Hopper: How we can become unfamiliar even to ourselves
It’s really easy to get stuck in negative thinking and feeling patterns.
This is especially true if we have suffered from some kind of trauma that is affecting the emotional centres of our brain.
When this area of the brain is impaired and not functioning properly, it can make us think and feel in ways that may be shocking to us.
Even people who once considered themselves positive and easy-going can morph into someone that they no longer recognize as themselves. We wonder, “What happened to the old me?”
We may even find that our thoughts become fixated on past hurtful events, or that negative emotions like shame, resentment, anger, and sadness take over.
Like a gerbil on a spinning wheel, the same thoughts and feelings repeat themselves, over and over again, without resolution.
With this in mind, it’s easy to understand how isolating behaviours can become commonplace.
Not only is this way of thinking and feeling disparaging for the person who is suffering –, the actual repetition of these thoughts and feelings strengthens the neural impairment, further changing the physical structure and function of the brain.
Unknowingly, when the same thoughts and feelings are entertained, the person is digging a deeper hole that they find harder and harder to get out of. Every time they engage in distorted thoughts and feelings, they are actually reinforcing specific neural pathways in the brain, - making the connections stronger so that they fire more easily and rapidly. The brain can actually get stuck in a rut.
Understanding why it may be difficult to get out of this pattern makes sense when we understand that specific thoughts and feelings create a very unique chemical formula in the body.
When they are repeated often enough, the brain and body perceive this chemical state as “normal” and it becomes our unconscious habit zone.
The brain and body adapts to this state by creating more receptor sites on the cell walls that are designed to receive that unique chemical cocktail. We literally become addicted to a state of thinking and feeling. This inevitably causes us to behave in ways that are equal to our thoughts and feelings.
Try as we may to think and feel differently, time and time again we find ourselves back in the rut. Just like any other addiction, this chemical cocktail will try to convince us to feed it. Any opposing thought, feeling or behaviour that does not match the unique chemical formula associated with the neural trauma pattern will feel uncomfortable.
Because the brain registers this unnatural feeling as a threat to the status quo, we will unconsciously seek evidence to support staying in a rut or find ways to justify our old thinking and feeling habits that feed the impairment.
Willpower or intellectual understanding alone is not enough to support the changes that are necessary. The process of rewiring neural circuits within the deep emotional centres of the brain demands that we become curious observers of the often- unconscious patterns that we habitually run and actively interrupt these patterns. We also need to be able to recognize and over-ride the chemical cocktail that is currently operating that feeds the neural impairment. Initially this can feel akin to defying gravity as we consciously choose to over-ride the habitual pathways involved.