In out last blog post, we discussed how our thoughts and emotions create the energy field that governs every cell of the body. These thoughts and emotions are our inner world of perceptions, attitudes, opinions, observations, and understanding of external input. This becomes our internal “GPS” system that guides us down our path of life. This system is designed to lead us to our correct destination, but sometimes we get off course. Our internal guidance system can get distorted, and start leading us in the wrong direction. Perhaps it is not necessarily a wrong direction, but it simply is not YOUR direction. Everyone has their own path to follow, but sometimes we end up quieting that inner voice, or go against our inner longings, because there is something we should do to follow a rule, expectation, or requirement for survival.
Following the Rules
In order to survive, we must all develop some sort of understanding of life’s rules and expectations. For example, we teach children that they must learn how to share, do what they’re told, respect their elders, and so on. They need to be equipped with the right tools to get their needs met and thrive as adults. During childhood is when we develop a basic “rule book” for how life works, how people interact, and what they must do in order to get their needs met. If that child grew up in an environment that wasn’t nurturing to their needs, the child learns quickly how to find a way to get their needs met. This child’s energy is now focused on survival, and the fight-or-flight system is activated. This is a trauma to the developing brain, because it can’t focus on learning and exploring, it must focus on survival. When this fight-or-flight system is activated, it does not just turn off at some point. We have to delve deeper into our own brains to discover why and when this alarm system was activated, and that it is now safe to turn it off.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the therapy of choice for many counselors, not to mention most insurance companies. This is because CBT is regarded as one of the most effective therapies based on its amount of research, becoming known as an evidenced-based practice. This therapy is based on the idea that our cognitions (thoughts) control our behaviors, so if we want to change our behaviors, we change the thoughts that precede the behaviors. The thoughts that cause the most dysfunction are the should statements. These include thoughts like, “I should just keep quiet and not cause a problem”….”I should be doing more, I’m not good enough”…..or, “I should know better, how could I have done that.” When we behave according to what we should be, then we lose our sense of self. We don’t know how to tune in to ourselves to see what is best for us. We are not even able to truly listen to that inner voice because we have been “trained” to focus more on our outer world and following the rules. Over time, our energy will let us know that we are off course by how we feel. If we feel depressed, fatigued, and in pain, rather than full of energy, health, and vitality, then we are likely out of touch with our true self.
What is Brain Trauma?
Following the rules was a critical part of our childhood if we wanted our needs to be met. We all had different experiences, so we all have different shoulds we are living by. Now as adults, we won’t be able to change a behavior, no matter how hard we try, if it is attached to survival. If the small child developed an association between a certain “tactic” and survival or comfort, then that belief has an effect on the behavior of the cells. Even if we want to stop a problematic behavior, the brain sees it as a positive because it is helping you cope or survive. However, the adult brain can now understand that, even though this may have worked in the past, or made sense at one point, it no longer serves you, and is actually causing you harm.
Our “rule books” can also be altered as adults when we experience something that threatens our sense of survival, such as not receiving love and acceptance from someone close to us. Receiving love is a psychological need that is just as important as getting our physical needs of food and water. The brain decides what we should do in order to get love and acceptance from others, or what we need to do to be comforted or distracted from the pain of not getting that need met.
No matter the type of trauma, it causes neurons to fire together, making a connection in the brain between two things. Until we “re-program” the brain and form new associations, we will always be fighting an inner battle. Healing doesn’t have to be so hard when you treat it at its source, not at the symptoms.
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