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Winter Solstice

The winter solstice: the shortest day and longest night of the year.

The solstice has long held significance in the annual cycle of many cultures. Astronomically signifying a reversal of the suns ebbing presence in the sky and traditionally signifying the start of a long winter ahead. There are many mythologies and traditions linked to the winter solstice. In temperate climates the winter solstice was the last feast celebration before “the famine months” when starvation was common. People came together in celebration sharing food and stories of the year past. The tradition of communities gathering is universal across all the different cultural manifestations of the winter solstice. In light of all these social celebrations I have been mulling  over the social synapse of our human community.

Humans are social beings. Our brains and our individual identity develop while resting on social connectivity. From birth our brains are built not only by genetic preprogramming but also by lived experiences guided by our caretakers. Our ability to bond with them and create a loving secure attachment strengthens the networks of our social brain creating one that is strong and resilient. If we instead have a neglectful and insecure attachment, the networks of our social brain are not strengthened. As a result the the brain is vulnerable to stress and dysregulation. These early experiences have a disproportionately strong role in molding the the networks of our brains. Even though we have individual genetics, how we develop is strongly influenced by our community and their interaction with us through the social synapse.

The social synapse is the medium that links us together into families, communities and societies. It’s the space between us that we fill with gestures, words and touches such as smiles, hellos and hugs. These sensorial cues are received by us and interpreted by our brains. The interpretation of these cues tell us whether someone is friend or foe, happy or sad. We revise our emotions and actions based on these cues so it’s important that we are able to accurately read them. You don’t need to understand the science behind these complex mechanisms in order to appreciate them but if you are interested in learning more look up limbic resonance, regulation and revision.

This winter solstice I ground myself in the thought that we exist simultaneously as individuals and as part of a community. We are all an integral part of our community and our actions, no matter how individual we think they are, affect and are affected by those around us.

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