I’ve just finished reading a truly beautiful book on the physiology and anatomy of love. It’s called ‘a general theory of love‘ – check it out! It may sound strange – love doesn’t sit easily in our minds as a physiological response – but love stems from the limbic part of our brain. From there flows connection, affection, love in all its bright and shadowy forms. The book is written by three doctors and looks at what love (or the absence of love) does to us in our childhood, explains the evolution that led is to become social creatures and explores our fundamental need for belonging.
I’ve found it really reassuring from an ‘attachment parenting’ viewpoint since that’s the parental style I most identify with. It’s a parenting style which includes things like co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding and responding to my son when he cries in all situations to give him comfort. But this isn’t a post about parenting, I just thought I’d mention it for all the parents out there who might like to read it!
So, what do I want to say about this book…?
Well, it’s been really helpful following my post last week where I acknowledged how difficult and arduous it has been to get to where I am with my personal journey to greater courage, truth and love.
You see, I felt frustration with how long it’s taking to change my inner patterns to respond to myself more often with patience, not anger. To look at myself with grace when I’ve slipped up. To have a default setting of unconditional love towards myself.
And this book explained from a physiological perspective why it is taking so much time. You see, when we’re children, our brains have plasticity. Our brain is able to morph and learn and grow (hence why the first 1000 days are so crucial to a child – it’s this period of time where they are able to more easily change the ‘nature’ settings – a propensity for moroseness, for example – by being nurtured to have greater levels of confidence, self-assurance and acceptance).
When we’re older, however, changes around how we view ourselves – our default settings – are harder to make as our brain has less plasticity. Our limbic brain where all the emotions come from isn’t as easily changed.
And so it takes more time – sometimes years – to rewire our brains.
Knowing this allows me to have greater patience on this path I’m on. I’m able to see that things will change in their own sweet time.
Knowing this also allows me to feel less like a failure. It’s not down to a lack of effort or ability that I’m struggling with shedding what holds me back. That I still hold on too tightly to the opinion of other people, that I find it tricky to cut myself some slack, that I sometimes talk to myself with anger instead of love.
And while it doesn’t make the process any easier, it allows me to accept that this is where I am and to trust that things will change over time if I keep on keeping on.
It also gives me greater faith in the process I go through with those I coach.
There are people I’ve been working with for a year or so. I’ve seen amazing progress in their lives – some have changed their relationship with food, increased their confidence or have fostered greater love for themselves – but some still have progress they want to make. And this knowledge has allowed me to have more assurance that my role is to support them and trust in the coaching I’m doing with them. Although it may take time, they will get to where they long to be.