Retrain the Brain, Change the Habits

Retrain the Brain, Change the Habits

Have you ever wondered why habits are so hard to break, especially the bad ones?

The habits that human beings follow might have a positive impact on behaviours, but they can have a negative effect on social relations. Human habits are complex, and the significance of habits has been demonstrated in various behaviours across all domains; for example, our work or exercise routine, our morning walks, our route to work, our eating habits, our favourite restaurants and how we interact in our environment. Changing habits to retrain the brain can be challenging since our behaviours are not only hardwired in our physical activity. The repetition of these behaviours has a significant effect on our brains.

The Brain

As neuroscience is discovering, the brain’s ability is greater than the best computer invented by man. The brain is a complex piece of machinery, and the approximately eighty-six billion neurons in the brain are eager little individuals that create their little habits based on our repeated thoughts, feelings, and actions. The brain operates using chemicals, and different behaviours result in the production of the various chemicals that are released into the brain. The feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine is well known, but dopamine is also a neurotransmitter involved in reinforcement and plays a part in developing and reinforcing our habits. How we feel is a result of the chemicals in our brain. Antidepressants work through balancing neurotransmitters, the chemicals that affect mood and emotions. An individual with depression has a lower level of the serotonin neurotransmitter. Serotonin is a multifaceted and complex neurotransmitter that is known to affect mood and cognition. Our actions and environment can impact our mood because of these brain chemicals and the neurons and their synaptic connections. The synapses connect the eighty-six billion neurons in the brain throughout the nervous system to other neurons in the body.

Repeat Behaviours

The more we repeat a behaviour, the more synaptic connections we associate with that behaviour, and this affects specific parts of the brain. The repeated behaviour results in stronger synaptic connections, which gives the neurons enough ‘juice’ to create an action potential. The release of an action potential plays a crucial role in carrying messages from the brain to other parts of the body. The voltage of the action potential allows the neuron to fire from the neurons’ pre-synapse membrane to the post-synapse, with neurotransmitters being released in the space between. The neural networks become more substantial when we repeat a behaviour or thought. The behaviour or thinking develops into a habit, providing a strong stimulus to cause the cells to work together, becoming bigger and better. This explains why with repetition, new information eventually becomes memorised and long-lasting, resulting in the brain having more synaptic connections in the relevant area.

The Synapse

Four Major Brain Lobes

And just to refresh your memory, the four major lobes of the brain are:

The Frontal Lobe – includes the neocortex and controls voluntary movement, expressive language, and higher-level executive functions. Executive functions are cognitive skills that include planning, organising, self-monitoring and managing responses to achieve a goal.

The Parietal Lobe – is essential for sensory perception, including taste, hearing, sight, touch, and smell. It is an area that interprets input from other regions of the body.

The Occipital Lobe is for visual processing, including visuospatial processing, distance, and depth perception, determining colours, object and face recognition and memory formation.

The Temporal Lobe processes auditory information, memory encoding (learning from previous experiences) and the processing of affect/emotions, language, and some visual perceptions.

Brain Lobes retrain brain

Brain Associations – Shape our Thinking

The input of sensory impressions affects many areas of the brain, and their associations affect the neural network of our experiences. And it is not as if one experience is isolated; when we think, we often associate multiple inputs, which can affect our mood. For example, a mother may enjoy the scenery and fantastic weather walking in a park. She feels good, but then she hears a mother shouting at a child, and this causes her to remember the time she was depressed after a baby was born and how she used to yell at the older sibling. The child in the park starts crying and holding onto his mother’s skirt, apologising and looking distressed. The mother remembers a blue dress she wore one day and how her son made it dirty by holding onto it whilst sobbing and saying sorry for upsetting her. She can see her 2-year-old son’s large blue eyes staring at her with tears streaming down his cheeks. She gets angry with herself for being such a horrible mother, and she regrets her son’s upbringing and knows it is why she is estranged from him now. She feels miserable and, looking at the present scene of the mother and child, she believes she is the worst mother in the world and deserves to be lonely and alone; this is her life now.

How did this mother go from having a lovely walk in the park to feeling sad, unloved, alone and wanting to cry?

Neural Networks

We can thank our habits, episodic memory, and brain associations for this change in mood. The brain responds to input by activating a neural net to the sensory organs and triggers thoughts associated with that memory. The mind is activated and reconnects to that memory. Any event or people related to that neural net of the experience will trigger the part of the brain where those old circuits are lurking, waiting to be woken up by our episodic memory. As we remember, our consciousness will activate the cluster of neurons associated with the memory. The brain’s neurons will fire in a particular sequence and chemical combinations, and we are consciously reminded of a memory hiding in the unconscious, and our mood is affected.

How the Past affects the Present

How we respond to daily stimuli is affected by past interactions. We navigate our environment using a combination of semantic (language or logic) knowledge. The more often we use the same information, the more solid that data is hardwired into the brain. As we repeat the same thoughts daily, the same neural networks will become more potent, automatic, unconscious, familiar and habitual. We start to automatically think of ourselves in a certain habitual way. The neural networks result in an unconscious response caused by the environment and the memories it awakens. We start to operate unconsciously on an autopilot created by the chronic neural networks we have developed. Once a thought activates a particular neural circuit, it causes an automatic sequence of thought forms, and we are no longer living in the present but instead are feeling and thinking from past events. And the more we live from past habitual thinking, the more those associative neural networks will be strengthened. The power of these neural networks is why it is so hard to change behaviours or negative thoughts. We have spent a lifetime developing and maintaining these neural networks, and they are hardwired into our thought processes. When we decide to attempt change, we are strongly resisted by billions of neurons and their associated neural pathways.

How can the mother stop thinking she is the worst mother in the world?

She must change her thinking by retraining her brain to create positive networks and associations, which takes time and a lot of effort. She must also be willing to develop a different personality which may require her to change her behaviour, values, beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of her environment. Some of the genetic predispositions from her parents and upbringing may need to be challenged as she chooses to form a new identity and image of herself. She may focus instead on the positive memories, even using photographs that show happier times with her son. She may repeat and use a daily strategy to focus on these positive memories, so they take precedence over the negative ones. She may decide to contact her son and ask if she may see him as she wants to apologise or discuss the past. There are many possibilities. But, it is up to her to make that change while accepting that the habits and the associated brain networks created over a lifetime will take some time to transform.

To Sum Up

Associations and repeat behaviours form neural networks that create habits of thought and behaviour. But we could retrain the brain if we introduced new and more positive neural networks and their associated memories into the brain. Our synapse may be formed by genetics and what we have learned over a lifetime, but that is not the end of development. Neuroscience has shown the brain can change; the brain and the mind are not static; they are forever changing. An individual can decide on which type of circuits they want to be in action. Suppose we repeat positive behaviours and are vigilant and control negative thoughts and even transfigure them into positive thoughts and associations. The new neural networks thus created will be associated with positivity and empowerment. The more we develop these types of networks, the more these positive patterns will become our habitual way of thinking and living.

Liz McCaughey

MC, MSc 

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

The Benefit of Laughter

The Benefit of Laughter

Did you know that healthy children can laugh 400 times in a day but adults only average 15 times? It seems that we all need more laughter in our lives. But, does it really matter? Is laughter the best medicine?

The Benefit of Laughter

Well, research indicates that laughter is beneficial for our stress levels and our overall wellbeing. There are immediate short-term benefits and there are great long-term effects:

Short Term:

  1. Reduce stress: Laughter changes the perspective of stressful events and we can view them more as challenges and therefore less threatening. The relaxation of your muscles makes you less tense which reduces the symptoms of stress.
  2. Stimulation: Laughter increases your breathing and the oxygen boost stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. And, the brain releases more endorphins.
  3. Exercise: Laughing is an exercise for the diaphragm, abs and shoulders and also leaves them more relaxed.
  4. Contagious: Laughter is contagious. It effects the others around you and brings increased benefits to a group. You will laugh more at a comedy with a group than on your own.

Long Term:

  1. Immune system: The positive thoughts that accompany laughter releases neuropeptides that help fight stress and general illnesses. While you have banished the negative thoughts that would otherwise flood your body with harmful and stress producing chemicals.
  2. Pain: Laughter is believed to produce natural painkillers to ease pain.
  3. Depression: Laughter provides a long term and beneficial effect by reducing the symptoms of depression.
  4. Fake it: Research indicates that the positive effects of laughter are not dependant on whether it is real or faked. Like many things, faking it works and, as a bonus, usually leads to it becoming real over the long term.
  5. Social: As in ‘contagious’ above, the group benefits of laughter can lead to an improvement in the quality of your social life.

You don’t find that much is funny in life? Just give it a try and try to find the funny side. Laugh at your bloopers instead of cursing. Enjoy a good comedy – live is often best. Observe yourself after a good laugh. Feeling good and relaxed? That’s laughter at work.

The Power of Belief

The Power of Belief

The Power of Belief

In this short 10 minute video The Power of Belief Eduardo Briceno explains how failure is the way to the greatest success. He explains that the way we understand our intelligence and abilities deeply impacts our success. Based on social science research and real life examples, Eduardo Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they’re naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard. Conversely, when they understand that abilities are developed, they more readily adopt learning-oriented behaviors such as deliberate practice and grit that enable them to achieve their goals. But this belief is itself malleable, and there are clear actions we can all take to establish a growth mindset and enable success for our children, our peers and ourselves. 

TEDx

 

About TEDx

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

Curated by Liz McCaughey

Curation

At aMIndset we value good content for our readers. In that spirit, we will often curate or excerpt content from top quality sources on the web.The very internet itself was created on the foundation of linking, sharing, and recommending good content from other sources on the web.

Curation means finding good, well-written, and highly relevant material for our readers. By choosing content from your site, we are giving it our vote of approval. This not only means that we excerpt your content, but we also give it our highest recommendation, and we encourage our readers to view your content on your own website.
Our curation is designed to send our readers to your site so you get new visitors exposed to your top quality content. We curated your content because it was outstanding in some way.

Full details of aMindset’s Curation Policy can be found HERE

How Meditation Helps Relieve Pain

How Meditation Helps Relieve Pain

It does not matter what sort of pain you experience, pain is very unpleasant and something you all want to avoid.  If you suffer from chronic pain which is a persistent and long-standing ailment anything that can help you be free of that pain is frantically sought. The use of drugs is a natural development but drugs can have negative side effects. Plus the use of prescription medication has to be carefully monitored as the body builds up resistance to the most powerful of medicines. As the dose is increased your mental agility decreases and life can become pretty miserable.  It is therefore good to know that medical research has found in the past few years when you meditate you are providing yourself with some natural pain relief. The fact that scientific research shows that meditation helps relieve pain is a positive step forward for helping millions of people at a global level.

As meditation becomes more common and a normal part of life in the Western Hemisphere more research is being done to find out what the effects of meditation are on the brain. As meditation is researched by these diverse groups the benefits of learning to meditate and making it a part of your daily routine is becoming more evident. A study at the Berth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre showed that meditation helped reduce blood pressure by decreasing the blood flow. With stress the Harvard Medical School reports that meditation helps the brain calm the body. Jon Kabat-Zinn a Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the many authors of Books and CDs using the technique of Meditation as a pain reliever

In her article, Meditation: proven to lower pain, improve memory and focus Jeanette Padilla, an experienced herbalist and iridologist, writes about the studies that are being carried out which show that meditation helps relieve pain.  And not only can meditation help relieve pain it also increases memory function which is the opposite of what the prescriptive drugs did.  Meditation is not just for the people who sit in an Ashram in India it is a proven pain reliever.

Meditation: proven to lower pain, improve memory and focus

Meditation is a powerful tool, but not until recent years has its wide array of benefits been studied so extensively. Once neurologists discovered how meditation creates changes in the brain, research of this alternative tool rose exponentially. Many recent studies have proven that meditation can diminish pain, improve memory, and sharpen focus.

Meditation can help lower blood pressure

A recent study published in NeuroReport suggests meditation can activate specific areas of the brain that may influence heart and breathing rates. Sara Lazar, Ph.D., author of the study, used a brain imaging process known as fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging, to measure blood flow changes in experienced meditators. Senior author of the study and president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Berth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Herbert Benson said, “What we found were striking changes. There was significant decrease in blood flow and activity in specific areas of the brain.”

Meditation is better than morphine

Researchers have also found that individuals who partook in an eight week mindfulness meditation program experienced increased density in sections of the brain associated with empathy, memory, one’s sense of self, and stress response. The study was published in the medical journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging in 2011. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, meditation can reduce pain more than morphine can. The study, led by Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., reported individuals new to meditation displayed a 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness after only a few quick sessions of mindfulness meditation training. For reference, morphine generally lessens pain by about 25 percent.

In the case of Cassandra Metzger, meditation worked to reduce her pain caused by fibromyalgia. Metzger was 34 when she was diagnosed. Doctors prescribed pain killers, sleep drugs, muscle relaxers, mood stabilizers and other drugs to help manage her pain, fatigue, insomnia, and depression but nothing worked well. Metzger credits meditation saying it, “saved me from despair more than once.” She adds, “During episodes of acute illness, I was saved by knowing that the experience of pain was just one moment in time – maybe an excruciating moment, maybe a long moment, but still a moment. I learned this by meditating.”

Meditation benefits everyone around you

In instances of stress and/or severe pain the brain’s natural fight-or-flight response causes the release of adrenalin, which is stressful to the body. Meditation helps the brain calm the body. “People with chronic illnesses often experience a lot of self-loathing and self-blame,” says David Vago, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He adds, “If you can transform those negative emotions toward yourself into compassion and love, it not only benefits you, it also benefits everyone around you.”

For example, people suffering from chronic pain, such as those with fibromyalgia, tend to dwell on thoughts about pain because they frequently experience acute pain. Dr. Vago’s research team saw those types of tendencies disappeared after eight weeks of meditation. Meditation teaches you to recognize pain, anger, or fear without letting yourself be overtaken by negative thoughts or behavior that typically accompany those emotions. According to researchers, meditators have discovered how to effectively manage their emotional response to pain although they still sense it. Katherine MacLean, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explains that meditators are,”…actually more in tune with the sensation of pain, but they don’t have their usual emotional reaction to it.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Story of Your Life

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Story of Your Life

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Story of Your Life

The topic of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can seem cold and complex on the surface. In a broad, clinical sense it refers to a category of psychological treatment methods that aim to change our patterns of thinking. We can also think of CBT in a more personal context. For example, we may consider it to be the process of rewriting our life stories.

Our Personal Stories

Each person has a unique life story that is comprised of a series of events, emotions, lessons, and anticipations. It defines who we are, how we experience the world, and how we expect life to unfold in the future. Mental health problems can be deeply rooted in our life stories, and CBT can help us address these issues by rewriting parts of our tales. CBT isn’t a time-traveling tool. We’re not able to change the events themselves. The focus is instead on changing the ways in which we relate and respond to these events.

Becoming an Engaged Author

We can’t change the past, but we can certainly change how we think about it. CBT is more about altering how we write our life story, rather than what is written. The process of writing our life story is largely passive, although people undoubtedly put their own spin on memories (sometimes consciously, sometimes not). We tend to not pay attention to the manner in which we record, replay, relate, and respond to our life stories. We’re usually focused on the content alone. CBT helps us become more aware of the ways in which our “writing style” impacts the story, allowing for more engagement in the writing process.

How CBT Changes the Story

Our behaviors are directly linked to our cognitions (mental constructs, like thoughts, emotions, and memories). These cognitions contribute to the formation of our life stories. Mental health can suffer because of irregularities in the formation and functioning of these cognitive process. We may, for example, develop an irrational fear of birds because of a single bad experience as a child. If this fear is left unexamined, our life story would likely be framed in a negative light whenever birds are involved. CBT could help us identify the source of our fear (the first bird incident), and eventually to eliminate it with verified treatment methods. We would then be free to reevaluate our past experiences involving birds with a new perspective, allowing us to rewrite our life stories, one event at a time.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

The concept of emotional intelligence is different from other, more traditional concepts of intelligence. It refers to our ability to identify, manage, and respond appropriately to emotions in ourselves and others. Emotional intelligence is related to multiple mental constructs, like empathy, awareness, and problem-solving abilities. It’s not a topic that gets a lot of attention, but putting time into honing our emotional intelligence can have many benefits.

People have a habit of letting their emotions take control of their thoughts and actions. This trait is more pronounced in some, but most of us have had such an experience at least once in our lives. Emotions can be hard to control due to their intensity and abruptness. A high emotional intelligence is associated with an improved ability to manage emotions, either through direct suppression or by using a coping strategy like mindful meditation.

                                                       

Gaining Awareness

In order to develop our emotional intelligence, we must first become aware of the way that emotions influence our daily lives. Our minds are constantly awash with information that isn’t relevant to whatever we’re doing at the time. Memories, anxieties about the future, and random biological processes are all capable of spontaneously triggering emotions. Even if they don’t cause emotions directly, this background noise can certainly leave us primed to be more affected by environmental emotional triggers, like those experienced during regular daily communications. Becoming aware of these influences is the first step toward addressing their impact on our lives.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

There are a number of ways to improve emotional intelligence, one of which is by practicing mindfulness. A mindful perspective places focus on the present, helping us to better deal with the moment at hand, and reducing the influence of the constant background noise within our minds. As mentioned above, much of this noise can cause us to be more emotionally reactive. When we react to emotions without any type of thought or intervention, we are failing to use our emotional intelligence. Mindfulness helps us develop our emotional intelligence by teaching us to stay in the moment and to become less susceptible to mental activities that don’t directly apply to the present.

 

Online Therapy – Are there any Benefits?

Online Therapy – Are there any Benefits?

 

Online therapy is shown in research to be just as effective as in-person therapy. (Ref 1) But it gets a bad rap, as it is still quite a new modality compared to traditional counselling sessions, usually face-to-face. However, technology influences every aspect of life in this modern age, and online therapy is now easily accessible. It is not just for use during a pandemic or lockdowns; it is here to stay, so it is worth giving it a go, no matter your bias. How can you say you don’t like it if you don’t try it? 

Online therapy comes in various shapes and sizes, and it can be done via video, audio or text, making it easily accessible and more affordable. Technology has revolutionised our ability to get therapy no matter the geography or the time of day. If you just want to chat with someone or work on trauma and more profound issues, there will be a therapist available at the tip of your fingers. The benefits are many:

  • Accessible and comfortable, it can be done from your home
  • Time convenient for your schedule
  • Private
  • Cost-effective
  • Allows for social distancing if needed.

However, most important of all, the question has to be asked. Is it as good as face to face therapy? YES! It seems it is. Several studies have found that online CBT results in very effective treatment and even that doing CBT online is more effective than in-person therapy. (Ref 2). Online therapy enables you to have a wider choice of therapists. As the therapeutic alliance (how well you and your therapist ‘click’) is an essential part of a good therapy session, online therapy lets you check out therapists and find someone you trust. 

But it is a personal choice that only you can make. But, significantly, so much modern research proves that online therapy is ‘just what the doctor ordered’ for a healthier, happier you. 

AMindset offers online low-cost affordable therapy – if you want to know more about how we can support you go Here

Liz McCaughey

Find out more about Liz Here

Other Articles:

Online Psychotherapy vs Traditional

(Ref 1)

Meredith S. Pescatello, Tyler R. Pedersen & Scott A. Baldwin (2021) Treatment engagement and effectiveness of an internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy program at a university counseling center, Psychotherapy Research, 31:5, 656-667, DOI:

  1. 10.1080/10503307.2020.1822559

 

(Ref 2)

Luo, Sanger, N., Singhal, N., Pattrick, K., Shams, I., Shahid, H., Hoang, P., Schmidt, J., Lee, J., Haber, S., Puckering, M., Buchanan, N., Lee, P., Ng, K., Sun, S., Kheyson, S., Chung, D. C.-Y., Sanger, S., Thabane, L., & Samaan, Z. (2020). A comparison of electronically-delivered and face to face cognitive behavioural therapies in depressive disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. EClinicalMedicine, 24, 100442–100442. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100442

How To Fight Your Fear and the Inner Demon

How To Fight Your Fear and the Inner Demon

 How To Fight Your Fear

There is good in every human being, no matter how bad the nightly news reports demonstrate.  There is good in you and me. Although at times we may doubt that to be true. We should stop thinking about how to fight your fear and inner demons, but detach ourselves from any vulnerabilities.

If we were so good:

  • Why don’t we do more for charity?
  • How could we have acted the way we did with a friend or partner?
  • Why don’t we give more time and money to help people?
  • How could we have been so cruel to another person?
  • Why do we always act like a coward and run away from discomfort?
  • Why do we justify our vicious actions or words?
  • How can we live with so much self-deception?
  • Why aren’t we crusading for betterment for the world instead of shying away from anything that we might find unsettling.

Our inner demon (sometimes referred to as ‘the lower ego’ or ‘ego’) tells us we are not a good person, We are constantly exposed to this inner chatter and it makes us afraid that maybe we really are a bad person.  Perhaps the Catholics have it right: “We are guilty until proven more guilty”. We cannot escape our badness so forget about forgiving yourself and anyone else, just work hard to free yourself from your own guilt. And the best way to stop feeling guilty, outside of the confessional, is to detach yourself from the feelings that might make you vulnerable.

 

How to fight your fear: Understanding Yourself

It seems that to get by we try and harden ourselves against compassion or those soft spots that put us at risk of feeling bad. We try to stop ourselves feeling too much, so we put up barriers that generate prejudices, judgements and selfishness. These barriers hide the genuine caring part of our natures, we can all pretend to be kind, but sometimes, wittingly or unwittingly,  we are doing the opposite. The barriers we put up are entirely false and out of place. Fortunately, they only hide the real, caring person, they do not destroy the compassionate part of our persona. Our genuine nature is always there, just veiled by delusion and our own lower ego which promotes separation, selfishness and survival of itself (the false you) above all else.

It’s a simple fact that whenever something happens that we don’t like, we rush to mentally escape it. This can take the form of a drink, exercise, verbal criticism, housework,  justifying our actions or thoughts, writing or even some simple shopping therapy.  Like most of humanity, we have developed a myriad of distractions to stop ourselves from feeling uncomfortable.

Simple feelings of mild anxiety, restlessness, guilt are immediately pushed aside as we find a distraction to make us think in another direction. And the emotionally painful ‘biggies’ of betrayal, unworthiness, loneliness have us sprinting in the opposite direction, or buying shares in a brewery.

How to fight your fear by dealing with it directly something that we willingly do, as that might result in us coming face to face with ‘Despicable Me’.

Although we may try to believe we are a good person, the way we constantly display our ‘horrible’ personal traits has us, backed-up by the ego impulses, thinking the opposite. We harden ourselves to ourselves and everyone else which results in barriers being put in place that attempt to keep everyone at a distance.

The person that stares back at you each day in the mirror becomes a survivor who will not be afraid. This means hiding the vulnerable and caring nature which could potentially expose you, thus leaving your emotions defenceless. And if this thoughtful, kind-hearted you does escape, there is a momentary lapse of defences as you lose control and have a break-down.

This loss of control feels uncomfortable, during the emotional wailing and for some time afterwards. The ego sends the signal, ‘this is something to be avoided at all costs.’ And in an attempt to constantly avoid a repeat of the discomfort or pain you become even more frightened. The classic double-bind of a Catch 22 situation. The more you try and stop the pain or fear, the worse it gets.

As a result, we try to think ‘tough’ and put a hard shell or barrier around our emotions. This is particularly prevalent when you have opened up to someone who then causes hurt. Despite your best endeavours, this person is unconsciously on your ‘revenge’ to-do list. Until you are honest and face up to what you are really thinking, you will not know if this is true. Unfortunately the barriers not only block people from getting to you, they block you from being honest with yourself.

Defending ourselves against any possible discomfort but especially against pain which can be physical or emotional, is a natural defence mechanism of the psyche. Rather than face whatever makes us frightened, we fear it and the defensive barriers are erected.

But these false barriers as ways of defending the psyche only work in the short term, they are not sustainable. The fear will return, because even with the defensive barriers in position, we remain afraid. We want to have certainty in our life and try to do everything right in the vain hope we will find that safe place to hide and be happy for the remainder of our lives. But life isn’t that kind, the uncertainties and sorrows of it are a reality we all have to face, which results in our being afraid of living.

Eventually many people, paralysed by their own fears, which are fears that are often just a part of their imagination, stop living. Life to them becomes just an existence with no joy or hope.

There is no-one alive who can avoid sorrow, pain or fear. If you don’t believe me, have a think about dying, does it worry you at all? The reason I mention death is because it is the one thing that will happen to every living thing on this planet.

Fear is a part of life and has to be faced, erecting defensive barriers will not work in the long term so why not try to do things differently?

This, of course is easier said than done. Our habitual way of thinking and doing is hard to break especially as your lower ego is not interested in you changing at all. Indeed it is the great deceiver and although you may believe you are in control of your life, you are being duped by your ego.

The ego wants to avoid pain at all cost. As most of you have lived with the ego in charge of your thinking and doing, it takes effort, pain and hard work to wrestle back the control.  You will only be able to take back that control when you choose to find a long-term more permanent solution to your fears. This involves choosing to face and experience the fears and the pain, instead of running away.

It may seem a bad idea to choose to feel the pain and the intensity of that fearful feeling, but once you have done it, you have a chance of softening or moulding the emotion, even letting it go. If you do not allow yourself to do this and instead suppress the feelings, you are more likely to break, make rash decisions even cause pain to someone you love, under the weight of these repressed emotions.

Thinking tough to the extent that you suppress the feelings of pain, anxiety or discomfort makes you a more brittle and delusional person.  This type of thinking feeds the lower ego who in an attempt to protect itself wants you to think you are separate from other people, correct in your thinking and invulnerable. This ego part of you likes you to be isolated and it feeds you with delusional thoughts.

I am sure you have all experienced this in your life when looking back you have thought:

  • What the hell was I thinking?
  • How did I allow that to happen?

Those past moments where when the ego was firmly in charge. You were its puppet acting out its selfish, delusional madness.  If you want to live a balanced, truthful, less fearful and guilty life, you have to face your fears and in so doing, challenge the ego.  You have to go to those places that make you frightened or uncomfortable. You have to accept that there is suffering in the world and although you cannot fix it all, you can attempt to change yourself so you can be a better, stronger and more balanced person.

We all want to be happy, we all want to be free from fear and pain but that will only happen when we accept that they are a part of a normal life. Life will always have its ups and down and every day we are subject to new and unexpected experiences. Life’s situations, people you meet and your own reactions will be unpredictable. It’s time to accept the feeling of fear and life’s unforeseeable adventures as just a part of living. Stop trying to control the impossible.

There is no certainty in life and being uncertain makes us more afraid. Accept this makes you feel uncertain and insecure and then look at the bigger picture of each incident and see if you can see the lesson that is being presented to you. Usually there is a  valuable lesson that you need to learn contained within each scenario. This may cause you more fear and pain in the beginning but as you face it, you fix it. Every time you face up to a fear and overcome it, you become emotionally stronger. A coward remains a coward by running away instead of facing the music. Eventually, when you are able to handle the good and the bad days with equal assurance you can proclaim yourself a warrior.

When you stand up to the bully, he tends to run away, but if you run away he tends to run after you. The emotion of fear is like a bully, when you face it, it loses its strength and potency. That is the time you are firmly taking back control of your life from your internal bully (the ego) and a more balanced and happier ‘you’ will emerge.

Once you are able to do that for yourself, you can look to the bigger picture and see what you can do for others. Even that person who has caused you the most pain and you wished to repay tenfold.   You can genuinely help others once you stop feeling the need to defend yourself. in this instance, helping others is not a distraction but an act of kindness coming from a person who has experienced pain and fear but who has learnt how to manage it through bravery, truthfulness, wisdom and strength.

As you help others you learn more and help yourself and over time you will notice that something is missing from your life.  Something you have carried around with you for aeons.  And that something is the emotion of fear.

You may think that allowing vulnerability and compassion into your life will be dangerous and fearful, but the opposite happens. Externally showing the real inner you, as opposed to the false ego, will bring you more peace because compassion is what makes you human. This is the best way on how to fight your fear and inner demons in life.

We all have fear and it comes in different forms and at the most unexpected times. Facing each fear, one at a time, with no barriers is the way forward. Instead, allow truth and vulnerability to be present plus compassion towards ourselves and others. This  will bring about a liberating and positive change in how we experience life.

It is what you do in the present that will shape the remainder of your life.

So look to yourself and see how you are thinking and reacting:

  • In fear or in peace
  • Defended or vulnerable
  • Harmful or Harmless

How to fight your fear by facing your fears and being truthful to yourself is a process that will have to be repeated throughout your life. It is a mental process that will become second nature after a while.

“If you want to know what will happen to you in the future, look at what your mind is doing now.”

The Dalai Lama

Resilience vs Adversity – Childhood Lessons

Resilience vs Adversity – Childhood Lessons

Resilience is rooted in adaptive behaviour and science. The advances in neuroscience in the last decade have allowed a better understanding of why some people develop the adaptive capacities to overcome significant adversity and others do not. 

Which one are you – coping or non-coping?

There are many forms of adversity in childhood, but all adversity can be overcome if a child has a supportive parent, caregiver, or another adult. This combination of family or friends’ support helps develop positive experiences, which constitute the foundations of resilience. They enable a child to develop personal character strengths, which allows them to respond to adversity and thrive eventually. Learning to cope with manageable threats to our physical, emotional, and social well-being is critical for developing resilience.

Resilience is the capacity to continue and develop positive behaviours following adversity at a behavioural level.

Adversity = Difficult or unpleasant situation

There is no clear roadmap letting us know what we will experience in life, but adversity is guaranteed. For example, who has not experienced the death of a loved one, a life-altering accident, work stress, a severe illness, or just getting older. Each change affects people differently. We all hate uncertainty, especially those pesky, fearful thoughts-forms that uncertainty and adversity create in our minds. They are sometimes described as the ‘chattering monkey’. But having resilience helps us overcome the negativity associated with fearful thoughts and perceived negative experiences – so as you get older, start to embrace life’s adversities. We need to be aware that the road to resilience will likely involve considerable emotional distress, but that makes us stronger and better. So, stop being the victim, or OK, we are all allowed to be the victim for a short time, but then we must sort ourselves out and move on. Resilience is the key, and adversity is part of the process.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Liz McCaughey

Find out more about Liz here

Other Articles:

Is learning to be resilient a positive life experience? – Yes!

Resilience – How to Develop it Successfully

Is learning to be resilient a positive life experience? – Yes!

Is learning to be resilient a positive life experience? – Yes!

Resilience is a term used in a variety of ways and contexts. Some questions to ask yourself:

Are you resilient? 

Do you want to be resilient? 

Why is resilience necessary? 

What the hell does it mean to be resilient?

Resilience can be an individual characteristic, a learning process, or an outcome resulting from adversity. In the ‘Resilience’ AMindset articles, we will focus on resilience within the confines of a person’s ability to adapt successfully to acute stress, trauma, or more chronic forms of adversity. We are a mental health company that improve lives, so let’s look at how our articles can enhance your life. ☺

Resilience is positive whether it is considered an outcome, a process, or a capacity. Having resilience allows us to use adaptive responses in the face of significant adversity. And the joy is there is no end by date to the capacity of resilience within us. It is neither an immutable trait nor a resource that can be used up. 

So first, let’s look at the biology; resilience results in healthy development because it protects the developing brain and other organs from the disruptions produced by excessive activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress response systems. To avoid the complexity of neuroscience, stated simply, resilience transforms potentially toxic stress into tolerable stress. 

Toxic Stress = Prolonged adversity

Tolerable Stress = Normative life experiences

So, resilience is rooted in both the adaptation and the experiences that a person has experienced. And these experiences are logged from infancy. These life experiences either promote or limit our capacity to develop resilience.

So don’t run away from negativity; it helps build resilience. Challenge the negative experience and become stronger and more resilient as a result.

 

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Liz McCaughey

Find out more about Liz here

Other Articles:

Resilience vs Adversity – Childhood Lessons

Resilience – How to Develop it Successfully