Meaning Making, Narrative Telling, and Rewriting Your Subconscious Program | Part Three | Memories
We attribute so much to “the brain.” Behavior and abilities, diseases like mental illness and addictions, but the truth is that there is very little evidence to support a brain disease model in many these cases, and conversely, a brain health model in cases special abilities.
The abilities and disabilities, the illness and wellness is “kind of ” in the brain, and in some cases this model is correct, but often the brain disease model can be overridden by the mind.
For example, addiction has been presented as condition of dopamine flooding. However, here are addictions were nothing happens to the dopamine release, and other addictions that seem to even lower dopamine flooding, so there is no hard and fast truth to this old myth. There are many examples of addicts having recovered fully by for example, finding Jesus, on the spot, or other powerful mind over matter conditions. Sure they still have to go through withdrawal and they still will face their demons going forward, but their strength has increased exponentially, all of a sudden. This is an example of mind overriding the brain.
I learned how to play the piano by channeling Bach (or who I made up in my mind to be Bach) and I learned extremely fast. I was just pretending to be channeling Bach, and I loved piano at that time, so I was absorbed by ruminations of playing. My mind was suspendering my actual abilities, and I learned at a very fast pace. If I had been bored and disinterested I might never have learned. Interest creates focus, and focus can create advantageous conditions for the mind to override the brain wiring.
Athletes use a mind over abilities model to practice, in addition to physical practice and this is well known.
I had two physical injuries in my life where I had to consciously recover use of body parts. One was an injured arm that was in a sling for a month. I was 11 or 12 or so at the time, and when the arm cast came off, I had lost use of my arm, and it just dangled by my side. When I tried to lift it it only lifted an inch. My friends thought I was joking! This is also well known in medicine, a limb goes completely weak after a relatively short time of lack of use. This is not caused by loss of muscle, because muscle fiber doesn’t completely deteriorate after only a few weeks, it takes a lot longer than that for muscle to deteriorate. This condition is caused by the brain, signaling that the use of the arm is no longer necessary. It has simply fallen out of habit, and the groove in the neural pathways that were used in moving the limb, is no longer there. This groove has to be re-created, and over time, the limb will be back to use, again if you practice.
I also had an injury to my face, where the lower right side of my nerves were severed and I was paralyzed on the lower right side. There is still a difference in how I use my laughing muscles in that area, but I re-trained my face to use different nerves to create movement to that area of my face. It took some time, and I worked out my new neural pathways twice a day to create a smile. I have a smile on both side of my mouth again. These neural pathways in out brain can find a different path if need be, this is called neuroplasticity.
There are some injuries that are more severe obviously, and I am not presenting that this mind over brain is always going to work, but I want to leave the door open for ALL possibilities. The brainstem is an area that is particularly important, and damage to this area has profound negative effects that seem unhealable to us to heal, currently, but things change all the time, and science develops and makes new discoveries all the time.
When it comes to emotional trauma, the brain also responds in certain ways, but if you apply what I have just talked about, then you can have hope that your mind can override any damage, injury or brain change, by will, and it can override harmful memories as well. When it comes to trauma and addictions, the “brain change” model is only half true, because the brain is always changing. Every day is a new opportunity for brain changes. Everything we do changes the brain. Learning to tie a shoe changes the brain. You can choose your path beforehand, and create up with a plan to implement daily, twice a day or three times a day, or several hours a day, depending on what you are changing, and then follow through. You can create a plan to change your so called brain wiring at will.
The decision is done by willpower, the follow through is done by willpower. The gains made are tangible, and the brain will change. In brain scans, any change will be reflected somehow.
Now, emotional trauma and memories are related to the part of the brain known as the limbic system, and these brain areas show changes when a person has been exposed to childhood abuse for example. These changes are seen in a variety of mental illnesses, and potentially shows that many diagnoses are actually a trauma history rather than a brain disease.
Can psychiatry and medication help then if the brain disease model is what is treated, but the memories are not healed?
The way to approach this from a “mind over brain” angle is to rewrite the memory script. If you could fully and completely forget the negative events, then the trauma memory would be gone, the trauma programming would be absent in brain scans and the mental illness would then be absent as well. There is nothing in our current medicine, to completely remove a memory, but there are strategies and modalities we can use to heal the traumatic memories. There are also things we can do to negate the physical cascade of events that happen after trauma.
All of the ancient methods of a yoga practice, meditation, pranayama and chanting are designed for this.
The cultivation of thought, negative thought, and negative expectation is stopped by using chants. Reciting a mantra, using physical touch of mala beads to keep count, and generating a reverberation of sound waves in the brain is meant to rewrite a script, to push a reset button on trauma.
But willpower to decide to take the step to actually do it, that has to be consciously done. You will not just accidentally chant…
This is a great approach for those who are barraged from the inside of the brain, with negative self talk, cause by trauma or abuse, and since most of the negative messages are coming from inside the self, meditation although it is great, can be overwhelming if it used as the only method for mindfulness. Since those thoughts of negative self talk will show up during meditation even more strongly and loudly, other methods are needed in conjunction. This is why chants are needed. Meditation should also be done, but not JUST meditation.
Meditation can be used to learn how to observe thoughts and release them as a non essential part of the self, it is a noticing technique. Noticing that we are not our thoughts. Noticing that thoughts not attached to us, but are merely passing through. The identification with thoughts, and of thoughts of memories begins to loosen its grip.
Yoga is has benefits far beyond improving the health of the physical body, it also has a profound effect on the psyche. The development of yoga systems happened during a time in humanities past when the distinction between body mind was not as pronounced as it is now. We now know that the the physical body always has to be involved in healing of traumatic memories, and talk therapy is not enough. A relaxed and non-traumatized body has completely different body language, and the ventral vagal system is engaged and activated during relaxed times. A nervous system that has been hijacked by a traumatic past is in dorsal vagal activation mode, and the ventral system has to be engaged by deliberate willpower. During times of post trauma, the body’s nervous system goes into a dorsal vagal response; that is either fight or flight or freeze and fawn. This response eventually comes to feels “natural” and “normal” to this person, and an acclimation to this traumatized neural state happens. At this point, a traumatized person may have no prior memory of a relaxed state, they might not even have any knowledge of how to be in a ventral vagal state. Ventral vagal state is relaxed, social, creative and can relate to other people, can relate to self and self reflect, it can create new memories deliberately and by choice, can decide to revise traumatic memories, can dream up goals and find new interests, and it notices safety in surroundings, and it does not react with shock or negativity to events or circumstances. A ventral vagal state can respond with ease and confidence and agency to most circumstances that happen to us on a daily basis, whether good or bad.
The same thing applies to breathing techniques, as in yoga, and deep slow breathing is normal during times of wellbeing. If you have never experienced wellbeing there is a strong chance that you have never learned proper breathing, you might be breathing too shallow, and too fast. Your breath regulates your nervous system state, and your nervous system regulates your breathing. It is a feedback lop that can be hijacked deliberately, just like when using yoga. And just like in yoga, the deep breath techniques activate the ventral vagal system, and puts us at ease. Addressing the breath has to be done consciously, and using tried and true pranayama techniques, using for example YouTube videos for learning different breath techniques, and also by scheduling in deep breaths every hour on the hour, can help you rewire your nervous system to a ventral vagal, social activation state. Just a simple schedule of “time out for three deep slow breaths” a few times a day will begin to heal your traumatic memories by perhaps by using the afferent pathways.
Understanding that you have to use your willpower to begin to recreate and rewrite memories should be valuable information. This can be done, but you have to be willing to take the steps I mentioned.
1. Use chants to begin the process of taking back the floor from the negative ruminations.
2. Use meditations to begin to notice, observe and release each thought. Notice – let go.
3. Use yoga to rewire the nervous system state, to be predominantly in a ventra vagal state as opposed to a dorsal vaga; activation.
4. Breathing techniques, consciously taking deep breaths.
Before your traumatic memories can effectively be rewritten and replaced by positive memories, you need to begin to learn how to use your willpower to change your nervous system state.
The states that you find yourself in will be unknown to you until you begin to willpower your way through a moment of nervous system activation. Until you use your own willpower to go through with these steps you will believe that the state is out of your control. You will believe that the state is bigger than you.
You are actually bigger than your state.
Your mind overrides your brain.
But not until you decide to use this ability. This is a dormant ability, ready to sprout whenever you decide to use it. This needs to be understood, because people think that positive thinking is enough, but it is not enough when you are in a state that is riddled with uncontrollable negative thoughts and ruminations.
These four steps are like a prescription. Let’s say you had a bacterial infection, you would need antibiotics, not allergy medicine. This is the prescription that you need to rewrite memories if you have a history of trauma.
Going forward, new memory formation should be deliberate. Plan for activities that indicate mind health, play games, engage in your favorite activities, start to learn the things you have been putting off until now. Become involved in your day, the more new great memories you create the more the old bad memories will be overwritten.
Equip yourself with good health, eat natural foods, create a gut brain connection that is filled with wellbeing. Mediterranean diet and natural foods, naturally fermented foods are optimal for emotional well being.
Once you have found yourself in a new groove, a new state, a new lifestyle where you now reach for your health tools, such as taking deep breaths in response to stress, rather than clamping down harder on the stress momentum, then you can effectively rewrite old memories that are totally unwanted (but at this point these memories might have faded anyway). The reason for why some memories can be so haunting and disabling at one time in your life yet so faded into the background at other times, is not because time heals all wounds, it is because only some things belong to a certain state. If you have shifted into a healthy social response, a ventral vagal state, some memories simply don’t exist there.
Use revision as a tool if there are still things that are in your mind at this point, and use tools like NLP memory rewriting. Let the memory turn to black an white, let it become physically far away from you if it pops into your mind. If an unwanted memory shows up, remove all color from it, and see it disappearing into a physical distance, so far away that it becomes just a dot on the horizon and then disappears completely. Have a positive memory ready to replace it with. It can be a real memory or a “future” memory, one that you are creating to happen in the future. Give the wanted memory more color, make it vibrant. Make it come alive with happiness, and bring it closer and closer to you. Involve yourself in the memory, see the memory from your own eyes, look at your own hands from the wanted memory and become presently involved in this memory. When you feel satisfied that your memory has been replaced, let the whole thing go, and repeat this process as often as you need to.
You now have control over you state and you have control over your memory formations.
- Chants, Meditation Yoga, Pranayama
- Revision, and NLP