The Power and Truth of Interpersonal Neurobiology

Behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow arranged into his groundbreaking concept (in 1943) that when a person’s basic needs are met, s/he seeks to satisfy higher needs, ascending up a hierarchy often depicted as a pyramid built on five levels.

Level 1: breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and shelter

Level 2: safety, which comprises security, health, and well-being

Level 3: love and belonging, which consist of fulfilling friendships, sexual intimacy, and supportive family relationships

Level 4: esteem, which includes acceptance, respect, and recognition

Level 5: self-actualization, which is one’s fullest potential

These needs build onto each other. Maslow contended that each need must be satisfied before a person is motivated to move to the next level, and that if at any time one of the lower-level needs is unmet, a person will regress to the level of the unmet need.1

The survivor needs to be given attention under this hierarchy, with one need being supported, then another and another.

If we push the survivor to intimacy without giving her solid comfort at levels one and two, we throw her back into basic survival. She can revert in the fear-based trauma bond, using compulsive relational patterns (as provided in my book, coming in the Fall of 2015. S/he may also resort to compulsive and self-destructive behaviors, believing the old lie that nobody cares. In short, that person loses his/her center, and this can catapult that person into a narrow and regressed range of interaction and function.

We must act out the comfort of God. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelations 21:4). Wiping away the tears can involve many different actions. But nothing speaks more to the survivor than safety and effort.

Daniel Siegel, MD, provided a landmark study called The Developing Mind, in which he created an integrated model for understanding the mind and its interpersonal neurobiology. This term expresses the reality that the mind is ultimately a dynamic, mysterious confluence of the brain and experience, with many aspects of it deeply connected (or potentially so) in ways that often go unnoticed.

The reality of interpersonal neurobiology (part of God’s creation) points us to justice and mercy, especially where cultural brokenness and conflict reside. “God’s Kingdom is one of justice and mercy that he intends to proliferate to the uttermost parts of the earth, enveloping all aspects of life,”2 writes a Christian psychiatrist, Curt Thompson, MD. Justice and mercy, therefore, are not actions that divide the soul, but actions that make things whole, right, and true.

So how do we do this?

Warning: We betray her confidence in God’s healing when, especially as Christians, we do not immediately go into ministry mode. This can be multifaceted, but it is most certainly doable, as the Lord strengthens and equips us to step toward her with mercy given in the legal fight, the psychological war, and the physical nurture she most certainly needs to know that the torment she faced is over. We need to be “the army that comes like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come” (Joel 2:2).

If you are a spouse, sibling, parent, or child of a princess warrior, allow this battle to permeate the core of who you are. Please share our website and blog postings with a princess warrior and convey that you don’t know what they are dealing with but that you sought information to begin the search to know. You will be amazed by how brave they are to face life every day. Let them know how strong and honorable they are. Let them know that you are committed to starting where they are. Look at the next blog to get you started.

Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.
You only need a heart full of grace generated by love.
—Mike Romberger, pastor

Continued: What Do You Need?  Part 2

[1] Tamara Lowe, Get Motivated!: Overcome Any Obstacle, Achieve Any Goal, and Accelerate Your Success with Motivational DNA (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 72.

[2] Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010), 7

Mary Ellen Mann
Mary Ellen Mann
Mary Ellen Mann is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Denver (visit www.manncounselinggroup.com). After attending a Christian college, she did her graduate work at Columbia University. Recently she co-founded Last Battle, LLC and helped develop the first interactive website for survivors of sexual violation, www.lastbattle.org, to help survivors, family and friends of survivors, Christian leaders, and professionals who care about this population. Her book, From Pain to Power will be on the market September 22, 2015. Mary Ellen lives in Denver with her husband and their two sons.

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