PresentsDownshifting – a Natural Brain Phenomenon Arlene Taylor PhD www.arlenetaylor.org References: Selected Brain Facts on web site URL: http://www.arlenetaylor.org/selected_brain_facts/index.htm
Your Brain is as UniqueArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc As your thumbprint! No two brains are ever identical in structure, function, or perception! • The way your brain functions largely determines your quality of life • including level of health, accomplishments, and long-term success – • and creates your world, perceptions, beliefs, reactions, responses, • and behaviors • Give up any expectation of another brain ever understanding yours • yours precisely—you don’t even understand your brain • completely—it’s impossible! • This presentation is one brain’s perception of the research…
Your Brain is ActuallyArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc A collection of multiple brains Functionally these brains can be described as three layers, each containing distinct functions – although all systems interact with each other continually • Thinking-Brain Layer 3rd gear • (neocortex and prefrontal cortex) • Emotional-Brain Layer 2nd gear • (mammalian brain) • Action-Brain Layer 1st gear • (reptilian brain)
Action Brain LayerArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Brain Stem and the Cerebellum • Tends to dominate when threat is perceived • Houses instinctual survival (stress) responses • Provides an awareness of the outer sensory world • Can be compared to the “id” • Carries the perception that I am here and it’s all about me (egocentric) • Doesn’t use language but is able to perceive it • Houses the Reticular Activating Systems that influences one’s E-A-I • Processes present tense only • Processes positives easily -1-step process (has difficulty with negatives) • Is usually the last portion of the brain to die
Emotional Brain Layer Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Limbic System and Structures • Transfers information from short to long term memory • Searches brain to collect associations for memory recall (search engine) • Processes the sense of smell directly • Can be compared to the “ego” – recognizes I am here but so are you • Provides the foundation for all relationships with its tools of emotion • (generates emotional impulses) • 80,000 times faster than the thinking brain layer • Directs immune system function • Perceives present and past tenses • Processes positives easily - 1-step process (has difficulty with negatives – • the reverse of an idea and a 2-step process)
Thinking Brain LayerArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Cerebrum (eight lobes) • Provides functions related to consciousness • Can be compared to the “superego” – can think of the good of others • Able to process positives (more easily) and negatives • Registers awareness of present, past, and future tenses • Decodes sensory stimuli (except for smell – emotional layer) • Pre-frontal cortex contributes executive aspects of thought ( e.g., • abstract thinking, planning, goals-setting, paying attention, managing • emotions, developing and using conscience, managing willpower) • Possesses arguably limitless potential for processing concepts from • outside world and thoughts from the inside world • Uses all forms of language with complex analysis, and can process 125 • bits of information and 40 bits of human speech per second
Downshifting – A Metaphoric TermArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc To describe a natural brain phenomenon Some authors use that actual term (Hart, Barron, Pearce) while others (Sylwester) prefer terms such as “reflective” versus “reflexive” • Compare the three functional brain layers to a vehicle with an automatictransmission • When the going gets tough the transmission is designed to • shift into a lower gear as needed and then upshift again • The brain possesses a similar type of functional process • designed for short-term use in specific situations
In Situations of Trauma, Crisis, or FearArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc The brain downshifts - to access responses perceived to be safer or that promote safety • Results in an automatic shift of energy and attention toward lower • brain layers (typically outside conscious awareness) • A negative signal from any part of the brain creates a negative • response throughout the emotional system, which is then reflected • throughout the entire body and brain. • The emotional layer can respond to signals of danger from the • action layer (instinct, reflexes) and from the thinking layer • (criticism, anxiety, evaluation) • When anxious, undecided, insecure, or tense, the brain’s attention • can be divided among the three layers (e.g, think one thing, feel • another, and act from impulses that differ from either)
Studies of Gender DifferencesArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc Boys may be at higher risk for downshifting as have they tend to have more difficulty coping with some traumas/stressors • Boys • Tend to find it more difficult • coping with parental fighting • or divorce, the effects are more • intense and last longer • Brains return more slowly to • stability and learning readiness • post stress • Are at higher risk for suicide • (rate is 3 times higher than girls • up to age 24) • Girls • Tend to have less difficulty • coping with parental fighting or • divorce, effects less intense • Brains return more quickly to • stability and learning readiness • post stress • Attempt suicide more often but • succeed less often
Triggers for Downshifting Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Trauma or Crisis • Examples: Disasters, hospitalization, chronic illness, • abuse, injury, death, war zone experiences, loss • Self-destructive Behaviors • Examples: Self-destructive behaviors (e.g., non-nutritional eating, • drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, compulsive actions, addictive • behaviors, unbalanced lifestyle) or their negative consequences • Negative Experiences • Examples: Fired, divorced, shamed in front of others, failed a test, • dysfunctional living / working environments, abuse, loss
Triggers for Downshifting Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Thought Patterns • Examples: negative, hopeless, helpless, • disempowered, fanciful, magical, skewed, • abusive, low self-worth, , victim, angry . . . • Any type of fear • Valid fear alerts you to potentially dangerous situations • - Identify the worst thing that could happen • - Evaluate the possibility versus the probability • - Figure out if you can do anything about the situation • - If yes, take appropriate action related to the actual danger • - If no, be prudent and practice the Serenity Prayer …
Triggers for Downshifting Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc Imagined fear usually involves negative thinking - Negative thinking is unlikely to improve the odds - Figure out ways to deal effectively with imagined fear - Change the way you think, obtain professional help, recall a happy memory, read / recite empowering poems / prose, sing • Deal with imagined fear appropriately to reduce negative consequences (the pre-frontal lobes appear to be involved with managing fear, learning how not to be afraid, and inhibiting the amygdalae that remember fear) • It is physiologically impossible to be fearful and appreciative simultaneously • Identify something to appreciate • Do something to help someone else • A happy heart is good medicine!
Implications for ChristianityArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Craft strategies to deal with fear in order to reduce undesirable / negative consequences • Love casts out fear . . . (I John 4) • Avoid worry, fear, anxiety . . . (Matthew 7, Luke 12) • A cheerful heart is good medicine . . . (Proverbs 17) • The Lord is your helper so avoid fear . . . (Hebrews 13) • It is physiologically impossible to be fearful • and appreciative at the same time: • Identify something to appreciate • Give thanks for something • Do something to help someone else
Over Time it can be Deleterious Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • To have the brain’s attention and energy focused frequently or for prolonged periods of time primarily toward the lower brain layers • Downshifting is a helpful strategy for specific situations • Even a helpful function can lose some benefit when • over utilized or misused • There is good news: • Your brain is so complex and capable that you can still have access to • conscious, third-layer thinking at some level—even when temporarily • downshifted! • You can develop increased awareness and preplanned strategies to help • you upshift as quickly as possible!
Potential Consequences Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc When downshifted you may: • Fail to recall what you heard (Studies have shown that people tend to recall less than 15% of what they heard during a crisis) • Be prevented from learning • Experience a reduced ability to take cues (input) into consideration • Be less able to engage in complex intellectual tasks ( creativity) • Fail to see interconnectedness / generate solutions for problems • Develop phobias • Experience altered immune system function • Accelerate the aging process • Reactivate old learned beliefs and patterns of behaviors or relapse into addictive behaviors regardless of available information
Managing Your DownshiftingArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • #1 Identify symptoms you exhibit when your brain is in adownshifted state • This could include a tendency to be defensive, over-reactive, or to isolate yourself • Increase your conscious awareness NOTE: Experiencing feelings of sadness may be an appropriate response to a situation of loss and may not necessarily indicate downshifting • The brain is so amazing that you still can have access to the conscious thinking brain layer, even when attention and energy is temporarily focused toward the lower brain layers, through a set of preplanned strategies
Managing Your Downshifting, Cont’dArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc #2 Define what you needin order to perceive a sense of safety. Include all six boundary areas in your evaluation. Physical Spiritual Mental Social Emotional Sexual Perception of “safety” can differ for different brains although there are some common threads People typically tend to feel safe when they believe themselves competent to handle basic developmental tasks in each area of life—commensurate with their age, education, experience, and maturity levels
Managing Your Downshifting, Cont’dArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • #3 Develop and use pre-planned strategies • to access higher brain functions • Do some brain-breathing • Think of something humorous and laugh • Engage in positive self-talk • Sing, meditate, pray, exercise • Ask for help from your support person(s) • Visualize (mentally picture) yourself in a safe place • Contract with yourself to “deal with it later in the day” • Do a task over which you have some control • Activate the Quieting Reflex (Charles Stroebel)
Managing Your Downshifting, Cont’dArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • #4 Increase your awareness of your patterns • of behavior related to downshifting • Identify when, where, common triggers, • length of time, environments, etc. • Purpose to avoid inappropriate, unnecessary, • frequent, or prolonged downshifting • Implement preventive strategies that work for you • and your brain • Refer to ten preventive strategies that follow to give you • ideas and get you started
Handling Downshifting in OthersArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc Bottom line:do something to help the other person realize a sense of safety Don’t touch the stove! Keep your hands away from the stove! • #1 Use short, simple, positive statements • The subconscious readily understands positives • (a one-step process) but has difficulty with • negatives, the reverse of an idea, which is a • two-step process) • The conscious mind is capable of changing the initial • picture to its opposite, but it is a difficult process • The use of negatives may increase one’s problems • as the brain visualizes negative outcomes and may • fail to create reverse pictures successfully
Handling Downshifting in OthersArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • #2 Use present-tense words • Present tense is perceived by all three functional brain layers - Action, Emotional, Thinking • #3 Use congruent communication • Message content in a 2-party communication: 7%-10% is transmitted • through actual words, 15% through voice tonals (sound, pitch, • inflection, rate), and 75% through nonverbals • All portions of the transmission must be in harmony and coinciding • with each other to avoid sending mixed messages • Be aware of socialized gender differences related to congruence (e.g., • Mona Lisa grin even when unhappy, being nice, direct versus indirect • speech styles, crying, stoicism, females and anger, males and fear • or sadness) and make the most effective choice
Handling Downshifting in OthersArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • #4 Avoid use of the word “why” • In the English language, why is often • perceived as stressful or threatening and can • trigger downshifting • To elicit information or stimulate discussion try instead: • What did you want to have happen in this situation? • When you made this choice what did you think might happen? • What could you do differently in the future? • #5 Communicate at eye levelwhenever possible • Both individuals either stand or sit • Studies of the impact on perception of length of hospital visits • indicated patients thought more time had passed (than actually • had) if the physician sat down through at least part of the visit
Handling Downshifting in OthersArlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • #6 Mirrorlanguagestyle (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) • To promote a sense of comfort • #7 Solicitinput • To promote a sense of being heard and • understood • #8 Encourage participation in making decisions • #9 Allow choicebetween two options whenever possible • #10 Provide opportunitiesto exercise some control • Over a portion of an activity (if not over the entire activity)
Implications for Christianity Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc Apostle Paul - what I want to do I don’t do, and what I don’t want to do I do! Go figure . . . (Romans 7) • Parenting / grand parenting / role modeling • Counseling / teaching / pastoring / mentoring • Temptations (cellular memory) • Use of will power and conscience (e.g., executive functions) • Health – physical, emotional , mental, spiritual, social, sexual • Anxiety of “being good enough” to be saved • Fear of last-days tribulation
Preventive Strategies #1Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Live a high-level-wellness lifestyle in balance • Evaluate your typical habits and behaviors in relation to amount of water you drink, type of food ingested, frequency of eating, amount of exercise, amount of sleep, periods of play and recreation, hours spent working, and so on. Take steps to avoid becoming exhausted. For every period of exhaustion the brain tends to experience a corresponding period of depression. While depression in and of itself may not be a trigger for downshifting, it can drain your energy and increase your risk of being challenged in areas that are difficult or energy intensive.
Preventive Strategies #2Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc 2. Create a personal loss history and write it out The starting date may be prior to your birth in some cases (e.g., you were not a wanted pregnancy). Evaluate your loss history carefully. Go through the process of grief recovery as needed to deal with unresolved loss. Finish up unfinished business. Refer to Taylor’s web site for information about the Grief Recovery Pyramid for survivors of loss (as opposed to the Kubler-Ross model for individuals who are personally facing death).
Preventive Strategies #3Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc 3. Give up blame related to downshifting Recognize that the phenomenon of downshifting is a natural and desirable short-term response in specific situations. Avoid beating up on yourself when it occurs inappropriately. Give up blame related to downshifting, period. Most people (including you) did the best they could at the time with their level of understanding and the tools that were available to them. Blame tends to function as a red herring that never solves anything. You can learn a new way!
Preventive Strategies #4Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Increase your conscious awareness • Estimates are that as much as 95% of what goes on • in the brain occurs at a subconscious level. Become • More observant and strive to bring more information • to conscious thought. You can manage only what you • become aware of, identify, and label. It’s often what you don’t know you don’t know that can cause the most trouble. Overreactions tend to involve the past. Something about a present situation reminded your brain of a past situation (e.g., shameful or hurtful), and it brought the unresolved emotional weight to bear on the present, usually inappropriately. Identify and resolve the past insofar as it is possible to do so.
Preventive Strategies #5Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Develop an appropriate response to conflict situations • Identify any tendency you may have to run away • from, avoid, or distance yourself from conflict. Take careful and deliberate steps to resolve conflict rather than creating a metaphorical enemy outpost of unresolved conflict in your head. This may involve reframing, forgiving, setting and implementing bona fide boundaries, practicing new behaviors, or changing your thought patterns, to name just a few.
Preventive Strategies #6Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Take responsibility for managing your own upshifting • Understand that upshifting occurs through a conscious process. Take responsibility for implementing preplanned strategies to access conscious cognitive functions in your own brain. It’ s your brain! Avoid expecting others to try to do this for you (they probably couldn’t anyway). Be aware of behaviors in other persons that indicate the brain may be in a downshifted state. Develop and consistently implement behaviors that promote congruent communication.
Preventive Strategies #7Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc 7. Develop an affirming communication style Negativity, impatience, worry, anxiety, or fear can trigger downshifting, and can actually delay personal growth and needed recovery processes if not addressed and resolved. This is especially true when new more functional patterns of behavior are in the process of being developed and are not yet strong enough to over-ride the older, less desirable patterns. Speak, think, and act in an affirming manner toward yourself and with others. This is a simple concept but usually takes time, effort, and consistent commitment to develop.
Preventive Strategies #8Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc 8. Avoid unnecessary downshifting Downshifting can become a habit. Although you can implement strategies to upshift, it is usually easier to avoid unnecessary downshifting in the first place. Become savvy! Identify triggers in your own life and learn to avoid them whenever possible. Increase your sensitivity to what triggers downshifting in others and develop strategies for communicating more effectively.Access your support system / Higher Power as indicated.
Preventive Strategies #9Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Learn to recognize tension quickly and take • steps to resolve it • Tension involves energy that is trapped in muscle tissue and unable to flow.When life isn’t working well and a person experiences anxiety, worry, trauma, crisis, fear, etc., the discomfort tends to be stored in muscle tissue. It requires a great deal of energy to maintain muscular tension, which can alter muscle function. In extreme cases, the muscles may cease to function properly, if at all. Remember that when the brain is in a downshifted state, the tendency is to go for the longest-held or least-painful pattern. Since the action and emotional brain layers involve the subconscious, a person can slip into old patterns very quickly or relapse into addictive behaviors regardless of available informationand in spite of the best of intentions.
Preventive Strategies #10Arlene Taylor PhD Realizations Inc • Release discomfort and tension from the muscles • and exhibit more desirable muscular patterns • Increase your conscious awareness, realizing that your body • is part of your subconscious mind. Exercise regularly and • alter repetitive behaviors as needed. Engage in muscular • reprogramming, if necessary. When it is a question of needing to heal nerves and muscles or to reprogram the way in which they are functioning, the thinking brain layer must help the body. The rationale for understanding what has happened, is happening, and what needs to happen is a cognitive process. Consciously working through new exercises or techniques is a necessary step. Gradually the information will filter down to the emotional brain layer and the action brain layer (where the software is loaded, if you will), to implement the desired changes.
Speaker Information If you ask Arlene Taylor what she does in life that absolutely energizes her, she will likely reply, “I’m a brain-function specialist and I help people thrive!” She incorporates cutting-edge brain-function research into her empowering seminars, highlighting strategies that, when practically applied, can help people be more successfulby design. A recipient of the American Medal of Honor for Brain-Function Education (American Biographical Institute Inc, 2002), Taylor holds earned doctorates in Health and Human Services and in Clinical Pastoral Counseling. In 1989 the Loma Linda University Nursing Alumni Association selected Taylor as Alumna of the year. She has life membership in the National Registry of Who’s Who, 2000 edition. A member of the National Speakers Association, Taylor is listed with the Professional Speakers Bureau International. Access her web site (www.arlenetaylor.org) for descriptions of seminars, Taylor-on-the-Brain Bulletins, SynapSeznewsletter, Selected Brain Facts, Frequently Asked Questions, lecture schedules, and more.
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