Is Your Reptilian Brain in Charge?
It’s a sad state in our busy lives when we realize that we don’t know the feeling of relaxation. Since starting my neurofeedback practice a year ago, I’ve discovered that many New Yorkers don’t know calmness when it arises in their bodies. Here’s a typical conversation I have with stressed-out, go-getter New Yorkers, around their fourth session of neurofeedback:
What is this sensation? Am I getting depressed?
No, you’re calming down. That weighty, rested state you are experiencing in your bodyat the end of the session is relaxation.
But is this OK? Will I still get my work done? Will I still be as productive?
You are used to living from a stress response where your nervous system (brain) is acting from a fight/flight/freeze response. It’s actually the most primitive part of your brain that is in charge—your reptilian brain—and it motivates you to misperceive the environment as one where there is ALWAYS danger present.
And what’s wrong with always being in go-mode?
Nothing, if it is engaged for short periods of time, (like the amount of time it takes you to get awayfrom a falling brick) but then your body is supposed to go back into a state of relaxation. The flight/fight response is ONLY to be used in short bursts. Like a runner sprinting—a good technique for a short distance—but she’ll never make it to the finish line of a marathon. In the same way, the fight/flight response is only meant for short periods; then we are meant to go back into a state of calm/aware. When we’re in a state of calm alert (not hypervigilent alert) we have access to our entire brain’s resources—and for us creative people this is important. Our spontaneity, sense of openness, sense of will and purpose are not engaged when we are triggered by fight/flight.
So calm/alert is where our creative pursuits arise from?
Yes, that’s why, for example, in the creative offices at Google they have ping pong tables. We are coming to understand that in a state of relaxation is the best place to come up with original ideas.
So why is my brain staying in this anxious state?
Because you are habituated. Your brain, in trying to be efficient—doing the same response over and over again—does not realize that it is NOT being effective. Now is not then. At some point in the past you were in a state of danger, but then your brain became habituated and just responses the same way as in the past.
How do I get my brain to stop this habit?
Neurofeedback is training your brain to use the present moment to decide what to do next, rather than the old habits. And when the brain uses the present moment –like using today’s weather report rather than last week’s–it realizes that it is a far superior way to gather information—more efficient and effective—than the old habitual way. As a result, the brain is motivated to self-correct and respond in a way that reflects the current moment.
So while you are training, when the brain comes into the present and observes that you are sitting in a chair, comfortably listening to music it responds by going into a state of relaxation because that’s the most efficient and effective state to be in given the circumstances.
Neurofeedback is like a mirror. We are presenting a mirror to the brain over and over again and saying, “Look, see what you’re doing. Is this really efficient and effective?” And because the brain is designed to use as little energy as necessary to accomplish tasks it is motivated to change its behavior.
When the brain is “at rest” it is open and calm. And when we are in this state we—our conscious will—are in charge, and not the inner reptile!
Interested in neurofeedback?
Call Natalie at (347) 860-4778 to schedule a neurofeedback or therapy session in NYC or Westchester.
We’re on TWITTER and FACEBOOK