When you were young

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Rick Hanson:

Every child is particularly vulnerable during the first few years.

One reason is that the primary neural trigger for experiences of stress and fear—the amygdala—is fully formed before most babies are born.

This “alarm bell” in your brain was ready to ring loud as you took your first breath.

Second, a nearby part that calms down the amygdala–the hippocampus–deoesnt become completely developed until around the third birthday.

The hippocampus is key to forming episodic memories—specific recollections of personal experiences—and it’s slow maturation is why we we don’t remember our earliest years.

It also signals the hypothalamus to quit calling for more more stress hormones (”Enough already”).

The combination of a ready-for-action amygdala and a needs-years-to-develop hippocampus is like a one-two punch: young children are easily upset while lacking internal resources for calming themselves and putting events in perspective.

Third, the right hemisphere of your brain got a jump start in development during your first eighteen months.

This matters because that side of the brain tends to emphasize the perception of threats, painful emotions such as fear, and avoidance behaviors such as withdrawing or feeling… which intensify the negative effects of the amygdala-hippocampus combination.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Love this. Thanks for the brief and accurate description here.

    Have you read the body keeps score by Bessel Van Der Kolk?

    Game changer for me dealing w my chronic illness. Highly recommended!

  2. Oh yes have read him

    The body stores trauma along with the amygdala

  3. Posted by rudid96 on October 24, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    This condensed description was very illuminating. I recall the parental advice I received for my infant – “let them cry it out” and the feeding instructions “put the formula and cereal in one bottle and leave them in the crib.”
    As a result of today’s post, I understand that for a baby born with a developed amygdala and undeveloped hippocampus, this is the breeding ground for alarm and later, anxiety.

  4. Exactly,

    We know danger, in fact we are an expert at spotting danger

    Abuse stops proper wiring as the brain matures

    Attachment especially in first 18 months is important for our nervous system

    Abuse causes all focus to go into survival

    Survival mode along with adrenaline cortisol epinephrine is supposed to be short lived

    Abuse changes how our minds wired

    I am learning things about my life that I had no clue. Others have pointed them out fir me

    Someone asked me who I confided in about my trauma in college, I realized there has never been anyone I trust at that level

    Sad in a way

  5. Posted by rudid96 on October 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Yes, it’s very sad. The birthright of every human is denied. Explains why the discussion of the topic of ‘attachments’ feels so threatening. Throw a spotlight on this never ending sense of being caught up in Aloneness no matter how many people are around.

  6. In psychology therapists always stress the importance of attachments In dealing with life

    I do not feel alone

    I am a loner but I do not yearn for new attachments

    How do you look at life

    If suffering has far outweighed any glimpse of joy

    Were some of us destined to suffer by the parents we inherited

    I know I have worked a solid decade to heal and I have found more trauma buried

    The time spent facing trauma and healing is not real living either

    It is hard and painful

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