Are you using the right approach?
By George Gintilas
If you sometimes feel lost, where you are scratching your head as to why things are not moving or improving in your life, the following is information that may help. It is information that everyone should know. And it may go a long way towards helping you gain more control of your life. This article may also help explain why some therapies are not suited to particular problems and why you may be using a therapeutic approach (or self help approach) that’s not the most efficient for your particular issue or problem.
We are discovering more and more about how true lasting healing really happens and discovering ways to do this better. These are exciting times. What I have found over the years is that when we have a problem that we cannot solve, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, the problem normally originates in one or more of three areas. Knowing these three areas can help greatly in understanding why we are the way we are.
The basis of these three areas can literally be found in our brain. And it’s worth covering them a little here as it helps to make this information more concrete and real, and not something that’s just an airy fairy theory.
The three brains in your head
So here is a mini simplified biology lesson. Something that we should all be taught at school.
You have three brains in your head (see diagram 1).
At the top is the Cerebrum. This brain is also known as the intellect or the rational brain. It’s made up of the left and right brain hemispheres, as well as other parts. (But that’s enough to know here.) It’s the part that puts meaning to what we do and experience – all your thoughts. Its language is words.
Underneath that we have the Limbic brain-this is also known as the feeling brain. It determines what you feel about people, things and places. Its language is feelings and emotions.
At the base of the back of your head is the Cerebellum and Brain stem-which controls every time you blink your eyes, nod your head, breathe, walk, beat your heart etc. Its language is movement and sensation. The brain stem is connected to your central nervous system, which is connected to your autonomic nervous system, which is connected to all the muscles, organs and bones in your body.
The three major ‘block’ areas where we get problems in our lives that we cannot change consciously neatly originate in one of these three brains.
Three major Blocks
1. Cognitive Block
2. Developmental Block
3. Traumatic Block
The Cognitive Block
Cognitive – What is it?
This is the domain of the Cerebrum-The conscious, cognitive, rational, intellect (to use a few words). This brain is what you think with, analyze things, compare to history, decide on the best way of doing the people-made-things in the world. It’s the one we use a lot on our jobs. Reading this article now is using the senses, reasoning and language ability of the conscious cerebrum brain.
Cognitive – The problems that show up
When you find yourself stuck with core beliefs that are really not true. Limiting beliefs about yourself and the world around you. When you tend to see life in negative ways. When your thinking limits you. Narrow mindedness. Fear of trying anything new.
Cognitive – How we tend to cope
We rationalize why we do what we do. Whether it’s correct or the best way possible. We become comfortable with the thinking and the paradigm that we grew up with and adapted for ourselves. We surround ourselves with people that think the same and don’t rock the boat. We consider our view of the world as the ‘right one’.
Cognitive – Therapeutic Solutions
Good counseling. Cognitive Therapy. Any talk therapy that allows you to understand how you think. That helps you to expand your view of the world and create more options.
Cognitive – Some Self Help Suggestions
Lots of reading and education! Study. Learn more. Learn from role models. Expand your view of the world. Learn better ways to think about things and people. Knowledge gives you a better understanding of the world so you can make better choices with your time.
Education opens up the pathways to new behaviours that become normal after a while. Also reading biographies of people you admire. Maybe find a mentor, some one who knows the ropes, who has been there and done it. Once you know – then more can happen.
So study, learn and read. Take courses. The aim is to expand your Paradigm of the world. So you know what other possibilities are available. Educate yourself and keep it going each year. Don’t become ‘stale’ in your thinking.
A lot of people do this and it helps. But it is only a part of the story and your make up. I see a lot of people that have read many books, understand things well, but still have the same problems. That’s because the problem is not with their thinking, it’s in one of the following two areas.
Developmental – What is it?
A developmental block normally is associated with the limbic brain-your feeling center.
Anything involving your emotional development can be a block here. Most of this development happens in your family. With your immediate family having a major influence as to what develops to emotional maturity for you and what doesn’t. How you develop emotionally determines how you respond emotionally in life to your surroundings and people.
Developmental – The problems that show up
Relationship problems, Confidence issues, Shyness, Non-Assertiveness, Reactive Anger, Too introverted, Too extroverted, Over dependant, Continually Depressed, Sad, Feelings of Loss for no reason, Cant get motivated.
If any of the above hit a cord, then you most likely have a developmental block. Issues that your family didn’t handle very well when you were in your childhood.
In developmental work one or more of the following areas is not completed correctly.
Developmental – How we tend to cope
Blame others for our problems. Justify ourselves for our actions. Deny there is a problem. Accept that that’s the way we are and always will be. Excessive, alcohol, smoking and food are also common coping methods. As well as lots of sugar and caffeine to keep us going.
Developmental – Therapeutic Solutions
The short answer: Good grounded emotional release work. Psychotherapy, any therapy or work that safely allows you to express and heal the emotional component and complete the developmental skill that was not allowed to be expressed and learned growing up.
Developmental – Some Self Help Suggestions
Give yourself time and room to express yourself: Cry, scream and/or get angry, safely without dumping on anyone. Express what was not allowed as a child. Go to the movies, watch videos and allow your emotional response to come through and move you. Read novels and poetry. Allow more depth and intimacy in relationships. Relate more with different people. Watch and learn from the people you fear or can’t stand. It is reflecting something in you that you are not dealing with.
Traumatic – What is it?
A trauma occurs when an event is perceived to be life threatening (examples: war, surgery, rape, high-speed accidents, abuse, horror) or a chronic situation in which a person is overwhelmed (eg, childhood trauma, ongoing sexual harassment from a family member).
Traumatic – How it shows up
The signs here are very different from the other two blocks. In this area fall the following symptoms:
Panic attacks, anxiety, shakes, trembling, phobias, sleep disturbances, high heart rate, excessive sweating, chronic headaches, over-alertness, obsessive thoughts, spacing out, going numb, constant daydreaming, wide swings of emotion and obsessions, over dissociation from ones body, helplessness, lack of healthy boundaries, hypervigilance and learning disabilities.
Any of the above are high signs of an active trauma in your nervous system. And the work to heal this is very different again from the above two areas.
Traumatic – How we tend to cope
Traumas tend to be blocked off very well from consciousness simply because they have to be, in order to go on our daily living. Otherwise we can’t live a normal life.
The most common coping strategies are –
Dissociating from one’s body, Emotional Shutdown, where you stop yourself from feeling what’s happening in your body. We all do this to some degree. People with trauma do this a lot, for survival.
The other most common coping strategy is – Hyperactivity. Keep doing things, keep working, always on the move. The more you keep doing, the less time you have to focus internally on what’s happening inside you. The busy hyperactive executive is a common one. They get a lot done! But they can never truly relax within themselves and rest.
Taking drugs. Alcohol, smoking and over-eating.
Traumatic – Therapeutic Solutions
Good trauma work that focuses on the Body – Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – completing the responses (fight, flight or freeze) that didn’t get a chance to happen because of the traumatic event. So good body psychotherapy or any other therapy that allow the body – subconscious – to heal itself.
Completing the trauma normally involves allowing your body (ANS) to ‘save itself’ (fight, flight or freeze) the way it tried to at the time of the event. If at the time of the event you were able to save yourself – then there would be little if no, unfinished trauma response in your body today.
Traumatic – Some Self Help Suggestions
Exercise, Gym work, Dancing, Yoga, Tai Chi, Walking, Martial arts, swimming, Hot baths. Any movement work where you can allow yourself to be more embodied and spontaneous, can help release old traumatic stresses and assist your body to complete more of the past.
All three types of blocks are normally embedded within each other. Nothing is normally clear cut. But it can help highlight the major area that you may be stuck in and what needs to be done.
Your thinking affects how you feel about yourself, which affects how you act in the world. The opposite is also true, how you act, affects how you feel, which affects how you think. All three are embedded together, just like they are in your brain.
Is a body psychotherapist and P.S.H. Therapist. He has a private practice in Australia (Melbourne, Victoria). He also runs regular seminars and workshops on emotional health and wellbeing, Trauma, Healing, Personal Development and Self Help Work.
(C) – Copyright George Gintilas (2001)