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The Pleasure Principle

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Brain Research and Relational Presence

By Lee Glickstein

Current brain research points to why Relational Presence is so elegantly transformational.

Relative to other animals, the human brain is immature at birth and grows four times larger in the first 2 years. You had about 100 billion brain cells when you were born. Now you have a trillion.
   
From the earliest days of life these cells form new learning connections, or synapses, at the rate of up to 3 billion a second. In your first month of life your brain was making over 10 times as many new connections in a second as all the world's Internet users now make in a day.

Imagine that. 

Each of your trillion brain cells is many times more sophisticated than the most powerful computer. Each cell connects with hundreds of thousands of others as they share information, forming "neural pathways."

The learning connections these cells make outside the womb are of course strongly influenced by the environment. Everything happening around us is reflected in our brain wiring. From our earliest days our brains are hard-wiring strategies for survival that determine the reality we grow up with.

The most powerful influence in the environment is the mental state of the primary caregiver, mom for most of us. And the mode through which we get the primary information is through her gaze.  

If mom is depressed, the infant reads it directly and those 3 billion learning connections a second go into wiring the brain to believe that's the way the world is, and to survive it. If mom is pretending to be present but is distracted, there is no fooling the infant. The technical term for where a healthy gaze is coming from is "attunement," which is Relational Presence to a tee.

Ashley Montague wrote that the newborn needs at least another nine months of "womb" environment outside of the womb to mature. Many of us got the opposite of a "womb environment." We picked up every stress in the household, every conflict, spoken or not, and wired accordingly. The way I see it, by age one the loops and patterns and false beliefs in our brain circuits are hardwired in.

Appreciating the hard-wired nature of it all is very useful in understanding how transformation of consciousness does happen, and how Relational Presence works seeming miracles along the way.

Instead of trying to fix or get rid of the old wiring, what we can do is put our attention on developing new neural pathways in fertile parts of our brain that are open to expansion. Indeed, that is exactly what we are doing when we commit to psychological, spiritual, or vocational learning.  

In that regard, it is essential to have self-compassion when we find ourselves back in a familiar unhappy pattern, a loop that may be there forever like a permanent bear trap. We just develop strategies (through strengthening newer neural pathways) to step out of such loops more quickly.

Focusing on the newer neural pathways literally restructures and empowers our brain, as we shift our attention to a happier future.

Relational Presence is the perfect instrument for building that better future. The practice allows us to access more hopeful, realistic stories about our life while re-attuning our gaze with the support of attuned listening.

With modern brain research in mind, an effective way to use Speaking Circle turns is to tell a story of your life that you'd like to change. Next, access and explore with your listeners a better story until the new version takes over your body and your being. This may take months to accomplish, but if you can find a quicker or even more pleasant way to go, let me know.

The key benefit of this practice for public speaking is that you naturally learn to tell a better story while you are dissolving self-consciousness through developing focused eye power with audiences.

© Copyright 2011, Lee Glickstein. All rights reserved.

 

 

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