Ali Astrid Moto
Our Brain and Our Experiences: they are interconnected
The mind is created within the interaction of internal neurophysiology's processes and interpersonal experiences." - Dr. Daniel J. Siegel
The neurobiology of our brains and how it relates to our external world can be a complicated subject. And, when explained in a way that can be understood, can bring tremendous insight and awakening to our lives. Knowledge and wisdom are power, and they shed light on some of the hidden aspects of what it means to be a human being in the world. I know that understanding Neurobiology, has given me the ability to have empathy for my own thinking and behaviors. I've had many moments of "Oh, that explains so much!" I attribute this to my need for deep dives into the inner working of our human brain and how our experiences are so intimately linked to how it perceives our world from it's dark place in our head.
Here's the basic information you will gain understanding about from this post:
The human mind emerges from patterns in the flow of energy and information within the brain AND between brains
The mind is created within the interaction of internal neuro-physiological processes and interpersonal experiences.
The structure and function of the developing brain are determined by how experiences, especially within interpersonal relationships, shape the genetically programmed maturation of the nervous system.
What this basically means is, human connections shape the neural connections from which our minds emerge. I use the word mind to describe a complex system of organized connection in our brain. The MIND is at the heart of us as a living organism and our environment.
Let's chat a little about Neuroscience. It's a science that studies the way in which the brain functions through the energy-consuming activation of neurons. The degree or strength and localization of this arousal and activation within the brain - this flow of information/energy - directly create mental processes. So, basically it's a science about what's creating neuro-pathways, why, and what it's affecting.
This science has found that our interpersonal experiences GREATLY affect our developing brain. In fact it is shown that Genes (which are also influenced by our experiences) only make up roughly 50% of our brain structure. MOST of our development is due to our interaction as a infants and early childhood and some during our experiences while maturing.
"Interpersonal experiences directly influence how we mentally construct reality. This shaping process occurs throughout life, but most crucial during our early years of life." -Dr. Siegel
Research shows that our emotions play a big part in creating neural connections based on the brains input from our external world. What our attachment (More on Attachment Here) to our care-giver/parent was like, is a big factor to a regulated or disregulated brain. Repeated patterns of interaction with parents/caregivers become "remembered" in the various modalities of memory and directly shape not only what children recall but also how the brain interprets those memories. The brain makes context for the interactions. This later influences the structure of the autobiographical narratives or stories we make up about our experience. This is crucial in how we will build context in other experiences.
We may interpret something as not safe, or as enjoyable, this will dictate how we may interpret a similar experience later in life. There is also evidence to show that our experiences as children will also influence how we interact with our children. This is critical in understanding generational trauma, and adverse childhood experiences. We will more often than not pass those interactions on to our children, if not changed.
"The primary ingredient of secure attachment experiences is the pattern of emotional communication between child and caregiver/parent." Dr. Siegel
The way the brain establishes meaning - the way it places value or significance on experience - is intimately linked to social interaction. This connection between meaning and interpersonal experience occurs because these two processes appear to be mediated via the same neural circuits responsible for initiating emotional processes. This means that our interactions with others closely affects our emotional state. They are greatly connected. How our brain works is linked to others and our emotional self. This is crucial when looking at our vulnerability as a species. We are defenseless when born and need others to care for us to survive. Thus, we need to be able to pick up on emotional responses, as do our caregivers/parents to give us essential care. This means that at our essence WE ARE HARDWIRED TO SHOW EMOTION, to emote. We naturally must feel emotion, express emotion and respond to emotion for our system to work properly and to have neural connections for safety, harmony and security for a healthy brain & body functions.
So, emotion can be seen as an integrating process that links the internal and interpersonal worlds of the human mind.
Self-regulation and by regulation, I mean not just emotional regulation, but within our whole mind and body, is fundamentally related to the modulation or shifting of emotion. And, this is developed from within our interpersonal experiences. We are all connected in an intricate way. Not one of us can develop the way we are intended to and in a functioning healthy way without others.
Let's move on the Brain Development. We have established that our experiences shape the activity in the brain and strength of those connections throughout life. And, there is research to show that our experiences also organize the basic structure of the brain. For example, traumatic experiences at the beginning of life may have more profound affects on the "deeper" structures of the brain which are responsible for elementary regulatory capacities and enable the brain to respond later to stress. Thus we see that children who have experienced abuse have elevated baseline and reactive stress hormone levels. Common everyday experiences also shape brain structure. When there is a lack of these experiences there is a cell death or process called "pruning" that occurs leading to a lack of neural innervation for some activities, for example, when children aren't talked to or severe neglected, they may not develop the brain structure for speech.
Amazingly, our genes development is even influenced by our interpersonal connections and experiences. Yes, you heard correctly, our genes know how to do there job developing our brain by our interactions with our caregivers. We are interdependent on our experiences with others. I'm gonna say that again.
WE ARE INTERDEPENDENT ON OUR INTERACTIONS WITH OTHERS, for our brain development. Wow! And, that doesn't stop ever. It continues throughout life.
Going back to the infant brain. Genes and early experiences form the our neural connections and thus mental processes. Meaning, our early experiences are pivotal in our brain development along with the thinking and behaviors facilitated by those connections. This is all an activity dependent process.
The interaction with our caregiver, the messages interpreted by the genes and the forming of mental processes.
We are an interdependent being influenced by the world around us. This may sound elementary and most of us realize this on some level. And, I'm suggesting something much deeper that is at the core of our being. We cannot escape this truth about us as humans. Even as an introvert, I'd love to deny at times.
What does this mean for us?
Well, it means that our support and safety and executive function are dependent on our environment. That we are able to have real connection and harmony within our brainbody system with the validation and compassion of others. And, adversely we can become closed off, disregulated and have maladaptive functioning when not cared for, supported and seen. We must be valid to each other in order to function at our most effective and efficient.
We as humans are at our most innovative and are able to connect and have solutions when we come together. Our brains and how internal systems work better when we are having healthy experiences with others.
For more on our inter-connetedness go to my blog about the BodyMind connection or about relationships
by: Ali Moto