Neurosis and Neuroplasticity

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been investigating meditation as a means of stress relief but also mind changing. In addition to the class I’m taking, I’ve been doing some reading. One thing I came across gives me pause: based on a dozen or so studies, there’s a 70% chance that you can predict a child’s “issues” based on the mother’s (I am very broadly paraphrasing here). However, studies in neuroplasticity  show that this is not a genetic thing; things can change upstairs.

I don’t think it’s very adult to blame one’s adult issues on one’s parents or caretakers. But it is important to know what things we bring with us as a parent— what comes from genes and what we experienced as a child that does not have to be repeated. I’ve been so worried about the fact that… well, I’m a worrier. A nervous Nelly. A hiding-behind-her-mother’s-skirt pansy. Afraid of everything real and imaginable. And I do not want to pass that on to our kid.

The good news: “Temporary activation of the sense of attachment security allows even chronically insecure people to react to others’ needs in ways similar to those of people with a more secure attachment style.”

What do you all have to say about this? If you have kids, do you find you are repeating patterns from your childhood? Are you able to notice and stop? Do you think it’s inherent and unavoidable? If you’re a worrier like me, how do you compensate when talking with your kid?

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9 Responses to “Neurosis and Neuroplasticity”


  1. 1 angela March 5, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Malka, Malka, Malka. Look at my family. And I am okay. And I’ve been able to raise my kids in a completely different atmosphere, just by reading a lot, learning from others, and consciously not repeating their mistakes. Your kids will find one reason or another to blame you for SOMETHING, but that’s what kids are supposed to do. You and Kristy will be amazing mothers, and you will help each other to do so. You will grow so much through the process. It’s seriously the most challenging but rewarding thing ever. Love you both.

    • 2 malkageffen March 6, 2010 at 5:38 am

      That’s completely what I’m trying to do here… learn from others. Thank you so much for being an awesome friend and example mom.

  2. 3 Steph March 6, 2010 at 4:17 am

    I can’t think of any neuroses I could possibly pass on to J 🙂 Although, you, as my best friend of 20 years, can probably think of many. Keep your eyes out and let me know:)

    But seriously, I think that there will always be something…but unconditional love really can make a difference. I know I just want to make sure that J feels good enough–that he doesn’t feel like he always could’ve/should’ve/would’ve done better. That is the biggest thing on my mind right now in terms of “baggage” but I’m sure I’ll come up with bigger stuff as the years go on.

    I have no doubt that you and K, both in spite of and because of everything you’ve been through, will be the most phenomenal loving parents in the world!

  3. 4 malkageffen March 6, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Aw, shucks. Being such an old friend, you know how much I’ve struggled with particular “issues” over the years. Could things be passed on through such subtle messages that I wouldn’t even be aware? in spite of all my good intentions and effort?
    Of course, even if someone were to say, “Your kid’s gonna be anxious like you,” I would continue on this path.
    I think it’s a matter of facing a huge unknown (kind of like we did together right before college) and wishing there was enough I could control on my end since it’s another’s life in my hinds this time.

    • 5 Steph March 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm

      It’s all a big unknown. The sooner you can get “zen” with not being in control and accepting the unknown the better. I don’t mean that to sound preachy at all. I just remember when Jackson was in the NICU and wanting someone to say, “OK, now that he has reached this stage, everything will be fine,” but all I ever got was, “right now, things are fine.” No one could ever tell us what was around the corner because preemies are so fragile, and unpredictable. When I would talk to other parents about these feelings, they would always say, “Welcome to parenthood.” And while I still feel that what we experienced in the NICU was parenthood-on-crack so to speak, there is definitely an element of truth to that comment. It is always a huge unknown. We have to get really good at being in the present, and I have to say, for someone like me who is always planning just one step ahead, learning to be truly present has been an amazing gift.

      And to answer your other question–you probably will pass along some of your neuroses. I mean, really, how can we not? But if we are hyper aware, maybe our kids will at least get a tamed-down version, or have a few more tools in their bags to deal with what we pass along. It is impossible to parent with anything but our whole self–the good and the bad. But really, woudl you have it any other way? We don’t wish a life of no challenges on our kids (I mean obviously we wish a life of none of the really icky stuff, but…). Challenges make us strong and make us who we are. Officially rambling now…

  4. 6 Becky March 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for asking these questions, Malka . . . I’m not a mom but have thinking a lot about being a mother, and as a fellow nervous Nelly, I’ve been worrying (!) about whether I would make my kid a worrier too. I’m hopeful that things can change–we are not condemned to repeat our parents’ neuroses!

  5. 7 jilly March 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    i don’t know if this is something that we can avoid.. i can’t imagine i can and i don’t know if i would want to as nice as it would be to not worry about it.
    as i’m sure i’ll pass my “baggage” to my kids, my hope is that i also give them tools to not let any negative patterns define them. i work very hard to show my children my recovery process when i feel i’ve made a negative impression. i use humor and laugh at myself a lot and i truly think i’m the safest person for them to explore their own recoveries.
    my goal is to teach my children to accept all parts of themselves, even the ones that aren’t so great that will most likely link back to me.

    i don’t think you have to be afraid to show your children your neurosis or try to stop it from becoming a part of them. i think it’s more important to show them how you live a beautiful, enriched, and successful life within a community that loves you for who you are. show your children that although you worry often, the process allows you the gifts of analysis, critical thinking, and thoughtfulness.

  6. 8 malkageffen March 7, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    What I’m learning from you all and others is that the skill of reframing is a good one to build for parenthood. It’s not dodging or masking; it’s being kind to yourself and the people who love you.
    Thanks for the lesson.

    • 9 jilly March 8, 2010 at 12:49 am

      there’s a lot of pressure out there when it comes to making choices around raising children. whether it be medical choices, diapering, diet, birth plans, or what kind of baby carrier to get.. that’s just the icing on the cake of emotional baggage that we all carry from wherever we come from. it’s daunting and often times and there are intelligent, passionate, and caring people in your life that could bring out any doubts you might have about who you are as a parent just because you bought the wrong kind of cracker box. reframing is an excellent skill to have for this journey.

      this baby is gonna be one lucky little nugget!


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