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Lions Roar : July 2013
husband held her hand during the conversation, her amygdala quieted completely. A client once told me, “Every morning when we first see each other after waking up, my husband and I give each other a warm hug. It gives me a sweet sense of connection.” She added, “But he puts it a little differently: he says our little ritual floods him with oxytocin, setting his secure base for the day.” That hug seems the human equivalent of what researchers have found when female rodents lick and groom their off- spring, which appears to set the offspring’s genes toward the secure mode. There are many ways we get this licking-and- grooming equivalent in our lives, such as cuddling with a loved one or connecting with our children or anyone else who opens our hearts. The nurturance of a close friend or confidant can give us the reassuring feeling of being accepted, supported, and loved. When we feel destabilized, just talking with someone who is caring and feeling his or her support can enhance our secure mode. Feeling that others have an empathic attunement, with the tender support of a caring heart, can be a powerful secure-mode prime. When we see someone in need of such connection, we might do whatever we can to help her connect to her inner strengths; we become something like each other’s immune sys- tem of the heart. Modes, like moods, are contagious. Someone who is con- nected to her own secure mode can be a soothing influence on freer is a real possibility. And that same capacity for attunement translates into more genuine connections. The Power of Love A few days after her terrible accident, my therapy client Robin woke up in the hospital’s intensive care unit and realized her mother, Diane, was at her bedside. “It really helped that my mom was there; just having her nearby was very touching. I thought she was only going to be there for a few days, and she ended up staying the whole five weeks with me, during my time in rehab. She was always being supportive, by watching me do my physical therapy and giving me positive feedback and being my advocate, handling all the paperwork, insurance—things I couldn’t do myself.” That intimate closeness with her mother no doubt strength- ened Robin’s sense of the secure mode. The people in our lives whom we love—our families, our close friends, and even our pets—all shift us toward the secure mode. The mode-shifting power of the mere presence of a loved one was discovered in an experiment in the brain lab of Rich- ard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin. Women had their brains imaged while being told they were about to get a mildly painful shock. Their apprehension was evident in the height- ened activity in their amygdalas and other parts of the brain’s circuitry responsive to danger and alarm. But if a woman’s Continuing Education, Scholarships & International Student Visas Applications Accepted Now for Summer & Fall 2013 ~ Contact Admissions at: scholarship. meditation. service 1119 SE Market Street | Portland, Oregon 97214 telephone: 503-235-2477 | email: