|CE Comments Attachment Theory Brain Science Community of Excellence Symposium 2012 Wendy Behary Alan Sroufe Mind/Body Etienne Wenger Clinical Excellence Diets Trauma Couples Mindfulness The Future of Psychotherapy Men in Therapy Challenging Cases Future of Psychotherapy David Schnarch Ethics Great Attachment Debate Couples Therapy Linda Bacon Attachment Mary Jo Barrett William Doherty Narcissistic Clients Anxiety Gender Issues Clinical Mastery|
|It's a Jungle in There - Page 6|
In contrast, the hippocampus is like an Etch A Sketch, ready to be turned over repeatedly, shaken, and influenced by experience after experience. It's constantly remodeled in response to new details, and will easily learn to differentiate memories of one furry animal from another.
The fear and anxiety resident in older parts of our brains can make us cognitively and emotionally rigid. We become afraid of taking risks and learning new things, resulting in what psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich described as a tendency for those who become sick to remain sick. Once our brains have been shaped by fear to perceive, think, and act in specific ways, we tend to remain in cognitive and emotional ruts that are reinforced by what we perceive as our continuing survival needs. In other words, an agoraphobic person functions as if the following were true: "I haven't set foot outside my house in 10 years because of my agoraphobia. I'm still alive, which must be because I haven't set foot outside my house in 10 years." The mind's internal logic is self-perpetuating, making it difficult for us to find answers that differ from the ones we already know. Our chance of changing in positive ways rests on getting input from others, because our brains are shaped by others from birth and continue to be so, but our fear causes us to mistrust people and their differing perceptions.
Caring relationships aren't easily entered into, nor is it easy for us to benefit from them. Openness and trust are fragile states, even with the people we love most. The therapist's training and the therapeutic context are designed to enhance support and trust, and to provide consistent emotional availability. Within the consulting room, therapists attempt to be amygdala whisperers: we work to activate networks of new learning in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Warmth, empathic caring, and positive regard create a state of mind that enhances neuroplastic processes and increases the likelihood of positive change.