The following is a written summary of my contribution at the Panel discussion I was a part of, during the 1st International Conference of Applied Neuroscience, along with John Arden, Daren Wilson, Thedy Veliz, and Roger Mysliwiec.
Personally, I believe that neuroscience offers clarity and proof that people are generally good and need to experience compassion. I believe neuroscience reinforces the need to depathologize. I think it reinforces that we are all largely the same in the components we possess, but we’re all just dramatically different from one another in the way we are coded (and continuously recoding). Because there are 7.5 billion people on the planet and each person has about 100 trillion synaptic connections, where our experiences/memories are stored, it’s not even mathematically possible for any 2 people to be the same. So, neuroscience is forcing us to learn to accept differences and meet individuals where they are; to engage with each individual’s personal realities.
Neuroscience also teaches us to continue to fight for healthy environments for people. It has made me a better clinician and it has made me a better human. Neuroscience has forced me to better myself and ensure I am bettering environments for any individual I work with, personally and professionally. Bruce Lipton, a cell biologist, speaks about how if you have 3 different cloned cells and you put them in 3 different petri dishes, it’s not the cell itself that determines the health of the cell, it’s the environment in which the cell is placed. It’s even the environment that determines what a stem cell becomes. And what are human beings? Bundles of cells. We must consider every cell as much as humanly possible.
Another benefit of understanding how to apply neuroscience is the knowing about the importance of change and “failure” for growth. Applied neuroscience has helped me as a professional teach my clients to thrive in failures and to grow from adversity and it has helped me teach clients how their brains do that most effectively. It has helped me help them understand how to work with their brains and not against them. It has helped me help my clients to consider their entire system; to know the people around them need the same considerations for their best mental functioning and that healthy relationships are those where 2 people take responsibility for both individual’s equal value. It helps me teach them that they affect one another and are affected by others, not only at a cellular level, but the quantum level; that our energy, things we can’t see, do exist and do apply force in our lives.
On a personal level, applying neuroscience has made it possible for me to move past uncomfortable experiences and hurtful people, remove ideas of intention, to respect the automatic and mechanical function of the nonconscious mind as the heaviest weight in decision making, especially under stress, both for myself and for other. I have learned that prior learning experiences, whether implicit or explicit learning, drive the responses we make, based on our automatic predictions. I see most people in the purest light with a clear and unintentional infallibility, which places demands on myself to require tolerance for all people.
Neuroscience gives me hope! In the political chaos that currently encompasses the United States, I am hopeful, not only for a political change (!), but also for the humanity that does exist in people. I know that all humans begin their journey in life with the drive for safety, connection, control, motivation, and self-actualization and that as life goes on and the synaptic experiential
Page 2 of 2
storage increases in each person, that each individual’s needs is defined differently based on experience. As a 10th grade dropout with and ACE’s score of 8, who didn’t receive all those needs until I was in my 30’s when I met the human who offered me all of them (my incredible husband), I am here to say it’s possible to unlearn responses and to erase emotional learnings!
I am hopeful that as the word gets out about what we know from neuroscience, that people will be inclined to improve their tolerance for and attach less meaning to differences as well as to their own experiences. After all, we are all responsible for what others say and do because we are the ones that give it meaning for ourselves. Meanings, beliefs, knowings, schemas, emotional learnings…whatever you want to call them, are flexible and can be changed at the neural level. And the electrochemical messages that tell us to take or not take actions to change with them also change. I am sure the majority of people on this planet are generally good and have an interest in such change, so I believe strongly that through compassionate considerations for past experiences and the sharing of easy to understand neuroscientific components to all people that the world can be a better place. I want to continue to be a part of THAT!
I want to change how the mental health system is viewed, which means we have to change how the mental health system views people. Nobody sucks on purpose and we are all products of our experiences. I believe most people still possess the curiosity, interest, imagination, and innocence that began in childhood and they just need someone to connect with that part of them. Neuroscience verifies that with the knowing that at 3 years old we have more neurons than at any point in our lives and that as life goes on our brains form association after association. Jon Connelly, the developer of Rapid Resolution Therapy, talks frequently about this, saying, “we put the flies in before the screens are up.” I am here to say, we can take the screens off. We can learn and we can UNLEARN. We can remove emotional responses that WERE normal, but are just no longer effective. This context change stops us from continuing to try to be “NORMAL”, because remember, there is no “NORMAL”! It’s not even mathematically possible. Instead we’re just working to be more effective. No guilt, no shame, no embarrassment, no resentment, no preoccupation necessary, because science also proves to us that it’s also not possible to have ever been any better than you were! We’re just always learning only to be more effective for ourselves and others, because it’s better for the world when our brains are working optimally. I hope all of you will also continue doing your part to better our world through neuroscience and become a nutrient to your environment.
Thanks for your reading,
Mary Bowles, MA, LMFT, RRT, MIAAN
I’m asked frequently about Neuropsychotherapy, so I thought it would be important to share a little more about it. Neuropsychotherapy is a way of doing therapy that always considers the brain, first. When we understand the needs of the brain and how it learns, transfers, and stores information, protecting and improving mental health becomes much easier.
I use Neuropsychotherapy knowledge to help clients recover from trauma (including PTSD), stressful relationships, behavior issues in adults and children, parenting strategies, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and many many more areas that affect mental health.
Because I am not only a certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapist, but also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Rapid Resolution Therapy Practitioner, I always ask myself, “Is this a good brain-based strategy?” Neuropsychotherapy does not remove the techniques that I already used to encourage change in my therapy practice, it only ensures I use techniques that work with the brain, not against it. When I am working with a couple, family, or group, I must always take into account the brain needs for all parties.
Using Neuropsychotherapy, I can easily explain to my clients what is happening in their brains during stress, how neural pathways are formed, and how the brain responds and reacts under stress depending on their neural wiring. I make sure each client is aware of the brains need for safety, connection, sense of control, motivation (from dopamine production), and a healthy sense of self.
Being brain based means, for example, when a client comes to me to help improve his/her relationship, I will always assess for emotional and physical safety, where positive connection and satisfaction already exists in the relationship, his/her sense of control, and his/her sense of self. If a client comes to me with anxiety, I may look first at his/her sense of control over life stressors, before other brain needs. I would not encourage time alone to a client who is experiencing a loss of connection in his/her life. I would always encourage a drinker to replace drinking with dopamine producing activities or experiences, to ensure a dopamine drop doesn’t interfere with his/her motivation to stop drinking.
If you are working in any mental health field, I encourage you to become brain wise so you’re always working from the bottom up, like the brain does! The training is fun, friendly, interactive, and brain-based. Go! You will not regret it! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, whether about the training, my experience, or the value in attending!
There are a number of Neuropsychotherapy Workshops coming soon and the FIRST United States Workshop in Hawaii in October! I've attached the registration flyer below, along with the training summary and the learning outcomes for the workshop. You can also see more here! We need more Neuropsychotherapists in the United States and across the globe!
If you can't attend the Hawaii training, I look forward to seeing you in May 2018 in Melbourne for the 2nd International Conference on Neuropsychotherapy (flyer also attached)! Working from the bottom up, Down Under!
Mary Bowles, LMFT, RRT, MIACN
I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Rapid Resolution Therapist, and Certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapist. I specialize in couples and family relationships, parenting, divorce and blended families, and trauma recovery. I'm laid back about life and passionate about children, family, and learning!
Truly KNOWING your partner is incredibly important to a healthy relationship. Not just knowing what they like and what they don't like, but also knowing WHY! You and your partner change every singe day of your lives so maintaining daily connection is critical to changing together, instead of changing separately. When you change and connect, it doesn't feel like change!
Here is a great site you can use regularly when you're just hanging out to stay in touch with one another...
You can also read Gottman's, The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work
Learn about the brain and how quickly neural pathways are formed (here)...then consider why therapy works! It does work!
"The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways."
Learn more about it here...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In this pioneering, practical book, Daniel J. Siegel, neuropsychiatrist and author of the bestsellingMindsight, and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson offer a revolutionary approach to child rearing with twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children. The authors explain—and make accessible—the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The “upstairs brain,” which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth.
Complete with age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The pioneering experts behind The Whole-Brain Child—Tina Payne Bryson and Daniel J. Siegel, the author of Brainstorm—now explore the ultimate child-raising challenge: discipline. Highlighting the fascinating link between a child’s neurological development and the way a parent reacts to misbehavior,No-Drama Discipline provides an effective, compassionate road map for dealing with tantrums, tensions, and tears—without causing a scene.
Defining the true meaning of the “d” word (to instruct, not to shout or reprimand), the authors explain how to reach your child, redirect emotions, and turn a meltdown into an opportunity for growth. By doing so, the cycle of negative behavior (and punishment) is essentially brought to a halt, as problem solving becomes a win/win situation. Inside this sanity-saving guide you’ll discover
• strategies that help parents identify their own discipline philosophy—and master the best methods to communicate the lessons they are trying to impart
• facts on child brain development—and what kind of discipline is most appropriate and constructive at all ages and stages
• the way to calmly and lovingly connect with a child—no matter how extreme the behavior—while still setting clear and consistent limits
• tips for navigating your children through a tantrum to achieve insight, empathy, and repair
• twenty discipline mistakes even the best parents make—and how to stay focused on the principles of whole-brain parenting and discipline techniques
Complete with candid stories and playful illustrations that bring the authors’ suggestions to life, No-Drama Discipline shows you how to work with your child’s developing mind, peacefully resolve conflicts, and inspire happiness and strengthen resilience in everyone in the family.
When you're body is responding to an attack (physical or emotional), your body is conditioned to respond. Like your cave dwelling ancestors, threat will ignite your fight, flight, or freeze response. Blood flow goes to your heart, your lungs, and your muscles in order to fight off an attacker or flee one. Your body is not highly capable of learning because there is less blood flow (oxygenation) to the brain. Your kids respond the same way. Fear based discipline will actually only slow down your child's learning! They may learn what your trying to teach them but it will likely take longer.
Do you want to be a feared parent, or a trustworthy parent?
Do you want your child to make decisions based on whether or not he or she is going to get caught or based on his or her moral character?
Connect with your child's emotions, and less with their behavior and they become capable of making choices based on emotional value.
Here's a great opportunity for mental health professionals, social service professionals, teachers, parents, and community members with an interest in mental wellness and brain development. Nationally known speakers will explore the neuroscience of the developing brain.
Often, couples will complain to one another by criticizing (i.e., "You always..." and "You never..." or "You're so..."). Start your communication with "I feel ___________ because I think_________. Would you be willing to ________________?" You're more likely to be heard, rather than your partner only responding defensively (i.e., "I don't do that." or "Yes, I do!") If you're not criticizing, there's less need for them to defend.
Focus Time - When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
Play Time - When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain.
Connecting Time - When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain's relational circuitry.
Physical Time - When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.
Time In - When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.
Down Time - When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge.
Sleep Time - When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
When two people come from two separate worlds, have two separate sets of experiences every day, and two separate sets of dreams for the future, how can one expect there won't be conflict in a relationship? You can't! Conflict is necessary! It's not THAT you have conflict, it's HOW you have conflict!
How Fighting Can Actually Both Ruin and Stabilize Your Relationship
This is a great video addressing how trust is built and how just ones thinking can pull them away from the relationship he or she wants so badly!
The #1 thing that can help blended families succeed is for them to learn about the dynamics of a step family and to be prepared for them. It’s like pre-planning for a house fire, except YOU KNOW IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.
Second & subsequent marriages are not like 1st marriages! The dynamics are entirely different. From the number of people to consider in decision making to the pressure you feel from the very 1st day. Couples must still learn to be a family, not just a couple. The couple should not divide by having “mine”, “hers” and ”his”... the family is "OURS"! “Only” being a couple leaves gaps in the family system for animosity and resentment to fill in.
**Renegotiate roles, responsibilities, traditions, and boundaries. These must be very clear and clearly communicated. Blending families means 2 parents must come together and blend philosophies on parenting and other family member roles and responsibilities. They have to renegotiate and blend their traditions and hopes and dreams. They must clarify and clearly understand new boundaries. When this doesn’t happen, these blended families stay divided.
**Resolve their dreams of the past and for the future. Couples need to build a shared history and that usually means resolving some hopes for the future and grief for the past. Often people get married again before they have finished grieving for the lost prior relationship. They add this grief to the chaotic circumstances involved with blending a family and it doesn't often go well.
**Risk being hurt again. A healthy relationship involves being vulnerable and imperfect. This means both must also demonstrate genuine acceptance.
**Remove Ideology; families must get rid of the idea that a family has to be "THIS way" or "THAT way". They have to be flexible and confident enough to build the family they want, not the one everyone else has.
**Respect – this means family members need to ALL understand that each person is going through their process separately and differently. Even between full siblings there will be differing opinions of the situation and the people. BUT respect and consideration has to be expressed, even if one hasn’t formed a solid opinion of the other individuals. If favoritism exists, this relationship will not be a happy one, and likely not successful.
**Reframe ideas about stepfamilies and lose negative connotations. Blended families must consider themselves a FAMILY – not just two families who live together, there is no mine, hers or his. “The family is OURS (when talking to others, filling out forms, etc.). Society (and sometimes family and friends) often disputes this mindset. Referring to your family as a bonus family instead of a step-family can help remove the idea that a step-family is "less than" and first family. We all know the negative connotation that comes with the term “step” when referring to step-mothers, step-fathers, and step-child; that they are wicked, evil, rotten, spoiled, murderous, and just plain old second class citizens. Bonus-Mom, Bonus-Dad, and Bonus-Child are clearly more positive terms.
Copyright © Mary Bowles, 05/31/2014
If you want a healthy relationship, start by listening to yourself. Do you sound like a parent when you speak to your partner? Do you speak with contempt and annoyance? Do you point out how you're right and he/she is wrong? The 2 biggest predictors of divorce are contempt and defensiveness (Gottman). At any point in your relationship you can remove those behaviors and improve your relationship. Start today!
“Parenthood isn’t about perfection. It is the business of imperfect humans raising other imperfect little humans to the best of their ability.” – Jennifer Meer
The world feels more hopeful when you understand that in every situation nobody can ever take from you your ability to choose your response.
Do you have a therapist? This site lets you share a picture of yourself holding up a sign that says “I have a therapist” to help other people feel comfortable with therapy! Let's make it normal. #NoStigma #TherapyisforEveryone
This blog post is my reply to Mountain Mama's blog post, How I Gave My Son Autism, located here.
I think it's important to note, I posted this in reply to her blog post in the comments area...she deleted it from the replies.
Wow! Correlation does not equal causation. She's clearly attempting to incite panic based merely on speculation. Neither personal opinion, nor experience equal valid or reliable research or evidence.
The author wrote nothing about the links between autism and bio-engineered foods (she should look into Monsanto!), hormones used in our meat & dairy supply, or even the most conclusive evidence—that autism is a genetic disorder. These just scratch the surface. This author only wrote a list of correlations professing each was the cause of her child's autism. She was not speculating. She was stating facts.
This concerns me because some could rely on her propaganda laced blog to make decisions, which could potentially risk one’s life or mental capacity. There is no way, if she’s sane or educated, that she can dispute that the majority of her list of items has also saved numerous lives, potentially even her own child! Forgive me for putting this bluntly…would she rather have a child with autism or a dead baby?! A c-section or a still birth? Would she really try to dispute that c-sections have saved lives; mother and babies? I shudder to think if she would! Would she rather have an autistic son or one with polio? Would the world really be a better place if polio were still running rampant? Antibiotics, c-sections, and (although hotly debated) vaccines have saved how many lives? Even fluoride (contested by some) and acetaminophen (a fever reducer) indirectly save lives. She ought not to forget the benefits of most items on her list.
I could profess that regularly eating from the garbage could increase our body’s natural ability to fight infection (by exposing our body’s to germs, thus increasing our immunity). And I could surely find a link to research on the internet that professes the increased need for germ exposure. But it doesn’t take into consideration all the other deadly bacteria we could pick up from the garbage. Stating this belief and providing a link doesn’t make it fact. It still makes it a speculation. Without replicated evidence the author has nothing.
I saw a lot more “selling” than “proving” in her blog. She has a right to her opinion, but it should be stated as such. She stated it as fact…very biased fact.
My biggest concern was the scare tactics the author used, seemingly to induce panic. I believe parents need all the help they can get and we already carry with us a guilt button the size of Texas. I believe MOST parents do the best they can with the tools and skills they have available to them at the time, in every situation. I am positive (although I am clearly stating this as my opinion) that rarely does a parent say, “You know what?! I think I’m gonna screw this kid up!” She should be helping parents make fully informed decisions, not scaring them into seeinf life from her supposedly factual perspective.
I’d be ignorant to state that there are not risks associated with each of the items on her list, but in many (except for HFCS) and in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the risks. And just because I wouldn’t do something, doesn't mean nobody else should. Different is not wrong. I just encourage taking educated risks if necessary.
And now that she and I agree that we should all be educating ourselves, she should try a course on critical thinking and statistical reasoning.
I know I've said this before, but parents, teach your children to question everything they've been taught, even if taught by you! Doing so teaches them to make educated choices and it frees them from the guilt of disagreeing with you, because face it, parents are not always correct!
I hope my kids never go to college if they are looking for their own self worth as society defines it. I want them to build their own dreams and to not be defined by the money in their "pockets." As a former high school drop out who is now a Master's level Couples, Child, and Family Therapist I believe I am qualified to assess intelligence. I can tell you, my husband is the most intelligent person I know!! He grew up in a junk yard and he also received a full ride scholarship to the school of mines to become a mechanical engineer. But after a year, college wasn't for him...he needed more freedom to build his dream and use what he already knew. He's happy, productive, and not defined by the pocket he pulls from. He contributes more to this world than most people I know! I have yet to see him unable to fix something mechanical, which also gives him the self confidence to fix most other problems. But nobody says to a kid, "go check out a junk yard if it interests you" because most don't see its potential. Look for potential in everything! Encourage, don't stifle, what a child is interested in! Just like Beckham understands physics from the game, my husband learned mechanics through play! Give kids the backing to trust their own drive to succeed and for God's sake, show up! You get one chance to raise your kids right. Do it right...be present!
If you're kid comes home from school and says, "I HATE that kid!" and your reply is, "Don't say hate. That's not nice!" or something similar, you are telling him (or her) the feeling is wrong, not how to more effectively deal with that feeling. So instead try, "That must feel pretty uncomfortable." This is much more validating. Then he gets to learn problem solving skills as you move into helping him find ways to deal with the feeling that IS there.
When you repeatedly threaten your children with consequences for bad behavior and rarely follow through, you are teaching them, repeatedly, that there's a chance they'll get away with the behavior again. If there is always A CHANCE there won't be a consequence, why do what they're is told?
Mary Bowles, MA, LMFT, RRT, MIAAN