Our mother’s wellbeing and safety whilst we are developing in utero along with our early life experiences strongly influence our brain development. Also, stressful events that occurred to our parents will naturally affect us as children. Sadly, our culture is full of violence and negativity yet also doesn’t support processing negative events or emotions. The presence of at least one safe, nurturing, and responsive adult to be there for us to process emotions and negative events, especially during stressful times, is vital for well-being and positive development.

Without a safe supportive person, and instead of processing, our automatic defense mechanisms get triggered. We tend to ignore or dismiss are stress signals and negative emotions, then use distraction or substances to cope. The really hard part is to process the negative events, you have to at least acknowledge them and open yourself up to the negative emotions. Also, very few people know NOT how to react negatively and to truly hold space for someone who is processing negative emotions.

What doesn’t get processed then gets stuck in the body and unconscious levels of the brain. I highly recommend learning about how Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to health issues. The more stress or toxins (emotional, chemical, environmental, or physical) you add, the more you tax your body and the mind/body/spirit become dysregulated. The more you stay in a dysregulated state, the more harmful, pervasive, and lasting the effects. Thus, unprocessed stress kills more than anything…our minds and bodies will unconsciously manage the stress. With no safe places or skills to process the stress,  it will manifest in many problematic ways like physical ailments, disease, negative behaviors, habits, and conflict consequently destroying our wellbeing and relationships.

Here is an excerpt from From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development; Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA, editors.Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000.

“This account of early brain development emphasizes the ways in which the nervous system is designed to recruit and incorporate experience into its developing architecture and neurochemistry. Normal experience (e.g., good nutrition, patterned visual information) supports normal brain development, and abnormal experience (e.g., prenatal alcohol exposure, occluded vision) can cause abnormal neural and behavioral development (Black et al., 1998). Plasticity is a double-edged sword that leads to both adaptation and vulnerability. “…

“In this report, stress refers to the set of changes in the body and the brain that are set into motion when there are overwhelming threats to physical or psychological well-being (Selye, 1973, 1975). Stress can have dramatic effects on health and development (Johnson et al., 1992). This happens because the physiology of stress produces a shift in the body’s priorities. When threats begin to overwhelm one’s immediate resources to manage them, a cascade of neurochemical changes that begin in the brain temporarily puts on hold the processes in the body that can be thought of as future-oriented: finding, digesting, and storing food; fighting off colds and viruses; learning things that don’t matter right now but may be important sometime in the future; reproducing and rearing offspring. Many of these neurochemical changes take place in the very same brain structures (e.g., hypothalamus and brainstem) that function to regulate heart rate, respiration, food intake and digestion, reproduction, growth, and the building up versus breaking down of energy stores (Stratakis and Chrousos, 1995).”    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225562/

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