The primary matrix of brain development from zero to 3 years has a huge impact on our entire lives. Allan Schore suggests that the core of our sense of self lies in the patterns of emotional response (affect regulation) experienced in infancy and that this regulatory capacity is responsible for the maintenance of the continuity of the sense of self. Once laid down in the first few years of life, this original non-verbal, prerational stream of emotion resulting from the infant-caretaker bond continues throughout our life to be the primary unconscious motivator in our relationships, having profound impact on our self-esteem and ability for intimacy, trusting and bonding.
"It is the experiences of early childhood that create the foundational organisation of neural systems that will be used for a lifetime...While many more well-controlled studies are needed, it is likely that certain brainstem catecholamine systems, for example, the locus coeruleus nora adrenergic, the limbic areas, the amygdala, and the neuroendocrine hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and cortical systems involved in regulating stress and arousal, may be altered in traumatized children". ~ Dr. Bruce Perry
Lack of loving emotional regulation in the infant from insufficient mother-child bonding reduces the lush development of the connections between the right orbital complex and the limbic brain (Scaer) and interferes the perfection of the pleasure circuitry between the cerebellium and prefrontal lobes (Prescott). These attenuated neural networks mean that kindling in the amygdala and temporal lobes is more likely to occur since the control of emotion by the cortex is not as impactful as it would be in a brain that is developed under loving primal mothering. The result being that those who experienced neglect, trauma, abandonment in dysfunctional homes as a child are more likely to get epilepsy, seizures and kundalini awakenings.
"Timing is everything. Bonding experiences lead to healthy attachments and healthy attachment capabilities when they are provided in the earliest years of life. During the first three years of life, the human brain develops to 90 percent of adult size and puts in place the majority of systems and structures that will be responsible for all future emotional, behavioral, social, and physiological functioning during the rest of life. There are critical periods during which bonding experiences must be present for the brain systems responsible for attachment to develop normally. These critical periods appear to be in the first year of life, and are related to the capacity of the infant and caregiver to develop a positive interactive relationship." ~ Dr. Bruce Perry
Myelination of the smart vagus occurs throughout the first year after birth, thus the neurology that governs ones potential for bonding, communication and relationship is determined by the quality of mother-infant interactions. The growth of the baby's brain literally requires interaction with the brain of a caregiver the context of a positive relationship. When this need is thwarted dysfunction expresses itself primarily in the sphere of relationships, and this sphere is anchored in the function of the right-brain. Maturation of the adaptive right-brain's regulatory capacity is experience dependent, and this experience is embedded in the attachment relationship between infant and primary caregiver. The early right-brain capacities are not only central to the origin of the sense of self, they are required for the ongoing development of the self over the lifespan.
The nervous system of newborns lack the ability to buffer sensory signals, thus over-stimulation of any kind will be experienced as pain; and stress hormones further increase the perception of pain. High stress from abuse and neglect is toxic to the infant's brain, and neglect may be even more detrimental than abuse. Because a brain grows in association with another brain, caregiver induced trauma is more harmful than any other stressor. Relational trauma in infancy interferes with the maturation of the brain's coping systems, and has an enduring negative impact on developmental processes.
Since limbic regulation between parent and child directs neurodevelopment, social contact is necessary for evolving pieces of behavior to assemble into a functioning animal. Without parental guidance, neurochemical disjunctions accumulate and budding behaviors coagulate into a mess with scant resemblance to a healthy coherent organism. Thomas Lewis in A General Theory of Love, says that rhesus monkeys reared in isolation, having been deprived of early limbic regulation, become irretrievably neurologically disorganized and lose the ability to modulate aggression, which prevents social cohabitation. He points out that attachment IS physiology!
The development of infant-attachment and healthy socio-emotional functioning depends on the presence of consistent, responsive, attuned, and nurturing caregivers whose central task is to keep the child "safe." Because the mammalian nervous system cannot self assemble an initial optimal relational environment is needed for proper cognitive and emotional brain development. To establish a coherent and cohesive neural structure the mammalian nervous system requires interactive coordination through synchronization with Attractor Figures.
"Nature appears to have built our abstract and rational apparatus not just on top of that of biological affect regulation but also from it and with it. Our rationality is flavored inextricably with the patterns of our emotions. Thus rationality results from the seamless combined efforts of the neocortex and the older brain core." ~ Alan Schore
The adaptive capacity to cope with change and stress is a right-brain function, which is built up over time. The early postnatal period represents a crucial period of limbic–autonomic circuit development of the amygdalaorbitofrontal tract. At this time the primary stimulation required is loving skin-to-skin contact. These tactile interactions are vital to optimal development and participate in shaping ongoing synapse formation. Violations of the innate agenda for infant development needs, such as separation from the mother, generates a protest-despair response commonly referred to as "hyperarousal and dissociation".
Hyperarousal-- The hypermetabolic "protest" response is one of intense activity to reunite with the mother. The sympathetic autonomic nervous system is suddenly and significantly activated, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, tone and vigilance; frantic distress is expressed in crying then screaming. This state of autonomic ergotropic arousal produces excessive levels of stress hormones resulting in a hypermetabolic brainstate.
Dissociation--After hyperarousal the hypometabolic "despair" response occurs involving numbing and detachment. Dissociation is similar if not identical to the freeze response. This is an automatic parasympathetic regulatory strategy that occurs in hopeless situations to foster survival by the risk of feigning death. In this passive state of profound withdrawal, endogenous opiates are increased to produce analgesia, immobility and inhibition of cries for help. The individual passively disengages to conserve energies, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure decreases, and there is a massive rise in stress hormones.
Intense relational stress exposes the nervous system of the infant to hyperarousal and dissociation which then increase the risk for developing severe psychopathologies and health problems later in life. Since both the sympathetic and parasympathetic sides of the infant's developing brain become hypertonal this leads to conflicting biochemical alterations. The HPA axis and vagal tone increases dramatically and toxic neuroendochrine chemistry develops with associated alterations in calcium metabolism and apoptosis. Thus truncated and deficient wiring occurs which shows up as neurosis, ineptitude for lasting relationship, and various other mental, emotional and behavioral pathologies.
The hippocampus nerves are not myelinated at birth and gradually undergo myelination during our social environment in the first few years of life, this probably accounts for our lack of consistent conscious memory of infancy. Pain and distress, whether it be from physical or from relational trauma, changes the NMDA receptors allowing them to open more easily and stay open longer. This in itself would be a factor in the excitability of hyperarousal and the shutdown and atrophy of dissociation through over activation of NMDA receptors (glutamate toxicity).
Research in the last few years has shown that new nerve cells may even develop in areas of the adult brain, including the hippocampus, the area that is important for making new memories. Recent evidence suggests that one factor leading to new neuron growth may be physical and mental activity. So the hippocampus nerves can be enrichened by use, and can be impoverished by lack of use, trauma and stress. Trauma affects our capacity for cortical control over the limbic system to regulate bodily homeostatsis.
When our HPA axis is permanently fired up, the stress hormones inhibit and cell division and growth in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Thus our brain areas for rational thinking and memory atrophy and shrink leading to withdrawal and depression. The big picture view of this shows an organism in defensive retreat from life such that it reduces its organs of conscious perception and memory. Modern life, with the Tiger permanently at our backs is turning us into depressed pea-brains.
This hypertonality of the autonomic nervous system constitutes what Wilhelm Reich called "armoring" with infinite implications to the quality of the individuals life, and to our collective culture as a whole. "We know that neurotic armoring impairs both biological regulation and integrative intelligence, and so the self in this circumstance has less cognition of its various intelligences and cannot draw from the full depth of evolutionary heritage."
Because sustained hypervigilence is so stressful, wasteful, enervating and toxic, not to mention "brain damaging," I believe kundalini is natures method of giving us a second chance. It is my opinion that kundalini awakens in an attempt to throw off this truncated wiring to allow the organism to become more contemporarily responsive to its current environment, and to mature in a fashion that is transcendent of its circumstances of origin. As such a kundalini awakening constitutes an amazing act of Grace by the universe for the redemption of individual lives. However in societies where kundalini is actively cultivated such as the Kung!, or Eastern Cultures or Shamanistic lineage the potential for triggering kundalini is obviously not determined by childhood malformation of the brain. The anomalies, paradoxes and contradictions of kundalini can all be explained by the complexity of the phenomena and the human organism and its function in general.
Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain we can help overcome insufficient development of the right orbital cortex, and thereby reduce the hypertonality of the threat response. We can also overcome the damage of stress hormones to the amygdala and hippocampus through such things as meditation, hydrotherapy and Welcoming Belonging Therapy (see Kundalini Skills). I find it good for health and well-being to do some emotional reparenting self-talk just before sleep each evening. Psychosomatic therapies and practices like Hakomi, bioenergetics, Tai Chi, martial arts, yoga and sports in general will help to develop more advanced wiring patterns in the brain.
Considering that our first few years of life are as radical dependents, if we not given adequate heart-eye engagement at this point I think that a "hole" in the self develops which makes us play out codependent, addictive, power games later on. When the primary matrix is left wanting then we beget a society of two years olds, having two years olds ad infinitum. People normally look at the symptoms (excess weight, ADD, alcoholism, codependency etc...) without addressing the cause. Much better to go directly to the original wiring that was "abused or deprived" and address that. For example I see the main causes of obesity to be lack of breast feeding and primal mothering messing up the pleasure centers in the limbic brain. Coupled with urban living and TV-sedentariness.
A lot of the damage that fetuses and infants undergo is not through human evil but through sheer ignorance of timing and development needs. That is why I think a serious extended educational program via TV is essential, for the general population will not get conscious child raising of their own accord, hence education is vital. We must be taught what it takes to make whole human beings.
Dismantling the autonomic pain-machine can take a long time. Witnessing it is good, but kundalini, raw diet, breathing, exercise, intimacy etc...make the pain-body go away. I don't have much pain-body left myself, but I would like to live a lifestyle that is essentially an anti-pain-body lifestyle. Everything good must come out of that, and nothing good would come out of driving ones organism like an old mule day after day without giving it what it needs.
Didn't Eckart Tolle say that the pain-body results from lifestyles and circumstances that are contrary to the natural laws of life. Whether that be deprivations, abuses, traumas, absences, excesses, non-inclusion, toxicities or negativities. Though I haven't carried it through as a daily practice, it seems most of the material that has been coming out of me for the past 46 years has been geared toward liberation from the pain-body.
There are some things one can do to regrow the primary matrix, but we have to be consistent (daily), loving and conscious!!! Some of the practices in Kundalini Skills that would directly "touch" the primary matrix are:
Without primal mothering the inadequate development of neural connections between the old (limbic and hind) brain and the new (prefrontal lobes) means that we have to spend the rest of our lives fighting to recover our soul. A soul and creative genius, which would have been innately ours had we been carried around and given adequate loving eye contact and touch for the first couple of years of our life.
"I'm saying that relationship comes first, and then our individuality grows out of our relationships--not the other way around." 12, ~ Christian de Quincey, Radical Knowing: Understanding Consciousness through Relationship
We are "shaped" by our early relationships, not "determined" by them. Between infants there would be a large range of possible response to our social environment depending on the individuals social immunity, emotional wiring and capacity for self-destruction. The perfection organizing in the brain and the maintainance of homeostatic mechanisms in the body, is "aided" by the presence of loving bonds. Dysfunction occurs with the absence of love, or the presence of toxic caretakers...how badly this impacts the development and consequent life of the individual depends on innate qualities that the individual him or herself has. Thus our subjectivity does determine our intersubjectivity, but our intersubjectivity is determined by our subjectivity. Belief and intent of the individuals within relationship determines consensus reality, but we must never forget we are not victims and that we also have a say in that reality.
For information on primal mothering, the reader is refered to: The Continuum Concept, by Jean Liedloff. Also Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce.
"Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: A Neurobiology of Emotional Development," 1994 and Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self by Allan N. Schore, 2003
back to Exhaustion Phase
Continue to Polyvagal Theory