About Cutting Edge Psychology
Cutting edge Psychology can refer to a variety of ideas and concepts today such as epigenetics, neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, neuropsychology, gene expression, energy psychology, meridians, clinical hypnosis, ultradian rhythms, guided imagery, the relationship between thinking-acting-feeling, mindfulness, flexibility, response sets, conscious vs unconscious mind, internal mapping, mind-body connections, biofeedback, meditation, protect mode vs growth mode, and inoculation. These concepts are all useful and important, and can have an effect in one’s life.
Epigenetics refers to the concept of mind over genes, in other words the ability of one’s own thoughts to actually implement changes in biology. The overarching theme in mainstream biology for years has been that we are prisoners to our genes, that our lives will turn out one way or another as a result of the genes that we inherited from our parents. Well today, epigenetics demonstrates that this doesn’t have to be the case. The way we think affects the gene phenotype (the way a gene expresses itself); thus the individual, by the way that he or she thinks, can have profound effects on the way that their life unfolds. Actually, the way one thinks affects the way one behaves and the way that one feels. Whether or not you may have thought about what goes on within the body as we think, we are changing our own biological makeup as we experience the world.
As we learn information, neurons are forming new connections, as we learn a new behavior, neurons are forming new connections, as we experience trauma, neurons are forming new connections. These new connections can be adaptable, desirable, and welcome but sometimes they can be maladaptive, undesirable, and unwelcome. Through the use of therapy one can learn to affect changes in these neuronal connections whereby undesirable thoughts, feelings or behaviors can be modified, changed or stopped completely. For example, one may be perfectly fine flying to and from one city or the other, or be perfectly fine crossing any bridge, and then one day something happens, and flying or crossing a bridge becomes an anxiety provoking experience. How did this happen? What caused it? What can one do about it? These become questions that are asked and in many cases confidentially, due to fear of criticism and embarrassment. During these experiences biology/physiology can change, whereby neurological connections form pathways to areas of the brain where neurons that contribute to the experience of fear exist. When this happens, the body becomes more alert and vigilant, preparing for any danger, in spite of the fact that consciously the individual is well aware that statistics demonstrate flying to be safer than driving, and that bridges are designed to be three or four times stronger than necessary. Yet the individual experiences distress.
As one changes the way that they think, it follows that they can change the way that they behave and the way that they feel. A major problem that one may encounter in this endeavor is that consciously one may see clearly what is desired or intended but the desire or intention never quite gets to the unconscious level for implementation. In these cases there may be a block.
Energy psychology, the use of meridian tapping techniques (MTT), clinical hypnosis, and other treatment modalities access the body’s own ability to heal, to change, biologically, physically. Through accessing the body’s own ultradian rhythms, in which exists a period of rest and healing deep within the cells of the body, during hypnotherapy for example, one can find results that take place at the cellular level. As the brain is rewired (neuroplasticity), as new programs are written by the individual, life begins to change, things begin to change. It is like the concept of a time space continuum as portrayed in movies of today. A protagonist can go back in time to an earlier part of their life, make very minute changes, and then they go back to the future, finding expansive changes that they would have never predicted.
Small, minute changes at the biological level can evolve into vast, expansive, widespread changes as one’s future unfolds. Once the framework is established and in place the pathway grows and strengthens as it is used on a daily basis. This can be seen in one who practices a particular thing for many hours over time, like juggling for example, the ability to juggle improves with practice. After a new pathway is created, and is utilized, built upon, expanded to other areas of the brain, it becomes second nature, part of one’s personality, part of their nature. It can become what makes a person who they are. As long as what we are considering here is focused on pleasing things, adaptive things, good things, positive things, then this evolution, this pathway growth (neuronal pathway) is desirable. On the other hand, if a particular pathway growth is the offshoot of something undesirable, then life may become problematic, bothersome, or maladaptive and therapy should be considered.
Through neuropsychology, neuroplasticity, and neurogenesis the nervous system is presented with opportunities for biological change. Neurons can form new connections with a more desirable pathway within the brain and new neurons being born in parts of the brain can begin to be used in the new desirable pathways rather than dying due to non-use. With neurogenesis, as new neurons are born and utilized they become welcome additions to one’s neural network. Use it or lose it as that saying goes refers to the fact that as new neurons are born and if are not implemented into useful pathways, then those neurons die. Simply understanding this fact aids in one’s open-mindedness to utilizing what life has provided to us for our own benefit.
Through guided imagery one can begin to conceive of themself moving forward with their lives and reaching their goals. This factor alone can exist as a block to personal growth. If one is not able to see themselves in a particular way then achieving that particular point in life may be extremely difficult. In therapy, the ability to conceive of something can be enhanced. When one imagines something or actually engages in the thing in reality, the mind cannot distinguish between imagination or reality; therefore, imagination contributes to the beginnings of a new pathway that can lead to growth and changes in the future; actual changes in reality.
Mindfulness refers to the idea that one is attempting to observe in the moment what is going on in ones life in a nonjudgmental fashion, engaging in self-regulation, to adapt to whatever is going on at the time, and maintain a homeostasis. This refers to the ability of the individual to objectively perceive their own existence in the moment, avoiding subjectivity, if that were possible, and be objective concerning themself. When one draws attention to current thoughts, actions and feeling one can engage in biofeedback, a form of mind body connection, and make subtle adjustments in thoughts, behaviors, or actions in a desired direction. This can lead to improved coping skills at any given juncture and actually contributes to coping skills that promote health and wellbeing. This is being flexible rather than rigid, and not being fixed with the same old response sets each time something happens. The world and life within it impinge upon our individual existence and through coping skills we learn to adapt, adjust and overcome adversity. We can learn to be calm and even happy, in the midst of chaos. From a flexible and open minded state, feeling in balance and harmony with life, one can begin to live their life in growth mode rather than protect mode.
Whereas in protect mode one is constantly in distress, constantly pushing things, activities and people away to protect themselves from some perceived threat, in growth mode the individual has reached a homeostasis and is actively seeking new information, new activities, new relationships and is enjoying life.
Another way to explain this is, we experience what is happening around us in our environments through our senses and develop our own internal maps that correspond to our own perceptions of the world. Just as road maps show us the way to geographical places, so to do internal maps determine what we are able to and not able to experience in our lives. If we have an intention to do “Z” but our internal mapping stops at “X”, then we may not be able to accomplish “Z” on our own without external help. We associate, or make connections, between what we experience, how we experience through our senses, and combine how we feel emotionally when experiencing. Meanings can be placed on these experiences and they can be good, bad or neutral. The way we perceive the world is biased towards our own experience and can be based on assumptions, misunderstandings, distortions, misjudgments, simple ignorance, or lack of information; all these veering far away from what is ultimately the truth in the matter. In other words, we may move forward with our lives making decisions daily based on ideas that are not really the truth, and this can lead to blocks and limits. Again, this highly subjective view lacks objectivity.
Meanings that we establish with negative connotations can lead to road blocks within our internal map. Should the individual intend to move towards a goal or grow in a particular way, if internal mapping doesn’t permit this growth, then the goal or period of growth may not become manifest externally, in reality. Once the individual is able to remap, internally, and find the right internal path successfully, then the goal or personal growth is actualized in reality, externally, objectively. The best examples of internal blocks are “I can’t” or the feeling/emotion of “anxiety.” Whereas “I can’t” is powerful internal chatter inside our head, Anxiety can be a debilitating “felt sense” of fear of what could possibly happen in the future. This is all self-limiting chatter/feeling, going on in the background, while we are trying our best to lead our life. This chatter/feeling is the end of the road on some internal maps but once the “I can’t” becomes “I can,” inside; and the “anxiety” becomes “calm,” inside; then the internal map of the individual permits external movement along the path outside where goals and growth can actualize in reality. Therapy can be a fertile ground or platform for remapping, pathfinding, growing internally, thus permitting positive movement externally, without blocks. This is an essential characteristic of the human mind, that of neuroplasticity, fluidity, flexibility, and adaptation but sometimes there is stuckness, where the help of a professional is welcomed.
Although we can completely explain and verbalize what it is that we intend, sometimes we just haven’t been able to accomplish what we intend on our own. We haven’t been able to do our own internal mapping. This internal mapping can take place easily, naturally, during the course of daily life, on our own but it can also become difficult, trying, and seemingly impossible, as though there are gate keepers, passwords, private passages, or firewalls that must be understood and mastered in order to continue. It can seem that one must know their own internal password or code to create new maps to new experiences but not seemingly have access to those passwords or codes. In therapy, using appreciation, acceptance, understanding, gratitude, love and even permission, mapping can flow more smoothly.
When an individual comes in for therapy, there can be already in place adaptations, which have helped the individual cope with earlier undesirable life experiences, such as trauma. As these adaptations have become stabilized over time, the individual moves forward with their life. If the adaptations have been such that personal growth has successfully continued in positive ways, then the individual has received benefit from the adaptations. If, on the other hand, the adaptations have not promoted positive benefit, personal growth may have become limited. Whereas after being abused one person becomes a public speaker on the subject to ease the pain and their life grows, another person who was abused begins to use drugs to numb the pain and their life deteriorates and moves into criminality. It is believed that the unconscious mind has no preference as to whether the individual is happy or sad, enjoying life, or suffering daily, as long as the individual continues to live after the adaptation. The unconscious wants to maintain life. Even if the adaptations that were made unconsciously, got the individual through the difficult time and have now become a serious problem or limitation, the unconscious will continue with the adaptation as is, to protect and continue life. “It has worked till now so I will continue” is the reasoning.
As an “inoculation,” to the possibility of the unconscious sabotaging therapy (mistaking it for something harmful), it is beneficial to the client coming in for therapy to know that as therapy takes place, as things begin to come up in discussion and are processed, the unconscious may take these as threats to existence and cause the client to feel that therapy should stop. Should this occur, clients are encouraged to see through this unconscious acting out behavior, to see through this unconscious sabotage to therapy, and continue therapy with a professional therapist that they trust, who can help clear the maladaptive limiting factors that are no longer useful in the individual’s life. This one concept has brought many clients back in to therapy after a brief hiatus that was implemented by their unconscious believing that therapy was a threat to life. “If I continue I may die,” the unconscious thinks. Once a client remembers that this might happen, they do often return and continue therapy and were glad that they did. These clients have stated that they wouldn’t have returned for more sessions had they not been inoculated with this warning ahead of time.
All of these ideas, skills, adaptation techniques, ways of coping and adjusting, are all viable means of finding the life you want. By simply taking the time to do some critical thinking about how you currently exist in the world, and focusing on problem solving, you can begin to find your own path to that place at which you want to be.