There’s ONE question that all human brains want answered, and they want it answered, “Yes” – parent’s brains, children’s brains, priests’ brains, politicians’ brains, all brains. And they don’t want a lukewarm “Yes,” or a “Maybe Yes” or a “Getting-to-Yes Yes.” They want a substantial, resounding, unequivocal, “YES!”
Before I tell you what that question is, I’d like to tell you a little bit about what might have gone on in your young brain when the answer to the Main Brain Question was something other than “Yes.” First of all, if the answer was “Maybe,” or “I’m not sure,” a confusion and uncertainty very likely began to take shape in your developing brain. How this looks under a brain imaging device is a significantly reduced number of grooves in the brain together with fewer connections between neurons. Reduced connections result, not unexpectedly, in reduced abilities in different areas – for example, motor areas or immune function – resulting in greatly diminished capacities, e.g. lower social or emotional intelligence or reduced impulse control. If you go here and take a look at famous physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss’s brain, you will be able to clearly see a side-by-side comparison of two brains, one that very likely had the Main Brain Question repeatedly answered, “Yes” (Gauss’s), and another that most likely had it answered “Maybe.”
Neural Damaging “No”
Much greater problems arise for parents and children though when the answer to the Main Brain Question is, “No.” When the answer to this question is “No,” children are placed in an untenable position: the place where they live, and the people they need to take care of them are not performing that fundamental function very well. Because they are unable to take care of themselves, as a child they are now stuck. Feeling, or actually being helplessly stuck with no ready resolution in sight, has been found to be the primary experience that results in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in adults and children alike. What PTSD often looks like when a brain-scanning machine takes a picture of it is something like this – major neural real estate is simply not optimally integrated and operating in the neural network.
This kind of brain damage, in differing degrees, is believed to have a lifelong impact on our children. Here’s what “recovering neurologist,” Dr. Bob Scaer, has to say about it: “The cumulative experiences of ‘life’s little traumas’ shape virtually every single aspect of existence. This accumulation of negative life experiences molds one’s personality, choices of mate, profession, clothes, appetite, pet peeves, social behaviors, posture, and most specifically, our state of physical and mental health.”
All that might not be so bad. Given the great plasticity and regenerative capacity of the brain, it might be something we could work with. However, Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician, sees the damage caused by the answer “No” to the Main Brain Question as even more serious. Here’s what he has to say: “The biology of potential illness arises early in life. The brain’s stress response mechanisms are programmed by experiences beginning in infancy, and so are the implicit, unconscious memories that govern our attitudes and behaviors toward ourselves, others and the world. Cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and the other conditions we examined are not abrupt new developments in adult life, but culminations of lifelong processes. The human interactions and biological imprinting that shaped these processes took place in periods of our life for which we may have no conscious recall.”
So, we can see that living beings possessing brains need tender, loving, consistent care. But what exactly IS this Main Brain Question, and what do we need to do in order to consistently answer it “Yes”? I’ll be answering this question and many others in future columns. (If you absolutely can’t wait, you can go here to get the answer: AYTFM?)