Brain health: You don’t need to be a neuroscientist to make it possible
FEBRUARY 14, 2013 BY RUTH BUCZYNSKI, PHD 15 COMMENTS
When we set out to put together the New Brain Science series, that was our “big idea.” We wanted to prove that anyone can unlock the brain’s potential to change.
And it’s because of my friends Joan Borysenko, PhD and Ron Siegel, PsyD that we’ve been able to make that happen.
They’ve joined me after every webinar for the
TalkBack segment. If you’ve been tuning in, you’ve probably heard our conversations, and I hope you’ve found them useful.
. . . because I certainly have.
You see, it’s not just leading-edge science that transforms our practice. It’s knowing how to integrate that science into effective interventions that clients will respond to.
Ron and Joan do that so well – so I wanted to take a minute to share one of the best examples.
After our call with Norman Doidge, we talked about managing chronic pain, and Ron’s thoughts struck me. His answer did everything that makes the TalkBacks so special: identifying a common client need, explaining a solution to use in practice, and linking it with contemporary research.
So I wanted to share his strategy with you. I think you’ll find it useful even if your clients don’t have issues with chronic pain.
“Chronic pain has to do with the brain’s habit of focusing with anxious vigilant attention on certain kinds of brain signals, and in doing that, the brain amplifies those signals.”
This sets in motion a kind of neuroplasticity that has a negative impact. When treatments focus solely on reducing pain, they reinforce this cycle. Back to Ron, who had a different take:
“So, in looking for a way out of that, what people have found most effective is to first of all shift the whole emphasis from, ‘How do I get the pain to be less?’ which had been the emphasis in most chronic pain treatment for a very long period of time, to ‘How do I get function back?’
In other words: ‘How do I get to live my life? Instead of directing my focus (with vigilant anxiety) on pain sensations, how do I direct my focus on the sensations of walking, sitting, or engaging in normal life activities?’
That does two things: it mitigates the fear – and fear plays a huge role.
Here’s a quick aside: when they test the role of fear in pain, they use a cold pressor test where you put your subject’s hands in ice water, and you frighten your subject by saying, ‘You’re going to have to keep your hand there for ten minutes.’
If you ask them to rate their pain after twenty seconds, they’ll say, ‘It’s excruciating – I’m not doing this for ten minutes.’
But if you reassure them and say, ‘You’ll only have to keep your hands there for thirty seconds,’ and you ask them (the same question) after twenty seconds, they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a little cold – it’s not a problem.’
Just the thought that this is going to be a big problem amplifies it tremendously.
If you can get people back into their life activities, then they get the reassurance that, ‘I’m not going to be disabled by this. I’m going to be able to live a life, even though it hurts.’
This mitigates the fear, which also retrains the brain to not focus vigilantly on the pain. “
I also wanted to share a little schedule update with you.
Ron and Joan are some of the best teachers I know at turning theory into practice, and that’s why we’ve decided to make them a bigger part of our current series.
So, in two weeks, we’re going to be adding a full-length webinar with Ron and Joan to our bonus calls for Gold Members.
We’ll review some of the key themes from the series, and find places where these ideas can be turned into effective practices. We’ll draw links between the brain, mindfulness, trauma, and many more fascinating subjects.
If you’re not a Gold Member, you can sign up by clicking here. I don’t think you’ll want to miss this call.
And if you’d like to hear more of Ron and Joan’s practical wisdom, please stay tuned after next week’s webinar with Pat Ogden, PhD. As always, we’ll be breaking the call down, pulling out the key insights, and getting Ron and Joan’s unique perspectives.