From the first time we meet, in our initial consultation, I will talk about the different parts of the brain, how each part influences us, how our thoughts determine our wellbeing, why we can struggle sometimes and what we can do about it.
It helps enormously if you can understand how your brain is working. At the front of your brain, you have your pre-frontal cortex. This is your conscious part, the part that is aware of world events and interactions. The pre-frontal cortex is attached to a vast intellectual resource, the intelligent mind, this is the part that only humans. It is one of the more evolved parts of the brain involved in higher order processing like thinking, problem solving, decision making, planning and regulating emotions.
When we use this part of our brain, we are logical, methodical and positive – solution focused! The primitive mind or limbic system, is the less evolved part of the brain that is responsible for processing our emotions (both negative and positive), memories, learning, pleasure and reward.
The most influential part of the limbic system is the amygdala - this is our fight/flight/freeze (anger/anxiety/depression) response. The amygdala helps us to react to danger, for example: to get us to jump back onto the pavement if a car beeps at us, to help increase our adrenaline before a competition - we need it and its primary function is to keep us alive.
When this part of the brain perceives a situation as dangerous, it activated the stress response, our emergency protection system. This can occur as a result of something we see, hear, smell, feel, taste or remember from pervious experiences. When activated, the stress response releases neurochemicals that prepare the body for fight or flight - actions that are intended to maximise our chance of survival in the face of danger. These neurochemicals set up a chain reaction of physiological changes throughout our bodies.
Incredibly, the brain cannot always tell the difference between imagination and reality. Especially when it’s imagining something with a strong emotion connection. So unfortunately, we can receive that stress response from just imagining or over-thinking certain situations that cause us concern. Our primitive mind will believe they are real and trigger our stress response.
Fight = Anger Issues
Flight = Anxiety
Freeze = Depression
In our sessions we need to work towards understanding exactly what is causing you to shift from your intelligent, logical, positive brain to your primitive, angry, anxious and depressed brain.
Because the primitive brain has to operate from a negative perspective, it catastrophises and clings onto the smallest irrational and negative thoughts. The more time we spend thinking negatively, our brain creates neural pathways, think of this a bit like a stream - following the dips in terrain to travel along. The more time this negative stream is allowed to travel that route, the stronger the current will get and before we know it, we have a fast flowing river sending you and keeping you in a pool of negativity, depression and anxiety.
Luckily, our brain is capable of making changes in these pathways throughout our lifetime, this is called neuroplasticity. So those negative and primitive thoughts you have been stuck in are very easily and quickly reprogrammed following a bit of training. Just like going to the gym, you wouldn’t complete a single workout and expect muscles, so this new positive way of thinking may seem tricky at first, but stick with it for a couple of weeks and you will be on a roll.
Start out by writing one positive thing that has happened each day, as big or as small as you like. Then try three things. Then start writing down what you’re looking forward to tomorrow. You will notice changes quickly.
Solution Focused Therapists want to give you the tools to maintain your healthy brain function, in the nicest possible way, we don’t want you to keep coming back for years on end – we want to hand you the keys, so you can open the doors.