The Caring Heart

with Dr. Joyce

A Species Requiring Loving Connection

June 2014

"And the Lord made you to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all men, even as we do toward you" (I Thess. 3:12)

"So we, being many, are one body in Chrst, and every one members of one another."  (Rom. 12:5)

"Be Kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love..." (Rom. 12:10)

As has been discussed at length in other articles in "The Caring Heart" series, babies absolutely need warm, mutually responsive, "attuned," satisfying, secure relationships with primary caregivers, so that their physical brains, and thus their minds and personalities can develop normally. They need to be confident in possessing a secure base, in a faithful mom, from which to explore their world, learn, and grow. Caregivers who are insensitive, neglectful. or downright abusive can, and invariably do, cause all sorts of pathological physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral development in youngsters, often irremedial, as does the outright absence of a primary caregiver. Too many children are thus incubated for anger. aggression, and violence, as well as being impaired in a raft of different ways.

 What about the rest of us? Do we "grow out of" the need for authentic, mutual, warm, committed relatedness with special others in our lives? In our culture especially, mixed messages seem to abound. On the one hand, those individuals who maintain they don't need anyone are told they are just fooling themselves. On the other hand. independence is sought after and prized, and seeming "needy" and therefore weak, is thought to be shameful.  As the years go by, social distance appears to be increasing, with more and more people spending more and more time interacting with their computers and texting.

According to Scripture, we definitely are commanded, so many times and ways, to live loving, connected lives, cringing from any hurtfulness to one another. In accordance with Holy mandates, modern day, extensive brain research by top, dedicated scientists has found that adult humans need authentic, mutually caring relationships as much as immature humans do. One renouned psychologist, Dr. Matthew D. Lieberman, is convinced that our need to connect with other people is even greater than our needs for food and water. Successful, stable connecting is not optional, or something just nice to have and do. Our brains respond to social pain just as strongly as to physcal pain. Hurt or loss or abandonment throw our stress hormones into a spin. Loneliness can and does kill. According to Dr Lieberman, our physical brains are actually wired to connect. The hormone, neurpeptide Oxytocin is powerful to stimulate caregiving impulses in many mammals, as well as humans. In fact, good relationships prompt cascades of beneficial hormones into our physical systems, regulating our heartbeats, our blood pressure, our digestion, and our immune systems. Daniel Goleman conceives of good relationships being like vitamins;  On the flip side, bad relationships are like poisons. He maintains that our daily interactions with others, whoever they may be, actually work to shape our brains. and affect our cells throughout our body, including down to the genetic level. Far more than we realize or have ever known in history., we affect one another for good or ill, on an ongoing basis.

D Siegal writes about good interactions being states of dyadic resonance, in which energy and information is passed between two brains. Really close brain matching in communication is exhilarating, tremendously interesting, and satisfying. Without such brain resonating going on repeatedly as we live through our days, something always seems to be missing. Something that seems crucial to our well-being and our peaceful satisfaction as sentient beings just isn't there, although it seems difficult to pinpoint just what "IT" is that is missing. What is missing is, most fundamentally,.brains that are communicating with our brains and that MATCH,  or connect, or at least, match enough. Just as the good-enough mother of a baby needs to be successful in letting her baby know she really does understand how the baby feels and what he or she needs, and fills those needs, so we also need to be understood by those who truly want to know us and who want to bless us by what they say and do. Just as primary caregiver loss is very upsetting to the baby, and very deleterious to healthy development, so significant interpersonal losses in adult life are extremely detrimental to health and well-being.

Of course, the causes of adult individual and social problems are complex and varied, but perhaps the lack of, or the paucity of authentic connectedness with responsible persons of kindness and integrity has not been recognized or focused upon nearly enough as a potent and pervasive cause. I'm thinking of violence of all sorts, to other people, to helpless animals, to material things, and even to adults' own selves. I'm thinking of addictions of all sorts. too. The epidemic of hoarding, of scores of mistreated and suffering animals, of incredible piles of material "stuff," and of just plain trash is sweeping the globe, causing very serious problems. Obesity and other metabolic diseases caused by overeating and bad food choices are epidemic also.  Divorce and the fracturing of family life in general is abysmal.

As adult humans, of any age, we need secure bases from which to operate, in order to be at our best, too. For all of us who are "children of the Most High," God should be our primary secure base.  But, we need other humans to be faithful secure bases, also. What is ideal is when a stable family or friendship pair can take turns being protective havens for one another, lending a compassionate listening ear, helping to solve knotty problems, and being "moral support" in general. When we operate in confidence and peace from secure bases, our mental, emotional, and physical energies are freed to explore and engage in countless life challenges. As foundational researcher and theorist John Bowlby expressed the marvelous possibility, "all of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life offers a series of excursions, long or short, from a secure base." (Goleman, p. 211)

When Jesus put forth the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love one another, He really knew what He was talking about. Loving one another, in thought and in deed, is not merely a "nice way to act because God says so," but it is what all of us REALLY NEED, from conception to our earthly demise. No joking. NEED, with capital letters. The Creator knows how He created us. He knows how he fashioned our brains to work. We better "listen up" and go accordingly!!

Copyright 2014 The Caring Heart

Goleman, Daniel, "Social Intelligence," Bantam Books, New York, 2006.
Lieberman, Matthew D. "Social" Crown Publishers, New York, 2013.