To find a mountain path all by oneself gives a greater feeling of strength than to take a path that's shown.
-- Karen Horney
Our Painful Truth Without Fancy Academic Cosmetics
All those familiar with my formal educational limitations know not to expect an elaborate scholarly presentation here. And those few deeply into the field of mental health just might get curious how this topic could possibly be treated without a due academic cosmetics which would make it so much more convincing.
Well, science has been said not to belong exclusively to the experts anymore, since good ideas in all fields keep coming from many unexpected sources. And when it's about this art of mental healing, it may even be more true than anywhere else.
That for the simple reason that anything to do with emotions and psycho-philosophy of normal functioning in life is but an interpretive, speculative art, not an exact science.
Thus, just like we have many styles in artistic expressions, so it's the case with psychology of man. Moreover, no therapeutic modality may claim to contain a "one-fit-all" wisdom, so it does take a true "artistic" eye and ear in order to do some improvising.
I happen to have almost a life-long pen-pal and a dear friend who is a professional psychoanalyst, and through our little, at times heated, discussions, I had a chance to see how stiff that therapeutic modality is -- especially as she persisted in giving much undue significance to the past and its traumatic details.
On the other hand, I am much, much more into neuroscience which could be said to focus on our present in which our past only plays as significant a role as we allow it to be.
What makes it so much more refreshing is the fact that it doesn't need unnecessary phraseology and terminology -- at least in interpreting the therapeutic aspect of its tenets.
Any man could, if he were inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.
-- Santiago Ramon y Cayal
A Malleable Brain
Probably the greatest discovery credited to neuroscience is the one about so called "neuroplasticity" -- simply meaning brain's ability to create new neural pathways while getting rid of others that are not life promoting.
While it may sound like a complex undertaking, it really means a much repeated desired way of emotional functioning -- until it becomes brain's second nature.
Call it a "positive brainwashing" if you will. This name may give us a wrong idea about something "unnatural", but let's dismiss such a notion by realizing how we got to our emotional mess by the same process -- just with a negative content to it.
So we kept deepening that negative groove in brain until it became an emotional template for our natural way of responding to life.
So, neuroscience is more about the "brain's technology" in which some patterns of brain's experiencing can be replaced with others -- that, without going into any analysis and the complexity of events which were responsible for forming that negative reactiveness to life.
How really simple and down-to-earth it all is -- could be summarized in one of the central maxims of neuroplasticity, that sounds like this:
Brain cells that fire together -- wire together.
It's so elegantly simple like one of those perennial proverbs that could replace a whole book of philosophizing about life.
You see, why bother reading books explaining it if we can simply translate it in words of a conversational style. Namely, anything that we keep repeating in our mind -- especially when an emotional charge is attached to it, turns into our mental habit called "belief".
Now, we all have heard about the expression saying: "A lie repeated enough times becomes true".
Boy! Haven't politicians made a use of that one!
That's what any "brainwashing" technically is -- when one set of beliefs gets "washed off" from the brain's belief system and gets replaced with another.
While the political or religious indoctrination doesn't really benefit us much, our intentional positive brainwashing may do some miracles within our emotional dynamism.
By repeating our desired outcome with an emotional model of "how it will ultimately feel, once achieved", we make our brain believe that it's already happening -- because its subconscious aspect can't tell the difference between real and only imagined experience.
So the brain remodifies itself -- even physically, creating new synaptic connections between groups of cells -- while undoing those old ones that are not vibrationally, emotionally compatible with the new ones.
You see, on a very energetic level of our mental functioning, all our emotions are merely patterns, programs, or figuratively --"grooves". Just like your TV program had to come to your set only as a bunch of broadcasting waves before getting translated into picture -- so your emotions first had to be those energy patterns before they became that pissed off response to your mother-in law's meddling with your household matters.
You've been brainwashed to only look at your losses.
-- Meir Ezra
It's All About a Positive Brainwashing
Brain's retraining represents such a pragmatic feature of a therapy that it could actually be compared to any repeated move of the body before it becomes a skill -- whether learning to walk in your childhood, or learning to play a piano.
Now, as we would think about re-living those past traumatic experiences in a course of psychoanalysis -- how ridiculous it would look in terms of neuroplasticity, if we viewed it as a new skill to be formed in your gym.
Like, say, your coach is telling you: "Now, go ahead, think of that ugly flab hanging from your forearms. Think how hard it is to climb a flight of stairs. Think how everybody is seeing you as a fat slob. And keep remembering how during your love making your whole body somehow feels like it's in your way."
You see what I mean?
It's bound to make you depressed, ashamed, and angry at yourself, while only reaffirming in your brain a self-image that you would rather not have.
It might as well be a somewhat expanded form of that mentioned maxim of neuroplasticity (about cells firing and wiring together) -- as we would say:
Stay focused on what you DO want -- NOT on what you DON'T want, because energy goes where the attention goes.
As we are laying on that proverbial shrink's couch and unloading those painful details of our childhood, every so often we hear that trademark question by our shrink:
"And how does that make you feel?"
Now really, doesn't one get an urge to shout: "You moron, what do you think how it makes me feel!?"
Indeed, do we have to be reminded? Do we have to rub onto the old wound over and over, hoping that one day, maybe ten years from now, and thousands of dollars later, we might get so tired of being emotionally tired that we might drop the crappy emotional routine.
Well, it may even work for some folks, so that one beautiful day they get to walk out of the shrink's office happy as a lark -- while so is also shrink, dancing all the way to the bank.
In my opinion, that psychoanalysis could even be much shorter and so much more effective if the shrink also happened to be a professional comedian, like a "psycho-comedian" by profession -- insisting that both of them laugh at every exposed detail of that drama. Namely, laughing at our misery can have some miraculously therapeutic effects.
Several decades back, while I was cleansing myself of some demons of a vulnerable ego, I recorded on a cassette recorder my own belly laughter, and on another cassette I recorded some extreme ego-defeating material, ridiculing whatever I could think about my weakness, flaws, whatever.
Then I combined that with my laughter onto the third cassette, and I listened to it with earphones on until, soon after, I got a genuine spasmodic laughing reflex, along with an unutterable sense of liberation in my soul.
Didn't I intuitively just do an act of eradicating one pattern in my brain by requalifying its emotional charge, and by doing that, allowed something great to emerge from the depth of my soul?
Indeed, it's all just "brain's technology of processing reality", and digging into past is a terrible waste of energy, time, and money -- of course, unless one happens to be a mentally adventurous type like myself to give it all an insanely comical treatment.
Was that what conceived that literary satirist in me, as I keep observing the world's mess with a light-hearted diagnosing, not really caring -- since I didn't start it, as to consider it as my own responsibility? -- Well, who really cares about analyzing. LOL.
© 2023 Val Karas