Posted on April 24th, 2013
** re-organizing; will be updated shortly **
Our Brain and Addiction – Overview
Posted on November 20th, 2011
The brain can become addicted because of our genes, because of our early environment, because of a serious life event like the loss of a loved person, a pet, a job, a home.
When we have experienced the loss of a loved one, our brain grieves not only the loss of that person (job, home, pet, etc.) but the loss of the wonderful feelings we experienced with them.
This is not a small deal. Those wonderful feelings – caused by chemicals in our brain – are felt in our body and then recognized by our brain as feeling safe and protected and loved – and as happiness.
It is very normal to want to replace or replicate those wonderful feelings – and, because [obviously] we cannot bring back our loved one, our brain might motivate us to reach out for whatever else in our past made us feel good.
Whether it was a substance or a behavior that made us feel good, our brain can too easily allow it to develop into an addiction.
Dr. Nora Volkow's research into addiction summarizes it thusly:
The Brain and Addiction – How Does The Brain Become Addicted?
Posted on November 18th, 2011
The following was written by Dr. Nora Volkow – a most important researcher and scientist. The way she writes about the brain and addiction is perfect and so, credited to her, I will just post it as she wrote it.
The Brain and Addiction – The Problem of Relapse
Posted on November 16th, 2011
So many people beat themselves up about being weak or deficient – or feel life is just hopeless – when they cannot stay on their desired path – when they fall back into old habits that keep them from accomplishing their goals.
Fortunately, there is so much research being done on the addicted brain [whether the addiction is to sugar, alcohol, etc.], and we can use that research to help us avoid a relapse. Just understanding what's happening in our brain is so very empowering and liberating. Just understanding can help us (a) pause before acting on the unhealthy desire long enough for the brain to observe itself and (b) change direction – literally and figuratively.
This is Dr. Nora Volkow's description of Relapse
Post Traumatic GROWTH
Posted on October 16th, 2011
Post Traumatic Growth
What a great concept!
A reporter, Kimberly Dozier, used the description during an interview about her new book, “Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Survive, and Get Back to the Fight,” in which she recounts her struggle to stay alive, her survivor's guilt, and her road to recovery. She and her news crew had been covering a routine patrol in Baghdad when they were hit by a car bomb that left four people dead and Dozier with massive injuries to her legs and head.
In the interview, Ms. Dozier was highlighting the importance of hiring veterans and emphasizing that potential employers – instead of being concerned about Post Traumatic Stress – should instead be aware of the value of Post Traumatic Growth.
It is so pithy – yet says so much. It involves so many of the techniques I use in my coaching and reinforces the way of the brain.
Floods of Pain
Posted on September 16th, 2011
There are so many triggers to cause that flood of pain – including (incredibly) the absence of a trigger!
There’s something so infinitely SAD when we experience something new, or are in a new place, or learn something new — that had never been experienced with our loved one… where we had never been with our loved one… that we had not known before they died or left us.
Edna St. Vincent Millay put it so well: "There is no memory of him here!" And so stand stricken, so remembering him!
It drives home the fact that they are gone. That they will never be back. That our life (a life that we loved) will never be the same.
There are several choices we can make when that realization strikes us. We can sink to our knees in pain and despair, gnash our teeth, pull at our hair. Or, we can take a slow deep breath, mentally comfort our heart with a gentle hug, thank our loved one for all the gifts and lessons they gave us, promise them and ourselves that we will always incorporate those gifts and lessons into our life as we go forward, and acknowledge to ourselves in great wonderment how much stronger and wiser we are.
To not only survive an enormous loss but to thrive (even if the “surviving” and “thriving” are taken in teeny tiny little turtle steps at times) truly does bring strength and wisdom. It is one of those paradoxes of life and loss.
[Contrary to the title of Ms. Millay's poem below,the floods of pain DO become smaller and less often as the time goes by. The sharp, cutting edges of the pain become duller and softer with the passage of time – as long as we make healing choices.]
"Time does not bring relief…"
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, – so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!
Our Brain’s Automatic Narrative
Posted on July 16th, 2011
A most important tip: hijack the brain’s automatic hijacking.
Here's a little example of how our brain can automatically hijack us:
We're walking along a pathway that runs around a beautiful lake. It's a gorgeous day, not too hot, not too cool, with a lovely breeze. We're not thinking of anything in particular when all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, we feel a little twinge of sadness.
We start wondering WHY we felt that little twinge of sadness, and we remember that we had made a comment recently to someone… and (now we're thinking) that comment could have been perceived as rude or inconsiderate… and (now we're thinking) this person is really angry with us… and is telling all of our mutual friends how rude and inconsiderate we were/are/always will be… and all of those friends will believe/agree with that person… and everyone will begin to avoid us and talk behind our back… and (we're still thinking) we will not get an invitation to any of the parties being planned for the summer and we'll have no one to be our friend…
And now we are not aware at all of the gorgeousness of the day or the lovely cool breeze or the stunningly beautiful lake. Instead, we are being pulled down this spiral of negative emotions and feeling sadder and sadder.
WHAT can we do about the yearning?
Posted on May 16th, 2011
- coming soon -
WHY do we yearn so much for our loved one when they’re gone?
Posted on April 16th, 2011
One huge reason:
This is truly a miracle drug. A miracle drug that we produce ourselves… and that makes us feel so wonderful when we’re with our loved one… and that we miss terribly when they’re gone.
We miss not just "the loved one." We (of course) miss the wonderful feelings when we were with our loved one, when we saw them, even when we just thought of them. The cause of those wonderful feelings: the oxytocin that our brain naturally releases.
Yearning for our loved one(s)
Posted on March 15th, 2011
When we’ve lost a loved one, we often find ourselves yearning for them when they're gone.
Since everyone is different – and everyone grieves differently and in varying degrees – the “yearning” could range from a wistful, pensive desire to have them back to a deep, hopeless longing.
It’s not like we’re purposely trying to feel sad. The feeling of longing normally happens without our doing anything deliberate. It just happens.
Our stomachs clench and we feel nauseous… muscles tighten and ache… we start to feel anxious and alone… our hearts race and hurt … even our eyes seem to feel pain from not seeing them…
And it isn’t just one quickly passing flash of, “gee, I miss them,” and then the yearning is automatically replaced with more pleasant thoughts occupying our mind. The thoughts can automatically continue – even escalate – into how much we miss them and how many ways we miss them. Then those awful thoughts like “I should have done more for them…” and “I shouldn’t have been mean that time…” and “what will happen to my life now…” can start bombarding us.
The good news: with time and awareness, we will be able to choose to sidestep the thoughts as soon as the sensations of yearning enter our consciousness.
Why does that yearning happen? How can we help ourselves sidestep the thoughts? (See the next posts for the answers.)