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Attachment and the three little pigs

Attachment relationships are what psychologists call the foundational relationships all human beings develop with their primary caregivers in the first years of life.

The theory’s pioneers – Bowlby, Ainsworth and Main – observed three distinct patterns in the behaviors 12-month old babies had with their mothers during experiments called the Strange Situation.

They went on to observe the parents’ relationship with their children at home, and scored a dozen or so parental behaviors, of which four proved to be the most important. They demonstrated that the children’s attitudes were not innate but were the result of the kinds of relationships the parents were developing:

They were as different as the three little pigs’ homes.Continue Reading →

Hopeful Mother’s Day

My Grandma’s toes were crooked. She used to say she was born this way, but it was surely the shoes: too small when she was a poor immigrant, too tight when she could afford heels. My Mom’s were less so, she only had bunions whose operations incapacitated a couple of toes. Mine started out on that path too, but I traded the self-inflicted trauma of small shoes and high heels for Birkenstock, a sight I now inflict upon others.

So it goes for more serious traumas. Continue Reading →

The origin of feelings

Emotions are apparently simpler than we think. Psychologist James Russell, as quoted in Lisa Feldman Barrett’s new book How Emotions Are Made (2018), came up with a very simple model that describes affect, or how we feel throughout our days.

It has two features only: how pleasant or unpleasant we feel (called valence) and how calm or agitated we feel (called arousal.) Continue Reading →

Humanity’s greatest problem

Our species’s greatest problem is that every new brain needs more attuned care than any parent finds pleasant to give. The proverbial “village” expertly provided this attuned care for the hundreds of thousands of years of our species’ development. Today, with our isolated western lifestyles, we are suffering from what researchers call an “epidemic of neglect.”Continue Reading →

There is no such thing as a Brain. It’s a Brain Burger.

British pediatrician D. Winnicott used to say:

“There is no such thing as a baby. There is a baby and someone.”

The same applies to brains. Our brains do not operate independently of relationships, which are conditioned by the environment in which we live.Continue Reading →

All we need, in one drawing

Brains are for two things: pursue life and avoid death. On an ongoing basis, they need the will to pursue food, drinks, mates, whatever makes us live. After spurts of saving us from the claws of death, they need to calm back down and get on with the business of life. The settings “will to live” and “calm back down” are mainly hardwired during childhood when our genes interact with our environment (our caregivers, in the first years) to shape our brain.

Let’s be clear: it is fiendishly difficult for humanity to deliver on these two simple needs that every new generation has from the older one: a solid base from which to explore the world, and safe haven from stress. Two brilliant Marias, born fourty years apart, explained why.Continue Reading →