We've Been Incubating Violence!
Articles From The Caring Heart with Dr. Joyce from Spokane Washington

July 2014

"Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace and the God of love and peace shall be with you." II Corinthians 13:11

What kind of a title is the above? Who would incubate something as awful as violence? Well, I am shocked to learn that we humans have, and do, regularly. Perhaps even throughout mankind's history the womb and the cradle have been nests for incubating aggression and violence-prone children, who grow up to be violence-prone adults. Not all children have brains formed to be violence prone of course, just the ones who have had the misfortune of having some factor destructive to healthy brain growth damage their chance for a well-formed, well-functioning brain and mind. Or, there could be a variety of damaging factors involved. There are so very many children growing up to become incredible problems to themselves and others.

The problem is widespread in our culture and is becoming more and more prevalent - and tragic. The brain impairment involved is very real and can be viewed on fMRI and PET scans. These technologies afford detailed, comprehensive views of living brains. They reveal where nerve cell firing is adequate and healthy, and also where it is deficient or absent altogether. Violence-prone individuals have been found to have physically-impaired brains. Usually, other problems are, or have been present, such as prematurity, low birth weight, small head size, cognitive deficits (low IQ), attention deficit/hyperactivity syndrome, poor organization and planning, difficulty comprehending cause and effect, poor judgment, lack of inhibition, and inability to apply knowledge to new situations. So, being violence prone is not these individuals' only problem. Hardened criminals have been found to be genuinely impaired by a multitude of debilitating factors, which made it very difficult for them to succeed harmoniously in their social environment.

"While the causes of violence are highly complex and multifaceted, a growing body of scientific knowledge demonstrates that maltreatment during the nine months of fetal growth often leads to violent older children and adults. The poisons accumulating in the human community from widespread maltreatment of babies are only in part the toxins we already recognize - drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. The last three decades have provided us with research that brings to light a range of more subtle toxins profoundly influencing our children's earliest development: Chronic stress or neglect, which affects the development of the fetal focused learning chronic parental depression neglect or lack of the stimulation necessary for normal brain development early loss of primary relationships or breaks in caregiving. These are the precursors of the growing epidemic of violence now coming to light in childhood and adolescence." (Karr-Morse, p. 18)

Some of the damage to healthy brain development can be corrected for, or "fixed," via carefully-designed (and expensive) programs, but not all. Dr. Ramey stated, "The quality of the environment and the kind of experiences children have may affect brain structure so profoundly that they may not be correctable after age five." (Karr-Morse, p.33)

A great part of the reason why we supposedly sane, responsible, intelligent humans have perpetually and unnecessarily incubated violent children is that we simply did not know any better. We believed that babies who were developing in the womb, and for the first few years after birth, were simply undeveloped and not in possession of many awarenesses and abilities yet. As long as they are fed, burped, changed, and bathed, they will be all right. Recent knowledge reveals such is NOT the case. The fetus is tremendously capable of responding to a variety of sensory stimuli from a very young gestational age. The brain is developing nerve cells at an astounding rate, and the baby has many physical and also emotional/social needs, and a long list of pathogens can cause development to go awry.

"The incubation of violence happens quietly, subtly, out of sight and awareness. We don't see it. We don't expect it. It creeps up on little cat feet and catches us unaware, seeming to come out of nowhere. We look for its sources in all the obvious places. Fear drives our search. We are moved to think quickly, often narrowly, taking aim at the symptoms as they appear. As we move to contain one type of problerms, a new one unfolds. Old solutions don't fit. Metal detectors replace jungle gyms as essential equipment in schools. But the tide keeps coming, its genesis unrecognized." (Karr-Morse, p. 54)

Now that we know how a huge source of violence gets started, what will we humans do? Will we just leave the concerns to the professionals and social worker types to cope, and the prison system to keep stacking the dangerous offenders away? Or will we, as a species, take a wise and careful look at the priorities in our lives, and at our relationship patterns. so that we can correct to accommodate healthy brain and mind development for as many of our offspring as is possible.

What would God want us to do? What would Jesus want us to do?

Copyright The Caring Heart 2014

Karr-Morse, Robin, and Wiley, Meredith S., Ghosts From The Nursery, The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2013.

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