On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Eye Smile

I get annoyed with myself when I can't cite my sources. I know only that I heard this information on a Nancy Thomas training CD. I'm sure she had sources for her info too. So excuse my ineptitude today. Perhaps the deluge just outside this kitchen window behind me has washed away my brain cells. (I do believe we Georgians will float away. I've plans to build an ark. RADishes need not have a buddy when they come on the ark as they will surely kick their buddy in the shins on the way up the plank)

I digress. It's this bloody rain!

Eye smiles, that's what I'm trying to talk about.

My degree is in Biology/vertebrate physiology with an emphasis on community health education. I taught Health, Anatomy, Biology, Physical Science and all maths grades 7-algebra 2. That is to say, I'm a bit nerdy. And I like scientific evidence of things, especially physiological proof. So much of RAD therapy feels loosey-goosey to me, which, with a severely left-brained POV, makes it hard for me to see and interpret the benefits. I think that's why this Eye Smile thing really got a hold of me, it's a more concrete concept that also has physiological evidence.

[aside] my right pointer finger is killing me, i sliced it working the other day and it is making typing this post extremely difficult

[aside to the aside]geez, maybe I should take some of Aspie Boy's ADHD meds today. lol

ANYWAY! *hit self in head*
Nancy Thomas talked about the nuances of smiles and the learned response infants in nurturing environments get from them. Thomas revealed the findings of a study in which infants, aged newborn to three months, were smiled at while the mother's eyes were covered. The infants, only seeing the mother's mouth, did not smile back at her toothy grin. Then the researchers covered the mothers' mouths, revealing the eyes only and had them smile at their infants again, being sure to make eye contact as they did. When the babies saw the smile in their mother's eyes, they smiled back, even though they never saw the expression of the mouth or cheeks.

What's more (and this is the part that makes me all tingly, being the science nerd), the researchers discovered that when an infant smiled at his mother, it caused a release of endorphins (oxytocin) that has the physiological affect of relaxing the mother, helping her feel bonded and loved. The response to her endorphin release would then cause a reciprocal response in the infant's release of oxytocin, enabling the child to feel safe and translate the abstract emotion of love, all from a smile exchange that occurred between eyes!

This just really gets me going!

This oxytocin release between bonding mother and infant is the same hormone released when you hug (Thomas recommends 12 hugs daily for therapeutic parents and traumatized children.) Oxytocin is also released from sexual intimacy between consenting adults. Not surprisingly, there is also a rise in this hormone when we eat the foods that make us feel loved and nurtured. Grandma's chicken dumplings when you've got a head cold? Can I get an "AMEN!"?

The opposite is true as well. Deficits in this hormone make it difficult to receive or give love. Guess what? Your RADish's hormone levels are low. Guess what else? If they missed this bonding time in infancy with a nurturing parent, they may even have a hard time translating facial expressions, similar to children on the autism spectrum. [1]

Do you know that the average annual weight gain for RAD moms is 20 lbs. per year because they subconsciously replace the nonreciprocating love from the RADish with food to get the same hormonal affect? It takes an extraordinary measure of discipline to keep those pounds off, doesn't it?!

And here's another twist for you awesome RAD moms. Are you feeling like your intimacy with your partner is out of whack? Could it be because your RADishes have drained your oxytocin levels by not reciprocating and as a result the diminished hormone has blocked your ability to connect sexually? [2] Christine mentions the 7-day sex challenge in this recent post on the sex-periment Striving to choose intimacy even when you don't feel like it will boost your oxytocin so that you'll want it more. (Try it. we did and it really works!!!)

Not ready to toss the cookies and cake, strip down to naked and hop in the sack? Then just start with the eye smile. Stand in front of the mirror and eye smile at yourself! Try it and see! I promise, you'll feel better right away. Then eye smile at your reciprocating children. Then eye smile at your RADishes (oh, it will annoy the crap out of them but you'll have been eye smiling all day so you won't care). By the end of the day you'll have avoided the Oreo Double Stuffs in the pantry and one eye smile at your partner and you'll be dashing to the room.

OK, so that's extreme but I promise. The Eye Smile works. There's physiological proof and clinical evidence. (And those facts alone make MY oxytocin levels go up!) lol

Here's proof of the eye smile. Look directly at the eyes of the images. What response do these images invoke for you? Do you automatically smile back at any of them? Can you tell which one is the Eye Smile without making eye contact with the image? I purposefully made one vague but I think it will still give you a positive reaction when you make direct eye contact.

[1]Sissy was working on understanding facial expression as part of her therapy at the RTC - she had to practice modeling her emotions in front of a mirror - call out the name of the emotion then make the appropriate expression She also had to connect the pictures of facial expressions of other people to the emotion she thought they were portraying. Kind of ABA/RDI stuff. Another reason the staff thinks she's on the spectrum and another reason I say it's just RADs

[2] this information is not from Thomas but from one of the episodes in the documentary this emotional life on PBS


Corey said...

Crap. I was hoping someone else would have commented so I could cheat and look at their answers. Is it #1?

marythemom said...


"Do you know that the average annual weight gain for RAD moms is 20 lbs. per year because they subconsciously replace the nonreciprocating love from the RADish with food to get the same hormonal affect"

I've got 2 RAD kids who've lived with us for 3 years. Guess how much weight I need to lose according to my doctor?! No, thank goodness it's not 120lbs, it's only 70 (10 from before they got here). Please tell me this will stop! My daughter is only in 8th grade! No wait, she's healing. My son is in 10th, so another 40-50lbs? *yikes!*

I'm guessing #1 as well.

Mary in TX