Baring Things in Mind (Part Two)

One of my followers asked last month if I’d used the correct spelling in the post’s tbrain in handitle. Most people say: “Bearing things in mind” – with an “e” – meaning holding things in mind.

True, but I just cannot resist putting a twist on things. I love a good pun. Besides, where my brain is concerned I am overwhelmed with multiple goings-on and meanings all in the one instance. I’m  at once expressing  I’m  wanting to uncover the mind, put it on show AND let readers behold it.

As last month was all about our so-called lizard brain – that part of us that processes what we sense, this month, I thought I’d give a case study of a client unaware of his bodily senses. With his permission, I have changed his name to protect his confidentiality.

 (James)

James was caught in a mix of family feuding, physical and emotional abuse. Though he requested anger management he came across as quite nervous.

James had no problem retelling all the incidents and background facts leading to his present situation. He had no problem getting excited about his ambitions. But when it came to recognising his excitement as he lived it, or what he was thinking in real time, he was speechless. He simply agreed with my tentative observations.

It was only after some silence in his second session he fixed eye-contact. He asked what thinking was. My description of what thinking is to me, satisfied him. He decided to give guided Focusing a go as something to do other than talk.

Guided Focusing is a series of directions that lead the focuser into and around their body starting at the toes. Sharing their experience is optional.

The idea seemed strange to James. To him, people existed in their head; their bodies just carried them around. So it was enough for him to at first do no more than note for himself his body’s physicality. And even this came hard to him. When not Focusing I introduced him to Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle.Karpmans-Drama-TriangleStudying it on my whiteboard was easier for him, with its systematic take on relationships. He saw himself in it.

James used his third session to separate out negatives in his past and positives in his present life.

He was happy to try Guided Focusing again. This time we combined it with the head-held, theory based, Drama Triangle. Focusing became more instrumental in this when he reported feeling ‘composed’. This was his label for his embodied experience and abstract understanding joined together. I re-worded my ‘guiding in’ script to suit.

‘Composure’ became the theme over the following weeks. James grew able to acknowledge and identify his changing emotions in relation to the different roles on the Triangle he felt himself to be as he told me about his week.

When I asked how his smirk was making him feel while he relayed what he’d like to do to get his own back on a particular person, his perception of himself switched from Victim to Persecutor. He called taking himself to his room and listening to music whenever ‘things invaded [his] head’ his Rescuer.

James struggled throughout with very hypothetical stuff. The whiteboard helped us both. Session 10 came. James decided he no longer needed to visit. He felt more confident at work (something also remarked on by his boss) less angry at home and more in control of his life.

Summary

That’s it for another month. But just before I go, to sum the Drama Triangle up, click here for a bit of “Penelope Pitstop”.

‘Who?’ some of you may ask. Don’t worry. I’m just showing my age. Best wishes to you all.

Baring Things in Mind (Part One)

brain in handIntroduction

Sorry for being a bit late with this month’s post. I’ve been a bit extra tired lately. Fatigue struck again.

A couple of months ago I spoke about a three stage way of looking at the human brain. You can click here to revisit it. Neuroscientist, Paul MacLean proposed it. It’s all about how the human brain evolved and names the three stages “Lizard”, “Mammalian” and “Neo-cortex”.

I relate it to Nero-Linguistic Programming. It helps keeps things simple. It shows how sensing, behaving and thinking can be understood in an N.L.P. way too.

Having a brain injury does not make us less human, dispossessed of a personality. It may impair our emotional and cognitive qualities in some ways, but so does lack of sleep and a heavy cold. Age and experience too, influence our ability to recall and be skilful.

(In her 80s, my nan confused what she did her day before with what she did in her today. But she clearly remembered my great-nan hanging her “britches” on the washing line the day World War Two was declared. Nan had no brain injury.)knickers

What I’m saying is this: The stuff I’m going to go through now and in the coming couple of months or so can be useful, whatever.

How? First and foremost I’m going to touch base with everything that is tangible – limit my attention to the five senses and what they feed back to us.

Sensory Inventory

A client I counselled some time ago expressed a loss of connection with the world around him – of being “in a bubble ” with his hallucinations. On good days he coped. But even then, it was with a loss of feeling. (This was touch, not just emotional.) And, as always, his memory “wasn’t brilliant”.

He was curious to know why some things stuck in his mind and others didn’t.

We revisited his most recent memory – the one that most seemed real to him. This we did in terms of “Sight”; “Sound”; “Smell”; “Touch” and “Taste”.

A whiteboard helped. I asked the client to place a 1st to 5th value on each of the senses. 1st was the most prized, 5th was the least. Together we then re-wrote the list in his order of preference.

Next we unpicked the memory he had described to me (a pub meal with his family) in relation to his list. Taste was something he appreciated most. He remembered the smell of flowers. The level of sound had made a difference. He had been in the beer garden.  The band that was playing was inside…

This was his sensory inventory.

Doing a sensory inventory in this way can help in more than one way.

  • It can help tell what in particular it is about something that stops it being forgotten so soon. Or remembered for a long time.
  • It can help touch base with what matters most.
  • It can help give ideas about how best to create positive experiences.

N.B: By the way, negative experiences are just as powerful. When it comes to baring things in mind, it’s our bodies and emotions that do the sticking.

For those of you doing A Levels, here is a Youtube snippet I came across that sums it up nicely. If technical gobble-di-gook just confuses you, you can always watch with the sound down. The diagram is clear enough.

Take care for now.

Anchoring for New Memories

Common Problems

The biggest problem after brain injury is with short-term memory loss. Memories are the records of our experience. Lacking memory does not mean we stop experiencing things. But it can mean becoming unaware of our experience. We forget when and where we are and spend our energy on piecing things together and trying to keep track. And then we get tired out.

It’s a bit like being cast adrift on an uncharted sea.

NLP and brain injuty

Without a chart, how might we map our course to our next shore? How can we tell where to go to catch the biggest fish to eat? Not just that, who last had the captain’s log? Where is it supposed to be kept? And where is this captain character, anyway?

The good news is that the chart is not the sea. Though important and useful, it is only the representation of the sea.

What does that mean in the real world? It means that the good news is this: Memories are not experience. Though they give us a sense of space and time and “self” within spacetime, they only represent the past.

We are living in the present. Strengthening our attention on where we are and what’s happening around us improves our skills at making memories. The memory you make now is a memory to recall tomorrow.

Anchoring the N.L.P. Way

Before I talk about “anchoring”, it might help you to watch a short therapy session first.  It lasts 4 minutes. And of course you can go to it again and again, any time you like. Click here to watch the session.

Here is what the therapist does:-

  • Learns from the client the “state” / mood the client wants to be in. (It’s “happy”.)
  • Learns how the client looks when she’s happy.
  • Asks the client to remember a specific time when she felt very happy.

(Note: If she had a brain injury, this would most likely be a long-term memory from long ago. But you know that.)

Next the therapist:-

  • Gets the client to put her attention into her body and almost relive the original experience.
  • Asks the client to choose a knuckle the therapist can touch. (It is the knuckle she anchors the client’s happy feeling to.)
  • She keeps her finger on that knuckle. She encourages the client to relive the memory again – to see what she saw, hear what she heard, feel again her own laughter throughout every fibre of her body.
  • The therapist takes her finger from the client’s knuckle, asks the client to choose another happy memory.laughing

As soon as the client has choosen, the therapist:-

  • Holds her finger on the knuckle again and repeats the process with the client.
  • Brings the client’s attention back to the present.
  • Chats and, now and again, touches the client’s knuckle.

Each time the client feels her therapist touch that chosen knuckle, she laughs. Her happy state is anchored.

Tool Box

Okay, so how can anchoring help make new memories? By paying attention to your body’s sensations in what you’re doing now. Use the help of a friend, carer, coleague. If only one thing today makes you chuckle or want to scream, take note of how your whole body feels in that moment. Make sure you give that feeling a label.

That label is important. It’s job is to link you to the anchor you choose and to the experience that is tomorrow’s memory.

Anchoring might not be your thing. Then again, it might prove a big help. Feel free to share how well it goes after three or more practices.

Take care. More next month.

Belly of the Beast

January is gone. Have we all forgotten our New Year resolutions? Perhaps you’re keeping to what you’ve promised yourself by keeping a written, daily note. Or maybe you’ve another way of prompting scenes and events to come back to you.

This month I am again highlighting Neuro-Linguistic Programming (N.L.P). Specifically how this model of psychotherapy works on the whole person. In fact more than that. I’m giving you a way of looking at how our species came to work the way it does, in body and mind.

This way of looking at our brain was developed by physician and neuroscientist, Paul McLean. He called it the “Triune brain”. It’s not part of N.L.P. itself. But it does help give an understanding of how Neuro-Lingiuistic Programming works.

(Evolution)NLP Feb01

Lizard = The earliest of three forms of brain that would evolve into ours. It operates simply – by its gut reactions to things. When the desert heat affects it, it can move faster. When it feels hungry, that hunger makes it hunt. In fact it lives totally by its gut reactions . It does not question why the sun is hot.

Mammalian (Limbic) = A miPuppy loved-stage representation of our brain’s evolution. Mammals are the group of animals that developed levels of social awareness… Still, not necessarily self awareness. But in their packs, dogs and wolves know one another’s scent and rank. Perhaps this is the beginning of culture.

Neo-Cortex = The outer, most recently evolved layer of the Human brain. It’s evolution allows us to wonder at the world around us and say thingNLP Feb03s like: “Perhaps this is the beginning of culture.” It allows us to, as the saying goes: “Have the world at out fingertips.” Its business is to anticipate consequences – imagine cause and effect, manipulate nature and invent things that suit our needs and wants.

(What It All Means)

Note: N.L.P. is not a science. It is a way of looking at the brain based on science.

Note: The science this here post (“Belly of the Beast”) is based on is the work of Paul McLean. (If you’re a student, trainer or just plain interested, you may like to click here.)

  • Our brain evolved three main capabilities over time – 1) basic stimulus and reaction, to 2) sociability, to 3) thoughtfulness.
  • Basic stimulus and reaction deals with reality in the here-and-now. Pure and simple.
  • Sociability added a level of sophistication. As well as react, mammals respond to one another to get and give what one another need to survive.
  • The Neo-Cortex does not deal with the real world. It creates memories of the past, learns from them, and plans future outcomes that do not yet exist.
  • Our Human brain is made of all the above – 1), 2) and 3). They all communicate and work together as a whole.

Next month: The issues and difficulties of brain injury and how N.L.P. could assist you in your ambitions.

Until then, best wishes for now. This is Sean signing off.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Welcome to 2018! And to this here blog if you’re newly come to it.

NLP and brain injutyI am thinking that maybe 2017 was the year your brain was injured. I can only imagine how that might be for you. Confusion, fear, a sense of confinement, bereavement, anger – the rise and fall of a whole ocean of emotions. I wish you strength, perseverance, and all the support you need. Including from me – where, when and how I can.

Maybe 2017 was a year of achieving little goals. Sometimes, the first goal is finding a goal. Is “goal” the right word? For some “ambition” or “sense of direction” says it better. It depends how you experience yourself. The most meaningful word or phrase? The one that keeps it real.

Why little goals, small successes? Small successes are more probably achieved sooner than big ones. And let’s face it, a big success, when you look at it, is really a collection of small ones.

If I seem to have started straying off track I promise I haven’t. This month’s post is an introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP’s co-inventors are Richard Bandler and John Grinder, who got their heads together in the 1970s to see if they could scientifically study the mechanics and psychology of successful people.

I’ll deal with each of the three parts of the “NLP” name in turn.

(Neuro)

This first part implies the biological science of the nervous system, and therefore the brain, doesn’t it? The truth is that NLP is a set of theories. Modelled on our brain’s evolution and function as science currently understands it, but still a set of theories. It is not a science in the same way as brain surgery. Or neuropsychology.

It was developed from social studies into how successful people behave and communicate.

(Linguistic)

Language – the use of words. I’ve been using a bit of wordplay above. I’ll recap.

Is “goal” the right word? For some “ambition” or “sense of direction” says it better. It depends how you experience yourself. The most meaningful word or phrase? The one that keeps it real.

The word, “goal” goes with something clearly identified. What about times we cannot think what to aim for?  Or when we don’t yet want to? Sometimes we only have a rough idea of where to aim, and that’s enough: “Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it,” you might say.

Some of you may be thinking: “Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it”? What utter nonsense! Some of you may be thinking it makes perfect sense. (And I bet some of you are already remembering the Sex Pistols.)

(Programming)

In a nutshell: Brain (together with all the other sensory systems) = Computer. Belief & Behaviour = Routines and Sub-routines. Language = Machine Code. Therapy = Reprogramming.

Yes, Whovians and Trekkies, we are talking cybermen and borg… Symbolically speaking, that is.

And on that point, I shall leave you. In February’s post we’ll explore our cyberman / borg insides through the NLP lens.

Meanwhile, click here to see and hear Bandler’s own definition of NLP.

Take care, everyone.

Sean