Neuro-science

Why Does my Body Ache?

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Emotions and physical pain

The best way I have heard the connection between the mind and body is that emotions are the physical manifestation of thoughts. For example, a person can have a stressful thought like, “I have to do my taxes,” and then the muscles in their back and shoulders become tense. The tension spreads up the neck, and around the head, creating a tension headache. The stressful thoughts are physically experienced as tension, typically in the back, shoulders, neck, ...

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PTS(d) and Crisis

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After publishing my post on Talking to Kids about Tragedy, I had a lot of requests to offer more information on Crisis and PTS(d). The ‘d’ (stands for ‘disorder’) is in parentheses because Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is NOT a disorder in and of itself; unchecked, it can become more intense, but we should not assume that somebody has a ‘disorder’ just because they show signs of trauma.

Trauma and PTS(d)

When tragedy strikes, it is rarely expected or planned for. ...

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Calming the Anxiety Storm

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Probably one of the most common questions that people have is how to effectively deal with anxiety. The nervous thoughts are bad enough, but the physical symptoms only make things worse as people start to worry that others can see them shaking or trembling, that their face is noticeably red, or that sweat is forming the dreaded armpit stain on clothing.

There are dozens of types of anxiety, but all of them are related to the sympathetic nervous system’s alert mechanism ...

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Name it. Greet it. Delete it.

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If you follow my Facebook page you know that I share a lot of neuroscience articles and articles that help you understand yourself better so you can make positive changes easier. One of the recent ones noted that in order to deal with negative emotions, it can be helpful to start by naming what you are feeling. This kicks off a neurological process that actually makes working through the negative emotion a bit easier.

Of course, we ...

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Complex Emotions

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When discussing embarrassment, according to the American Psychological Association’s Kristen Weir (APA, 2012),

“Embarrassment is what’s known as a self-conscious emotion. While basic emotions such as anger, surprise or fear tend to happen automatically, without much cognitive processing, the self-conscious emotions, including shame, guilt, and pride, are more complex. They require self-reflection and self-evaluation.”

For the purposes of this post, it is the self-reflection and self-evaluation part that defines the Complex Emotions. I should add that when we combine more ...

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Dyad & Compound Emotions

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Humans are very complex emotional beings. We are capable of far more than only the core/basic emotions. We can combine emotions that create entirely new internal experiences. We can process those emotions with a wide variety of thoughts, which feedback into the emotional experience, and can even alter it. And believe it or not, our emotions are stored in more places than just our brain! When we are stressed out, our back, neck, and shoulder muscles become tense. And ...

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Core Emotions

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There are a variety of models of emotional experience that identify different core, or basic emotions. I will give a broad overview of the model that most closely matches my basic approach to how we build our emotional experience: Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. Plutchik went far beyond this overview by asserting postulates that govern our emotional experiences. I do not cover these, nor will I delve into the definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary.

Plutchik went far beyond this overview by ...

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The Emotional Experience Series

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Over the next several weeks, I will be publishing a series of posts about our emotional experience. Some of the information will be based on currently published research, some will be based on my understanding of the implications of that research and the directions we should pursue moving forward. Due to the vast nature of the subject matter, there is no way I can cover all of the information available on each topic, but I will give a broad overview. ...

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Where to turn when you can’t even see which way is up

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I’m not just talking about a Murphy’s Law day. I’m talking about when things feel so messed up in your life that even deciding where to start feels impossible and is just another to-do on your already insanely long to-do list. When the people you turn to just aren’t there, or you realize that you’ve already isolated yourself and there’s really nobody to turn to. It’s a terribly lonely place, but there is a way out.

I tell clients that ...

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Help! Teenage Depression!

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Most parents understand teenage angst, the sometimes obnoxious independence and defiance, even seemingly random outbursts of anger and frustration over minor annoyances (well, it’s minor to the adult . . . to a teen, it often feels like a major issue).

If we look at “problematic” issues in teenagers as a pile of dirt (I know, there are other metaphors . . . ), the first 6 feet of that pile is totally normal and nothing to worry about. If you ...

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Approach/Avoid; Inhibit/Excite

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These are some basic mechanisms that the brain works on: Approach or avoid, and inhibit or excite. And it is more complex than what it may seem. Activating something can slow things down, and inhibiting something can speed things up. We also have excitatory & inhibitory neurotransmitters that bind with excitatory & inhibitory neurons, which in turn make the post-synaptic neurons more or less likely to fire, thus creating some of the aforementioned approach/avoid dynamics of human behavior; it’s all ...

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Basics of the Mind

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The mind is a complex process involving urges, thoughts, and drives that lead to behaviors that are either encouraged or discouraged though either pleasant experience or unpleasant experience. To understand how this vastly oversimplified explanation leads us to be who we are, let’s look at some of the basic processes involved.

The mind: thoughts, behaviors, and consequences

Every unconscious thought (UT’s) has a set of possible conscious thoughts (CT’s) that may bubble up. It follows that every conscious thought has a set ...

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Meditation

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You’ve probably seen meditation in the news over the past few years. It is an empirically validated practice that changes your brain structure, chemistry, and functioning. And it’s not about an empty mind . . . it is actually a mindfulness practice.

It is possible to find moments of peace. And it is possible to train your brain to remain calm during stressful times. You can practice this calmness and mindfulness just as you would practice basketball, chess, music, etc. ...

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Brain Science

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Brain science (neuroscience) involves the physical structure of the brain, its biochemistry, and experiences that help shape it. A brain repeatedly subjected to trauma (physical or emotional/chemical) is more likely to suffer some difficulty. Some, but not all, of the major players of brain function are:

Brain chemistry

Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that transmit information from one neuron to another across a gap called a “synapse.” Common neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and glutamate. Well over 100 have been identified, ...

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Adaptation

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Acknowledge, improvise, adapt, and overcome. The Marines’ slogan is “Improvise, adapt, and overcome.” I add”Acknowledge” because it is implied in improvisation; if you’re going to improvise, you must first recognize what it is you are improvising in response to. This is an exercise in mindfulness.

Standing up in the face of adversity is a skill set that can be learned. There can be so many distractions though; don’t ignore them. Manage them. Leverage them.

Acknowledge, but don’t dwell

To acknowledge your circumstances ...

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