I provided an answer to a question that I came across recently in a trauma support group, and I thought it was interesting enough to share with you…
The person asked: “HOW AND WHY NEUROSCIENCE MAY IMPACT THE THERAPEUTIC PROCESS?”
Now, I’m not a neuroscientist and nor do I claim to be one. However, I have read many books and research articles relating to neuroscience and its applicability to the mind and therapeutic change.
And ever since I learned these principles, the results I helped my clients achieve not only became significantly more profound, but the amount of time it took for them to achieve their desired results reduced to hours, sometimes even minutes.
There are three specific neuroscience principles I will briefly explain and they are three pieces of information I believe EVERY therapist should not only know about, but should keep in mind at all times.
Long Term Potentiation (LTP),
and the Quantum Zeno Effect (QZE).
Hebb’s Law is commonly simplified as “Neurons that fire together wire together”
In a therapeutic context this can mean the linking of separate individual issues, such as two separate traumatic events, or even unrelated things - phobias of inanimate, non-threatening objects are an example of this.
To describe LTP very simply, it comes down to the fact that neural pathways in the brain get stronger through repetition - essentially the more you focus on one thing, the stronger the associated neurological networks physically become in the brain.
And a simple explanation of the QZE is when you repeatedly observe/focus on one particular thing; at the cellular level it stabilises/pauses, meaning the brain circuits get held in place - what you focus on is what you get. (‘A watched pot never boils’, is actually proven to be partially true, it’s not never, but it’s slower when you watch it
Where this gets interesting is when you tie these all together, particularly in a talk therapy context (which is obviously the most common type of ‘accepted’ therapy)...
When you spend a lot of time talking in detail about a specific problem, such as a past traumatic event, the QZE determines that the brain neurologically holds the focus on that problem. And the more mental focus that is given, the stronger it physically gets in the brain (LTP).
AND when you bring Hebb’s law into play, this is when people’s problems can get far more complicated...
By focusing on one problem after another, such as multiple separate events, or by focusing on different painful parts of the same problem, such as separate moments within a past traumatic event; Hebb’s Law shows that these can get linked together in the brain to form a far bigger interconnected problem.
So for example, unpleasant childhood events can get linked to events which occurred in teenage or adult years.
The result being that thinking only about a recent traumatic event can cause feelings or flashbacks/recollection of past childhood trauma to come to mind simultaneously - They become linked in the brain and so they recall each other as one interconnected problem.
For these reasons I believe any therapy approach that’s working to emotionally resolve a problem (like past trauma) should ONLY focus a few seconds on a problem - just enough to activate the neurological network, and then focus heavily on the positive outcome and multiple resource states such as; confidence, happiness, self worth, calmness, safety, etc.
And the most vital step is then to link those positive resources to the original problems - Hebb’s law.
Neuroscience shows that therapy should focus on the positive outcome, as opposed to the problems of the past.
Unfortunately most traditional talk therapy approaches focus on the problem in an attempt to make positive changes…
Hopefully now you can understand how and why neuroscience can impact the success and timeframe of trauma recovery.
Blood tests, CT scans, weekly doctors visits, believing you’re having a heart attack, have cancer, that you’re having a stroke, or are dying…
If any of these are familiar to you, you’re not alone with this - I had many of these health anxieties and so too do thousands of other people worldwide, it’s extremely common!
As you may know anxiety is basically your brain stuck in survival mode (fight flight freeze response) and initially it perceives most threats anywhere externally throughout your daily life - at work with specific people or tasks. In relationships, going to the shops, driving, asking a stranger a question - the perceived ‘threats’ are limitless and variable.
However, it gets to a point after having been anxious for some time, where those “threats“ can get directed internally and your brain starts perceiving slight aches, itches, cuts, dizziness, stomach aches, increased heart rate (especially) - or really any internal feeling or experience - as threats to life.
This ‘adds fuel to the fire’ and causes more anxiety - which leads to an oversensitivity of the brain to detect “threats”, which in turn leads to more anxiety… more threat detection… more anxiety…and the loop continues.
So how do you break the loop?
Essentially what you want to do is get your mind away from the internal and out to the external - Basically focus on anything else other than that perceived internal threat.
There are many ways to do this, but one I find effective is to control your breathing by taking steady, slow breaths in and breathing out for about double the length of time... and as you do, focus on the out breath (exhalation) and imagine it has a calm colour - keep repeating this for 30 seconds to 1 minute (or longer).
This not only ties up your conscious awareness to stop the focus on the bad internal experience. But it also gets the same parts of the brain which are activating the anxiety to switch to focusing on calmness through imagination. It also physiologically forces the body to calm down through the longer exhalations.
By the way this technique doesn’t just apply to health related anxieties, it also works wonderfully for any anxiety, fears, or panic attacks.
Give it a try and feel free to let me know how it goes for you…
A lot of people strive to stay within their comfort zone and they shape their lives so that they live within the boundaries of certainty.
A lot of this comes down to a person lacking self-trust.
What does self-trust have to do with certainty?
Think of it this way:
If you completely trust yourself, you are more likely to be willing to step into uncertainty where you will not know the outcome. And because you trust in yourself (and your abilities) you know that you will make the best decisions in the moment of truth.
However, someone lacking self-trust, is more likely to stay protected within an environment of certainty, where it’s safe and comfortable and where they never have to test themselves.
The paradox here, is that the more they stay within the boundaries of certainly the more they reinforce that they don’t trust themselves.
Then when they do encounter uncertainty, it often hits them hard in some way and doesn’t go well because they didn’t trust their self to cope or make good decisions in that uncertain time.
A few years ago I made a decision to start living as much in uncertainty as I could.
Because I wanted to grow mentally and emotionally and the certainty of my life (the mortgage, where I lived, driving the same roads, going to the same shops, eating the same foods, worrying about house maintenance, cars etc.) had all become normal and comfortable…
But I wasn’t living how I wanted to. I wanted more from life, but I knew I wasn’t mentally strong enough to make the changes I desired.
So I pushed myself to live just outside of my comfort zone everyday. And beyond changing my life in many ways I didn’t expect, I also became more “mentally tough”.
I began to notice the changes when I was able to remain calm and in control in situations which used to always cause me to get very stressed, panicky, or angry.
Fast forward a few years and I now live and work on the road in a caravan with my Wife and two children; uncertain of where we will stay beyond the days or weeks we have booked in at a camping spot, uncertain of where I will find internet or phone signal, uncertain of how challenging it’s going to be to park the caravan, uncertain of what to do or where to go with the kids when it rains…
But here’s the thing…
It doesn’t bother me, (or my wife) because we trust ourselves enough to solve and figure it out. (Whatever the ‘it’ is).
I REALLY enjoy uncertainty now (so does my wife) and we both feel a lot more alive living in uncertainty than we ever did within our boundaries of certainty.
My advice to you if you live in certainty and you want to make big changes in your life…
Like taking a cold shower every day, driving different roads, taking a different bus route, trying different food, singing in public, talking to a stranger - basically anything that puts you just outside of your comfort zone, into uncertainty.
When you are comfortable with being uncomfortable (or certain about being uncertain), then resolve any big psychological problems from your past which limit you.
THEN build trust in yourself, so that you too can be certain that you will be fine in uncertain times.
"What do I do if there isn't a trigger. My flashbacks just randomly happen and it's annoying and I usually get panic attacks during or after them"
This was a question I came across on YouTube and it's quite common, when it comes to trauma, to feel like it comes out of nowhere.
The thing is, there is ALWAYS a trigger.
When it seems like it's random, or that there is no trigger, that's because it's not consciously obvious to you.
What do I mean by consciously obvious?
Basically 90% of what we do is done by the brain unconsciously.
Balancing, walking, talking, blinking, digestion, moving our arms-hands-and-fingers to pick something up – it’s all occurring unconsciously.
(If it didn’t, imagine how overwhelmed we'd be trying to do all of that consciously!)
But get this:
In addition to doing everything for us unconsciously so that we can move and interact with the world around us. Your brain is constantly taking in millions of bits of information per second, through all of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, feeling) and it filters out relevant, and irrelevant information based on what’s important to you (core beliefs, experiences etc). And when something in your current environment has similarities to a past traumatic experience (or experiences), your brain will activate the survival response (fight, flight, freeze) and will make the urgency of the situation consciously obvious to you by way of a flashback, a headache, some phantom pain, a panic attack, a sinking feeling of dread etc.
Basically so that you get the hell out of there! - Your brain is doing the job it has evolved to do - to get you to safety asap by any means necessary.
So how do you find triggers which are seemingly random and aren't consciously obvious? (Great question!)
There are two ways to do it.
Work with 3 to 5 specific known triggers to disconnect and neutralise the attached emotions, which will partially or fully resolve the core traumatic memory and remove the non-consciously obvious triggers.
Work with the core traumatic memory first to disconnect and neutralise the attached emotions, which will remove most, or all of the known and non-consciously obvious triggers.
How and why can it be done either way?… (another great question!)
It comes down to neuroscience and how psychological problems ‘work’ in the brain.
It comes down to neuroscience and how psychological problems ‘work’ in the brain.
With the most important aspect being that the triggers, (whether known consciously or not), and the core traumatic memory/memories, are all neurologically linked together. (Think all roads lead to Rome).
For this reason it doesn't matter where you start, once you make a change, your brain will spread the changes throughout the web that interconnects them all.
Unfortunately it's very difficult to do so on your own. And sadly a lot of traditionally trained therapists (namely counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists) don't follow this approach to therapy mainly due to the limitations of their modalities.
The good news is, there are many professional therapy practitioners trained in alternative based rapid therapies like NLP and hypnotherapy (my approach is a hybrid of these) who can help you disconnect and neutralise emotion based problems within hours.
This is Jane ➡️👩💼⬅️
When Jane was younger someone close to her hurt her and damaged her RIGHT knee. At first Jane didn’t realise her knee had been damaged by the person so she simply continued on with life.
A few years later Jane decided to have nothing to do with that person... but she had developed issues with her LEFT foot from unknowingly walking badly to overcompensate for her damaged right knee.
The left foot issues greatly affected her life and after a while she avoided meeting new people because she had learned to NOT trust many people out of fear that they too may hurt her. 😒
Their lack of trust affected both her personal and professional relationships so Jane was now lonely most of the time 😔
Jane eventually went to a ‘foot talk-therapist’ about her left foot issues... after discussing the foot issues in great detail over many months, the therapist told her that time would heal her left foot issues and that “anti-foot-issues medication” may help her cope until then.
She tried the medication 💊 only to experience side-effects worse than the left foot issues AND the foot issues remained 😩 so she stopped taking the medication.
Jane improved her diet 🍅 and it really helped to reduce the foot issues and it positively changed her overall health significantly...
but the left foot issues never fully went away, so she simply accepted that this is the way she is now and that “time would probably heal her left foot issues... eventually”
Sadly time did not heal them.
It’s probably obvious to you that all Jane needs to do is get her RIGHT knee issue resolved to help her get back her balance, so that the symptoms (the issues with her left foot) can clear up right?
So consider for a moment what similarities exist between Jane and you?
Low confidence, trust issues, “fear of it happening again”, anger, anxiety - These are all ‘left foot issues’ (symptoms) and until you have emotionally 'let go' of the issues from the past which are the cause (right knee issues) it’s highly unlikely the symptoms are going to get better.
...if anything they’ll probably get worse, because time does NOT heal all negative emotions from traumatic memories, it adds to them!
When you purposefully resolve negative emotions from past experiences/memories which are the cause of your symptoms (trust issues, low confidence, anger etc.), the symptoms will usually go away automatically and if not, they can actively be changed for good because the causes no longer exist to reinforce them.
The sooner you resolve your “right knee issues” the sooner the “left foot issues” can change too!
* Vision Changes
* Sleeping Trouble
* Sexual Problems
* Loss Of Appetite
* Dry Mouth
Many people have no idea that these are the commonly listed side effects of most SSRI Anti-Anxiety medications.
And yes you read it correctly… Anxiety is a side-effect of these anti-anxiety medications 🤦♂️
Most people have no idea about the side-effects of anti-anxiety medication and it seems to be common knowledge that it’s like Panadol or Ibuprofen; you start taking the pills and you quickly feel better, but it really is not the case, it takes weeks or months to take effect!
For most of the people I have worked with over the last 6 years, the side-effects of the anxiety medications were far worse than living with the anxiety they had.
There are NO negative side effects with Conversational Hypnotherapy…
It’s essentially a conversation which utilises a completely natural trance state of the mind, very much like a daydream, to create profound and lasting non-conscious changes.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never heard or read about any bad side effects of daydreaming.
As for the list of medication side effects above… They are every reason why I was determined to overcome anxiety myself naturally - which I did, and you can too!
Since 2013 I have helped hundreds of people be free from fears and anxieties in 1-3 sessions using Conversational Hypnosis.
If you would like to find out how I can also help you gain freedom from fear or anxiety issues schedule a Free Strategy Session now: https://oatherapy.link/strategy