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  • Writer's pictureDayna Sharp, LCSW

Neuroscience for Healing, Part I

At Creating Space Counseling and Wellness, all services incorporate the latest research and developments from the field of Neuroscience. Sound fancy? It does, but it probably shouldn't. After all, it makes sense that "Brain" science should be part of a therapist's repertoire, doesn't it?

What's the Brain got to do with it?

Therapy is both an art and a science that incorporates ideas from both worlds. My work is guided by poetry, literature, storytelling, rhythm and abstract art. I could say the same for science: science of the mind (Psychology), science of the developing mind (Developmental Psychology), science of groups and society (Sociology), science of culture (Anthropology) and science of the brain (Neuroscience). In fact, I can imagine no other way to connect with people, without understanding who they are and what they are bringing to the room from all of the layered perspectives that make up who we are.

One fascinating thing to know about human beings is that each of these layers are embedded into our brain and also that our brain shapes what we see and how we understand these layers. For me, the human brain is a wonder-ful galaxy longing for exploration, and Neuroscience offers us clues to the answers of life's most intriguing questions.

"Neurons that Fire Together, Wire Together"

Our brains are comprised of neurons, a type of cell, that connect with each other in order to create a map that is the lens from which we see the world around us. To offer a very over-simplified example, if we have a terrifying experience of being stuck in an elevator, our neurons that represent elevators will be connected to those that represent fear. If we are consistently cared for when we are infants, our neurons will connect relationships, satisfaction, and trust. Our experiences, connected with feelings, are represented structurally in our brains. Fascinating stuff!

"Creating Space"

The space between the neurons, where the connection lies, is at the synapse, through which neurotransmitters travel. The more repetitious our experiences, the stronger the connections, the less space exists at the synapse. When we learn to walk, we have so much experience walking, we no longer need to think about how to do it, we just do. It becomes immediate. Which creates space to learn about and engage with other things. When we have many negative experiences--for example, repeated abandonments, those connections too may become very strong, and when we face a perceived threat of abandonment, we react--immediately. This can cause suffering, because it's likely our brain has been "built", or connected to, anticipate abandonment from others, and then as we anticipate, we react to perceived abandonment without thought.

Creating Space between the neurons and making new connections is accomplished through the process of intentionally putting experiences and feelings into words, in a safe, trusted space. Doing so provides flexibility, so that we can have memories of painful events, but because neurons are re-wired, we can feel those past experiences with confidence, mastery, and a sense of safety. Creating Space is the process of literally changing one's brain by noticing our reactions, so that they are no longer immediate, which allows us space to choose a well-thought out response. Creating Space, is what therapy is all about!

And so, what do you think? Neuroscience is pretty darn cool, right?!?


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