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The most important Social and Physical Environment to get right – The Family

baboonsgroom

Michael Rose is clear – the closer we can live in environments that we have evolved to thrive in, the better off we will be. No environment has more of an effect on our well being than our family.

For we are not birds with most of our behaviours wired into us. We are moulded by the culture of our family. Our identity – how we see ourselves – how we understand how the world works and how we fit into it – how we will parent – how we will learn – how we will react to events – and our health – is largely set by the social and physical experience we have from inception to the age of 3.

Let me show you the power of this statement. This slide is taken from the work of Dr Doug Willms – the leading scientist in the field of culture and child development.

Here we see two trajectories. One of a child who can understand 150 words aged 2 and the other who can understand 300 words. It looks like a small difference. But it isn’t. The child that can understand 300 words is set on a trajectory of learning. By grade 10, they will operate at a 2 year university level. The child that understands 150 words is set on a very limited trajectory. They will stall at grade 10 at a grade 5 level. What has happened?

What has happened is that the 300 word children have been raised in a social environment that is close to the ideal for all human infants. There is a very high level of touch and affection. It is highly likely that the baby is breast fed – not only offering the ideal food but also the touch that all primates need to develop. The child is listened too. Parents respond. The child is cared for physically - fed, washed etc but as importantly is cared for emotionally. The child is given space but also boundaries. The child is allowed to discover the world about it but within safe bounds. She is not confined all the time. The child is exposed to lots of conversation. (Hart and Risely) By 4 the child on the better trajectory will have heard about 50 million words. This wires the neurons for language and so expression and the comprehension of complex thoughts. The baby is being cared for as we are designed to care for our children.

So what then about the other baby? This baby lives more in an instrumental world. It has much lower levels of touch. It is likely bottle fed. It tends to be confined much more and not allowed to explore. It is talked too or at. It is not listened to. It hears very few words. By 4 often only 10 million – a 40 million word difference – so the brain is wired largely for immediate and instrumental thinking. It can never catch up.

What happens to these two children that sets them on this course.

Here we come back to stress and Cortisol. All primates endure social stress. They worry about how they fit. Who is in and who is out. Who is rising and falling.

When we have these feelings – Cortisol kicks in. Primates reduce their Cortisol by Grooming. Babies that don’t get enough touch can die. Babies that get not enough touch tend to have much more Cortisol in the system for longer periods. They tend to react to events in a more stressed way and so wire not to be able to cope well with challenge. The floods of cortisol also work to damage their system.  Babies that get a lot of touchfeel safe and have a much greater resiliency. They also have much less cortisol around to threaten their system.

Robin Dunbar then makes the key assertion that humans developed language as a means of making grooming more efficient. Gossip or Conversation enables us to groom at a distance and while using our hands for work. It enables us to groom in groups. The essence of conversation or gossip is that it is a two way exchange as is physical grooming. So when a father has his son on his lap and is exploring the room with him or his body “Look Alfie here are your toes” he has taken his power down from God to equal. When Alfie’s mum reads to him aged 3 months this is not a waste of time. This is grooming.

But when a child only hears orders and in a order tone – he is not being groomed – he is being hit. His response? Cortisol. When a child is ignored – he is abandoned. His response Cortisol.

Just as Insulin is the marker for a poor diet, so Cortisol is the marker for poor social development. Dr Megan Gunnar is exploring this now.

Not the ideal parenting has become our norm today. It is largely a middle class issue.

Why?

I think that the answer is to be found in the larger culture of the industrial world we live in. It robs us of time and attention and energy. It is why we feed our kids and ourselves the wrong food. It is why we do not have the energy and the will to raise our children in the best way.

I don’t think that the way home to a better family is to be found in techniques – though knowing what I have put down here may help. I think, as with the food issue, the way home is to be found is to find a new life outside the bounds of the industrial economy. Now that so may of us are being expelled from it any way – there are millions of us around now that are being forced to think our lives anew.

Most of my posts about the “Fix” will focus on how we might  best do that. But before we go there, one last post about the nature of the industrial workplace that will show you how toxic it is and how all the issues of Stress and Cortisol apply there. For it is the family on steroids.

The importance of your social world to your health #1 The Context

grooming-chimps

Michael Rose is clear – the closer we are to our evolved environment, the healthier we will be. We have explored our diet and our activity. Now it is time to investigate our social environment.

We are primates and intensely social. Our place in our social world has a major impact on our health. People who have little control and status have 4 x more chance of dying early of Heart Disease than those with high control and high status. Why is this? And what can we do to improve our chances? Source: The Whitehall Study

This post is the first of a series that will explore this part of working to find the best fit possible to our evolved social design.

We will look at first at the work of Sir Michael Marmot who is the world’s leading expert in the field of social status and health. We will see that there are steep gradients of health based on status both between nations and inside nations and even inside organizations. These gradients are all a function of our reaction to how we see ourselves – do we have power and control and status or not.

We will then look at the work of Dr Robert Sapolsky who is the world’s leading expert on stress in primates. Here we can see the mechanism that converts poor feelings of self worth and roles and status directly into damage to our immune system. Just as Insulin is the key to diet, Cortisol is the key here. In prey animals such as a Zebra, they only stress and produce Cortisol, when the Lion is hunting. But social animals like baboons worry all the time about their place in the troop. For humans this worry can be worse. For we can use our conscious mind to worry abut things that happened in the past and that might happen in the future. We can have large amounts of cortisol in our system all the time.

We will then look at the work of Dr Doug Willms who has been looking at the impact of family culture on infants. For many kids today are raised in a social environment that is not warm and supportive. By 2, their world view of who they are and what the world is like is set. They are in effect wired. Resilient kids can cope with anything. Kids who are not cannot. Cortisol is again the marker. In summary very authoritarian and instrumental parents tend to shut their kids down. Very permissive parents tend to make their kids feel unsafe.  Kids do best when they are heard and when the boundaries are clear.

This then leads to how this is expressed in the workplace. Here Dr’s  David Brown and Andrew Clark have done breakthrough work on the Managerial Hierarchy. What Willms found in the family culture applies to the workplace too.

With this explained more completely as context, I will explore with you how best to take this matter into your own hands. We cannot change how the world works today on our own, but as with diet, we can chose to act differently in it and we may be forced to do that anyway. Here are some hints about where we might go with this:

  • Millions of us now are Freelancers – some by choice many not. Is this a bad thing? Or is it really the future and is this a return to being who are are designed to be a Hunter Gatherer? What is it about this life and its social aspect that is close to our evolved past – Tribal patterns etc
  • Millions of us are Boomers with maybe 20 – 40 years of life ahead and no financial security. Can we continue to live as separate beings or will we have to find a new social world to help us through? If we cannot live with our blood family what tribes can we form?
  • Can we repair the damage done to us in our earlier lives? Can find find more resilience by changing some key habits and responses? We will look at Neuro Plasticity and how this insight can help us rewire our minds and get power over our traditional responses.
  • We will look at the powerful and positive forces found in social networks – where we can find our place, a role, love and reputation. Where we can give as well as receive.
  • We can look at the food system itself. For I think that it is our relationship to food that is what controls our culture. Can we make a shift from a view of us dominating nature to one where we work with nature?

It’s our nature to be healthy as we age

robfat2


This is me – a year ago. A “normal” overweight 59 year old male. 205 lbs and 5.11″ My BMI is 28.6 or just under Obese at 30.

I am 60 years old. Life expectancy for a man of my time and age on PEI is 75. On Average by 65 the average of men like me will be helpless.

Is this  my destiny? Is it yours?

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Comments

  • Caroline Cooper: Hi Rob, Nice to see you're writing again. I have been thi...
  • Patrick Meadows: People, can and have lived solely on meat. Eskimos go months...
  • ike: Maybe you veggies need to eat meat so your brains can develo...
  • robpatrob: Of course - but we are talking much more recently here about...
  • Rob: "I come from Northern European stock. My genes are the most ...
  • Gemma: Don't forget regular exercise! Prevention is better than cur...
  • Daniel: Nothing can live on just meat. Carnivores such as cats and s...
  • robert: Your retarded, so why is it most vegans need pills as vitami...
  • Dario McNut: It is true that erectile dysfunction can be associated with ...
  • robpatrob: Google Richard Wrangham - His book is on Amazon - much more ...
  • A Question: Thanks for this video! Half of the urban women who had a raw...
  • robpatrob: Great questions - thanks. Just as 300 years ago a few misfi...
  • Garfield: I really like the parallels too...I live like this also. Twe...
  • nj: Rob, check out the chart here for a broader perspective on a...
  • robpatrob: Not what was said...

What is the Missing Human Manual All About?

Do you want to age well? Most of us do. If you are my age, 60, this is more important a question that if you are 30. But most of us would not wish to have heart disease, cancer, dementia when we get old.

Most of us think it is normal that we will get ill like this.

But science today tells us that this is not "Normal". Our evolutionary past designed us to be active and fit until we drop dead. Why? Because raising human children takes so long. Mature adults had to do most of the hard work enable us to invest up to 25 years in our kids.

We are designed by our evolution to reach a plateau of fitness in mid life. So why do most of us not live like this?

We don't because, we have strayed away from the best way of living that fits our evolution best. Our culture has got too far ahead of our biology. We eat foods that make us ill. We have lost our social identity and power and that makes us ill. And we have lost touch with the circadian rhythms of the Natural World, and that has made us ill too.

We have lost our fit with our true nature.

This site will be a Manual. It will show you what the best fit is. It will show you the science behind this. It will share with you some methods for getting your fit back with your true human nature.

So welcome to the "Missing Human Manual" . I hope that we can help you and I hope that you can help others as a result.

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