Psychotherapy and Neuroscience

Developmental Stress

The nature of an individual’s response to stress is normally developmentally determined, i.e. it is based on one’s physical and emotional needs and expected outcomes at any point in time. For examples typical developmental stressors in interaction are as follows. Attachment disruption and a caregiver’s indifference to an infant’s physical and emotional need for comfort are experienced as stress to a baby. Limitations placed on a toddler’s exploration and seeking novelty from the environment are considered to be stressful when the toddler is harshly corrected by a caregiver. Physical and verbal violence observed between caregivers in interaction or experienced by self in interaction with a violent caregiver, in addition to hurt feelings in response to caregiver rejection are all received as stressful experiences to the young school-aged child as well as to the adolescent. Social losses and age-related losses associated with progressive loss of one’s physical and biological integrity are perceived as stressful to the elderly. Therefore, the nature of stress changes throughout the life cycle. New stressors are cumulative; they add to and modify one’s expected outcome at any point in the life cycle. Often they relate to, reinforce and substantiate prior negative assessments of self in interaction. They also fuel the chronic stress response, especially experience that had not been sufficiently processed in the past. It is inadvertently relived in later scripts or undoing without one’s awareness.