28 AM
Attachment theory= Lack of human experiments evidence.

posted on May, 7 2014 @ 07:48 AM
Awesome thread. I'm both a mom and an infant care provider for a company that encourages attachment with the children we care for. Much of what you discuss in your OP is what we learn in Early Childhood Development classes with heavy focus on Erickson's Theory of cognitive development, but with the understanding that to maximize what we know about cognition, attachment and love need to play a key roles.

It's difficult in group care to immediately respond to crying babies, but we are taught that babies cry for a reason, they are trying to communicate that they are hungry, tired, need a diaper or need physical, social or emotional contact. Our babies are always close to a teacher, our rooms are designed so that a baby can see everyone, so if I'm changing a diaper and the other teacher is feeding a baby and another baby starts to cry, we both verbally respond and the closest teacher will scoot over to the crying baby so there's physical contact even if their hands aren't free... we become contortionists lol. We hug, kiss and cuddle our kids and tell them we love them.

It's nice to see this conversation expanding out into bigger and bigger circles. I only wish we'd never forgotten it all in the 1st place, I think we'd have a much happier and healthier society.
edit on 5/7/2014 by Kali74 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 7 2014 @ 09:24 PM
a reply to: Kali74

they are trying to communicate that they are hungry, tired, need a diaper or need physical, social or emotional contact.

So much of what we do is due to a lack of awareness. For whatever complex sociological - or perhaps, evolutionary - reason, human beings of the past 200 years began to think in utterly ridiculous ways about human nature. But that was probably a consequence of the fanfare and excitement generated by the industrial revolution happening around them. They were so impressed by the thinking that went into creating that organizational efficiency - with machinery - and thought: hey, human beings are like that (sorta!). And thats why basic emotional reality was lost sight of.

Perhaps, if Darwins thinking about human relationships and animal and human emotions were taken into account and not ignored, humanity would have thought about human nature - and the existence of emotionality in mammals - as, just like the physical attributes of an organism - a product of evolution affording the individual and species special advantage.

Humans represent the peak, the cream of the crop. If emotions are understood as an evolutionary mechanism to bring individual members of a species into organizational "symbiosis", then human beings possess a capacity for connection and cooperation well beyond any other species that exists. That we can cooperate to build a rocket ship to get us off this planet speaks to the complexity and abstraction of our relationships.

This is why the discoveries of Freud, Piaget, Klein, Kohut, Bowlby, Winnicott, Ainsworth etc have been so wonderful to the type of understanding developmental psychologists and educators and social neuroscientists: it gives us a tremendously elaborate and precise understanding of how human beings develop, and what we can do to offset the development of psychopathology.

The other day I was reading a vignette about a person named Tony. It was horrific. Tony's mother and father had been desperately trying to get pregnant before Tony was born, so much so, that Tonys mother wanted to sleep with him every night - with the dad sleeping elsewhere. To make matters worse, this practise continued up until the age of 10. Naturally, this stereotypical oedipus dialectic wreaked havoc on family dynamics, weakening the relationship between Tony's parents, and and severely handicapping Tonys own psychological development.

Basically, the 2 most important factor for normal development are markedness and contingency. This means parents needs to be aware of and attuned to the emotional messages in their child's behavior. If a child is crying and it extends its arm outwards, it's asking to be hugged, to be consoled. Conversely, if a child is happy being alone, and you go in there and begin coddling him, you are actually hurting your child by doing this. Contingency implies control: children seek to know that they can "control" the outer world. The first budding awareness of this is motor contingency: knowing they can control their limbs. This contingency is called perfect contingency, because the internal awareness of moving and the sight of seeing your body move is perfect: there is no incongruence between outer action and inner experience. The next stage in contingency seeking is imperfect. When the infant relates with others, its been shown and proven countless times that infants have a bias to seek close to perfect contingency situations, as opposed to perfect contingent situations. This would mean they are curious about the "others" that exist in the world. This is important, because recognizing the reality of the "other" is actually intimately bound up to experiencing your self as unique and different from others. So in order to develop this capacity and experience yourself as different, your parent needs not only to respond to you in a contingent way, but for infants, in particular, they need to respond to you in marked way. Marked means to exaggerate your tone of voice and way of responding. This, by the way, is an instinctive human behaviour. We speak to all babies with a higher inflection in our voice. Why do we do this? Developmental psychologists theorize that we do this because it allows infants to recognize that the other is interesting and "different" from our self. It promotes attraction and curiosity. But most of all, it get us interested in EXPERIENCING this external reality which I - the baby - have some control over. When the parent responds with this "marked" style, and doesn't actually respond to the baby with their real emotion, the beginnings of the self begin to emerge.

Parents with borderline personality tendencies who respond to their children without any markedness - we see this all the time, by the way - end up traumatizing their child, whether it be big or small, by preventing the child from experiencing themselves as "different" from other selves. If mom always responds to me with "stop crying! What do you want" in a stern or casual tone of voice, the child will experience the "external" reality, the environment, as scary. It'll instinctively sense it cannot control the world beyond it. And this, in effect, constricts the development of mentalizing faculties which enhance social cognitions and self awareness.

Anyway, to return to Tony. His mother #ed his development big time by coddling him. His fathers abuse of his mother was experienced by Tony as the father beating him. This over-identification with the mother, and his alien self, hated within, and projected onto the father, literally acted out Freuds Oedipus complex.Tony was put into a special youth center to help him with his problems. While there, all the kids were afraid and disliked Tony. Tony made only one friend, another girl, with a similar issue to Tony's. One day, she attempted suicide, and Tony was really shaken up by it. Long story short, Tony attempted to rape his therapist, then Tony, who was 15 at the time, was punished and put on tranquilizers. A day later, he broke out, went to this house and killed his father. 24 hours later he was found. Till this day he is incarcarcerated in an adutl mental institution.

Isn't that just amazing? Love is subtle. Love, in order for it to be truly "Whole", needs to be applied intelligently. Tony's mother no doubt loved Tony. But what she didn't recognize - no doubt to her own pathology - was that she was hurting Tony by coddling him. She over-identified with him, preventing him from developing his own sense of self. Tony, instead of developing normally, and becoming interested in the "interesting world out there", expressed by an adult with a "marked" quality of interest in the baby's reality, was daily exposed to a mother who never let him feel like he could be anything "but" connected with his mother. He never did good on his own, because his only sense of self was bound up with his mother; and his utter frustration with this situation, his alien self, was projected onto his father. And his father, not knowing any better, beat his mother, which was experienced and felt by Tony as if he were being beaten.

Such a tragic situation, and yet this happens all the time. Not to the extent of murder, but in the sense that minds are disturbed by parents who don't relate to their children in a way that will promote their psychological development in a healthy and constructive direction.

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