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  1. Bouncing Back: The Neuroscience of Resilience and Well-Being Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health April 25-27, 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 • 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

  5. 6 C’s of Coping • Calm • Compassion • Clarity • Connections to Resources • Competence • Courage

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

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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

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

  13. 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

  14. 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 • Evolutionary masterpiece • CEO of resilience

  15. 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

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

  17. 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

  18. Re-conditioning • “Light up” neural networks • Juxtapose old negative with new positive • De-consolidation - re-consolidation • New rewires old

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

  20. De-Conditioning • De-focusing • Loosens grip • Creates mental play space • Plane of open possibilities • Social self • New insights, new behaviors

  21. Kindness is more important than wisdom, And the recognition of that is the beginning of wisdom. - Theodore Rubin

  22. Hand on the Heart • Touch • Deep breathing • Positive Emotions • Brakes on survival responses • Oxytocin – safety and trust • Relationships as resources

  23. A single exposure to oxytocin can create a lifelong change in the brain. - Sue Carter, PhD

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

  25. 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

  26. Hand on the Heart • Touch • Deep breathing • Positive Emotions • Brakes on survival responses • Oxytocin – safety and trust • Relationships as resources

  27. 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

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

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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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) Two most powerful agents of brain change known to science

  33. Mindfulness Comes to West Mindfulness: Focused attention on present moment experience without judgment or resistance. - Jon Kabat-Zinn Attention and allowing Awareness and acceptance

  34. Mindfulness • Pause, become present • Notice and name • 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

  35. Notice and Name • Thoughts as thoughts • Patterns of thoughts as patterns of thoughts • Cascades of emotions as cascades of emotions • States of mind as states of mind • Belief systems and identities as… • Mental contents, patterns of neural firing

  36. 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

  37. Autobiography in Five Short Chapters – Portia Nelson I 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.

  38. II 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.

  39. III 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.

  40. IV I walk down the same street There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. V I walk down another street. -Portia Nelson

  41. This is what our brains are wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These are design features, not flaws. These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth. - Matthew Lieberman, PhD Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect

  42. 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

  43. Resonance Circuit • Resonance – vibe, emotional contagion • Attunement – felt sense, explicit, non-verbal • Empathy – verbal, cognitive, coherent narrative • Compassion – concern, caring, help • Acceptance – pre-requisite for resilience and lasting change

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

  45. 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

  46. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. - Carl Rogers

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

  48. 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

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

  50. Self-Compassion • Notice this is a moment of suffering • “Ouch! This hurts.” • Open to larger perspective • “My” pain is “the” pain • I’m not the only one; I’m not alone • What would be comforting here? • What would be helpful?