The social nature of our brains is hard-wired, on-line at the time of birth. Newborns begin imitating facial gestures when they are only minutes old so early imitation is not about learning – it is innate. Autobiographical memory – the memory that we use all the time once we enter childhood – when we know where we are, who we are with, what we are doing and thinking – does not function when we are born. A vital structure in the brain, the hippocampus, must mature before we can integrate all these different pieces of memory into a whole which begin as separate elements. Because emotions are so vital to our ability to our ability to respond to danger, emotional memory, is with us at birth, controlled largely by another structure called the amygdala. Even before we have names for things, we are remembering important experiences that aroused significant emotions . Every negative and positive experience with our primary attachment figures is creating an emotional worldview that colors how we see the world, what our expectations are of other people, whether the world is a good place or a bad place, long before we have words to explain any of this. These early experiences can likewise color the experiences and interpretations of the adults we ultimately become and that has significant impact on our home lives and our work lives.
Some researchers believe that it is this ability to imitate that is the moving force differentiating humans from all other species  and this is the basis for why we call attachment the Human Operating System or what attachment researchers’ “grandfather” John Bowlby called the “internal working model”. Since World War II, attachment scientists have laid the scientific groundwork for understanding how we become human in the intricate dance that goes on in infancy and early childhood between children and caregivers, setting the patterns we are likely to follow for the rest of our lives. Bowlby and many other attachment researchers have said that the internal working model forms the basis of each person’s personality the “rough-and-ready blueprints for what should be expected and what is likely to occur in different kinds of interactions with attachment figures (p.7) . These early attachment experiences then determine how one views the lovability and worthiness of the self, what it means to be cared for and care about others, what to pay attention to and what to forget, how to manage emotions and how to behave, what to expect from other people [4-6].
Thanks to the work of John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, and many others, we now have a framework for understanding how the sense of individual self emerges out of the transactions between the individual and others, how the self and social development are inextricably bound together [6-10]. Human social life originates with the evolution of parental care and the mother-infant bond. The behavior between mother and infant, and later between father and infant, is the foundation stone for adult bonding, friendliness, and love - all of which are at the heart of social organization .
Excerpt from Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies.
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- Bowlby, J., Attachment and loss, Volume III: Loss, sadness and depression. 1980.
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- Main, M., N. Kaplan, and J. Cassidy, Security in infancy, childhood, and adulthood: A move to the level of representation.. in Growing Points of Attachment Theory and Research : Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development, I. Bretherton and E. Waters, Editors. 1985. p. 66-104.
- Ainsworth, M.D.S., et al., Patterns of Attachment A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. 1978, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
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- Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I., Human Ethology. 1989, New York: Aldine de Gruyter.