Audrey Jolly Therapy

The Brain at Work

Posted Sep 9th, 2018 in Mental Health, Depression, Shame

The Brain at Work

Here is a simple diagram demonstrating three basic levels of functioning in the brain. I often refer to these functions in psychotherapy sessions with clients. 

The Neocortex or thinking, rational brain, the Lymbic brain or emotional brain and the most interesting of all as far as I'm concerned as a body based psychotherapist, the REPTILIAN BRAIN. In my experience, the reptilian brain or instincts are 'driving the bus' most of the time whether we're aware of it or not...and usually we're not! 

The Reptilian brain is the lower, back brain, first to develop in utero (in a developing fetus during pregnancy) This part of the brain is geared for survival and operates on a perceived threat or safety continuum. It has everything to do with trauma and the healing of it. It operates on a fight, flight or freeze response to any perceived danger. With trauma what becomes perceived as a threat and what is actually threatening may become blurred and an over active protector mechanism may begin to limit our spontaneity, confidence and ability to live life fully. 

It always surprises me to see (and experience) just how much our Reptilian brains effect one's body and nervous system. It is mostly developed by the age of 7 yet it drives our adult behaviours, shaping our personal experiences and relationships.

Sensations in the body (i.e.: tensions or jitters or panic attacks) originating in the reptilian brain, inform the Lymbic brain (there may be fear or threat nearby) then fire up to the Neocortex (I think that guy is a creep and potentially dangerous. I might get hurt, better punch him or run or pretend I haven't even noticed him.) It can happen within a second or two, on auto-pilot.

Now if that is happening with a person that you are fond of and want to get closer to but can't, due to uncontrollable fear or anxiety at the mere thought, you may need some help. One needs psycho-education for the Neocortex, emotional work for the Lymbic and most importantly, body work for the reptilian brain. These include responses occurring in the nervous system, appearing as unwanted, uncomfortable sensations in the body that may block intimacy or a sense of happiness, security and safety.

Body work may be as simple grounding through the feet, feeling gravity, deeper, slower breathing or building up a tolerance for uncomfortable feelings occurring in the body when you know you're safe but the neocortex or thinking brain has gone off line and the reptilian brain is firing off warning signals uncontrollably in the body.

We work to calm, soothe and settle the system on all three levels of functioning with helpful techniques and processes.

You don't have to feel like a trapped passenger on a bus being driven by an overactive reptilian brain (or your defences) It's important to note that our defences are a good thing. We need to be grateful for them and get them into balance and a proper perspective so they are working for us and not against us. Overactive defences make for a difficult journey through life. 

Call or email me for further information on how I can be of help.


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