The Emergence of the Social Brain

“The more we’ve come to understand how our brains work, the more we’ve realized that significant portions are dedicated to connecting us with others.”

This extract published in The Science of Psychotherapy comes from a book called The Pocket Guide to Neuroscience for Clinicians by Louis Cozolino. It begins:

“The brain has long been the subject of human fascination—this has never been as true as it is today. For most of recorded history, the brain was thought to be just another organ, like the liver or the kidneys, while our sense of self was thought to reside in the heart. With the emergence of phrenology and neurology, the idea that the brain somehow organized personality and behavior gradually gained prominence. As religious and mythological beliefs began to diverge from scientific investigation, the concept of the brain as the organizer of experience took hold. The newer notion of the brain as a social organ emerged only in the last few decades, and with it, the field of social neuroscience.

The more we’ve come to understand how our brains work, the more we’ve realized that significant portions are dedicated to connecting us with others. These findings have made it possible to forge fields like affective neuroscience and psychoneuroimmunology. We’ve learned from these interdisciplinary studies that models of psychotherapy focused exclusively on individuals and their internal experiences reveal but a small portion of the information relevant to healing. Further, focusing on thinking, feeling, behavior, somatic experience, relationships, or culture alone limits our ability to comprehend our clients and leverage psychotherapy as an agent of change. The consistent message of recent research is that minds are always embodied, encultured, and embedded within the context of relationships. When we forget their ultimate interdependence, we come to objectified and superficial understandings of the people we treat. As Wilhelm Reich once said, ‘We arrive at a catastrophic comprehension of the psychic surface.’ For this reason, I begin with a discussion of the social brain, and how it is built, regulated, and modified. These are all central topics for psychotherapists, parents, and teachers and the most important reasons to become neurofluent …”

You can read more from here.

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