Is Italy an emotionally unstable country?
It is commonplace to think that the attachment style that characterizes each of us is reflected only on emotional relationships. Nothing more wrong! The attachment style that we have somehow inherited from our caregivers (generally the maternal figure) has strong repercussions on our entire existence and therefore on the way in which we are reacting to the ongoing emergency.
Those who are passionate about Bowlby’s studies will have already had the opportunity to understand what internal operating models (moi) are and how they influence us in everyday life. Our internal operating models develop from early childhood and this is not an exclusively bowlbyna conjecture. There are many authors who converge on something similar (in cognitivism we speak of implicit memory) and there is no shortage of empirical evidence.
Setting aside the moi, let’s dwell on the link between the attachment system and the reaction to the pandemic .
How your attachment style is affecting the way you react to the pandemic
The attachment behavioral system is intimately linked to the biology of stress response. By “good response to stress” we mean an adequate activation of the stress reaction and its appropriate re-modulation over the entire duration of the stressful event.
To explain it in a simpler way.
The brains of each of us develop in early childhood and do so on the basis of their own relational environment (how mom and dad treat us). This means that the neural networks of each of us are shaped during childhood on the basis of their emotional, cognitive, educational learning … We have circuits, nervous structures and real “neural maps” that, day after day, have been shaped and train in response to the environmental stimuli received.
On a physiological level, our responses to stressful situations are regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal axis-HPA). This system regulates the secretion of cortisol (stress hormone) by the adrenal gland in response to stressful situations . This physiological system is present from birth.
An increasing number of studies have shown that the quality of parental care received in early childhood affects the functioning of this system , determining individual differences in the ability to modulate our response to stress.
Studies have measured cortisol levels in children during the Strange Situation episodes. The Strange Situation paradigm was devised by Mary Ainsworth to evaluate the “attachment styles” of children under three years of age (avoidant, anxious, safe and disorganized).
High levels of cortisol have been observed in children classified as insecure (avoidant, anxious and disorganized) in response to exposure to new stimuli. This means that any unprecedented stimulation triggers stress responses . A stressful event in adults with insecure attachment returns an abnormal and completely irrational response .
The neurobiological theory of attachment
The amygdala has a fundamental importance in the regulation of emotions . From birth it has been implicated in the processes of formation and consolidation of emotional memory . The amygdala is well developed from birth.
Numerous studies have documented a dominance of the right hemisphere over the left hemisphere for different components of emotions such as:
- Subjective experience of emotions
- Unconscious emotional conditioning processes
- Vegetative components of the emotional response
- Communication of emotions through different mimic and vocal expressive channels
In particular, it is believed that the right hemisphere is involved in the automatic responses of emotions , while the left hemisphere is more important in the control functions of emotional responses.
The right hemisphere matures within the first 2 years while the maturation of the left hemisphere (responsible, among other things, for verbal skills) has a later maturation.
The development of the right hemisphere is strongly modulated by interactions with the attachment figure . The maturation of the right hemisphere is the basis of socio-emotional development.
To explain it in a simple way: who has a secure attachment has had the opportunity to efficiently develop the right hemisphere. He has had the opportunity to develop security, stability, curiosity, emotional stability and has the road open to mental health .
On the contrary, an insecure (or worse, traumatic) attachment has activated and strengthened critical neuronal circuits of the right hemisphere (limbic circuits). Continuing to grow in a disabling environment, these conditioned learnings of emotional responses consolidate and stabilize into adulthood .
* The hierarchical model of the development of the limbic circuits of the right hemisphere – Allan N. Schore
Emotional stability vs neuroticism
Stress tolerance is closely related to individual psychic hold and the concept of neuroticism .
Robert R. McCrae and Paul T. Costa coined the theory of the five personality traits or “Big Five”. It is a classification of the main personality traits. Among the multitude of models focused on a nomothetic approach to the study of personality, it is one of the most shared and tested, both theoretically and empirically.
Among these traits is ” emotional stability ” as opposed to the concept of ” neuroticism “. Those who have good mental stability have high emotional stability which is characterized by:
- Stable mood
- Anxiety control
- Absence of impulsivity
- Irritation control
Balanced people manage to remain calm under pressure and always keep the reality test intact .
On the contrary, those who are characterized by neuroticism will tend to be irritable, pessimistic , stressed, anxious and, obviously, emotionally unstable. At very high levels neuroticism has been linked to anxiety disorders and depressive disorders .
People who present the trait of “neuroticism” tend to give constant negative interpretations of reality by making selective processing of the information received .
This means that it is difficult to confront “neurotic people” because they will tend to interpret each word in a completely personal way!
Emotionally unstable people prioritize the processing of negative information over the processing of neutral (or positive!) Information. This tendency to direct cognitive processes towards negative information prejudices a coherent examination of reality.
Hypothesis: is Italy an emotionally unstable country?
It is difficult to provide a timely answer to this question. To date, we can only access statistics on prescriptions for antidepressants or on the consumption of benzodiazepines, but there are no studies that test the mental health of the country. Of course, unfortunately many Italians are.
At the beginning of the pandemic it was “natural” to manifest the symptoms of stress but these would have to be followed by an adaptation with a re-modulation of the stress response as observed in people with safe attachment .
Looking at the long-term effects of the pandemic:
- State of extreme tension
- Emotional hypersensitivity
- Attacks of nervous hunger
- Emotional anesthesia
It is easy to speculate that many Italians have an insecure attachment style .
Those who have never known security cannot provide consistent and stable answers and, in emergency situations, can not adapt adequately.
The inability to provide adequate emotional responses fosters disorder and chaos … paradoxically, in many cases, those who are unstable do not seek a true balance but increasingly move away from the concept of stability .
Thus, fomented by the media and emotionally diseducational programs, many Italians stumbled upon a series of paradoxical behaviors and reactions.
First example: citizens vs law enforcement
The videos spread on Facebook where the policeman on duty fines a passer-by without a mask and triggers a heated discussion.
We do not investigate the wrong or the reasons, putting aside every personal idea we can make an observational effort: in general, in every video we see that even those in favor of law enforcement officers often lowering their own mask assuming a behavior entirely in antithesis with the cause for which he apparently is fighting.
In practice, emotional dysregulation causes strong contradictions and is the architect of inconsistency at different levels.
Second example: the attacks on Facebook
The attacks on Facebook! The killer comments left by many users are clear evidence of bad stress management. What is the point of attacking a user who does not know each other without even trying to understand the point of view of others? The only meaning of this practice is to vent one’s frustration and aggression. Frustration is the result of poorly managed stress .
Third example: generalized intolerance
The generalized intolerance we have witnessed in recent times is the natural consequence of the emotional pressures we are experiencing: health concern, financial stress, sentimental crisis … (etc.).
Some people seem to have nerves on the skin …. and it’s because they really have them! This state of extreme tension, anxiety and restlessness is inexorably linked to an insecure style. Aggression is related to frustration which in turn results from poor stress tolerance.
Reading recommended by the author:
Functional and emotional illiteracy
No one has ever taken care of me, so I will do it