Relationship with the mother influences the child’s relationships over their lifetime
The way we see and value ourselves is influenced by her(our mother’s) view of us. How we behave with others or expect others to behave towards us is in part a function of early interactions with our closest family members. Recent findings in brain science have deepened our understanding of a mother’s pervasive influence. Our relationship with her becomes a model for all intimate relationships. It shapes the circuits of our infant brain- circuits that are used to understand and manage our own emotions and to read other people’s thoughts and feelings. In all observed cultures, in all recorded times, human infants engage intimately with the person who cares for them, and in all recorded times, in all observed cultures, the parents who introduces an infant to the interpersonal world of love and dependence is the a mother. A mother and baby lock together in a mutual gaze , each looking back to the other.This early prolonged eye contact is so important to the growing human brain that evolution has left nothing to chance. A brain stem reflex ensures that the baby turns to look at the mother’s face.
The Baby Mother interaction
Until recently , so-called experts on babies advised parents that babies could not really see a mother and that babies had no concept of what a person was for many months or even years after their first all- absorbing introduction to their mother, but new findings show something very different. The areas of the brain that adults use to recognize and respond to faces are active from birth. from the moment a baby looks into his mother’s face,
he sees a person.He sees someone who expresses feelings and whose expressions show responses to him. This interaction triggers high levels of hormones that flood the infant with pleasure. These endogenous opiates are a healthy version of external opiates like heroin- that block pain and produce pleasure.They reward the infant as he engages in the primary lessons of vital interpersonal relationships. sight is not the only trigger for these pleasure inducing chemicals. Newborns orient their heads to the sound of their mother’s voice, and they rapidly learn to recognize and follow its tone and rhythm. They stare longer at an image if it smells like their mother.
Brain Changes For Both
The instinct a mother has to hold her baby on her left side(which is wired to the right side of the brain) facilitates right hemisphere to right hemisphere communication, the part of the brain that specializes in the emotional self. As she cradles the baby on her left side, she communicates with the infants right brain and the infant’s behavior stimulates the mother’s right brain.
Even negative emotions of fear can positively stimulate a baby’s growth, when the fight or flight system is activated, the rate of breathing increases, along with the heart rate and blood pressure, but as a mother soothes a troubled infant,he feels the ebb of negative emotions and has his first lessons in the crucial task of regulating his own emotions.
Mother’s brain also undergoes changes- it is stimulated to new growth and learning as she engages with her infant. In response to infant’s cries and laughter, the parent’s brain activity reveals a special pattern. In addition, the complex brain structures that control our emotions the limbic system undergo structural changes as we engage in parenting behavior. These changes increase a mother’s ability to pick up cues from the infant.
As a mother and baby interact , each gets smarter. Each is engrossed by the sights and sounds and movements of the other, each is hunry to learn the other’s language. Their mutual focus is so intricately coordinated that is has been defined as an elaborately flowing dance wherein the participating partners get to know themselves through each other. Human psychology as we know it begins in this primary relationship. A passionate and absorbing bond with his or her primary caregiver, who is almost always the mother, is the infant’s first experience of loving and being one person in a loving pair.
What happens if a mother does not respond?
If the mother’s face becomes frozen the baby becomes distressed. The baby seems outraged that his signals are ignored. It is not easy to soothe a baby who has experienced this interruption in the relational conversation.
Reference Point of Love
These early interactions form a reference point for what each of us seeks in people we love, to be seen and understood. Children form many relationships with other relatives and with friends that impact on their lives, but the emotional signaling between infant and a mother forms the core sense of being a person with feelings who can communicate feelings to others
A key experience of having a difficult mother , whether we are three months old or thirty years old, is of the negative of that positive eye to eye engagement. With a difficult mother , our efforts to shape our mother’s view are constantly frustrated. we feel ignored, erased, annihilated. We doubt who we are and what we feel. Perhaps our signals are interpreted as bad or mean or selfish. We then inhabit a world of shame in which being known entails criticism and derision.
Children work hard to make sense of their interpersonal experiences.
“Who is reliable?” and “who offers me warmth and comfort and feeding?” and “whose touch and smell are associated with these?” are questions intrinsically related their survival. As the rudimentary sense of self and other person becomes more sophisticated, so do questions about their meanings:”what does that behavior indicate about me?” and “Does the person I am trying to communicate with understand me?” and “Do my feelings resonate with others?” and “Am I really communicating?”
We continue to be particularly vulnerable to a mother’s responses, even as we develop very different bonds with other people who see and discover us in different ways. For most parents and their children, the experience of belonging to each other has its ups and downs, but whatever the trip ups and scrapes along the way, the relationship is largely comforting, supportive and expansive.
But what does it feel like to suffer more pain in a relationship than comfort and pleasure? what if those profound experiences of connection and embeddedness are so uncomfortable that, in reaching out for comfort and security, we are restricted and punished? what if we have to distrust ourselves or discount our own wishes or constantly police our thoughts and actions to gain comfort from the person we depend upon? when this dilemma shapes a son’s or daughter’s experience of a mother, I use the shorthand of a difficult mother to refer to a relationship that has many parts and many contexts and perspective.