Chapter 3 challenged us to examine our human brain. To examine its complexity, its neuroplasticity, and its relational features suggested by quantum theory. The brain only develops in relationship. And as humans, obviously, the earliest relationships are with our caretakers.
Chapter 4: Restoring Connection
Restoring connection is crucial. Chapter 4 goes on to explore just what is needed optimally from our caretakers to maximize our growth and psychological and mental health. The first part of the chapter looks more generally at what all children (and adults) need for healthy development. The latter part, which I will look at next week, examines in more detail the developmental stages children go through on their way to adulthood and the specific needs of each stage.
Again, I’ll admit early on, that I am way above my pay grade here. The authors do a deep dive into their understanding of how quantum theory has radical implications of our understanding of the self-as-relationship. This is as opposed to the more traditional understanding of the self as a separate entity.
“We (the authors) offer an alternate view of the self that is derived from quantum theory, which states that all features in nature, from the smallest quanta to the entire universe, have two features: one is particle-wave duality, and the other is the observer effect. … Imago replaces the ‘substantial self’ of the individual paradigm … with the Imago theoretical concept of ‘self-as-relationship, which we designate as the quantum self.” (p. 83)
Restoring Connection in The Space Between
“with this view of the self, change is inherent and continuous and requires only the right environmental conditions to happen. Rather than exploration of the inner world as a process of change, the quantum self is changed by the quality of the interactions in the Space-Between, namely, whether or not there is an observer and how the observer ‘looks’.”(p.84)
“This means that our view of ourselves depends on how we are reflected in the eyes of significant observers.”(p.85) and later they will go on to say “It is no surprise that what the child needs to experience connecting is identical to what a relationship needs for couples to experience connecting and joy”.(p.86)
What are the non-negotiable requirements for a child’s psychological growth?
“This is the bare bones of what children need until (and even after) they become full-fledged adults:
- To experience safety;
- To experience and express full aliveness;
- To sustain connecting;
- To have structure; and
- To experience support.
Why am I not surprised at this? “Safety is non-negotiable for all mammals, including humans, to thrive.”(p.87) We can survive without safety, but we cannot thrive.
”While physical survival is, of course, the primary goal, staying alive means more than simply breathing. From the time they leave the womb, children remain on alert not only for ways to get their needs met but also for signs of the trustworthiness of those on whom they rely to meet those needs; and when the needs are met and the caretakers are trustworthy, children go from surviving to thriving.” (p.88)
“Newborn infants are the precise embodiment of full aliveness. Full aliveness is relational. It is not a feeling but a neural sensation, triggered by safe interactions that emanate through their entire being … Whatever they do, they will do it with all of the life energy they can muster. All the caretaker needs to do is structure the child’s atmosphere so that it is both protective and permissive – and then step back, watch and mirror their child.” (p.88)
“Having been born into the tapestry of Being-experienced-as-Connecting, (remember, we are in a Quantum universe) the child’s top priorities are to experience and to express connecting, since that is their nature.(italics added) … Therefore, the most critical lesson that caretakers must transmit to their child is how to connect, to sustain connecting, and to restore connecting when it ruptures.”(p.89)
How best to do that? Emotional attunement. “As the child moves along the developmental pathway, the quality and consistency of attunment provides clues from the caretakers that the child can use to respond in ways that will best meet the current developmental needs.” (p.89)
“Structure means setting boundaries, as needed, to protect a child from dangerous (in either the physical or the emotional sense) people, places, and situations. … In contrast with discipline, which relies on rewards and punishments and is often coercive, effective structure avoids inflicting a single iota of shame or humiliation upon its recipient. Instead, it focuses on using the child’s own experiences to help the child learn from interacting with the world.”(p.89)
“Imposing structure in ways that are inappropriate to the child’s maturational status is not structure; it is more like oppression. Withholding the structure a child needs is not giving them freedom; it constitutes neglect.”(p.91)
“Like safety and structure, appropriate forms of support from caretakers will depend on the child’s age, maturational requirements, and life circumstances. At any developmental point, however, support requires a particular attitude on the part of the caretaker: one of warmth and availability to the child.”(p.91)
“Mirroring, too, is an effective way to provide support to children across the age spectrum.” (p.91)
So those are the bare bones of what children, and we as adults need, to not just survive but to thrive. Restoring connection is a major part.
Next week I will look at the six developmental stages children go through on their way to maturity. “Each stage has a specific developmental impulse that needs stage-specific relational support to achieve the agenda of that stage.”(p.92) Where the authors are heading, is that when there are unresolved issues in any of the stages, those same issues tend to show up in an intimate relationship.