The British Medical Association say that at any one time, 50% of us will be suffering from Depression or another anxiety disorder. That means that you or someone you know is suffering now.
The good news is that now you don’t have too.
To understand why we suffer the way we do you really need to understand how it is formed and to understand this you need to understand how your brain works (keep reading it’s a very basic understanding)
The bit you know as you is your conscious part. The part that interacts with the world. The bit you are using to be make intellectual sense of this blog article. At the moment it is attached to a vast intellectual resource, the intellectual mind.
“Now, when we operate from this part of the brain we generally get things right in life. It will always come up with answers based on a proper assessment of the situation and is generally very positive. There is another part of the brain. This part is the original primitive part. The centre and influential bit of this brain is the amygdala. This is generally referred to as the fight/flight/depression area of the brain. It is associated with two other very primitive parts. The hippocampus, which holds all our primitive and sometimes inappropriate behavioural experiences and patterns, and the hypothalamus which regulates chemical responses in the body and mind.
So, let us imagine that when you go through your front door tomorrow you run into a polar bear. What would happen? Your anxiety would go up. You would lose intellectual control and move from the intellectual brain to the primitive emotional brain, go ‘sweaty’ increase the heart beat, churn the stomach and you would be off like a shot.
In the circumstances this response would be entirely appropriate. Unfortunately it is the same in life. When our anxiety goes up, and it can be a gradual process, we lose intellectual control and to a greater of lesser extent the primitive mind takes over and this mind always operates within the primitive parameters of the depression, anxiety and anger or a combination of all three.
If our primitive mind thinks that, for one reason or another, our life is in some sort of crisis or emergency it will step in generally to help. Depression, anxiety, and anger are all primitive opt out clauses.
But there is more. The primitive mind is a negative mind. It will always see things from the worst possible perspective. If you think about it, it has to for your self preservation. When you run into the polar bear it won’t say ‘ah it has probably eaten’. No quite rightly it will say ‘it will eat you.’ This response is great when we run into polar bears but not so good when the bank statement arrives or we are facing redundancy or we’ve had an argument etc.
It is an obsessional mind If you did have a polar bear in the back garden you would be reminded of it constantly. You would keep checking. It is a vigilant mind. If the perception is that danger is all around then it is wise to stay on red alert. And, because the primitive brain is not an intellect it can’t be innovative. It has to refer to previous patterns of behaviour. If what we did yesterday ensured our survival then we are encouraged to do it again.
So how do we create this anxiety which causes us to move from the intellectual sensible part of the brain to the angry, anxious and depressed part?
Anxiety is caused by negative thinking. It is not the events in ones lives that necessarily cause the perception of crisis. No, if that were so everyone at university would be suffering from panic attacks and we know that is not the case. So it must be our thought patterns surrounding the events of our life.
Every negative thought we have is converted into anxiety. We can create anxiety by negatively forecasting the future, big things; “we will never be able to afford that”, I’ll never find another girlfriend”, “I’ll never have a baby” etc. It can be small things; That meeting. Here we should remember that the mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. Intellectually you know the meeting is going to go OK, they generally do, but being you, you start thinking about things going wrong. You think about it 50 times? The actual meeting goes quite well but you have attended 51 meetings and 50 have been disasters.
Now, every negative thought that we have is accumulated and stored. We say it is stored in a stress bucket. Thankfully, we do have a method for emptying our bucket and it is known as REM sleep, rapid eye movement. At night we re-run events of the day and change them from being an emotional memory to a narrative memory. A memory we have control over.
During your REM sleep you will re-run the event either in clear or metaphorically (dreaming), and you will move it from the primitive brain to the intellectual brain were you have control over it. So when you awaken in the morning you might well have forgotten about the wretched person, you might not but you will certainly be saying something like “how do I allow these people to upset me so”.
I imagine that I awaken each morning with my bucket emptied so I can start the day without anxiety, anger or depression. You don’t. Why?
Well for a start you have been piling too much into your bucket. (sometimes it will overflow!) Sadly, for one reason or another, REM is restricted to about 20% of our sleep patterns. If we try and overdo that then the mind will wake you up. You know when it is your mind waking you up because you wake up wide awake and often feel quite miserable. Often we can’t get back to sleep again. You know the difference between that and the baby waking you up for instance
Now we are in the grip of a bit of a vicious circle. The more you have in your bucket, the more time you will spend in your primitive brain and the more you will be encouraged to be negative.
So you can see how we can start getting you back on top of things. We need to restrict the amount you are piling into your bucket and get you concentrating on the positive things in your life. You will know when you are doing this when you start sleeping better
Early man and early women were given quite definite rewards for carrying out certain evolutionary processes. They got a reward when they hunted and gathered, and successfully supported themselves and their families. We are better as a tribe rather than individuals, so they got rewarded when they interacted with others. The reward they got they quite definitely recognised and scientists are adamant about this. They felt motivated. But most of all was a coping mechanism, it helped them cope with day to day activities…helped them cope better with physical fear…made them braver, it even helped them cope with physical pain. No doubt they were pleased. Now we know what that reward is. It’s a chemical response in the brain that produces various neurotransmitters that act as catalysts for that sort of mentally healthy behaviour. And you know, the neurotransmitter we talk about most, simply because it is the most important, is serotonin.
When we produce a constant flow of serotonin we are nice, happy, coping, people
So we need to operate within these positive parameters like early man and although we do not have to go out to hunt, we do have to interact in a positive way, be active in a positive way, and think in a positive way. Because when we do, we produce patterns in the brain that give us that constant flow of serotonin.
What stops the flow of serotonin? Well, you know that when we’re down the miserable end, the depressed end, we don’t produce any chemicals at all. When we’re up the anxious end, we produce an overload of adrenalines, stress hormones. Great for when we run into polar bears but not so good for running our daily lives in and around Falmouth.
One of the tremendous advantages we have at Inspiring Health here is that we have John Shallcroft who is a Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapist. He uses the latest brain based therapy and trance to bring about change . Trance is a course very ordinary in many ways. We go into trance many times a day, when we are driving, watching television, out for runs etc; we do it all the time.
Trance is when the two minds come together and focus on the same thing and when we are in that state we have access to the subconscious mind.
Click through for more information about Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapy, or book a FREE introductory one hour consultation with John a ring on 01326 212112