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Leadership Lessons #4: Oxytocine

Arvid Buit | 11 May 2020

The last article in the Leadership Lessons series was about symbiosis. Today we are going to talk more about the same subject, but on a neurobiological level.
It is not a basic formula

Symbiotic recognition and attachment is based on both a nurture side, being the way your parents helped you develop and view the world, and a nature side. This nature side is basically the neurobiological blueprint you are born with. It is very important to understand this, because it explains why abused children might grow up being very happy and really well raised children end up in jail.   There is not one formula for human development. In this series I am trying to show you, and make you feel, what the influencing elements are. Symbiotic development and feeling unconditionally recognised, is one of them as we have learned in the previous article.   But so is oxytocine. This neuro-transmitter is often referred to as the ‘cuddling hormone’. Try to recall this mental picture I have asked you to make, of the baby being fully secure in the womb of the mother. When a baby develops in a healthy way and environment, he or she makes oxytocine in the brain, when cuddled, or caressed in a sensitive way. Sensitive meaning: adapted to the needs of the child. So if your system is taught to make Oxytocine, you will be able to feel connection and attachment to other people and make it during the rest of your life.   But if your oxytocine is very low, because of a neurobiological defect or bad symbiotic connection, you cannot. And this is a problem that will stay with your for the rest of your life. This is why the link between a mother and child is so crucial in the life of any person.   You might think: ‘Hey, but what about the father?’ Well he can help, for sure. But in a much smaller way than a lot of men would like to think. First of all, in relation to the baby, the father can also make some sort of oxytocine, called prolactine. Very important to know, is that a man only gets his oxytocine and prolactine levels raised, when the relationship between the parents is good. These higher levels, will also cause the fathers testosterone levels to lower. Making him more sensitive, less irritated and less likely to mate with other women during this stressful period.   A very old biological system that works. But only as long as the parents are in a good relationship. If this is the case, the father can add, or build upon the good bond with mother and child. He cannot replace it nor can he solely compensate for a bad mother-child relation.   If you look at it from a black and white perspective, the mother is responsible for the development of love, connection and reciprocal relation building, until a child (boy or girl) is around the age of eleven or twelve. Then the father is responsible for the development of autonomy and preparedness to take risks. Basically; grow up to be an independent adult.   Both parents can help each other, but it is certainly not a shared project. If the mother neglects the child, the oxytocine disorder will never recored. Unless the child has this amazing blueprint, in which the oxytocine levels are higher than normal.   It is always difficult to understand the complexity of someones personality in relation to upbringing and neurobiology. We tend to accept logical facts as scientific correlation. To make you understand this human error, I will give a short example.   Twenty people are walking outside and suddenly it starts to rain. People get wet. People get wet, because of the rain. Right? It seems that we lean towards the answer of ‘yep that’s right, without the rain they wouldn’t be wet’. But that is not the same as a correlating fact.   Because one of the twenty people was not wet, because he brought an umbrella. So people get wet because it rains AND they’re to lazy to bring an umbrella, or too stupid to open it in time.   This is also important when trying to grasp the context of personality development. It is not because a child is neglected, he or she is not able to symbiotically connect to others. It is a probable cause. But when compensated with a brilliant neurobiological blueprint, it could all be fine.   A great example is this extremely rude experiment in a foster home in the 1950’s. They divided a group of babies in two categories. The first group stayed in the foster home, without any love an just the most basic care.   The other group was brought to a much nicer home, with more facilities. Also, they got a group of lightly mental handicapped young women, to take care of the children. They were very loving and caring and connected with the children.   Almost all the children in the first group, grew up with serious mental issues and basically none of them were able to grow up as an independent adult without any need of care. The second group amazingly recovered from the fact they were abandoned by their biological parents and were able to build a good life, have a family and work to keep up.   That is amazing, isn’t it? These crucial elements in any persons life, are so important to understand the choices they make later in life. But let me remind you once more: it is not a basic formula. It is about researching all the elements and trying to build a congruent story of all matters involved.  

Leadership Lessons

For this moment, let’s see what the lessons are:
  • Symbiotic attachment and development, are depending on the neurotransmitter oxytocine. Without this, any nurture effect will be uselese
  • Oxytocine is made when a child receives cuddling and physical security adapted to their needs by a sensitive parent
  • A father can contribute to this, but only creates extra oxytocine and prolactine, if the relationship between parents is good
  • The biological mother is primarily responsible for the symbiotic development and reciprocal abilities of a child. The father or other family and caretakers can only add to this.
  • The biological father is primarily responsible for the child after the age of twelve, to develop a sense of autonomy and preparedness to take educated risks
  Read Casestudy with Gary: Will he ever be a good CFO? to learn more.   If you would like to know more about oxytocine, feel free to send me an e-mail or add me as a connection on LinkedIn and ask your questions.   The next subject we will discuss in this series is: Hierachy.