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Bonding 6: neuro-sociology
Posted on 7:10am Wednesday 2nd May 2012
This series is reprinted with permission from my friend and fellow mental health nurse Felicity Stockwell. Her complete writings can be found on her website at http://www.felicitystockwell.com/
I’m grateful to Felicity for agreeing to let me publish her work here.
The individual in society.
The previous pages (see Overview) described how the Bonding Process ‘programmes’ human beings to be sociable, imprinting our needs for acceptance and approval, which fundamentally motivate everyone to be altruistic and cooperative whenever in company. This is because the ability to negotiate acceptable interactions with others is as essential to life as are the physical necessities. When people meet, they initially make a quick, unconscious judgement on the person’s appearance, which may be positive or negative. In an open, socialising situation this will be acted on, by avoiding eye contact and moving away if the judgement is negative, or with each person then looking for positive aspects in the other person with which they can communicate.
The Bonding Process imprinting motivates people to always look for positive aspects in other people on first meeting, and it is a sadness of modern societies that there is so much competition in all aspects of life, and this turns some people into threat rather than support which limits interaction. Also stigma and prejudice, where they exist in any community, make it very difficult for the people so labelled to gain enough approval and acceptance to become fully self-confident and valued. Stigmatised and prejudiced people can readily be patronised by others and this is further denial in the meeting of Social Needs. (Being patronising is where a person gets more self approval and status for what they give,rather than communicating approval to the recipient. (i.e. ‘the coldness of charity.)
The Bonding Process imprints some ‘reflex’ social behaviours, in that we scan and evaluate everyone we come into contact with. Each interaction between two people is then a negotiation of ‘givings’ and ‘receivings’, with each person evaluating what they feel about the other and finding out how much they have in common, and working out how much time and attention they are willing to share with each other. Out of the one-to-one interactions within a group setting, there comes the communal effort, ideas and actions and cooperation that constitute human existance.
When there is common accord and success in achieving communal objectives, and individual members feel contented, the situation is described as having ‘high morale’
When any, or more individuals feel their Social Needs are not being met in a formal group situation, it is likely that the cooperation needed for achieving the groups purpose will be compromised. This can lead to generalised distress and a ‘low morale’ situation. (In extreme situations ‘deviant sub-groups’ form and actions and ideas arise which become the valuable currency which meets each others needs and makes punishment irrelevant)
Many groups are part of larger communities and each member of a group will gain some meeting of their Social Needs from the people in authority. These needs are best met by personalised recognition and appreciation.
All life is lived in communities, of various sizes and with various purposes, with families being the fundamental form of community and others ranging from friendship and neighbourhood groups, to work and leisure organisations, to religions and nations. In any gathering, whatever occurs, is the sum total of all the individuals’ one-to-one interactions, and from the moment of birth, the infant has to learn the skills he will need in order to relate to all the people he will meet in his life ahead.
It takes all the time of infancy, childhood and adolescence for individuals to learn the interpersonal exchanges that lead to social competence. Social development is a case of the infant’s natural maturation being enabled through nurture, exercise and playing, alongside their physical maturation. There are many textbooks that describe the normal stages and processes of socialisation, but they give less attention to the social processes that have to be learnt.
The ability to communicate is fundamental to all socialising so, from birth and onwards, plenty of interaction with people is essential. The capacity to produce verbal and body language are laid down in the brain and are dependent on maturation for full functioning. However, all the speaking the child hears, and the picture books he shares being read, build up a repertoire of information that will be available when the appropriate age for speech is reached.
The interactive aspect is the other part of socialising that has to be learnt, and has two dimensions that interlock. The infant has to come to know himself and to recognise the ‘otherness’ of others, and then to learn the ‘currencies of exchange’, and how to maximise strengths and minimise difficulties, and most imprortantly, the rewards of sharing.
Communities may have more or less formality in defining their function or purpose, but underlying all of them is an implicit ‘social contract’. The first part is the expectation that each individual will cooperate in helping to fulfil the purpose of the community and will share in any benefits that are forthcoming, and the second part is that they will conform to the written or unwritten rules or norms that apply.
Different types of social gathering, which may be work or leisure, are described as being ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ in terms of rules and role prescriptions. They offer different levels of freedom for social interactions, but whatever the aims and structure of a group, every individual will be needing ongoing approval and acceptance. In an informal group, if approval is not forthcoming the person can leave, but in work situations this is not usually the case, and in hospital wards, for example, freely chosen interactions, with mutual exchange of accord, can be very limited. There are also possible occasions when people have to relate to and cooperate with others they have judged as having nothing to offer them, or, in other words, that they do not like. When individuals have high levels of esteem, this still needs constant re-inforcement, but they are better able to shrug off negative experiences and can be giving and sharing with people who are not being cooperative.
There is a vast amount of researched information about the organisation and function of society and this is not the place to attempt any summarising. It is hoped however, that by understanding the core centrality that Bonding has in every aspect of life it will help to throw light on problem areas in social situations and suggest useful strategies for solving them.