Many of us are wandering the world bearing a lot of emotional damage.
We may be depressed, anxious, or very difficult around sex in relationships.
We might ask ourselves where the difficulties came from.
It’s a continually weird provocative and yet, in our view, extremely accurate answer,
that the damage comes almost always from childhood.
Especially early childhood.
How we were cared for as infants and children, has a disproportionate effect on how we will relate to others in adulthood.
What we need above all else is a responsive parent;
An adult who looks after our needs with sensitivity and kindness.
This is quite literally life defining and life saving.
It sounds like nothing much and nothing too hard.
But without this kind of responsive love, we are wounded for life.
Many of us have been.
Researchers have become ever better at showing the effects of neglect on children.
One of the world’s leading expert is Dr. Edward Tronick,
director of the Child Development unit at Harvard University.
Together with his team, he’s responsible for one of the great experiments in the history of psychology,
known as: The Still Face Experiment.
Babies, this young, are extremely responsive
to the emotions, the reactivity and the social interaction
that they get from the world around them.
This is something that we started studying 34 years ago.
When people didn’t think that infants could engage in social interaction.
In this Still Face Experiment, what the mother did was:
she sits down and she’s playing with her baby who’s about 1 year of age.
“My good girl!”
And she gives a greeting to the baby, the baby gives a greeting back to her.
This baby starts pointing at different places in the world,
and the mother is trying to engage her and play with her.
They’re working to coordinate their emotions,
and their intentions. What they want to do in the world.
And that’s really what the baby is used to.
And then we ask the mother to not respond to the baby.
The baby very quickly picks up on this.
And then she uses all of her abilities to try and get the mother back.
She smiles at the mother,
she points. Because she’s used to the mother looking where she points.
The baby puts both hands up, in front of her and says “What’s happening here?”
She makes that screechy sound at the mother.
Like: “Come on! Why aren’t we doing this?”
Even in these 2 minutes, when they don’t get the normal reaction,
they react with negative emotions,
they turn away, they feel the stress of it.
They actually may lose the control of their posture because of the stress that they’re experiencing.
Watching the baby get distressed can be highly triggering.
If a child can get so upset over a few seconds of cold and unfeeling behavior,
we have a sense of what can happen over years or more of neglect.
No wonder some of us don’t feel so well inside.
We had an equivalent of a “Still-Face”-parent for our first decade and more.
But knowing how vulnerable we are, it shouldn’t merely sadden us.
We can take stock of how we’ve been failed and understand the link between the past and our present difficulties.
Psychological research, like the Still Face experiment, is at the forefront of helping us to understand ourselves emotionally.
Shedding scientific light on the origins of our sadness and complexity.
Along the way, the experiment proves something else beyond doubt.
Love isn’t a luxury. It’s a gateway to our very survival and sanity.
Most books that want to change us, seek to make us richer or thinner.
This book wants to help us be nicer,
less irritable, more attentive, warmer people.
Click the link to learn more.