With a Little Help From Our Friends

by Charlie Badenhop

The quality of one's life to a large extent is determined by the quality of our relationships with others. When we feel we have no choice but to face the world alone, we suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and no degree of outward success can replace or repair the lonely feeling in our heart.
No matter how talented, wealthy, or trim and fit we might appear 
to be, without supportive relationships it is a difficult challenge 
for any one of us to maintain physical and emotional health. 
Children, pets, loved ones, mentors, colleagues, and teachers, can 
all help us fulfill our need for connection to other sentient, 
limbic beings.

Our nervous system is an "open loop learning system" that draws 
on energetic connections with others in order to continually 
adapt and hopefully flourish. This concept of "open loop 
learning" is very much a part of the theory of Aikido. When being 
attacked in an Aikido class we are hoping to move towards 
"joining with" our adversary and creating the energetic 
connection that can lead towards stabilization of both parties 
emotions, and a sense of physical and emotional completion. We 
come to understand each attack as a physical expression of 
loneliness and alienation, and the desire for connection. A sense 
of separation from others leads to fear, and fear can easily lead 
to feeling like you are about to be attacked, and thus attacking 
others preemptively. In Aikido we gain a direct understanding of 
how a physically and emotionally healthy person requires ongoing 
enrichment, stabilization, and support from the nervous systems 
of others.

When we talk about the interaction of nervous systems amongst 
mammals, we are pointing to the fact that the nervous systems of 
two people in relationship very definitely communicate with, 
inform, and change each other. Our emotional connection with 
others clearly affects our moods, emotions, hormonal flow, 
digestion, body clock, and even the structure of our brains. 
Without conscious direction and without the need to think, our 
nervous systems are always learning from and adapting to our 
interactions with the nervous systems of others. Not all that 
surprising once you think about it. At the very least, for 
millions of years mammals have had the need to intuit which other 
mammals are safe, and which are predators. As mammals we have a 
limbic-emotional connection with each other that leads to 
procreation and family structures, and these relationships do not 
necessarily require the capacity to think, analyze, or 
rationalize. Emotional understanding of our self, others, and our 
relationships, comes prior to thinking.

We can easily find numerous examples of the importance of 
supportive limbic-emotional contact with others. It is 
fascinating to note that baby monkeys who have lost their mothers 
at an early age, not only wind up with various developmental 
problems, but they also find it hard to live successfully with 
the rest of their community. The same tends to be true for 
children forced to grow up in harsh, sterile conditions. Indeed 
with children growing up in orphanages that show little in the 
way of human contact and emotional bonding, the mortality rate of 
the children is dreadfully high. High quality health and 
emotional well-being requires supportive limbic relationships. 
Our nervous system needs to locate and be nurtured by other 
nervous systems in order for us to have a sense of stability and 
completion. A limbic connection with others helps us to develop a 
deeper sense of safety, calmness, and dignity. Our need to live 
our life in supportive limbic relationships is very much a 
wonderful fact of life, and not at all a weakness to be overcome. 
As mammals we all require "a little help from our friends."

Charlie Badenhop, 2004
About the author:
Charlie Badenhop is the originator of Seishindo, an Aikido instructor, NLP trainer, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapist. Benefit from a new self-help Practice every two weeks, by subscribing to his complimentary newsletter "Pure heart, simple mind".