Today on the All Relationships Can Heal podcast, we’re going to be talking about my 3rd guiding principle about our development. When we can understand a little bit more about how we develop and grow and how the growth creates patterns, we can start to understand ourselves and our loved ones in a different light. And the light is where the healing can happen. I’m Rebecca Thompson Hitt and you’re listening to the All Relationships Can Heal podcast and this is Wisdom Wednesday.
Principle #3- We develop neurosequentially. Neurosequential is a word coined by Dr. Bruce Perry, who is a neuroscientist, brain researcher and clinician in Texas. He explains that our brains develop from back to front (most primitive to most developed) both in utero and after birth, with development of our brains being completed between the age of 25 and 30 depending on who you talk to and if you’re male or female. When our needs for connection are met at younger ages, our brain forms with more emphasis on the emotional brain and the thinking brain. Basically, it means that our brains are wired for connection. When we have a lot of adversity and less connection for any reason, our brains are going to be more predominately wired for survival (fight, flight or freeze). This begins during pregnancy with the conditions that the mother is experiencing. We are more likely to see someone else’s behavior as a threat and respond by fighting, running away, or freezing. Others will react to our behavior patterns and patterns are created in our relationships based on those responses.
For example, if a mother was stressed during her pregnancy. Let’s say that there was an abusive relationship, or she was working a very stressful job, or that there was a very difficult birth, the baby was exposed to the stress hormones that both he and his mother were experiencing and will likely be born more hypervigilant and on-alert. The hormones released during the stresses prepare the baby for the adversity in the world he is going to be born into. The baby will be more likely to be difficult to soothe, may have difficulty feeding or sleeping. It isn’t because the baby is trying to be difficult, but that the baby was primed for a stressful world in the womb. The mother sees the difficulties, is exhausted and stressed herself, and there is a pattern created that is wired into the growth of the brain. It’s harder to connect to a baby who is not really responding to our attempts to soothe them and we tend to start believing that we’re not doing a good job as the baby’s mother. Both this mother and this baby need connection and some support to make it safe enough to connect and grow together, to settle together in their bodies, brains, and nervous systems.
What this baby needs, even as an adult, is a connected relationship and someone to understand what it was like for him to go through all the difficulties AND that he made it. That’s where healing happens. When our most basic needs are met for safety and connection and someone sees, really sees, that we survived, the earlier developmental needs will go away. The need for connection never goes away and we never stop trying to connect. And we can change our brains and complete earlier development later if it was missed at the developmentally appropriate time. We may try to get those needs met as children, as teens, or as adults in our intimate relationships. A lot of our behaviors can be understood in a different light when we look at this neurosequential development and early unmet needs. The most important thing about this is that our brains and our patterns of relationship can change. Needs can be met and we can learn new ways of relating to meet those needs. Regressions are often a way of getting an earlier need met and even adults have regressions. Ask, “What is coming up to be healed with this behavior?” Because behaviors like these are healing waiting to happen. Healing for everyone.
A need, when met, will go away. A need unmet is here to stay. You’ve been listening to the All Relationships Can Heal podcast and I’m Rebecca Thompson Hitt. We’ll be back tomorrow with Thankful Thursday and a look at guiding principle #4 about behaviors. We often are less thankful for the behaviors we see (both ours and our child’s), but we’re going to be talking about finding the gratitude in those behaviors and how they can help us to heal together.