There’s ONE question that all brains want answered, and they want it answered, “Yes.” Parent’s brains, children’s brains, Auntie Jeanne’s brain, all brains. And they don’t want a lukewarm “Yes,” or a “Maybe Yes” or a “Getting-to-Yes Yes.” They want a real, resounding, unequivocal, “YES!” Yes.
Before I tell you what that question is, I’d like to tell you a bit about what goes on in a person’s brain when the answer is something other than “Yes.” First of all, if the answer is “Maybe,” or “I’m not sure,” a confusion and uncertainty begins to take shape in the brain. How this looks under an electron microscope is a significantly reduced number of hills and valleys in the brain (gyri and sulci) together with fewer neurons and fewer connections between neurons in important regulating regions (Rich Club Networks). Reduced connections result, not unexpectedly and oversimplified, in reduced abilities in different areas. For example, motor areas or immune function can often be compromised, resulting in lower social or emotional intelligence or reduced impulse control. If you go here and take a look at prize-winning mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss’s brain, you will be able to clearly see a side-by-side comparison of two brains, one that very likely had the Big Brain Question repeatedly answered, “Yes” (Gauss’s), and another that most likely had it answered “Maybe.”
Much greater problems arise for us though when the answer to the Big Brain Question is, “No.” When the answer to this question is “No,” we are put in an untenable position: the place where we live or work, and the people we need to care for and connect with us and positively respond to us. are not performing that fundamental function very well. Even if we are able to take good care of ourselves, we still need important people to connect to. Feeling, or actually being helplessly stuck with ruptured relationships with no ready resolution in sight, is one primary experience that can result in Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) in adults and children alike. What this form of PTSD often looks like when a brain-scanner takes a picture of it is something like this – major brain cell real estate is simply not optimally integrated and operating in the neural network.
This kind of brain damage, in differing degrees, has a lifelong impact on our children. Here’s what “recovering neurologist,” Dr. Bob Scaer, has to say about it: “The cumulative experiences of ‘life’s little traumas’ shape virtually every single aspect of existence. This accumulation of negative life experiences molds one’s personality, choices of mate, profession, clothes, appetite, pet peeves, social behaviors, posture, and most specifically, our state of physical and mental health.”
All that might not be so bad. Given the great plasticity and regenerative capacity of the brain, it might be something we could readily work with. However, Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician, sees the damage caused by the answer “No” to the Big Brain Question as even more serious. Here’s what he has to say: “The biology of potential illness arises early in life. The brain’s stress response mechanisms are programmed by experiences beginning in infancy, and so are the implicit, unconscious memories that govern our attitudes and behaviors toward ourselves, others and the world. Cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and the other conditions we examined are not abrupt new developments in adult life, but the culmination of lifelong processes. The human interactions and biological imprinting that shaped these processes took place in periods of our life for which we may have no conscious recall.”
So, we can see that children’s brains need tender, loving, consistent care. But what exactly IS this Big Brain Question, and how might we consistently answer it “Yes”? Click here to find out.