this, whether you are feeding your baby or just sitting
together enjoying each other’s presence. You might find
this particularly relaxing if you are in a rocking chair. Just
enjoy the feel of your baby’s little body against yours, and
take the time to do…absolutely nothing.
If you give in to these quiet moments with your baby,
you might find that a deliciously peaceful feeling sweeps
over you. If you make a special time to enter into this
meditative space together, this can be one of the most
nourishing acts for you and for your baby.
For mothers, breastfeeding generates a cocktail of
bliss-inducing hormones like oxytocin. But Nature also
includes fathers in this delicious hormonal trance—just
sitting quietly together, especially if you have direct skin-to-skin contact with your baby, will generate this hormonal infusion for both parents. Early childhood seems
to provide repeated opportunities for you and your baby
to feel more than just contented. It is as if Nature is doing
its best to take you and your baby into states of bliss.
The bliss connection can be relearned in adulthood;
we don’t need to see ourselves as irreparably damaged
if early childhood did not furnish us with this fundamental biological experience. Psychological healing
involves experiences that stimulate the growth of new
neural pathways in the brain, much like forging new
tracks through a forest to a clearing that is bright and
sunny. Healing is about connection: stronger connection to our selves (our feelings, our emotional needs, our
dreams and yearnings), and enriched connections with
others. But thinking about our children: Doesn’t it make
more sense to take advantage of the opportunities offered so generously by Nature during their earliest childhood? The human brain grows fastest during the first
three years, and it can be quite a bit harder for a mature
nervous system to relearn its connection to wellness.
© NASTIA1983 / DREAMSTIME.COM
Reclaiming Our Capacity for True Bliss
If that is the case, then what has happened to this
human capacity for bliss? Has it been lost to us? Is it
something reserved for mystics, monks and those who
practice yoga and meditate for hours every day? A
natural birth, breastfeeding and healthy attachment—
those most generous purveyors of ecstatic hormonal
flows—have been quite badly interfered with on a global
scale and have all but been eliminated from childhood.
Is it any wonder that we have lost touch with so much of
the pleasure and the joy that comes from bodily life? Our
brain’s pleasure centers have not been given the chance
to grow enough neural connections, which leaves us
feeling empty and needy. In their millions, people
around the world spend their lives searching for this
missing link to inner fulfillment. We look desperately
for the lost bliss in artificial substitutes such as drugs,
alcohol, food, fame, money or compulsive sexuality. All
the mechanisms to produce these feelings exist in our
nervous systems, but it is as if the bliss centers remain
unplugged or the wiring has been cut.
The common problem of substance addiction would
be dramatically reduced if we, as a society, did more to
support the parent-baby connection at its fullest. This
is not just speculation. Scandinavian researchers have
linked substance abuse to the use of painkilling drugs
during labor. The evidence showing that insecure attachment can lead to substance abuse is even clearer.
Psychotherapists have known for a long time that obsession with power, fame or fortune is also a desperate
compensation for the empty space inside where parental
love and blissful connection should have been. These
kinds of research and clinical findings have convinced
many psychologists to redefine addiction to drugs or
alcohol as an attachment disorder.
our progress Towards more
naTural s Tyles of paren Ting
is a key to reclaiming
humanity’s emotional health.