- Breaking it Down
- Consider The Basis of Attitudes
- Bringing it all Together
- Healing is a Process
Negative emotions or recurring negative thoughts can impact recovery.
It is essential to take some time to consider whether your negative emotions are a personal reaction to change and trauma or whether they are resultant of neurological change and damage. Sometimes there can be a mixture of both.
The best way to find this out is to try and calm the brain environment before you embark on trying to understand what is happening. Many people get stuck in using all their available energy just trying to keep on top of negative emotions.
It doesn’t matter how long ago your injury was; everyone can make positive changes that will impact their ability to manage the ‘constant chatter’ that seems to take over.
A lot of change can happen when we begin to understand more about the self and what makes us tick and be the way we are.
Before tackling any negative emotions you may be experiencing, try to improve your brain environment. Make things as easy for yourself as possible and learn how to best support yourself. Recovery is a process – not a race.
Important steps to start with are:
If you are already working with a counsellor or other specialist, you must speak to them before you make any changes – including dietary changes and using supplements.
Dealing with anger and resentment may also be something you need professional help with before taking a look at any underlying negative trends. It is also vital that you always explore medical avenues before trying to help yourself.
There are strategies you can use for positively dealing with negative emotions, but you may need to be able to be consciously aware that you want to, prepare or have a plan and consciously know you are embarking on a ‘self-help’ project before you start.
Sometimes a wounded or broken brain needs conscious interruption so that we aren’t jumping from one thing to the next powered only by assumption.
We need to pause after a brain injury and take time to think things through so that we know we have a handle on what we are trying to do. One of the hardest things we have to get to grips with is knowing what ‘is broken‘ so that we can fix it.
It helps if we know what we are tackling, and for sure, it helps to know what else may be blocking our understanding of ourselves.
Understanding aspects of brain injury outcomes, such as the loss of self-insight, can help us to know what we are dealing with in more profound ways. It helps to explore ‘about brain injury’ and ‘understanding brain injury’ (see menus) before you embark on trying to fix anything.
Understanding negative emotions following a brain injury can encompass understanding many of the diverse pre-existing aspects of ourselves before we can work out what to start fixing or improving. This starting point can give us a grounding that helps us comprehend what it is that we are trying to do. It is the thought and understanding before the plan can happen.
Clearing negative emotions is a vital part of not only recovering ourselves but recovering the healthiest version we can be.
To do this effectively, we need to understand more about ourselves and where negative emotions come from originally.
These unconscious life patterns can and do affect the way we think. It is essential to understand that thinking is just like any other habit – we have the free will to change anything about ourselves that we want to. Brain plasticity supports this desire for change.
Understanding the formation of our thinking patterns and habits can be advantageous when we are trying to work out what works for us following a brain injury and what makes things worse.
We don’t need to go into any detail to make changes. Often all we are psychologically waiting for is for the penny to drop. We grow up in many ways during a lifetime and part of this is being introspective enough to increase our wisdom about life and our understanding of ourselves.
Let’s start at the beginning.
We develop through various levels of consciousness following birth which in turn build our inner energy centres or ‘chakras.’ Think of a ‘wisdom’ barometer as being the centre of development from one stage to the next.
Most aspects of our life can be thought of or measured and understood as parts of a spectrum. When neglected or abused our barometer may be blue, when loved or cherished it can be warm and red. There are no rules because we are all individuals and all have unique ways of thinking, reacting and adapting.
We can, realistically, only ever talk about presumed commonalities. Everything is theory until undeniably proven – which doesn’t happen very often, and, when it does, the mode of thought behind the approach often becomes outdated anyway.
The best ‘proof’ we have of anything is our own experience. Negative emotions can and do undermine our trust in ourselves.
When physical, mental, emotional and spiritual trauma occurs following brain injury, this can and does have a knock-on effect on how we view ourselves, our lives, and even others.
Levels of consciousness
‘Individual Consciousness’ is where we all start from – a place where our perception tells us that we are individual physical beings believing that what we do has no effect on anyone else but ourselves.
Sometimes people remain caught here and see things only from their point of view. As children, we are all self-centred – a necessary by-product of survival. People trapped here by early abuse or trauma often become ‘stuck’ or develop victim mentality as a way of coping or surviving.
This underpinning of mentality in how people view themselves in relation to others and the world around them can last into adulthood without any adaptation. Fear and anxiety can cement ways of thinking, believing and attitude even when they no longer serve as survival mechanisms.
People can remain trapped in a victim mentality for longer than necessary because of the resentments and grudges they unconsciously choose to continue to hold. Unconscious negative beliefs can serve as a lifeline, and in similar ways, to how people overcome PTSD it is necessary not to revisit the why – bit to re-address the timeline in which reality is happening. People affected by abuse and PTSD often fail to notice the relevance of time or change in circumstance.
Adults who have been unable to move past this initial level of consciousness during their early years will often turn to drugs and alcohol to try and obliterate their internal pain and rarely will they be able to see the devastating effect this has on people around them. Very often, these people will create a ‘false’ ego’ and coping strategies that enable them to hide their inner rage so that they can retain at least a foothold in the everyday world.
‘Group Consciousness’ is developed throughout our mid-childhood and teenage years. It starts with us understanding that we are part of a group and is when we become more self-aware and begin to realise that how we behave affects those around us.
As we enter adulthood, we are developing our consciousness to allow us to see that we are part of an integrated system and learn that how we behave impinges or intrudes on others.
This development allows us to move towards being conscious of not only our ‘external’ responsibilities but most importantly, our ‘internal’ ones. We alone are responsible for how we feel and think.
Group consciousness begins to awaken our understanding of free will and choice. A brain injury can take away or erase the experiential memories we were subconsciously using to get us to this stage. When this happens, it can feel as though we have to grow up all over again.
Those people stuck in individual consciousness because of neglect or abuse can struggle with developing group consciousness.
‘Unity Consciousness’ is where we begin to recognise that although we are all unique, we are also part of everything in the universe. We are made of the energy force and come to understand that what we do to others we ultimately are doing to ourselves. We recognise and are responsible for our part within the universal energy field and intelligence matrix that uniformly feeds back our intentions and held beliefs to us in ways that contribute further to our growth and wisdom.
This stage of growth often begins in the ‘middle years’ of our lives. However, those trapped in individual consciousness will be much later in developing this awareness, if at all. Introduction to the ideas that can release them from habitual thinking can begin a trend of development and healing.
It can often be the case that the way our brains are uniquely wired can also be the vehicle which prevents our growth. For example, the scientist and famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, is determined to bring a scientific approach to everything he observes, and as such, consciously dismisses everything that he perceives to be outside of science, probably including his personal experiences.
There isn’t anything ‘wrong’ with this or any approach because we are all walking an individual pathway. And, indeed, quantum science is showing us that there is undoubtedly a universal consciousness and that we are all connected.
How does this affect me?
For example, someone previously stuck in a ‘woe me’ victim mentality may find it incredibly challenging to cope with any change – especially those effectively ‘forced’ on them by brain injury. There may be an increase in negative responses and behaviours, anger, blaming, and so on.
Reactions don’t mean that there is a change in personality – rather, there can be an exacerbation of previous trends.
For those who understand that they alone are responsible for how they think and feel there may be a greater conviction and determination to move through the changes brought about by brain injury and to regain the previous sense of self. Others may feel they have nothing to ‘go back’ to and may struggle in even more profound ways because they have no anchor to return to or ‘unity self’ to remember.
How we view change is crucial to how we will react to it. An ingrained positive attitude will very likely resurface much more quickly in those who were like this before, and will probably have a more exceptional ability to bounce back.
For those who tended towards blaming and victim mentalities before their brain injury, there is more work to be done simply because these people also need to raise their level of consciousness.
Understanding this can act as a trigger – almost like releasing the water behind a dam that has an innate desire to flow down-stream.
The diagram above is designed to help you to focus on where you are now. You may understand or recognise that you mainly revert to victim mentality only in times of stress. You may know this is where you are almost always stuck and why this has a tendency to drive people away.
Gaining a truthful appreciation of your tendencies at this point will help you to be honest with yourself – which is healing and to and of its’ self.
Take a look at the diagram. Which words best describe how you generally react to stressors? Are you overlapping between being in a victim and self-responsible mode?
Which words in the diagram best describe how you acted pre-injury and which ones best describe you now?
Try not to fall into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking. Things do not have to be black and white or with defined boundaries. If you recognise that sometimes you react by blaming others (or even God), and sometimes you understand that how you feel is due to what you are saying to yourself about a situation, then this shows you that you are moving in the right direction and can increase the level of consciousness you apply when interacting with others and in understanding your life.
Try to look at it from a deeper level of understanding; from the place where your intentions and motivations arise within you.
People can spend years and years working out what it is that stops them recovering from brain injury. People try everything and turn to all corners trying to find helpful information. It can seem as though you are trying to turn black treacle into snow. Living with brain injury is a bit of an alchemists tale.
The thing is that if we can understand as much as possible, if our work on ourselves has a strong foundation, then we can get to grips with whatever we need to re-learn and we can ‘return’ to having a brain that feels and thinks in ways that are familiar to us. We can return ‘home.’
We may not have a full return of all the episodic memories we once had; we may not experience a reappearance of all the skills and knowledge we once felt were a part of us – but we can get back enough of what we need to fulfil our life purpose.
Some people may question, what is ‘enough,’ but for most people just being able to feel like their familiar self again is adequate.
We may have to travel roads that we would never have imagined or wanted to avoid, but the main question to ask yourself has to be, ‘how much do I want me back?’
If you want you back – you have to be willing to look into your nooks and crannies and be prepared to tell yourself the truth about you. Everything you need to know is already inside of you. You have to be ready to find it and to start from your unique point of reference.
Healing is a process; it is never a defined state of being.
We can make a choice to ‘be’ healed although few people are willing to release their unconscious ‘needs’ to achieve this. It is only ever fear that holds anyone back from reaching their full potential and unreservedly living their life purpose.
For many people accepting that a brain injury is part of their journey and will either benefit themselves/others is often too much to take on board.
Likewise, there are a few people who understand that achieving the profound life lessons they need to learn to best fulfil their life mission, or potential can only be reached this way. Again, no one rule fits all. We are all somewhere on the individual spectrum of need, belief and understanding. Some of us are more willing to question our learned beliefs than others. Some of us are more driven in stronger ways to examine, challenge and self-interrogate.
Sometimes this is about self-confidence and inner psychological security, and sometimes it is a reflection of our innate personality or beliefs and conviction in our infallible safety.
Fear causes us to need control, belief in who we are can break down barriers and limits.
Science is based on theory and sets out to ‘prove’ ideas as an absolute. Experience is our personal barometer.
We do all have a choice. Remembering this is true for us all is imperative following brain injury and is even more crucial for the people who help to lead us ‘home.’
Cognitive & Behavioural Neurology – Emotional Traumatic Brain Injury