Join-Up for Survival
Articles From The Caring Heart with Dr. Joyce from Spokane Washington

March 2013

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is a hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling flee, because he is a hireling and careth not for the sheep.”  (John 10:11-13)

Monty Roberts is a horseman of considerable fame today, being “The man who listens to horses.”  He, and others of like sensitivity and dedication, are horse whisperers, those who are able to learn the horse’s language, and, through their body motions, including approaches and withdrawals, tame completely wild horses to be willing to be mounted and ridden in a half hour’s time!  Monty calls the process “join-up,” wherein the horse and the whisperer become not only physically, but mentally and emotionally connected.  The man communicates to the horse, and waits until the horse communicates back to the man.  Through the back and forth communicating, they reach the point of join-up, which is an acceptance of an understanding and a bond between them.  They both agree to cooperate with each other.  It’s awesome!!  It’s like the most wonderful dance in the world!! (1)
Humans absolutely need join-up, too.  Human babies need a great deal of sensitive bonding time with mothers, to thrive and have brains that are whole.  They need mothers who are capable of learning their language and what they need, and who will fill their needs on an ongoing basis for a long time!  Just like Monty does with the wild horses, mothers need to not only fill their babies’ physical needs in a gentle, timely manner, but they need to do plenty of back and forth interacting, including touch, eye contact, talking, laughing, playing, all the above.  In human terms, join-up is called ATTUNEMENT, or INTERACTIONAL SYNCRONY, or BEING CONNECTED, being ATTACHED, or being BONDED, or being on the same wave length in a truly committed relationship. 
When babies are blessed with such wonderful mothers, they can thrive to their maximum, and their brains can develop normally (if nothing else interferes).  The neurons in the brain can establish normal connectedness.  Bundles of neurons can migrate to the correct places in the brain, which can make possible good conscience, rational thought, inhibition of negative emotions, and so forth.  According to Dr. Allen Schore, at the UCLA school of medicine, “…there are neurochemical and structural processes in a specific area of the baby’s brain-the orbitofrontal cortex-that are designed to be receptive to and programmed by the interactive emotional relationship between the baby and the mother or primary caregiver.  This area of the brain appears to link sensual input from the cortex (sight, smell, sound, etc.) with the child’s emotionally reactive limbic system and with his internal physical processes (the autonomic nervous system).  When the caregiver is able to read the baby’s physical states and cues accurately and respond in a timely and sensitive way, this system of the baby’s brain associates the caregiver with positive and balanced internal physical feelings.  By experiencing the joyful and soothing responses of the caregiver to basic needs, the baby experiences connection and pleasure and confidence in the presence of the caregiver.  Over time, these feelings become associated with her presence and are anticipated in future interactions with this person.  In addition, the infant learns that strong emotional states can be entrusted to another and ultimately balanced or resolved, in the context of relationship.  THIS RECIPROCAL PROCESS OF POSITIVE EMOTIONAL EXCHANGES IS THE FOUNDATION NOT ONLY FOR ATTACHMENT, BUT ALSO FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMPATHY AND THE CONSTRUCTIVE ABILITY FOR EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITY IN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS.”  (2)
Tragically, when good mothering is not present, and babies’ environments are neglecting, cold, insensitive, and outright abusive, brain development is usually not normal.  Bundles of neurons often do not migrate to the correct spots during development.  Normal connection of brain parts to each other does not occur, or is very weak.  Babies grow up without the capacity for empathy.  They can be relentlessly impulsive, angry, and very dangerous.  Their brains become truly impaired. 
Science has now been able to study the brain in ways impossible not that many years ago, because of techniques like PET and MRI scans.  Endless pictures of brains, of so many people, can be taken and studied.  Such pictures show how much brains are firing, and where there are not firing that they should be.  Now, it is revealed that the brains of psychopaths really are impaired.  The connections between the amygdala (emotional center) and the prefrontal cortex (higher reasoning) are weak or absent.   Similarly, the brains of children not nurtured well develop in impaired ways, which lead to behavior and attitude problems which can start extremely early in their lives, contribute to relationship and school problems, then delinquency problems, then adult criminal and drug problems, as well as teenage pregnancy.  Child brutality and criminality are epidemic in our culture, and continue to increase.  Children, as young as 4 years old, are killers.  They kill other children, they kill adults, including their parents and the elderly, and they kill and torture defenseless animals.  Professionals who study these problems, and who write books about them, warn that the growing brutality of children is a threat to our very culture.  These kids are really angry and hostile, and have impaired brains which rarely, if ever, can be made whole and fully functional their whole lives.  
Children, and adults, who have impaired brains did NOT cause their impairment themselves.  Nobody can do that to themselves (except perhaps through drug and alcohol abuse).  Also, anybody can only think in ways their brains will allow them to think.  Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a 37-year-old neuroanatomist found that out.  She experienced a massive stroke to the left side of her brain.  After the blood vessel exploded, she continued to lose one function after another.  Within the space of four hours, she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life.  Her absolute dependence on her brain for her awareness of herself and her life were very apparent.  Remarkably, after eight years, with much help, Jill recovered fully. (3)  As a neuroscientist, she learned a great deal!
Paucity, or lack, of good attunement and nurturing is not only a problem for children, but it is and has been a problem for all of us, some more, some less.  We ALL need consistent connectedness with caring others, and we need to be caring to others.  Our industrial and technological advances seem to keep leading us away from one another, and into the world of impersonal organizations and services, and entertainment gadgets, such as iPADS and cell phones with incredible apps, which people can engage in at length, interacting superficially with one another without the commitment of attachment, or any other commitment.  “Easy come, easy go.”  Adults suffer from loneliness, estrangement, insecurity, and so forth, and consequently suffer from eating disorders, alcoholism, depression, anxiety disorders, compromised physical health, and on and on.  Adults suffer, too, just as animals do, from unmet needs and meanness.  There are needs we can’t fill in ourselves and for ourselves.  We need others, and we need to be there FOR others. 
OUR ABILITY TO DEMONSTRABLY HELP THE ANIMALS IS VERY LIMITED IF WE DO NOT HELP EACH OTHER TO BE WHOLE AND HEALTHY.  Jesus was right!   He knows how he created us – to be gregarious.  We really do need one another.  He told us to love one another.  Unless we REALLY obey Him and nurture one another in an attunement way, we will continue to be brain impaired and dangerous – to one another, to the precious and vulnerable animals, and to the entire planet.  We will keep breeding and fostering crop after crop of “monsters,” without real hearts and kindness.  WE HAD BETTER “LISTEN UP” AND CHANGE!!!
Copyright 2013 The Caring Heart


  1. Roberts, Monty, The Man Who Listens To Horses, Hutchinson, London, 1996.
  2. Karr-Morse, Robin and Wiley, Meredith S., Ghosts From The Nursery, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1997. 
  3. Taylor, Jill Bolte, My Stroke of Insight, Viking, London, 2008. 
  4. Goleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, New York, 1995.

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