In an article called “What is the Social Brain?” Anila D’Mello, a postdoctoral fellow at John Gabrieli Lab, wrote, “Neuroimaging and lesion studies have identified a network of brain regions that support social interaction…we refer to this as the “social brain.” (1)
What is so fascinating about our God is that we are not born with a prewired social brain. Socialization is wired into the brain through repeated social interactions and our social ability is developed over time through these repetitions. So we NEED each other as we do our God to truly change, grow and thrive as social beings. That is why any traumatic or negative experiences are so distressing because it disrupts, hinders and distorts the original design and function of how we are are meant to relate to those around us.
In This Article
- Neuroplasticity and Growth In Healthy Relationships
- Renewing the Mind
- Transformance Through Connection
- Undoing Aloneness
- Processing Emotions in the Context of Relationships
Neuroplasticity and Growth In Healthy Relationships
Trauma, neglect, and abuse can wire the social brain differently. That however is not the end of the story, our brains have the ability to adapt and change which called neuroplasticity. “Neuro” is for the nerve cells(neurons) and “plastic” refers to the changeable nature of our brains and nervous system.
The brain is plastic throughout our lifespan. “Neuroplasticity is the reason teachers teach and therapists treat. Because they see they that with repeated exposure, practice and attention, their students and clients learn and change, and so does their brain.” (2) Neuroplasticity takes place in the conduit of relationships whether those relationships are positive or negative in nature. So the more we engage with our God and positive relationships in life, we are changed and healed in relationship.
Renewing the Mind
We as humans are wired to heal, grow and transform. Science is catching up with what the Bible has always stated “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good , pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:2.
Your mind consists of your thinking, choosing, and feeling aspects of your being. The mind includes imagination, perception, thinking, judgement, emotion, and instinct.
Transformance Through Connection
Diana Fosha, the developer of an experiential therapy called AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamics Psychotherapy) calls the drive to heal innate within all of us-transformance. Below is Fosha’s quote from her Forward in It’s Not Always Depression by Hilary Jacobs Hendel:
People have a fundamental need for transformation……And we are wired for self-righting, and resuming impeded growth. We have a need for the expansion and liberation for the self, the letting down of defensive barriers, and the dismantling of the false self. We are shaped by a deep desire to be known, seen, and recognized, as we strive to come into contact with parts of ourselves that are frozen.
We are able to transform our thoughts, choices and feelings. This transformance only occurs, though, when we feel emotionally, psychologically and spiritually safe within the context of relationship. We are created for connection and changed through connection.
This connection is enhanced as we share our inner world with those around us and become receptors of other’s inner worlds.
The harshness of emotional suffering is that it is often being experienced alone. Since we are not designed at all for any type of isolation, our emotional suffering automatically become unmanageable and overwhelming.
In order to counteract this isolation, it is important to “undo aloneness”, a term coined by Fosha.
“Undoing Aloneness” is my clients being able to sense that they are not alone in how they are feeling and that, in fact, I am able to sense and experience inwardly what they are experiencing. This is the beauty of “mirror neurons”, which are neurons that fire up when a person acts and when another person is observing these same actions being performed by that person.
This allows we as humans and, especially, me as a therapist, to co-create safety with my client, giving allowance for the processing of any emotion in a healthy manner.
When we do not feel alone, we are better able to feel and deal with situations we are facing.
Processing Emotions in the Context of Relationships
Lastly it is important to know that “Nothing that Feels Bad Is Ever the Last Step” quote by experiential therapist Eugene Genlin. It may surprise you to know that once we process (ride the wave of emotions), they will take us to a better place.
When emotions are processed to completion, adaptive actions are released of resilience and clarity about what is needed and what is to be done.
It is equally important to process what feels good as what feels bad in the context of relationship, especially the therapeutic relationship, in order to foster the change desired. It is no wonder our God encourages us to not only interact with Him, but those around us. We are a relational people because we come from a relational God. Blessings.
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