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Catalyze Brain Change: From Incremental Skills to Quantum Learning. San Francisco CAMFT May 4, 2014 San Francisco, CA. Catalyze Brain Change: From Incremental Skills to Quantum Learning. Linda Graham, MFT Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain

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catalyze brain change from incremental skills to quantum learning

Catalyze Brain Change:From Incremental Skills toQuantum Learning

San Francisco CAMFT

May 4, 2014

San Francisco, CA.

catalyze brain change from incremental skills to quantum learning1

Catalyze Brain Change:From Incremental Skills toQuantum Learning

Linda Graham, MFT

Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain

For Maximum Resilience and Well-Being


All the world is full of suffering.

It is also full of overcoming.

- Helen Keller

  • Deal with challenges and crises
  • Bounce back from adversity
  • Recover balance and equilibrium
  • Find refuges and maximize resources
  • Cope skillfully, flexibly, adaptively
  • Shift perspectives, open to possibilities, create options, find meaning and purpose
premise of workshop
Premise of Workshop
  • Different neural activities underlie
  • Different levels of client functioning, thus
  • Different mechanisms of therapeutic change
  • Harness neuroplasticity of brain
  • Teach self-directed neuroplasticity to clients
  • Increase effectiveness of any modality

The field of neuroscience is so new,

we must be comfortable not only

venturing into the unknown

but into error.

- Richard Mendius, M.D.

neuroscience of resilience
Neuroscience of Resilience
  • Neuroscience technology is 20 years old
  • Meditation shifts mood and perspective; impacts immune system and gene expression
  • Oxytocin can calm a panic attack in less than a minute
  • Kindness and comfort, early on, protects against later stress, trauma, psychopathology
  • 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

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


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


Given neuroplasticity

  • And choices of self-directed neuroplasticity
  • Who we are and how we cope…
  • …is our responsibility
      • - Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind
mindfulness and empathy
Mindfulness and Empathy

Awareness of what’s happening

(and our reactions to what’s happening)

“What are you noticing now?”

Acceptance of what’s happening

(and our reactions to what’s happening)

“Oh, sweetheart! This is painful; this is hard. And it makes complete sense that you would feel the way you do.

Two most powerful agents of brain change known to science

effective agents of brain change
Effective Agents of Brain Change

Consciousness Self-Awareness

Mindfulness Self-Reflection

Compassion Empathy

Attention Circuit

Resonance Circuit

Self-Directed Neuroplasticity

practices to accelerate brain change
Practices to Accelerate Brain Change
  • Presence – primes receptivity of brain
  • Intention/choice – activates plasticity
  • Perseverance – creates and installs change
conditioning skills and patterns
Conditioning – Skills and Patterns
  • The brain learns from experience
    • Encodes learning, behaviors, skills in neural circuitry
    • Patterns of response become automatic habits
  • Develops or de-rails pre-frontal cortex
    • CEO of resilience
    • Inner secure base, personal sense of self
  • Therapeutic relationship = re-parenting
new conditioning new resources
New Conditioning – New Resources
  • New skills, behaviors, capacities
  • Develop resilient coping
  • Antidote negativity bias of brain
  • Strengthen resources; take in the good
re conditioning rewiring patterns
Re-conditioning – Rewiring Patterns
  • Stabilize functioning
  • Reduce stress, defensiveness
  • Heal trauma
  • Window of tolerance – equilibrium
  • Memory deconsolidation – reconsolidation
de conditioning quantum learning
De-conditioning – Quantum Learning
  • Default network
  • Mental play space
  • Open spacious awareness
  • Insights, aha!s, breakthroughs
6 c s of coping
6 C’s of Coping
  • Calm
  • Compassion
  • Clarity
  • Connections to Resources
  • Competence
  • Courage
conditioning how the brain learns in the first place
Conditioning:How the Brain Learns in the First Place
  • 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
attachment styles secure
Attachment Styles - Secure
  • Parenting is attuned, empathic, responsive, comforting, soothing, helpful
  • Attachment develops safety and trust, and inner secure base
  • Stable and flexible focus and functioning
  • Open to learning
  • inner secure base provides buffer against stress, trauma, and psychopathology
insecure avoidant
  • Parenting is indifferent, neglectful, or critical, rejecting
  • Attachment is compulsively self-reliant
  • Stable, but not flexible
  • Focus on self or world, not others or emotions
  • Rigid, defensive, not open to learning
  • Neural cement
insecure anxious
  • Parenting is inconsistent, unpredictable
  • Attachment is compulsive caregiving
  • Flexible, but not stable
  • Focus on other, not on self-world,
  • Less able to retain learning
  • Neural swamp
  • Parenting is frightening or abusive, or parent is “checked out,” not “there”
  • Attachment is fright without solution
  • Lack of focus
  • Moments of dissociation
  • Compartmentalization of trauma
pre frontal cortex functions
Pre-Frontal Cortex - Functions
  • Regulate body and nervous system
  • Quell fear response of amygdala
  • Manage emotions
  • Attunement – felt sense of feelings
  • Empathy – making sense of experience
  • Insight and self-knowing
  • Response flexibility
mindfulness comes to west
Mindfulness Comes to West


Focused attention on

present moment experience

without judgment or resistance.

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Attention and allowing

Awareness and acceptance

  • Pause, become present
  • Notice and name
  • See patterns as patterns
  • Step back, dis-entangle, reflect
  • Catch the moment; make a choice
  • Shift perspectives; shift states
  • Discern options
  • Choose wisely – let go of unwholesome, cultivate wholesome

Between a stimulus and a response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

- Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist, survivor of Auschwitz

autobiography in five short chapters portia nelson
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters – Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…I am helpless

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.



I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.



I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open,

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.



I walk down the same street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

-Portia Nelson


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

Every moment brings a choice, and every choice has an impact.

Julia Butterfly Hill

new conditioning
New Conditioning
  • Experience creates brain change
  • New experiences: new learning, new skills, new behaviors
  • New memory, new circuitry
negativity bias positive emotions
Negativity Bias – Positive Emotions
  • Brain is hard-wired to notice and remember negative and intense more than positive and subtle; how we survive as individuals and as a species
  • Leads to tendency to avoid experience
  • Positive emotions activate “left shift,” brain is more open to approaching experience, learning, and action
positive emotions behaviors
Positive Emotions-Behaviors

Gratitude Awe Generosity

Compassion Delight

Serenity Love Curiosity

Kindness Joy Trust

positive emotions
Positive Emotions
  • Less stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness
  • More friendships, social support, collaboration
  • Shift in perspectives, more optimism
  • More creativity, productivity
  • Better health, better sleep
  • Live on average 7-9 years longer
  • 2-minute free-write
  • Gratitude journal
  • Gratitude buddy
  • Gratitude in the middle of the night
take in the good
Take in the Good
  • Notice: in the moment or in memory
  • Enrich: the intensity, duration, novelty, personal relevance, multi-modality
  • Absorb: savor 10-20-30 seconds, felt sense in body
circle of support
Circle of Support
  • Call to mind people who have been supportive of you; who have “had your back”
    • Currently, in the past, in imagination
  • Imagine them gathered around you, or behind you, lending you their faith in you, and their strengths in coping
  • Imagine your circle of support present with you as you face difficult people or situations
positivity portfolio
Positivity Portfolio
  • Ask 10 friends to send cards or e-mails expressing appreciation of you
  • Assemble phrases on piece of paper
  • Tape to bathroom mirror or computer monitor, carry in wallet or purse
  • Read phrases 3 times a day for 30 days
  • Savor and appreciate
re conditioning
  • Managing survival responses
  • Rewiring shame
  • Rewiring trauma
window of tolerance
Window of Tolerance
  • SNS – explore, play, create, produce….OR


  • Baseline physiological equilibrium
  • Calm and relaxed, engaged and alert
  • Relational and resilient
  • Equanimity
  • PNS – inner peace, serenity…OR

Numb out, collapse

keep calm and carry on
Keep Calm and Carry On

Serenity is not freedom from the storm

but peace amidst the storm.

- author unknown

hand on the heart
Hand on the Heart
  • Touch
  • Deep breathing
  • Positive Emotions
    • Brakes on survival responses
  • Oxytocin – safety and trust
  • Relationships as resources
  • 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
calm through the body
Calm through the Body
  • Hand on the Heart
  • Body Scan
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Movement Opposite
calm friendly body scan
Calm – Friendly Body Scan
  • Awareness
  • Breathing gently into tension
  • Hello! and gratitude
  • Release tension, reduce trauma
progressive muscle relaxation
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
calm and strength through movement
Calm and Strength through Movement
  • Power posing
  • Body posture of difficult emotion
  • Body moves into opposite posture
  • Return to first posture
  • Return to second posture
  • Find a position in the middle

The roots of resilience are to be found in the felt sense of being held in the mind and heart of an empathic, attuned, and self-possessed other.

- Diana Fosha, PhD

To see and be seen: that is the questions, and that is the answer.

- Ken Benau, PhD

neuroscience of empathy
Neuroscience of Empathy
  • Emotional communication is 93% non-verbal
  • Social engagement system
  • Dyadic regulation
  • Fusiformgyrus regulates amygdala
  • Vagal brake
  • Restores equilibrium

Ah, the comfort,

The inexpressible comfort

Of feeling safe with a person.

Having neither to weigh out thoughts

Nor words,

But pouring them all right out, just as they are,

Chaff and grain together;

Certain that a faithful hand

Will take them and sift them;

Keeping what is worth keeping and,

With the breath of kindness,

Blow the rest away.

- Dinah Craik

wiser self
Wiser Self
  • Imagine yourself five years from now: wise, compassionate, good, strong, alive and vibrant
  • Ask this Wiser Self: how did you become like this? What did you have to overcome or let go of to become like this? What one word of advice do you have for me?
  • Inhabit this Wiser Self briefly; what does it feel like to become your Wiser Self?
  • 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
self compassion break
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
  • Share experience with resonant other
the guest house rumi
The Guest House - Rumi

This being human is a guest-house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness come

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.


He may be clearing you

out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

- Rumi

compassion for others self
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
find the gift in the mistake
Find the Gift in the Mistake
  • Regrettable Moment – Teachable Moment
  • What’s Right with this Wrong?
  • What’s the Lesson?
  • What’s the Cue to Act Differently?
  • Find the Gift in the Mistake
coherent narrative
Coherent Narrative
  • This is what happened.
  • This is what I did.
  • This has been the cost.
  • This is what I learned.
  • This is what I would do differently going forward.

It’s as wrong to deny the possible

As it is to deny the problem.

- Dennis Seleeby

do one scary thing a day
Do One Scary Thing a Day
  • Venture into New or Unknown
  • Somatic marker of “Uh, oh”
  • Dopamine disrupted
  • Cross threshold into new
  • Satisfaction, mastery
  • Dopamine restored
people as resources
People as Resources

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by the spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

- Albert Schweitzer

see yourself as others see you
See Yourself as Others See You
  • Imagine sitting across from someone who loves you unconditionally
  • Imagine switching places with them; see yourself as they see you; feel why they love you and delight in you; take in the good
  • Imagine being yourself again; taking in the love and affection coming to you; savor and absorb.
welcome them all
Welcome Them All
  • Wiser Self welcomes to the “party”
  • characters that embody positive and negative parts of the self
  • with curiosity and acceptance of the message or gift of each part and
  • honors each part of the “inner committee”
shame is de railer of resilience
Shame is De-Railer of Resilience

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.

Shame erodes the part of ourselves that believes we are capable of change. We cannot change and grow when we are in shame, and we can’t use shame to change ourselves or others.

cure for shame is love and acceptance
Cure for Shame is Love and Acceptance

Love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place.

- Zora Neale Hurston

Love guards the heart from the abyss.

– Mozart


Just that action of paying attention to ourselves, that I care enough about myself, that I am worthy enough to pay attention to, starts to unlock some of those deep beliefs of unworthiness at a deeper level in the brain.

- Elisha Goldstein

re conditioning1
  • Memory de-consolidation – re-consolidation
  • “Light up” neural networks of problematic memory
  • Cause neural networks to fall apart temporarily and instantly rewire by:
  • Juxtaposing positive memory that directly contradicts or disconfirms;
  • Focused attention on juxtaposition of both memories held in simultaneous dual awareness
  • Casues the falling apart and the rewiring
  • Anchor in present moment awareness
  • Resource with acceptance and goodness
  • Start with small negative memory
  • “Light up the networks”
  • Evoke positive memory that contradicts or disconfirms
  • Simultaneous dual awareness (or toggle)
  • Refresh and strengthen positive
  • Let go of negative
  • Rest in, savor positive
  • Reflect on shifts in perspective
wished for outcome
Wished for Outcome
  • Evoke memory of what did happen
  • Imagine new behaviors, new players, new resolution
  • Hold new outcome in awareness, strengthening and refreshing
  • Notice shift in perspective of experience, of self
rewiring trauma
Rewiring Trauma
  • Mindfulness and compassion as container
  • Dropping through layers of story, feelings to body sensations where trauma is stored
  • Chunking down the memory to be processed
  • Holding the memory in larger resourcing
  • Pendulating between positive and negative, refreshing positive, until negative dissolves or loses charge
modes of processing
Modes of Processing
  • Focused
    • Tasks and details
    • Self-referential
    • New conditioning and de-conditioning
  • De-focused
    • Default network
    • Fertile neural background noise
    • Plane of open possibilities
    • De-conditioning
defocused mode
Defocused mode
  • Dreams
  • Daydreams, reveries
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Imagination
  • Guided visualization
mindfulness dissolves the stuff of self
Mindfulness Dissolves the Stuff of “Self”
  • Quantum physics investigates matter
    • Matter is more space than stuff
  • Mindfulness investigates “I”
    • Self is not static or fixed; is ever-changing, ever-unfolding
  • True Self is flow of beingness

I am larger than I thought.

I did not know I held so much goodness.

- Walt Whitman

Love teaches me I am everything.

Wisdom teaches me I am nothing.

Between the two, my life flows.

- Sri Nisargadatta

pre frontal cortex
Pre-Frontal Cortex
  • Toggles back and forth between focused and defocused modes of processing
  • Integration of two modes; integration of right and left hemispheres, integration of higher and lower brain
  • Deeper brain functioning; brain itself more reslient
relational intelligence
Relational Intelligence
  • Setting limits and boundaries
  • Negotiating change
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Repairing ruptures
  • Forgiveness

I am no longer afraid of storms,

For I am learning how to sail my ship.

- Louisa May Alcott

practices to accelerate brain change1
Practices to Accelerate Brain Change
  • Presence – primes receptivity of brain
  • Intention/choice – activates plasticity
  • Perseverance – creates and installs change

How long should you try? Until. - Jim Rohn

The difference between try and triumph is a little “umph.” – author unknown

The greatest oak was once a little nut that held its ground. – Author unknown

catalyze brain change from incremental skills to quantum learning2

Catalyze Brain Change:From Incremental Skills to Quantum Learning

Linda Graham, MFT