There’s just something about smiling babies that instantly turns our attachment light on and tells us to smile back. It’s not surprising that videos of babies laughing and smiling end up going viral. It feels good to see their dopamine receptors growing and multiplying quicker than conscious thought.
Trust vs. Mistrust
When I was pregnant with my first child, many years ago, I took an Intro to Psychology course in college. I remember distinctly how intrigued I was with Erikson’s theory, especially the 1s stage: Trust vs. Mistrust.
I knew right away that I wanted to focus my parenting of my child on ensuring that he passed Stage 1 with trust. I had read that babies who experience nurturing parents combined with lots of touch and eye contact are more likely to trust and move onto the next stages better equipped.
I remember picking up the book by Dr. William Sears called “The Baby Book” and feeling totally in sync with the attachment parenting techniques he described.
Years later, when I met Dr. Wilder and learned about The Life Model, I was really excited to see such a compatible look at adult maturity that went hand in hand with the attachment parenting theory I had liked so much. The Life Model gave hope for those of us who did not experience attachment parenting!
So, for those of you that are already attachment parenting fans, I want to encourage you by telling you that The Life Model is right in line with what you’re doing!
If you’ve never heard of attachment parenting, and you’re a new parent then I’m hopeful that what I’m about to tell you will become the driving force behind how you parent.
In the first 2 years of life, our brain is growing and forming connections and routes that will determine how we live and relate to others for the rest of our lives. These early years are essential in forming our identity and our brain chemistry’s default setting.
“Level 1” and Attachment
It all comes down to “Level 1” of our brain’s control center. We must set Level 1 in order for all the other remaining levels to know what to do.
Do you know what we call Level 1? The Attachment Center. This is the place in our brain that asks the question, “Is anybody with me?” “Am I alone?”
From birth, our brain’s attachment center seeks to answer those questions.
In attachment style parenting, the parent’s main goal is to make sure that the baby answers those questions with “YES, someone is with me!” Attachment style parenting places a lot of emphasis on bonding and closeness. Staying near to your infant and responding to his or her searches for “is anyone with me” quickly is essentially the #1 goal. And even more importantly, we want our baby’s Level 1 to answer that question with “Yes, someone is with me AND they are glad to be with me!”
The brain will continually ask this question throughout life. When formed properly in the early years knowing that someone is glad to be with him or her, the brain is set with a chemical make-up that is healthy and able to create and release things like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. (And in case you didn’t know, those are GOOD things and essential to our overall well-being.)
Without a good attachment at Level 1, the next level- our amygdala (you know that place in our brain that is responsible for the “fight or flight” syndrome that is mostly described as a requirement of life back in cave man days……) decides that it’s more important to release things like adrenaline and cortisol on a regular basis; wiring your brain around the chemicals of fear.
Which would you rather have? A brain built on joy that knows someone is always glad to be with you? Or a brain that is built on fear because they don’t know joy.
Which would you rather your child have?
Joy is essential – it is the very root of attachment theory. Knowing someone is glad to be with us is what our brain needs more than anything.
Knowing someone is glad to be with us sets the Attachment Center at Level 1 in a way that Level 2’s amygdala can answer it’s question of “Is life good, bad or scary?” with a sigh of relief and say, “Life is good… carry on rest of the brain, it’s gonna be okay here.”
It is my biggest wish that more young parents would learn the very basics of joy. I believe with joy, we can make the next generation, the generation that is not controlled by fear.
And you can help! Start sharing the message of joy, especially with soon-to-be parents or new parents. It’s not that hard to hit the share button right now and let this simple explanation be the moment of intrigue that leads them to learn more.
Before I close out, I can’t help but think that someone who has been reading this has been mostly noticing their own lack of a joyful attachment center. I want you to know that the brain is capable of rewiring at any age! Don’t give up now! There are spiritual parents out there than can help you also learn to connect with God in a way that gives your Level 1 Attachment center what it needs to rewire!
Life Model Works has developed quite a few ways for you to begin to repair your faulty brain levels. Check out Restarting as a good place to “re-start” your brain!