|Challenging Cases Alan Sroufe Clinical Excellence The Future of Psychotherapy Clinical Mastery Great Attachment Debate Future of Psychotherapy Community of Excellence Gender Issues Mindfulness Attachment Theory CE Comments Mary Jo Barrett David Schnarch Couples Diets Men in Therapy Ethics Mind/Body Anxiety Linda Bacon Narcissistic Clients Symposium 2012 Brain Science Couples Therapy Etienne Wenger Attachment William Doherty Trauma Wendy Behary|
|Brain to Brain - Page 2|
Bringing the Brain into Sessions
Sharing my growing knowledge about the brain with my patients turned out to be a profound learning experience on both sides. For instance, Degan, a 50-year-old computer programmer who'd ploughed through five marriages, had come in six months earlier reporting that all his wives divorced him because he was "cold." He had no idea what they meant, but wanted to find out. In my usual fashion, I encouraged him to take me by the hand into his history—a trip he was ill-equipped to make because there were almost no significant landmarks. His mother was "nice," his father "hardworking," his brother "okay." The poverty of his language was underscored by the arid feeling in the room—both hallmarks of avoidant attachment.
At this point in my learning about brain function, I understood that part of the problem was that Degan was locked out of his right hemisphere, where we hold an integrated map of our own bodies. Without being in touch with his bodily sensations, he truly had no idea how he felt about anything. So we tried a number of approaches that might foster his connection to himself and to me. We tried reaching more deeply into his history, but when he did, Degan could find no living memories. We spent time doing exercises to help him discover areas of tension in his body, but he grew bored and restless when he could feel nothing. When we tried doing some mindful-awareness practices, he merely became irritated and impatient.
I was growing concerned that Degan would leave therapy before we'd made any kind of living connection, so I decided to take the plunge and talk with him about his own brain. Using the brain model in my office, I showed him how our parents initially wire patterns of connection into our brains, joining the limbic system to the cortex and the right hemisphere to the left. We talked about how emotionally cold parents can unintentionally wire a separation between their children's brain hemispheres, leaving them without a neural clue about their feelings. After a few moments, Degan exclaimed, "This is great! Before now, I knew more about my car's engine than I did about my own brain!"
Better yet, the act of understanding this together gave us a connection for the first time in all the months of therapy. One day, I spontaneously asked him how he was feeling, and he said, "I feel like I could hug you!" Then we just sat together, with him noticing—and enjoying—this uncharacteristic surge of emotion and experiencing what the link between hemispheres felt like to him.
Brain talk quickly became the connective tissue for our interactions. Once he understood where his brain wiring was underdeveloped, he became eager to do whatever it took to build better neural connections. For him, it was an engineering project, but underneath that, as happy coconspirators, we were repairing the broken attachment circuits that had kept him so separated from everyone.