Michele Coleman, Ph. D. LMFT
A number of years back, scientists discovered a system in our brain called the Mirror Neuron system. They were studying where motor movement lies in the brain of rhesus monkeys. What the scientists discovered is that if I know how to do what you are doing, my brain fires as if I am doing it. The example that highlights this connection we have to one another is evidenced by what happens when we watch a sporting event of a sport we know how to play. After watching a tennis match, or soccer or football, from the comfort of sitting on your couch in your living room, are you not exhausted by the end of the game? Exactly! Mirror neurons at work!
This system works in terms of emotions as well. I have evidence of this when I watch a movie and begin to cry or feel the feelings the character in the moving is expressing. We connect to one another’s emotions. About now, you may be asking, but Michele, how does this relate to parenting? Good question. When your child is placed in your home, whatever wounds you have buried deep within you will be activated as your new addition faces the terror of being in a family and not knowing how to relate. All of their early childhood wounding from their first relationship experiences will be activated. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, your child’s unhealed wounds will activate any unhealed wounds that you have that match theirs. I call this phenomenon “mirror wounding”. What is really tricky about mirror wounding is you are not aware that you have these wounds because they are buried deep within. So this month, I invite you to begin noticing how your co-workers, or mate, or family or friends activate a strong reaction in you. Next time, instead of looking at them like something is wrong with them, get curious and ask yourself, “What just got touched in me?” I invite you to start a journal and write what you are noticing. Next month we are going to look at what to do about these activations. If you interested, I am on KUNM Peace Talks in the archives. It is a two part interview with three Albuquerque women. The series is looking at parenting girls, however, I talk about parenting both boys and girls. Let me know if you want a copy of the link to my entire interview.