We often don’t think of or connect the dots about how executive and memory impairment can limit perspective.
How each person experiences their brain injury will differ because of the unique ways in which we all view the world. However, there are often many similarities. Parallels exist after a brain injury, even when individuals describe their challenges differently.
While these differences will also depend on the individual outcomes and effects of brain injury, we can take a broad look at some of the resulting experiences to improve our understanding of what is happening.
How a brain injury can limit perspective is a perfect example because most people struggle with memory hindrance and limited/slowed processing or thinking capacity. These and other common impairments interfere with how much of our inner world we can be conscious of and how much of our external world we can process and understand.
How Limited Perspective Feels
It is essential to understand how limited perspective feels because conscious perception helps people relate to their experiences.
While there are many descriptors of living with the frustration and resulting inner chaos in any cognitive activity, it can be challenging to put your finger on why the brain feels so very muddled.
Let’s think of clear thinking as happening in the environment of a fish tank where there is a lot going on but everything still feels serene, and compare this to shrinking all of that into the moon on your little finger nail.
Not having the space to think can be experienced as the subconscious mind no longer supports you. Nothing is happening in the background anymore, and every thought, every action, every piece of filtering your external environment has to happen on a conscious basis.
The brain becomes catastrophically overwhelmed, and the mechanisms that would usually tell us we need to pay attention to our inner feedback loops explode.
In effect, it becomes tough to think outside of the moment. You can’t connect the past or the future because right here and now is taking up every bit of the functional capacity you have.
It becomes impossible to see beyond the monster in front of you.
Even where people retain access to their core beliefs, values, and experiential memories, this crucial supportive information can’t be accessed, which means limited and slowed thinking can obstruct access to all the tools that make us feel like us.
How we Experience Limited Perspective
If we think of a pendulum’s balanced swing falling within a natural rhythm, we can picture how the brain usually works and effectively understand how ‘normal’ feels.
Living with a brain injury can make this ‘swing’ go out of control. It can reach its’ zenith with each swipe of motion.
So, it is no wonder that behaviour changes and those who were once calm within their natural rhythm now find that every emotion feels totally out of control.
People can no more control these extensive swings of emotion than they can use thinking to calm them. With diminished thinking capacity, there isn’t any space in the brain to rationalise what is happening.
Limited Perspective Challenges
While limited perspective is often unperceivable, especially in the early months or years, the effects and challenges are often far-reaching. The consequences are often easier for the people around us to spot than they are for us to notice.
Effectively, a limited perspective can mean that you don’t know what you are missing. You don’t know that you can’t see the whole story or all the possibilities.
While everything you do and say seems to go wrong, it can be hard to trust yourself and your abilities following a brain injury.
Many people aren’t fully aware this is happening to them and will keep driving forwards feeling as though they are giving 1000% of effort, way and above anything we would usually consider extreme. Yet, they are still getting poor results.
Whether this state of affairs is recognised consciously or not, there are often explosions of frustration and emotion that frequently die as quickly as they arose. As recovery progresses, behaviour improves whether we are conscious of it or not.
While we may instinctively know that something is wrong and hold unconscious recognition that we can’t trust ourselves, this knowledge usually remains beneath the surface, along with a bizarre unconscious distrust of others.
These challenges can linger until we have enough personal evidence to recognise what is happening.
Pharmaceutical or recreational medications such as marijuana or alcohol only serve to rob people of the experiences they need to learn how to take back control. While medication can be supportive in the short-term for severe consequences, they are not a long-term solution.
Temporarily changing the brain environment through the use of synthetic chemicals in medications causes people to miss opportunities to evaluate what is happening within the broken brain for themselves.
The opportunity to understand or intellectually study what is happening disappears.
With prescribed medication, the period of relief creates an opportunity to tackle the underlying causes and problems. This way, they don’t immediately re-emerge while weaning off prescription drugs.
Learning how to self-observe again and using strategies to manage triggers works to heal the causes because you are rewiring the brain and utilising plasticity to overcome challenges. Similarly, if you self-medicate to eliminate the way challenges can arise, you lose the opportunity to gain insights and advance your understanding of what is happening inside the brain. You lose the chance to gain knowledge about what is happening and to modify your comprehension of issues.
There are ways you can help yourself increase the conscious mind’s capacity and increase perspective.
These include self-help and self-regulated learning techniques, such as learning and practising routine, self-observation and meditation, and using the latest technologies to prompt you or smart cognitive training tools to help you retrain your brain. Please see Self-Regulated Learning