Friday, March 16, 2007

Developmental Psychopathology

I'm at my 2nd PhD class in Lynnchburg VA. Much of the class was on the chemistry of the brain and how the positive or negative social relatioships of the baby with the mom and dad can"wire" that brain for the rest of life. The core of he social brain is also the hub of our fear circuitry. Successful therapy can actually change the wiring of the brain when there has been neglect or abuse or anything less than optimal parenting. I was thinking there was a correlation to another "healing relationship" we have in the LDS church. Harry Harlow studied the impact of social deprivation on young monkeys. Young orphan monkeys were raised by wire surrogate mothers. These monkeys engaged in autistic, self-abusive, and socially inappropriate behaviors. In another set of experiments newborn monkeys were raised in total isolation for the first 6 months. Then were introduced into a colony of monkeys, having had no physical contact, nurturance, or social skill development. These isolate monkeys spent much of their rime huddled in a corner or rocking in place. Furthermore, they failed to develop appropriate social, sexual, or maternal behaviors; they found stimulation and complexity of the social world just too overwhelming. In a subsequent set of experiments, before releasing his isolate monkeys into the larger group, they were given “therapists” The therapists were monkeys of the same species but only half the age of the isolates: true child therapists! And what good therapists they were! The therapist monkeys initiated contact out of interest, curiosity, and their instinct to connect. Though the isolates would initially freeze or withdraw from fear, the young therapists were persistent, continuing to approach and cling onto their “clients”. Gradually the isolates grew less afraid and began clinging back. Ever so slowly, they began to initiate play and learn positive social behaviors. (Suomi & Harlow 1972) It turned out that these younger monkeys were the perfect therapists. Their stage of development led them to connect with the isolates at a very basic physical visceral, and emotional level. More importatly, they would't take NO for an answer. (Cozolino 2006p 314 best of the 6 books!)
This story reminds me so much of missionaries. Some people in the world are living in a state of spiritual deprivation. They are afraid to trust in God. When the missionaries run into them, the missionaries are like the loving baby monkeys, like little puppies, they are always approaching, initiating contact with te instinct to connect. Though the people initially say no and try to withdraw, the young missionaries persist, continuing to approach and cling to their “clients” Gradually a few of the people thaw and learn to love back. Learning not to fear and learing to love are biologically interwoven with spiriuality. God Bless the missionaries!

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