Physiological Memory

As we discussed in Reading With Children, a child’s emotional memory includes both positive and negative events. The snuggle-factor enhances learning. The fear-factor hinders learning.

Physiological memory: In concert with emotional memory is what we refer to as physiological memory. System-wide conditioning can cause the body to respond to a person, circumstance, or event in a pre-determined way.

For example, think about how a three-year-old child responds when the parent returns from a day apart. Complete, un-abandoned joy. The child’s entire being responds. A broad range of neural connections and pathways produce or reproduce positive experiences and associations. We could say, then, that when the parent walks into the room, the neural synapses in the child’s brain come alive.

My tummy hurts: The same is also true for a negative event. A child’s recurring stomach ache (aside from a physical disorder, food allergy, etc.) can often be the result of a physiological memory.

Think about an unpleasant event in your own life. As you consider the occurrence, notice how your body responds. Is your pulse increasing? Are the palms of your hands getting warm? Are you sweating? Do you have a knot in your stomach? Is anger or frustration trying to overtake you? Is depression looming close by? Your entire system is responding.

Hold me: We all experience trials and tribulations in life, and your child is no exception. When negative events have passed, keep in mind that physiological responses may linger for a time. This negative conditioning, or residue, can best be minimized by generous amounts of closeness and peace. Holding the child, reassuring with hugs and comfort, will strengthen the neural pathway to safety and peace.

And according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, safety and peace are essential elements that must be met before any learning can take place.

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