In my recent book The Power of Discord co-authored with renowned research psychologist Ed Tronick we address the problem of technology over-use within the context of human relationships. If we understand the problem as a symptom, we see that simple admonitions to limit time and find good content are not sufficient. When we eliminate a symptom without recognizing its function, we fail to address the underlying problem. Over-reliance on technology and social media may be a symptom of a social and cultural movement away from the normal messiness of human relationships. If so, only immersion in relationships can provide the solution.Continue reading
We learn to listen by being listened to. Our ability to find our way into another person’s experience begins to develop in our earliest months of life when caregivers naturally respond to our wordless communication. Our ability to listen is enhanced in a setting of connection and communication. Alternatively, our ability to listen can atrophy in an environment that does not model or value listening. When we protect this time to listen to the baby’s unique voice and support parents at this transformative and often disorganizing time, we set babies and families on a healthy path right from the start.
A wise colleague who works as a family recovery support specialist in a program for parents of young children identified a core contradiction. If we say that addiction is a biological disease that is treated with medication, how to we make sense of the narrative of the role of trauma? Could it be that the well-intentioned efforts to reduce stigma, in large part a response to the criminalization of drug abuse, has the unintended consequence of silencing stories that then reappear to exert their influence in other forms?Continue reading
Dance offers a kind of parallel process to infant-parent interaction. As teachers and students together choreograph new dances, missteps inevitably occur on the journey to a coherent graceful performance. Each class offers participants the opportunity to build that hope and agency anew.
Over ten years ago my own daughter’s countless hours of classes, rehearsal, and performance with the dance program played a central role in her development as she navigated the tumultuous middle school years. The experience became part of her core resilience now revealed in fortitude and flexibility as a doctor-in-training on the front lines of the pandemic.
The truth lies in our humanity, in the complex interplay between biology and environment. It lies in the stories we tell and the meaning we make of our experience. The search for the truth lies in protecting space and time to listen to those stories, in all their richness and complexity.Continue reading
Immigrant families currently face a disturbing variation of the horrific separation of parents and children imposed officially from April through June of 2018 but continuing through the fall of 2019 under the government’s “zero tolerance” policy. Now a federal judge has ruled that all migrant children must be released from detention centers because of coronavirus. But immigration officials are not expected to allow parents to leave with them. Anyone with a hand in such cruel and heartless policy should be required to view the classic still-face experiment. More powerfully than any words, it shows how a parent provides an infant’s ability to literally hold themselves together. Separations beyond their ability to tolerate them threaten their very sense of existence.Continue reading
My 96-year-old father escaped Nazi Germany at the age of 16, leaving his parents behind in a concentration camp. He has always been relentlessly hopeful, never describing his experience as trauma. But the few moments of deep pain he has let escape from a well-hidden place relate to the experience of rejection by his home country. I thought of this perspective when I listened to Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” performed by his descendants. One of them, a 15-year-old wise beyond their years, concludes with words of their own. “Somebody once said that “Pessimism is a tool of White Oppression.’ I think that’s true and I think in many ways we are still slaves to the notion that it will never get better. But I think there is hope and I think it’s important that we celebrate Black joy and Black life and we remember that change is possible, change is probable, and that there’s hope.”Continue reading
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fact that the health of our economy rests on the shoulders of our country’s childcare workers. The majority of the people tasked with caring for our nation’s youngest members are women of color and among the lowest paid and least valued members of our society. Children and their caregivers together bear the brunt of woefully inadequate and poorly thought out plans for reopening early education and care .Continue reading
As a White person I feel uncomfortable speaking to something which I will never fully understand. Yet staying silent does not feel right either. Perhaps the discomfort is the point. I will make mistakes I am sure. But as our book describes, through the process of moving from misunderstanding to understanding, or from “mismatch” to “repair,” relationships grow. Empathy occurs across a vast space of not-knowing. We write, “When we aim to imagine our way into other people’s experiences while acknowledging we can’t really know, we can join them.”Continue reading
Pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott would understand why COVID-19 threatens to bring on what has been referred to as a “shadow pandemic” in the form of a mental health crisis. Winnicott used the lovely phrase “going on being” to describe the continuous sense of self that emerges in moment-to-moment interactions in our earliest relationships and continues to evolve in new relationships over time. He described the “unthinkable anxiety” that accompanies a loss of that sense of self.Continue reading