Human infant is completely dependent and requires total care right from birth. At birth the baby is a “pure potential”. What kind of individual the baby turns out will depend on what kind of caring is received in its early years. That will determine how he/ she will learn a language, how well he/she is going to be able to think, which value he/she will endorse and even if the infant live or die. So evolution has made sure that our human brains are highly sensitive to paying attention and responding in multiple ways to the behavior of others from the very early age. For example, if we are hungry or hurt we cry out and signal for our mother to provide care. When our mother provide the care our brain then picks up the fact that ‘ care is being given’ and we’re safe, and we calm down. In particular, the facial expressions and voice tones of the mother have a powerful effect on a baby’s brain.
The baby and the mother have co-created a role. The interaction between a baby and the mother is constantly influencing their minds and physiologies – and even the baby’s expression of its genes. So in general when our care –seeking social mentality is operative, we feel a need for some kind of input from others; this would be different for different ages.
As adults, our needs change and we seek and respond to different types of care and to different signals that indicate we are cared for. So as adults we no longer respond to being ‘ picked up and winded like a baby; and rarely cry for our dinner. ‘ In adulthood we feel cared for when other people take an interest in us and wants to help us, listen to our needs and take them seriously, have friendly voice tone and are affectionate. So being able to feel cared for and to be soothed by the caring behaviors of others, and knowing that there are others who care about us and our well-being, can be central to feeling of well-being. Later in life we can take this caring approach to ourselves, and this is a first step towards self-compassion.
The down side, however, is that we remain dependent and under the influence of powerful others for many years and are therefore incredibly vulnerable to their neglect and abuse and the way they educate us. The very wiring up of our brains and the pattern of connections that is formed are affected by the quality of early care. This care -seeking social mentalities also opens us up to certain types of emotional experience, such as yearning for closeness, to feel cared for and protected. When this social mentality is thwarted, we can experience feeling of aloneness, disconnection, being uncared for and abandoned. At the root of many depressions and anxieties is an inner experience of aloneness and separateness from source of care, protection, comfort and love.
We all deserve the the right care on our journey of life in the hope for balance.
The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert