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Really understanding the problem!

the flambouyant Patch Adams

The real reason we have 1 mouth and 2 ears!

Very often we hear people say, “I know what you mean” but I often wonder, do they really understand? In the deeper sense of its meaning, to fully understand someone, we need to feel what they feel because meaning is steeped in our language and comes replete with feelings. It is specifically because feelings are so subjective in nature, that it becomes difficult to make that emotional connection. So, how do we get to know what another person means?  Perhaps the best way is to ask them or to tell them what you think they meant; you may be surprised by their answer.

When we receive their answer, it is initially processed by the primary auditory cortex, via the ears. The primary auditory cortex is situated just above the ears in each hemisphere of the brain. Interestingly though, hearing is processed by the hemisphere it is presented to, e.g. sound entering the right ear is processed by the right auditory cortex. Which is at odds with many other senses, e.g. touch and vision, which is processed by the opposite hemisphere!. Language is the primary interface between emotion and cognition and a simple demonstration of that comes from your response to someone saying something nice and complimentary or something horrible and nasty. The words, if used individually would likely have no emotional effect but collectively, they could evoke a strong emotional response. However, the actual speaking of the words has much less effect on emotion. So, there you have it, the science behind why we have two ears and one mouth!

You may recall that I said that the words we hear are initially processed by the auditory cortex? Obviously that means there is further processing and that occurs in deeper brain structures, some of these are the cochlear cortex (part of the brainstem) and the thalamus, a subcortical region that acts as a sensory processing relay hub. The thalamus has links to many other brain regions and, indirectly, almost the entire brain. This extends to the many areas that both hold and process memories. Life is a process that relies heavily on stored memories to make it unfold naturally and somewhat effortlessly. Although effortlessly by no means amounts to pleasantly. In that sense, the defensive parts of the brain actually care little about the quality of your life, merely the continuity of it. Essentially their mandate is to get you to tomorrow; period. How you feel when tomorrow arrives, is the subject of tomorrow and thus, the problem ensues!

So, one of the challenges we face in life is in how to effectively improve our communication, both internal and external. Our internal language is a consequence of the way our spoken language and experience evolved and that is also the seat of our thoughts. Although there are no actual words in the brain, merely neurochemical processing, our language very clearly influences that processing! So language stimulates emotion and emotion creates language!. External language, while it is a component of our inner linguistic, cognitive and emotional processes, it is also the component that is filtered by the same processes in that of the listener. So, life challenge is a consequence of the 3Ms, Misunderstanding, Misinterpretation and Miscommunication! Get those right and life becomes infinitely more pleasant. Therapy is the process that helps us to effectively improve our communication and therefore; life!

One of the best examples of non-listening for me was watching a film called Patch Adams (based on the real-life of Patch Adams), starring the late Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Robin has an interview with his psychiatrist, who asks how he is, Robin gives a series of nonsensical answers, to which the psychiatrist answers haha haha. Patch proved his point, the guy wasn’t listening. So what is my point? It’s that people need to be listened to, they need to be properly understood and that is so important if that understanding relates to a problem or difficulty in their life. So, I make it a point to really attempt to understand my clients. I ask lots of questions and some questions that may seem a little abstract, maybe not even connected; but there is a reason! Of course, that takes time; and that is one reason my sessions are longer than most other therapists!

Many times I have said, it is not the lack of answers that confounds us, but often it is the lack of questions! If we don’t ask ourselves the right questions we won’t direct our mind and emotions to where they need to go.

In some sense, the question to the answer lays within you and it is held in the various memory systems. And it is within your memories that your future exists. You cannot live a fruitful today without, in some small way, thinking about yesterday, last week, month, year etc. For many, people with psychological or emotional issues, it is the dark memories from the past that haunt them, the trauma, abuse or dire circumstances of their life. But we can learn to leave the past behind by creating mindful healing in the present, i.e. the here and now and move forward into a brighter, happier future. And in doing so, the creation of better memories, of a brighter future, begin to emerge. And that is the major goal of my hypnotherapy practice, to make life, for you; better!

Easier said than done you may say. This is true but; it is possible and it all starts with a good understanding of what is at play!