Psychobabble | Changing the Brain

Two drawn people facing each other with a link between their two brains.

Ok, so the brain is awesome. It’s plastic!

No, not made of plastic, silly.

It’s built to endure and built to change. The term is neuroplasticity and it’s fascinating.

Reshaping our habits and our brains

Whether it’s meditating, giving up smoking, or starting an exercise regime, the daily habits we engage in can mold our brains.

WE CAN MOLD OUR BRAINS.

I over-emphasize because the vast majority of people probably think they’re stuck with the brain they’ve got. They’re stuck in their habits with no way out.

Simple changes in everyday life such as diet and exercise are underrated changes. Instead, pills and invasive procedures are claimed transformative.

The “instant gratification culture” strikes again.

And so it goes. We lose the intimate and intricate awareness of mind and body.

So how do we regain it?

  1. We consciously resist our cultural upbringing
  2. We find accountability and community in our friends and family
  3. We practice self-affirmation

I’ll target #2 and #3 in today’s post.

Change your brain through community

We are social creatures, no doubt about it. The longest-living areas of the world have a deep sense of community. Loneliness kills, literally. BUT, in the face of desensitizing and distancing technology, we risk losing the personal connection we derive from face-to-face communication.

-Counter-argument: technology brings us closer (i.e Skype, reconnecting on Facebook)
+My argument: there is incredible power in someone simply listening and being in the moment with you

How else do you explain meeting for coffee in an age where we can have virtual coffee dates?

Or how about, why do so many people go to counseling and therapy if it didn’t help?

Change your brain with therapy

Therapy doesn’t have to be “official.” You don’t have to go hire someone, sit in a chair, that whole shindig.

Meeting with friends is therapy.
Talking aloud to your dog is therapy.
Cracking up over a funny youtube video is therapy.

Whatever and wherever you do it, therapy is the place to change.And once you’re past the initial discomfort of stepping out of your comfort zone, you become a different person.

Not only do you start behaving differently, but you think differently (sounds a lot like neuroplasticity to me…).

People need to face their worst fears. People need to be more candid and expressive of who they truly are. People need to let go of whatever is holding them back.

During therapy, I would hope that these barriers and these masks we wear, could be gradually overcome. Talking without a filter is bliss.

Too much of our lives are spent for others. We deny ourselves the happiness of expressing ourselves by wearing these masks and filtering our words and actions.

When it comes to pure self-expression, we’re just out of practice.

Benefits of Therapy

The ultimate goal of therapy is self-affirmation. People are under too much pressure to become someone they are not.

If a person finds themselves deviating from the norms of society, it turns into subconscious and self-imposed scolding. And most of the time, external forces (i.e. peer pressure, advertisements) will only make it worse.

No wonder so many people are walking around with self-esteem issues!

I would even argue that the seemingly over-confident and assertive coworker you hang out with? The one that is fine and needs no self-affirmation? They definitely need some.

Having a large ego is mostly a defense against feeling inferior and insecure at some point of their life. Maybe some past relationship or situation triggered that defense mechanism.

Not only would accessing and finding the root of that relationship or situation be useful, but using unconditional positive regard to create self-affirmation is key.

People, when listened to and when properly attended to with positive regard, become beautiful. And this type of beauty is not limited to physical beauty but refers to the beauty of one’s soul.

I believe that we are all in this world and universe together and should build each other up because it only makes the experience better for everyone involved.

Alright hippie Sonia, moving on…

The therapeutic relationship

Before taking my psychotherapy class in college, I was not aware that the therapeutic relationship had such a powerful impact but it makes perfect sense.

  1. You get someone’s focused attention
  2. They listen to you with zero judgment
  3. You’re in a safe space
  4. You talk and work through things while someone is trying to help you

A woman seeing a therapist for emotional health

How does this NOT sound like the perfect recipe for self-growth?

In fact, all friendships should have those four values. Without them, that’s not a friend. That’s just someone filling up your time and space.

Speaking of, I am informally known as the “psychologist” of my friend group. I enjoy talking through their problems and offering advice. But over time, I’ve tried to analyze my approach and wonder if offering advice is more or less beneficial than just listening.

It’s neither.

A good therapist won’t get caught up in the type of therapy you need.

What Type of Therapy Do I need?

Like I mentioned before, you could get casual, unofficial therapy while going out with friends for dinner. For the sake of if you DID want to look into therapy…

So many therapists get caught up in the school of thought they were taught instead of paying attention to the client and seeing what is best for them.

Each person has a different set of issues and a different personality with which to deal with those issues. Approaching therapy with a “one size fits all” philosophy is the fastest way of ignoring your clients’ needs. And that goes for you, the client, as well.

You might go in thinking you want a psychodynamic approach(aka Freudian), when what you really need is some Rogerian therapy.

In fact, trying out Rogerian therapy on my friends turned my usual approach upside down. I was forced to be quiet and not offer input and surprisingly (or not surprisingly), it was the best interaction I’ve ever had.

Without me putting my perspective on things, I was awarded with my friend’s inner thought processes that might have been ignored if I was the one doing the talking.

I was humbled in the way that others can meta-cognitively assess themselves when they are listened to empathetically and without judgment. I wouldn’t consider myself a judgmental person but it makes sense that I would input my judgment and perception of the situation if I was offering advice.

Moral of the story: while I was still uncomfortable remaining in silence because of my innate need to help and offer my services, I learned the importance of the power of listening.

Yet another take-away from the class: the hot thought exercise. I have used it on my friends, on myself, on my cat. It’s amazing.

The whole process resonates with me as it tries to approach emotional problems in a systematic and somewhat rational way. Interestingly, while I consider myself an emotional person, I deal with things logically and this neuroplastic (coming full circle here!) exercise was a perfect way to merge both brain hemispheres.

Humanity will win, every time

The zombie apocalypse is here. 

Two teenagers riding bikes and staring at their phones; technological zombification.No matter where you go, you’ll see people walking around, oblivious to their surroundings and staring into their phone. But hope is not lost.

Have you noticed that when you complain about this phenomenon, most people agree?

We don’t like our attachment and dependence on technology. Shows like Black Mirror have perfected technological satire and it has millions of view. We know exactly what we’re doing to ourselves.

Questions like…

  • Who are we without technology?
  • Have we lost our humanity?
  • What would happen during an apocalypse if we had no internet??!!

…are now common material at dinner. But.

Even if all technology was lost, we would still have each other.

Sonia Lipov

My purpose for the blog is to create awareness, in all its forms. I approach all topics with humor but don't let it detract from the essence. I hope that you read or watch each post and take a moment to ponder its meaning. And if you want to engage in conversation, I am SO there.

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3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Coming full circle. No wonder you’re always talking about death to comfort zones. And of course you would mention Black Mirror. :))

    • Sonia Lipov says:

      Lol, yupp, that’s me holding up the sign saying Death To Comfort Zones!!! And yes, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention Black Mirror or The Matrix. That should be my like, special ops code word for if anyone ever tries to impersonate me. 😛

  1. November 14, 2016

    […] slide 5, I mention the therapeutic alliance. This is something I talk about in my post on therapy’s brain benefits. It just means the safe and trusted relationship formed between you and your […]

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