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  1. Bouncing Back: The Neuroscience of Resilience and Well-Being Hollyhock June 25-29, 2014

  2. Bouncing Back The Neuroscience of Resilience and Well-Being Linda Graham, MFT linda@lindagraham-mft.net www.lindagraham-mft.net 415-924-7765

  3. All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming. - Helen Keller

  4. Resilience • Hardiness • Coping • Flexibility

  5. Hardiness • Capacities to last, to endure • Capacities to persevere, to follow through • Capacities of determination and grit

  6. Coping • Face and deal with disappointments, difficulties, even disasters • Bounce back from troubles, from adversity, from the unexpected, from the truly awful

  7. Flexibility Adaptability, capacity to shift gears It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptive to change. - Charles Darwin

  8. Resilience • Deal with challenges and crises • Bounce back from adversity • Recover our balance and equilibrium • Find refuges and maximize resources • Cope skillfully, flexibly, adaptively • Shift perspectives, open to possibilities, create options, find meaning and purpose

  9. 6 C’s of Coping • Calm • Compassion • Clarity • Connections to Resources • Competence • Courage

  10. Calm • Manage disruptive emotions • Tolerate distress • Down-regulate stress to return to baseline equilibrium

  11. Compassion • Respond to pain and suffering with open heart, interested mind, willingness to help • Care, concern for problems and blocks that de-rail resilience • Empathy, compassion for feelings and suffering of self, others • Skillful behaviors in response to difficulties and differences

  12. Clarity • Focused attention on present moment experience • Improves cognitive functioning • Self-awareness, self-reflection • Shifting perspectives • Discerning options • Choose wise actions

  13. Connections to Resources • People, Places Practices • Counter-balance brain’s negativity bias • Strengthen inner secure base • Access resources

  14. Competence • Empowerment and mastery from changing old coping strategies, learning new ones • Embodying, “I am somebody who CAN do this.”

  15. Courage • Using signal anxiety as cue to: • Try something new • Take risks • Persevere to achieve goals

  16. The field of neuroscience is so new, we must be comfortable not only venturing into the unknown but into error. - Richard Mendius, M.D.

  17. Neuroscience of Resilience • Neuroscience technology is 20 years old • Meditation increases impulse control; shifts mood and perspective; promotes health • Oxytocin can calm a panic attack in less than a minute • Kindness and comfort, early on, protects against later stress, trauma, psychopathology

  18. Neuroplasticity • Growing new neurons • Strengthening synaptic connections • Myelinating pathways – faster processing • Creating and altering brain structure and circuitry • Organizing and re-organizing functions of brain structures

  19. The brain is shaped by experience. And because we have a choice about what experiences we want to use to shape our brain, we have a responsibility to choose the experiences that will shape the brain toward the wise and the wholesome. - Richard J. Davidson, PhD

  20. Evolutionary legacy Genetic templates Family of origin conditioning Norms-expectations of culture-society Who we are and how we cope…. …is not our fault. - Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind

  21. Given neuroplasticity • And choices of self-directed neuroplasticity • Who we are and how we cope… • …is our responsibility • - Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind

  22. Practices to Accelerate Brain Change • Presence – primes receptivity of brain • Intention/choice – activates plasticity • Perseverance – creates and installs change

  23. Mechanisms of Brain Change • Conditioning • New Conditioning • Re-Conditioning • De-Conditioning

  24. Conditioning • Experience causes neurons to fire • Repeated experiences, repeated neural firings • Neurons that fire together wire together • Strengthen synaptic connections • Connections stabilize into neural pathways • Conditioning is neutral, wires positive and negative

  25. Pre-Frontal Cortex • Executive center of higher brain • Evolved most recently – makes us human • Development kindled in relationships • Matures the latest – 25 years of age • Most integrative structure of brain • Evolutionary masterpiece • CEO of resilience

  26. Functions of Pre-Frontal Cortex • Regulate body and nervous system • Quell fear response of amygdala • Manage emotions • Attunement – felt sense of feelings • Empathy – making sense of expereince • Insight and self-knowing • Response flexibility

  27. New Conditioning • Choose new experiences • Positive emotions, resonant relationships, self-compassion, self-acceptance • Create new learning, new memory • Encode new wiring • Install new pattern of response

  28. Re-conditioning • Memory de-consolidation - re-consolidation • “Light up” neural networks • Juxtapose old negative with new positive • Neurons fall apart and rewire • New rewires old

  29. Modes of Processing • Focused • Tasks and details • Self-referential • New conditioning and re-conditioning • De-focused • Default network • Mental play space • De-conditioning

  30. De-Conditioning • De-focusing • Loosens grip • Creates mental play space • Plane of open possibilities • Social self; process social interactions • New insights, new behaviors • PFC toggles; integrates

  31. Mindfulness and Empathy Awareness of what’s happening (and our reactions to what’s happening) Acceptance of what’s happening (and our reactions to what’s happening) Attention circuit and resonance circuit Two most powerful agents of brain change known to science

  32. Integration • Reflection • See clearly • Resonance • Embrace wholeheartedly • May I meet this moment fully; • May I meet it as a friend.

  33. Keep Calm and Carry On Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace amidst the storm. - author unknown

  34. Calm • Manage disruptive emotions • Tolerate distress • Down-regulate stress to return to baseline equilibrium

  35. Window of Tolerance • SNS – explore, play, create, produce…. OR Fight-flight-freeze • Baseline physiological equilibrium • Calm and relaxed, engaged and alert • WINDOW OF TOLERANCE • Relational and resilient • Equanimity • PNS – inner peace, serenity…. OR Numb out, collapse

  36. Hand on the Heart • Touch – oxytocin – safety and trust • Deep breathing – parasympathetic • Breathing ease into heart center • Brakes on survival responses • Coherent heart rate • Being loved and cherished • Oxytocin – direct and immediate antidote to stress hormone cortisol

  37. Oxytocin • Hormone of safety and trust, bonding and belonging, calm and connect • Brain’s direct and immediate antidote to stress hormone cortisol • Can pre-empt stress response altogether

  38. Touch • Hand on heart, hand on cheek • Head rubs, foot rubs • Massage back of neck • Hugs – 20 second full bodied

  39. Calm through the Body • Hand on the Heart • Body Scan • Progressive Muscle Relaxation • Movement Opposite

  40. Calm – Friendly Body Scan • Awareness • Breathing gently into tension • Hello! and gratitude • Release tension, reduce trauma

  41. Progressive Muscle Relaxation • Body cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time • Tense for 7 seconds, relax for 15 • Focused attention calms the mind

  42. Calm through Movement • Body inhabits posture of difficult emotion (40 seconds • Body moves into opposite posture (40 seconds) • Body returns to first posture (20 seconds) • Body returns to second posture (20 seconds) • Body finds posture in the middle (30 seconds • Reflect on experience

  43. Compassion • Respond to pain and suffering with open heart, interested mind, willingness to help • Care, concern for problems and blocks that de-rail resilience • Empathy, compassion for feelings and suffering of self, others • Skillful behaviors in response to difficulties and differences

  44. Compassion • Sensitivity • Attention to feelings and suffering, self and others • Sympathy • Tuning in, feeling with, being moved • Distress tolerance • Being with pain without denial or overwhelm • Empathy • Understanding without judgment, resistance, submission • Caring • Warmth, kindness, gentleness in any response

  45. Self-Compassion • Threat-protection system • Cortisol driven • Pleasure-reward system • Dopamine driven • Caregiving-soothing-comfort system • Oxytocin driven • Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind

  46. Self-Compassion • Powerful and immediate antidote to self-criticism, self-loathing • Practice not to feel better but because we feel bad • Putting own oxygen mask on first when other people are not around • Come into loving connected presence • Compassion leads to calm leads to clarity

  47. Compassion for Others - Self • Remember moment of compassion and care for another • Evoke felt sense of compassion in your body • When flow of compassion is steady… • Place yourself in flow of compassion, care, concern

  48. Self-Compassion Break • Notice-recognize: this is a moment of suffering • Ouch! This hurts! This is hard! • Pause, breathe, hand on heart or cheek • Oh sweetheart! • Self-empathy • I care about my own suffering, me as experiencer • Drop into calm; hold moment with awareness; breathe in compassion and care • May I meet this moment fully; may I meet it as a friend

  49. Self-Compassion Break, cont. • My pain is the pain; I’m not the only one • Kindness to self: May I be safe; May I be peaceful; May I be free of fear; May I be free of shame; May I accept myself just as I am; May I know this, too, will pass; May I know I can be skillful here • Choose wisely: re-direct, shift the channel; practice gratitude, metta; share pain with caring other; notice coping and easing of suffering

  50. Clarity • Focused attention on present moment experience • Improves cognitive functioning • Self-awareness, self-reflection • Shifting perspectives • Discerning options • Choose wise actions