The Brain, Mind, and Consciousness
Recent scientific evidence on neuroplasticity indicates the brain is capable making new neural connections and structures in response to information, debunking the old idea that the brain contains a finite number of cells which cannot be regenerated. This profound fact means that our brains will respond positively when intentionally provided with new, healthy input. While this brain finding may appear new to us today, it has formed the basis of the ancient wisdom traditions. These traditions have put forth innumerable techniques, practices, and sources of knowledge that teach us how to tap the potential of our brain’s flexibility. It tells us not only what a positive human experience would look like but also how to develop toward that goal. Psychology has begun to utilize some of this ancient wisdom.
In my clinical work, I use techniques for self regulation and consciousness raising to help you
1. calm down the emotional or instinctual parts of the brain and activate the reasoning part of the brain (neocortex) so that you can become
2. aware of the content of your thoughts and
3. consciously choose thoughts that empower a healthy, mature self and
4. develop new patterns of responding.
These techniques or practices include diaphragmatic breathing, deep relaxation, development of an inner space for creative visualization and meditation, attunement to the body and mind. Part of what happens is learning to be in the present moment, experiencing positive internal states, and opening to inner guidance.
Healing and Transforming Though Time
By calming down and going inside, using the above techniques, we can attune to a sense of inner quietude and centeredness. This state creates an internal healing space. In this deeply relaxed place, we can also begin to connect to the complexity of ourselves in an open, nonjudgmental way. We can become aware of various parts of the self or “ego states” that often are unseen and unheard in the busy-ness of everyday life. These parts of self exist independently of linear time. This means that feelings and past experiences are stored in our subconscious mind and in our bodies as if they just happened. Time, itself, is an elastic concept: events which occur objectively in the past are often experienced subjectively in the now, so that the past and present are felt as relative and simultaneous. In this elastic or timeless time, it is then possible to time travel together to discover, understand, and ultimately transform the past through connection with a wiser, more mature, and loving Self. In this process, we get to know (become conscious of) the parts of the self that hold various (often untended) feelings, needs, and beliefs. These previously unconscious aspects of the self can become integrated into the whole personality, increasing the alignment of all the parts of the self with the conscious goals and wishes of the person. Otherwise, these unknown aspects can unconsciously influence behavior in confusing and detrimental ways.
The Flow of Positive Energy
Part of attuning to oneself more deeply is allowing the experience of feelings. Feelings can include those sometimes difficult ones, which can often seem worse when avoided or judged harshly. Feelings can also include positive ones, such as joyful, content, confident, satisfied, proud, grateful, and loving, which are, at times, scarcely noticed or enjoyed and sometimes cut off altogether. The flow of positive energy is healthy and healing. Being connected to one’s body allows this flow to be felt on all levels. Techniques that help one connect to one’s body include breathing, grounding, and focusing.
The Journey Together
I believe people have an inherent inner movement toward wholeness and health. When one makes an intention to grow, that intention initiates a process that propels change. The role of psychotherapy is to foster this growth toward wholeness. I resonant with the words of the eminent psychologist, Karen Horney, when she said the therapist must be the “unambiguous ally of the endangered self (1950).
Becoming a Whole Person
The great psychologist, Carl Rogers(1961), described the process of “becoming a person” when he outlined the kind of attributes that emerge as a consequence of successful psychotherapy:
Openness to experience means that one has awareness of what “exists at this moment in oneself and in the situation,” free of defenses and “preconceived categories” based in the past or in perceived demands of others.
Trust in One’s Organism results in less fear of one’s emotional reactions. “There is a gradual growth and trust in, and even affection for the complex, rich, varied assortment of feelings and tendencies which exist…at the organic level.” And this awareness and trust leads to more accurately assessing situations, in all their complexity, and making decisions that better meet one’s needs.
Internal Locus of Evaluation means looking to oneself rather than to others for approval or for the answers or decisions to live by. It entails a sense of “strength which is experienced in being a unique person, responsible for oneself, and also the uneasiness that accompanies this assumption of responsibility.”
Willingness to Be in a Process involves an acceptance of the self as a process of becoming, not so much a fixed product defined by a definite outcome. “It means a person is a fluid process, not a fixed and static entity; a flowing river of change, not a block of solid material; a continually changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits.”
These are some of the experiences I look for as the therapy proceeds. The longer I practice the more inspiring an experience it is to share the journey of becoming a whole person. The process is, indeed, a lifelong one. With all its struggles, there is a joyfulness in coming to see the Self as a dynamic creation, unfolding as we live. To embrace oneself as both the creator and the created means taking responsibility and pleasure in the process.