RAD brains have developed using the pattern that evolved for use in good environments while they live and grow in bad environments.
RAD Brains: It Has to do With Your Brain, Not Your Mind.
That sentence caused me to pause as I was recently re-reading one of my favorite books. Let me back up. Over the past year or so, the reading and studying I do to help my family has shifted. I used to read books about Reactive Attachment Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, etc. Now I read about the brain. In Bessel van der Kolk’s brilliant book, The Body Keeps the Score, he was talking about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing); a newer therapy used to treat victims of trauma. He related an instance where one of the people who experienced the therapy contacted a family member who specialized in brain studies and told him he needed to study it. “It’s really strange,” she said. “It has to do with your brain, not your mind.” That’s where I want to go with today’s discussion about RAD brains.
RAD brains have developed using the pattern that evolved for use in good environments while they live and grow in bad environments. The construction can be no better than the materials and that is where RAD brains struggle.
I have a bad habit of using the words mind and brain interchangeably. Of course we know that isn’t correct. The mind is our personality. It is who we are. It is our “self.” As a Christian, I might call it my spirit or soul. It is who I am with or without the substance that makes up my body, or any part thereof. Of course a person’s mind, or, “self” plays a huge roll in who we are, but sometimes we run into trouble with the organ that processes what our mind creates and retains. I mean, blood is a great thing and it keeps our bodies going if, and only if, our hearts are delivering our blood in the way that they should. If the organ that handles the blood is malfunctioning or not functioning, our bodies experience the problems that a lack of fresh blood cause. It’s the same with minds that are served by RAD brains. I want to be very clear, here. I don’t believe in RAD minds, only RAD brains. There is nothing malfunctioning with the victim’s mind. Their mind, their self, is not bad. It might be hurt, but its feelings are not wrong. RAD brains have developed using the pattern that evolved for use in good environments while they live and grow in bad environments. The construction can be no better than the materials and that is where RAD brains struggle.
RAD brains also copy what they see. When most of what they experience is anger and violence, most of the templates they create are negative, rather than the positive ones that are created by children who grow up in healthy environments.
The brain is an organ, not unlike the heart or the eyes. It has jobs to do and it does them in a mechanical way. When it is setup properly and it is functioning in the right way, all goes along pretty well. Our brains have a lot in common with computers. The storage methods also share similarities. We talked about this recently in RAD Inventory. But our brains have evolved to form based on the way that the human environment is, most of the time. Most of the time, mammal mothers care for their children and don’t hurt them. Most of the time, mammal mothers teach their children and prepare them for the future. The human brain has developed relying on that fact. RAD Templates so it can compare future experiences and evaluate them to sense the approach of good things or bad things. The brain also mirrors what it sees and mimics reflections before it even knows what those actions mean. When a mother smiles at her baby, he smiles back, just because brains learn by copying. It takes many repetitions before the brain realizes that each time the face is smiling, the person is also feeling love and happiness. That is when the child begins to smile because he feels these feelings and not because he is copying. RAD brains also copy what they see. When most of what they experience is anger and violence, most of the templates they create are negative, rather than the positive ones that are created by children who grow up in healthy environments.
This article on RAD Brains is built on the RAD Inventory and RAD Templates articles.
I would argue that the mountain of negative templates created by RAD brains are not nearly as damaging as inconsistency. In RAD Templates, we talked about how when I was an infant and cried, the care I received was consistent and good. My brain, therefore, created templates that showed that when I cried I received good things. We also talked about how when my daughters cried, the response from their first mother was inconsistent. My daughters never knew if their cries would produce good or bad results. Worse, their cries might produce nothing at all and in such cases, they were learning that they could trust no one but themselves. If you have not yet read the articles on RAD Templates and RAD Inventory, now would be a good time to catch up. This article on RAD Brains is built on the RAD Inventory and RAD Templates articles.
RAD brains have already decided that pain coming from attaching is the rule, and good experiences coming from attachment and relationships are the unusual and random exceptions.
Most of our children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder went through multiple failed attachments with first parents or other caregivers. It didn’t take those RAD brains long to associate attachment with excruciating emotional pain. That is why our kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder have such trouble attaching to us. The brain’s job is to handle and process all of the information to keep our bodies and our minds (or “selfs”) safe. When a feeling of love or attachment is processed by RAD brains, it can only compare it to other templates where those feelings ended up turning into feelings of despair, abandonment, betrayal, sadness and loss. No wonder that brain does everything it can to keep away from feelings of attachment. The overwhelming number of negative templates filed away leave little room for the brain to make room for positive templates when it comes to attachment and relationships. RAD brains have already decided that pain coming from attaching is the rule, and good experiences coming from attachment and relationships are the unusual and random exceptions.
We need to handle RAD brains the same way that we would handle malfunctioning livers or hearts.
Every week I get emails or messages that describe heart-wrenching circumstances from parents and caregivers who are at their wit’s end. They beg me for help. But the sad truth is that there is no quick fix for RAD brains. All we can do is to help the victim of Reactive Attachment Disorder to: 1) Have good experiences with love, relationships and attachment, 2) Help them to recognize the good and compare it to the bad, and 3) Encourage them to remember specific good experiences until the brain begins to recognize what it has always considered to be an anomaly, as a true template to use for comparison in the future. Remember… I don’t believe in RAD minds. Our kids are good kids. We need to handle RAD brains the same way that we would handle malfunctioning livers or hearts. We find the best professional help we can get and then we do what the doctors tell us to do. Just like in physical medicine, we might not always produce the desired results in the amounts that we seek, but following the best professionals is our very best chance.
It is my belief that currently, the best help comes from the methods developed by the recently deceased Karyn Purvis and her team at TCU. Her book, The Connected Child is awesome, but for me, it really took shape when I combined it with the free video resources available at Empowered to Connect and the DVDs for sale by TCU. If you are one of those who has written, asking me for help, or if you are someone who has considered doing so, this is the best help I can give you. The only compensation I receive for endorsements are those given by my own conscience. I don’t accept money for advertising. That leaves me free to always give you my best. Good luck and God bless you on your long and difficult journey. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Adoption is the most beautiful mountain you will ever be injured on.”
Please don’t feel like you need to ask, to share. 🙂 Few things make me happier than your belief that my writings might help someone else. I love to see the likes, the comments, and especially, the shares. 🙂 Oh, and in case you’re interested, I almost always accept Friend Requests from other RAD Parents. Due to the way Facebook and the blog are set up, in the blog, on comments, I can tag you in them if we’re friends, but the program won’t let me tag you if we’re not. Here’s the link to my personal page: https://www.facebook.com/john.m.simmons2
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them.
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