Did you know how important your brain development is during infancy and early childhood and the profound connection between childhood and adulthood and how this impacts your Inner Foundation? And why such early stages of your life can still be affecting you today? By the age of three, your brain is almost 80% of its adult size; by age five it is 90% developed. During these early years, your brain development happened at great speed responding to all your experiences, feelings, emotions and the environment around you.
The first neural blue print of your brain’s neural pathways was originally formed at this early age, and all according to the environment and experiences that happened to you. As an infant, you experienced the world through your relationship and bond with your parents and other primary caregivers. It was through their own lens that you learned to interpret the world around you. Our parents were our first role models, mentors and guides for better or worse. Experiences that made you feel good and safe have a very different outcome on your adulthood versus experiences that made you feel unwelcome or unsafe. This realization begins to highlight the profound connection between childhood and adulthood and the impact upon our Inner Foundation today.
Through repetition of positive or negative experiences, you brain learned what to expect and how to respond to external stimulus. Therefore, some of your neural pathways were more developed than others due to the frequency and repetition of these same feelings, emotions and experiences. For example whether you were listened to and encouraged or shamed for speaking up. Such early experiences are crucial not only to shaping how your brain develops but importantly defining the building blocks of your Inner Foundation, your levels of self-esteem, self-worth and your first perception about yourself. This highlights the profound connection between childhood and adulthood and is seen today in your thought and behavior patterns, your habits today.
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our biography is imprinted in our bodies
Your brain development continued in the school-age years, but more slowly during this time. During this second stage, neural pathways were pruned or eliminated to increase brain efficiency. Such processes allowed you to master more complex sills such as critical thinking and self-regulation. During this time, experiences inside the family unit and at school, positive and negative, impacted your development, your adaptation to school life, social activities and your learning capacity. Importantly these role models, peers and experiences influenced and impacted your levels of self-esteem and confidence for better or for worse. For those of us who benefited from having a stable, nurturing home environment and positive experiences at school, it’s possible that you learned how to better manage emotions, control your impulses, developing better social skills and sustain your attention on different activities for longer periods of time.
Positive experiences were also good opportunities to strengthen our self-esteem, self-confidence and individual autonomy. Sadly, many of us did not grow up in a safe loving environment at home and or at school. A reality that is still very common today with the young generations. Negative experiences such as abuse, shame, humiliation, bulling and or disrespect, turned home or school into unsafe places, where in many situations we were just ‘acting out’ as a way to ‘call for help’. Low grades and getting in trouble at school didn’t help us either, leading us to believe we were a failure and we couldn’t do it better because we weren’t good enough. Knowing this, it becomes more evident and obvious of the profound connection between childhood and adulthood.
In adolescence the brain went through another period of accelerated development. The pruning of unused pathways increased, similar to early childhood. This process made the brain more efficient, especially the part of the brain that supports attention, concentration, reasoning, and more complex thinking. Your experiences during this period had a profound impact upon your individualization, your identity and autonomy. Positive experiences had a contribution to dissolve the attachment with our parents, leading us to enjoy new social activities, love mates, and explore new horizons about our future. However many did not have the role models and or the guidance to help them develop a strong Inner Foundation. In fact many of us didn’t know who we were, how to trust our capacities and we didn’t have a clue about our future. Our potential couldn’t expand due to us having a fragile Inner Foundation.
As a consequence of having a fragile Inner Foundation and low self-esteem, many young adults got trapped into impulsivity, erratic behaviors, substance abuse, addiction and criminal activity. Especially, when our brain development, our self-esteem and Inner Foundation had been compromised due to negative experiences in the past. This teenage period was a critical period where many of us simply felt vulnerable to and possibly abandoned by the outside world. Due to fear of failure, emotional turmoil and other societal pressures, many turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to ‘cope’ and ‘numb out our pain and fear’. Addictions became the coping mechanism to numb out the difficult past. Demonstrating cause-effect, highlighting the profound connection between childhood and adulthood. As a result, today many people are struggling with addictions, codependency, procrastination, self-sabotage and mental health issues, to name a few.
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change your brain change your life
It is important to point out that many parents and or primary carers are not able to anticipate the consequences of their behavior towards their child’s development. Even though most parents always have the best of intentions to raise their children as best they can, the truth is many parents are not properly equipped both in knowledge, skills and emotional maturity to undertake such an important role of raising a child. Beyond parents’ genes there are other important factors that greatly influence the child’s development. For example, levels of care and attention, the nutritional program before and after pregnancy, exposure to environmental toxins and cultural/social environment, to name a few. We begin to see more clearly how society impacts our Inner Foundation.
Even though the first five to seven years can build an Inner Foundation for future learning, health and life success, it’s important to point out the brain continues to develop and change in adulthood too. New stimulus and new habits/actions can indeed reprogram your brain’s original blue print. As a result, old neural pathways can be dissolved and new neural pathways can be created. Meaning, if we decide to apply new daily habits and activities, the brain’s neural pathways would naturally start to respond to new stimulus creating new neural pathways. For example, by stopping negative thought and behavior patterns and choosing to nurture new thoughts, new relationships and new activities, we create a window of opportunity for intervention that reshapes not only our brain but all areas of our life and future possibilities. This is extremely good news for those that want to transform themselves and their lives. The brain is constantly reshaping itself like plasticine by responding to all internal and external experiences that we choose to add into our new life. Scientists call this neuroplasticity. This process of transformation requires commitment and dedication but the outcome is the rebirth of yourself, with a new positive mindset and a strong Inner Foundation. If this article resonates with you, then you will really enjoy reading the inner foundation book.
About The Writer
Susana Hancock is the author of the book The Inner Foundation- How Society impacts our Inner foundation. She has a global professional experience of over twenty years, working in Europe and Asia in areas of leadership, staff training and personal development. Since 2016 Susana has been delivering professional training and coaching programs to individuals, schools, business and governmental organizations.