Last March, I was fortunate to attend an amazing gathering, "Toward a New Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships," which was presented by UCLA Extension and Lifespan Learning Institute.
I had been to several of these annual meetings previously, and this year’s may have been the most interesting one yet. Among the impressive list of speakers were: Diane Ackerman, John Gottman, Iain McGilchrist, Allan Schore, Daniel Siegel, Arietta Slade, and Marion F. Solomon (who was also one of the conference organizers).
While it is impossible to cover this three-day conference in any detail, here are a few of the highlights that relate specifically to pre and perinatal issues.
The first speaker, Dr. Solomon, set the tone with her discussion of, "Attachment, Culture, and Relationships." She stressed Bowlby’s insight that everything human is based on relationships, but lamented that "connection is not the message of our culture." Alan Schore described how increasing stress is damaging children and said that the insights of developmental neuroscience regarding pre- and perinatal influences, maternal care, and epigenetics could be one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Schore condemned the lack of maternal support in the U.S. and noted that it rates 21st out of 27 developed nations.
Dan Siegel (who just finished a new edition of his classic, "The Developing Mind"), gave two talks, and they were both memorable. His first presentation focused on the relational basis of the mind, and argued that early trauma can damage the integration of the brain, so that the flow of energy and information is interrupted. In his second discussion, Siegel began by noting that our brains evolved to expect multiple care-givers, and then considered how early trauma can cause the brain to become either to rigid or too chaotic in its functioning. He believes that the resulting lack of neural integration underlies all of the problems listed in the DSM.
These brief descriptions cannot begin to convey all of the fascinating information that was presented about neuroscience, birth and infancy, childhood, relationships, the social determinants of health, and much more. Finally, one of the best aspects of the weekend was the presence of so many wonderful people.