Posts Tagged: Neuroplasticity

Motorways of the Mind

Neuron 5Emotional pain is just a neural pathway which has fired many times before. It is a habit, and habits can be broken. It’s easier than we might think.
When we receive an emotional wound, similar old wounds resurface. The neurological net surrounding that emotion is ready to spring into action. Love followed by pain may be one network. This is not our fault, but a result of things that happened to us when we were powerless, usually in childhood.
When we are hurt emotionally, the hypothalamus manufactures sequences of amino acids called peptides. There is a peptide for anger, abandonment, feeling a victim…for everything. These peptides are shot into the blood stream and dock on our cells. They enter the cells through special receptors for those peptides. When the peptide enters the cell, it hurts. Emotional pain is therefore very much a physical pain.
Every time we think about our pain, we reinforce the neurological net, since peptides are extremely addictive. If we block a painful thought, the cells which are addicted to the ‘loneliness’ or ‘shame’ peptides send a message to the brain to please allow that thought, so they can get their hit. Saying no is taking control.
Neuron 2This is not about denying ourselves feelings. When these painful feelings arise, we recognise them and validate them for what they are. Then, however, we have the option to allow them to pass unheeded, or to feed them.
For those who believe consciousness is separate from the brain, rather than generated by it, emotional pain is a belief which lands smoothly onto a slick runway in the brain, prepared and hungry for ideas. When it lands, the pain is generated in our bodies. Remove the runway by changing our thoughts and the belief disintegrates. The road is blocked. The pain cannot get through.
This is why psycho-therapy is not always good news. Understanding what motivates us and the reason for learned behaviours is important, but therapy which involves raking over trauma simply serves to reinforce the neural pathways of pain.
Very few emotional beliefs turn out to be completely true. For example, a single woman with no children may choose to believe she is unwanted and a failure. But married women with no freedom due to childcare requirements may envy her. Perspective is everything.
Conflicts are contrasting neural pathways. Between two individuals, the belief ‘I am right’ is an addiction to a route laid down in the brain which the other individual lacks. Beliefs can be changed. Conflicts within the same individual are like a motorway that divides into two. Both routes are equally well travelled ….for example, should I go full-time and enjoy a higher standard of living or should I devote more time to myself and my family? Should I return to my abuser, when the abuse is only sporadic, and otherwise he spoils me, makes me laugh and fixes things in the house? Should I eat this delicious cake now or lose weight?
Creating new neural pathways has been shown to stave off Alzheimer’s. This can involve simple things like taking a new route to work or brushing one’s teeth with the other hand.

Neuron 3What to do :
Brain neuroplasticity can be changed by self-observation. In this way we literally recreate our brains. Note to self : once we have understood the emotional situation it is not repression to deny ourselves painful thoughts. It is, in fact, self-mastery, and once learnt, an exhilarating way of living the life of our dreams.
When we sense the pain rising up, we must be instantly aware. The thoughts will soon follow, so it is crucial to be quicker – quicker than the addiction. When the same old painful thought begins to form, we make a physical move to shake it off – for instance, flicking our head to the side, stamping the foot, swaying quickly and back, or pinching ourselves. The thought will try to come back a few seconds later, and then again a few hours later. Let us remember, we will feel very uncomfortable when we block a painful thought. Our logic will tell us to allow the thought so we are not ‘in denial’. What is really happening is our addicted cells are desperate for a hit, and try to trick us into allowing painful thoughts.
Addiction to negative peptides can prevent nutrients entering the cell. It is aging to our bodies. Talking about and reliving past trauma reinforces the addiction.
Every time the familiar painful thought tries to form we nip it in the bud. In this way we weaken the neural pathway. The motorway becomes overgrown and disused, and eventually disappears.
To reinforce the rewiring we can do the following visualisation exercise:

Neuron 4We picture our brain criss-crossed by strands of light, and home in on the light pathways that carry negative emotional messages. We see them getting darker, and then burning up like a wick or a burnt match. Eventually they are dead pathways, and disintegrate altogether. Then we draw out new pathways, in different directions, and illuminate them with our mind. We then ‘fill’ those pathways with new affirmations (e.g. I am emotionally free. I live a perfect life free of pain).

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