I’m so frustrated right now!! I had a session with Therapist 2.0 this morning that made such a ridiculous amount of sense I’ve been in flying form all day and I’ve been dying to get time to write so I can hold on to it. But now that I finally have 5 minutes to myself do you think I can remember it in any logical order?! Of course not.

The gist of it was that our brain is made up of three emotion regulation systems – the threat protection system (amygdala/primitive/old brain), the drive system (reward/motivation), and the affiliation system (frontal lobe/new brain). It’s how these three interact I think that can lead to so many of the problems that so many of us experience, because as she mentioned last week, our brain did not evolve for us to be happy, it evolved for us to survive. 

We all grow up in different environments, so we all develop different core beliefs. Something that triggers my threat response might not trigger yours, something that triggers yours might not trigger mine. BUT, and this is the crux of it, regardless of what the trigger is, once it gets going, the body’s reaction is the same. Cortisol gets pumping, rational thought switches off, and we find ourselves reacting all over the place. Our brains aren’t different, but our experiences are, and that’s what shapes us. I think. Crap it, I really wish I’d had time to write earlier!!

The bottom line is, the more she’s telling me about how we’ve evolved and how different parts of our brain interact, the more I’m coming to realise that this really isn’t my fault. It’s circumstance, sensitivity, society…….everything combined. Our brains are constantly reading signals from each other, and reacting without us being aware of it. What seems to be the key to changing this (again, I have a very woolly grasp on this so please don’t take it as gospel) is learning to recognise when our body is reacting to something, for example, when that first nervous knot appears in our stomach.

I realise this is probably making very little sense, I’m sorry about that. It struck me so often as she was talking though, that if we all just knew this, if we all learned about it in school, things could be so very different. At a very basic level we need compassion, we need connection. If the core function of our brain is our survival, and survival of the species, then one of our most basic needs is other people, so if we feel rejected? Well that’s pretty much the worst thing that can happen from our amygdala’s point of view. Is it any wonder we struggle with the myriad issues that have become part of the DSM? Our world has changed so much faster than our brain has. It’s trying to look after us, it’s trying to keep us safe. It doesn’t always go according to plan though.

And mine? It doesn’t yet realise that Therapist 1.0 telling me we can’t be friends isn’t actually life threatening. Rejection is one of my biggest triggers, and finishing with her felt like one of the most heartbreaking rejections of my life. I get, as in my frontal lobe gets, that this isn’t life threatening. But my amygdala is convinced it’s pretty much the end of time. That’s going to take a bit of work.

 

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