Due to developments in neuroscience, we now have a deeper understanding of the phenomenon that we refer to as stress. As with many aspects of our behaviour, we need to go back to our development in childhood. Stress is also to be seen in regard to early development.
Part of our brain development concerns what is referred to as the Social Brain. The body's regulatory systems are involved in the maintenance of internal homeostatic processes, balancing approach and avoidance, excitation and inhibition, and fight-flight responses. They also control metabolism, arousal, and immunological functioning. It is through these systems that we regulate our own and others biological and emotional states.
We now know that we develop several Regulation Systems: For current purposes, I shall only concentrate on the Stress Regulation System. The basic systems that manage our emotions our stress response system included - are not in place at birth. All these systems will develop in the first two years of life, forming the basis of our emotional management for life. It is clear that these biological systems involved in managing emotional life are all subject to social influence, particularly the influences that are present at the time that they are developing most rapidly. They will develop and function better or worse depending on the nature of these early social experiences. Expectations of other people and how they will behave are inscribed in the brain, outside emotional awareness in the period of infancy, and they underpin our behaviour in relationships throughout life. Consequently, we are not aware of our assumptions, but they are there, based on these earliest emotional experiences.
Early experiences establish a framework for emotional life. If the framework is secure, it gives the individual a confidence in regulating the ups and downs of emotional life, with the help of others when needed. This is both a physiological capacity and a psychological one. But if the framework is shaky and insecure, then the person will find it much harder to cope effectively with stress, and they will feel little confidence either in coping as an individual or in relying on others to help. This confidence in oneself and others is another way of describing self-esteem. Self-esteem is not just thinking well of oneself; it is a capacity to respond to life's challenges. IGO consultants have an awareness of the Stress Response System and how to work with clients suffering from stress.