Children, Brain Connections and Actions
One explanation of why High Conflict Personalities, or HCPs, are not self-aware is based on brain research about the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain – known as the corpus callosum.
This bridge of about 300 million neurons helps the different types of thinking of each hemisphere work smoothly together. The right hemisphere processes mostly nonverbal emotional information (especially negative emotions) very quickly, while the left hemisphere mostly processes language, a slower detailed analysis of things, and logical problem-solving.
Allan Schore, of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), talks about “right brain to right brain” communication between parents and children. He explains how the eye contact and positive emotional responses of parents and children (right brain activity for both) help strengthen the child’s corpus callosum as the child learns to connect upset emotions (right brain) with problem-solving (left brain).
He explains how a secure attachment is built on this right-brain-to-right-brain process and how a secure attachment is necessary to build the child’s own connections between right-brain and left brain functioning – with lots of repetition. Through this process, the child slowly develops connections for self-awareness and self-control (the right brain has more brain cell connections with the body) and planning (the left brain has more cells for planning how to deal with the outside world).
This strengthening seems to be based on the saying by neuroscientists that “neurons that are together, wire together.” This means that when two things happen at once (such as a child’s upset emotion combined with a parent’s calm response and problem-solving behavior), neurons in the brain react (“firing” chemicals) and actually grow little branches (dendrites) to form connections between the parts of the brain dealing with both issues. So after many learning experiences, when the child is upset he or she will think of the problem-solving behavior that goes with it – and eventually solve the problem himself or herself without needing the parent’s help.
For example, suppose a child named Caitlin might get upset and pick up a block and hit her brother. Caitlin’s mom or dad steps in and says, “We don’t hit in this family. Let’s use the blocks to build a house.” Caitlin learns to build things instead of hitting – after lots of repetitions. Connections between being upset and building with blocks are being made, and (over time) Caitlin’s upsets get briefer and briefer as she learns that it’s more fun to build than to hit.