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The extinction response

The brain wasn't designed to continue to do things without reward. We are intrinsically motivated by external reward, and without it, quickly give up. The Pavlov's dog experiment shows us this. As long as the dogs receive food, when the bell rings, they salivate. When the bell keeps ringing and the food stops coming, the learn to stop trusting the bell. It's called the extinction response.

Caring for a child who doesn't respond to their name being called, doesn't smile at their favourite story or show preference for family members can be soul destroying. You keep putting in dedicated care, day in, day out, but you don't get anything back. It does not feel natural to keep going when the reward mechanism is not there.

I look around at friends who are racing through the stages; I envy the forward momentum of their lives. One moment, they were child free, the next moment it seems, they are out of nappies, pushchair boxed away in the loft - and onto the next stage. And yet we remain. Stuck in our stage.

The emotional exhaustion of putting in and not getting back is real, The inherent reward system is broken. I feel like I need the goal posts changing, the rule book clarifying. We are stuck in a game in which we cannot win.

I dig deep into the well of resources that exist within me, I know that there is a depth in me that can sustain every passing day.


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