Hello all. I hope you’re as well as can be.
Thank you to the couple of you who’ve emailed and commented on last month’s post.
To answer the question posed by one of you (What is “The Power of Zen” about?) it is about that thing we have that says: “I am”. It’s about that sense we have of being ourselves whatever the state of our brain.
In Part One I explain Zen is an interface – not the whole computer. Those of you who clicked on Zen’s picture may have noted that it gives a running commentry for its / the ship’s systems as they happen. And it is in this way, the ship acquires an ego-like quality.
Here’s a favourite “Blake’s 7” quote:-
Blake: Seven of us can run this ship properly.
Vila: Six, surely.
Blake: You forgot Zen.
Avon: You’re not counting that machine as a member of the crew.
Blake: Oh, what do you say to that, Zen?
Zen: Please state course and speed.
Blake: Very diplomatic. Set a course for Centero, speed standard by two.
We have our identity and we know we exist. But how much power over our brain injury does our identity give us if our identity is influenced by that injury?
When we actively own our personality as something more than our brain injury, to whatever measure possible, we can increase the likelihood of change. Zen’s power is will power.
Existing with a Brain Injury
Another thing I did in Part One of this article is put us in the passenger seat of our spaceship. Why? I’m going to answer with a case example. The clent is fictional. The circumstances are real. Some of you might relate to this example straight-away.
Justine takes medication for her epilepsy. She often needs reminding to drink fluids because when she forgets, she gets really bad headaches. She easilly gets fatigued and doesn’t show much emotion. Although she can hold a conversation much of the time, she gets frustrated when her voice doesn’t produce the words she tells it to. Also, she has difficulty reading and writing.
She says: “I know what I want to write but it’s frustrating. I know where I want to put my pencil’s lines – how to do them – but my brain changes them while I’m writing.”
She goes on to describe both sides of her brain arguing. Justine finds it “fascinating”, “scary…” and “…not really scary… more frustrating”. She is eager to improve.
The extent to which this is possible for Justine is unknown. Coping with the unknown is hard. What Justine is showing us for sure is that she is able to make real-time observations of what she perceieves her brain to be doing. She is frustrated by her lack of control over how her writing looks.
In other words, getting back to the good ship Personality, she is eager to move from her passenger seat to her pilot seat.
How Existential Therapy (E.T.) Might Help
How about we look at Justine’s case in light of the E.T. goals I ended with last month?
(Understand Unconscious Conflict)
Justine has a sense of one half of her brain arguing with the other half. Given the opportunity via therapy, her strength of personality – that bit of her that’s feeling frustrated might get to the bottom of what it is those halves are arguing about.
(Identify Unhelful Defensive / Coping Mechanisms & Discover their Destructive Influence)
I’m unsure how this goal applies to Justine. Perhaps a more applicable goal would be to focus on something practical. With her therapist’s support, she could experiment with aids and techniques to improve letter and word recognition and hand-eye co-ordination for writing.
(Diminish Secondary Anxiety)
If and as her communication skills improve – more and more of her intended words coming out right, her confidence might grow. Getting anxious about being anxious (panicking) could happen less often.
(Righten Restrictive Ways of Dealing with Self & Others)
With better communication and her own creative ways of getting around problems, Justine might help others wanting to help her improve.
(Develop other ways of coping with primary anxiety)
Always, each new achievement raises new unknowns, new possibilities. Fearing the unknown is healthy. Quality “me time” helps. Justine might later develop a new passtime that helps her chill out when she needs to. Who knows?
Now for a demonstration. For a quarter hour example of an E.T. session with an ABI client, click here. N.B: You’ll probably want to turn the volume up a tad; the sound quality is rubbish.
That’s all for now. Cheery-oh.