Our bodies hold all our memories — all the information is kept within the body and in the brain. When we choose to heal, we create a different story for our lives.
And it is through the brain neurobiology that we heal. Just this July, neuroscience researchers published a new map of the brain that details nearly 100 newly discovered regions. It is thus impossible to understand the complexity and every aspect of the brain and its functions. We continue to be amazed by the findings through neuroscience and the brain’s capacity to rewire itself and grow new neural pathways. This process is called neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to add, grow and change internal connections between neurons and groups of neurons, to reflect the new information that has been processed and stored in our brain. We really never lose the ability to learn new information and skills.
We also carry an internal map of who we are in relationship to the world. This becomes our memory system, but it is not always a known memory system. For example, a particular traumatic event/episode may not be remembered as a story of something that has happened a long time ago. But the brain has become wired to believe, “I’m a person to whom terrible things happen, and I better be on alert for who’s going to hurt me next.” These thoughts become stored in the sub cortical part of the brain and get triggered in present time, which then activates certain emotional states. It’s important to recognize that trauma is not really about the past, but that it is about a body that continues to react and behave as if the trauma is happening right now. There is a miscommunication within the brain.
Traditional talk therapy only accesses the cortical part of the brain, or the neo-cortex, the thinking brain. It doesn’t do much to access the physiology of the brain or the subconscious. That is why so many of our traditional therapy models are only temporary fixes and only go so deep. It is also the reason that people tend to stay in therapy for longer periods of time with fewer results. With this understanding of neurobiology it has changed the way we practice as therapists. With therapies such as brainspotting we are able to affect lasting and permanent change as we tap into the natural healing ability of the brain of the individual. We need to use all of our brain regions to function, but sometimes they are not communicating adequately with each other or they are misreading each other. There is a disconnect literally!
Therapies that reach the neurobiology of the brain should be the focus for healing as this maximizes the healing potential. The goal of all psychotherapy is to move one from a state of dysregulation to a state of regulation. The brain and body’s goal is to get to a place of homeostasis. To no longer be in a state of flight, fight or freeze. In 1872 Charles Darwin wrote, “The goal of emotion… is to effect physical movement and regain a state of physical equilibrium.” Right after an emotional or physical trauma, the body will fight to create balance, regulation and homeostasis. But by adapting so quickly, the body’s survival mode of fight, flight or freeze kicks in and then becomes the new set point of the neurological and physiological functioning. This then creates maladaptive neuro-pathways. Which over time, the theory is that these unprocessed traumas unconsciously begin to take over the neurological system affecting the functioning of the individual.
We as humans have painful and hurtful memories that we ignore or continue to suppress. Doing this for a long period of time can create chronic physical and/or emotional issues for us. However, when we allow ourselves to remember it through the accessing of our own neurobiology, we can process it, integrate it, clear it and release it.
The science behind the brain is fascinating and now we have a tool to tap right into that neurobiology in psychotherapy.