From the monthly archives:

May 2004

Limbic Resonance

May 31, 2004

Blogging - more than a ride on the technocycle - blogging, a magic carpet, a woven ride parked at the door opening onto today’s media. And each day, if we can learn one thing… then blogging provides an opening. Blogging is the door. Today’s lesson: limbic resonance… with a nod to one who seems to know…

…This ability to feel the feelings of others and to project our own is called limbic resonance. It has particular importance for babies. When babies are born, their brains are only partly grown. Because women’s hips have not kept pace with the increasing size of our brains through evolutionary history, much of the growth of the neocortex—where we reason and speak—takes place after we are born. A baby’s limbic system must resonate with the mother’s for its brain to grow properly. In extreme situations where there is little contact, the brain grows only partially, and will never be healthy.

The resonance between the mother’s and baby’s limbic systems begins in the womb and continues to deepen after birth. Every baby imprints on its mother like it will on no one else. Its limbic system is hungry for resonance. Beyond guaranteeing physical brain growth, the baby’s brain learns its basic emotional expression by tuning to the mother. We feel what our mother feels. If we are fortunate to have a loving mother, we are set for life.

The most confusing thing to a baby’s brain is indifference. Researchers say that the mother who hates her baby sends the clear signal the baby’s brain needs to grow and differentiate. The hated child will have problems the loved child will not, but will be better off than the child treated with indifference….

Our need for limbic resonance never stops. As we grow older, we remain an open system. Our limbic system retains the need for contact. It is our dog brain that makes us fall in love. Resonance continues to change us. Who we love has a lot to do with who we become. Our significant emotional relationships change our brains, our feelings, and perhaps at the edges, our dispositions….

…We can choose to change. Maybe we get angry inappropriately. Maybe we fall in love with the wrong people. What we can do, argues Paul Ekman, is learn to become aware of our emotional triggers more quickly. With application, we can gain in awareness so that our emotions are not making decisions that harm us and foreclosing ones that would benefit us. Interestingly, emotion researchers are coming around to saying that ancient meditative awareness practice is a skilful way to reeducate ourselves emotionally.

Another thing to know, as Lewis, Amini and Lannon point out, is that Freudian talk therapy has no value in itself. We can’t talk our way to happiness. When psychotherapy works it is because love is present. It doesn’t matter what sort of therapy your therapist professes. What cures is a loving connection. If you go into resonance with someone who can give you the emotional cues you may not have had in earlier stages in life, you can learn from the resonance. Good teachers, good therapists, good friends and good lovers all offer a succoring resonance.

We are open systems throughout our lives. That’s what makes life worth living.

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Dad is Sick

May 31, 2004

Dad was born December 2, 1923, the second of eight children. Four of his siblings have died. Last summer at a gathering at my cousin Paula’s place, the survivors were calling themselves “the final four.” The name has stuck. Gallows humor and what some might think a rude insensitivity runs deep in my family. We show our love by insulting each other.

Dad’s never sick. He’s one of these guys who retired without ever having used a sick day. So when he rainchecks a weekend barbeque because he’s feeling ill, we have cause to worry. My sister and I pestered him mercilessly on the telephone yesterday. And last night his friend Sandy said she was taking him to “urgent care” and she’d let us know if we needed to be concerned. Haven’t heard from her since and it’s too early to call….

I’m glad dad has lived to read Brokaw’s book and to see the WWII memorial unveiled. He was never any kind of American Legion or VFW guy. Like a lot of combat veterans he kept his memories pretty much to himself and didn’t have much use for flag waving and parades. On the other hand, ever since my brother was posted to Vietnam in the late sixties, dad has flown a flag at home.

We rainchecked the barbeque yesterday because dad said he just didn’t feel up to standing over a charcoal grill. And now, while I was writing this, my sister called and said they kept him in the hospital last night and they may be keeping him there for a few more days. The diagnosis seems to be an inflamed pancreas, but I’ll know more when I’ve talked with dad and the docs.

I think it’ll be my job later this morning to show up at the hospital and chide him for malingering. It’s my job right now to just find my own center and hold dad in the love that’s in my heart.

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