Let's Consider "Mama's Touch


Let's Consider "Mama's Touch"

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (July 17, 2001)

Nothing has influenced the ability of people to get along with each other, the ability of people to sympathize and empathize with each other, and the ability of society to maintain law and order through civility—nothing has influenced civilized society like mama's touch: I am talking about the stroking; fondling; hugging; kissing; rubbing; and bouncing of baby, which is so characteristic of mothering in the early days of live.

Once again I cannot understand why neurologists who specialize in brain activity and can now employ all sorts of imaging and brain scanning have not spelled this out chapter and verse for all institutions involved in early childhood development. For years heurologists have known that touch, which creates and develops brain cells (dendrites, cell bodies, and axons that connect with other neurones) has a good deal to do with human behavior—mood, mind-sets, social sensitivity, human values, etc. Touch, as the poet Walt Whitman recognized in the 19th century, "demon touch," he called it, may be the strongest character-determiner of all the somewhat 16 or 17 senses of man. Common experience indicates that there are more than 5 senses.

I have mentioned that we have 3 brains and that the "old brain," lying lower than the 2 obvious hemispheres, developed first and still retains a concern for survival (and sex is a way of surviving through children), anger, flight, escaping pain, and pleasure. The "old brain," called the LIMBIC SYSTEM is not the thinking area of the brain. One of the chief organs of the limbic system is a little almond-shaped organ called the AMYGDALA, which is influential in so much of the anti-social behavior that confronts society and which we should understand better than our way home. A damaged amygdala spells social trouble.

The limbic system, which has to have early healthy development, urges us to touch someone. If mothers and other caretakers of small children understood that pleasant handling of children (rubbing their heads, kissing them, stroking them, playing with their arms, wrestling with them) is as necessary to their emotional health as milk and oatmeal, I know they would do it more often—even when the children are older.

Children MUST have desirable social and physical contact to develop brain cells and neural circuits to prevent the variety of anti-social behaviors that may develop out of childhood and result in the most vicious crimes in later life. Our nervous systems require touching in many different forms—as mama does when she holds, caresses, and rocks baby. And as good mothers and caretakers do to developing children in later life: Omit loving touch, and you may be creating a monster: Under-developed limbic systems can create serial killers and people with no moral restraint.

More on the limbic system, touch and emotional disorders.

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