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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Depression is a Mind-set

I do not understand why psychiatrists don't teach depressed, anxious or insomniac patients how their brain works, what a mind-set is. Perhaps the psychiatrists don't know very much about how the brain works. I'm not saying that psychiatrists need to be neuroanatomists, but they need to know how the brain works, functionally, even if they don't know much about the architecture of the brain.

If doctors don't know how the brain works, if they don't know how people get from one thought to the other, how the process of pain perception works in depression, if they don't know what is the force that powers the brain, how learned association works, what neurotransmitters do, how in the world are they professing to help people with their depression? With their anxiety and stress? With their insomnia?

If psychiatrists don't know how the brain works, then I would have to say that psychiatry is little more than an expensive scam. I wish that some of you who read this and are seeing psychiatrists or clinical psychologists would ask them to explain some of these questions and let me know what they say.

Because it is important. People need to know how their own brain works. Here are some of the things that people need to know if they have any hope of becoming the master of their thinking instead of the slave of the habitual neural patterns of their own brain.

First, the brain works by neurotransmitters such as serotonin. These are the biochemical reactions that allow the neurons to communicate with one another. If you are not doing any on-purpose thinking and just letting your brain slide into passive, low level thinking, or emotional meandering around in the subcortex (the emotional part of the brain), the level of serotonin, as well as other neurotransmitters, will decrease because there is less need for them. The neurons are not calling up huge amounts of neurotransmitters because there aren't that many messages for the neurons to send.

If you start to do more productive and pro-active thinking, if you force yourself to concentrate on some chore or project, the serotonin level will increase because the neurons will be calling up the neurotransmitters in order to pass on their increased number of messages so the brain can do its work.

Remember that neurotransmitters are merely the chemical boats that carry the learned associations from one neuron to another. The neurons call for the boats when they are activated by a thought, so they can communicate it to another similar thought-related neuron. The brain is powered by thoughts in the same way that a car is powered by a motor. The brain is not powered by neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters are more like the gas in a car.

How do we know thoughts power the brain? Research shows that when an electron probe is touched to a living human brain it elicits a particular thought. When the probe is put to a different part of the brain a different thought is elicited.

We can make the brain work in the science laboratory by introducing electricity from the outside with an electron probe. Since we know there’s no little electron probe that lives inside the brain, what generates the electricity in normal life?

The answer is that thoughts electrically power the brain. Brain scans show that when a person thinks a certain thought, neuronal activity lights up in a certain part of the brain, not in all parts of the brain. Some thoughts spark neuronal activity in the subcortex, the feeling part of the brain. Other kinds of thoughts spark neuronal activity in the neocortex, the thinking, cognitive part of the brain.

The brain works electro-chemically. Thoughts stimulate the neurons electrically, and then thoughts are communicated between the neurons chemically by neurotransmitters. Thoughts are what power the brain and rule the mind.

If a man sees a shadow on the ground and thinks SNAKE, the thought will immediately stimulate a particular part of the brain and initiate a particular chain of thinking (through learned association) that will put him in a particular mind–set and cause the production of particular chemicals.

If he sees a shadow on the ground and thinks ROPE, the thought will activate another part of the brain. If he looks at a Playboy centerfold and thinks “BABE,” the thought will access yet another part of the brain and initiate another line of neuronal arcing that will put him in an entirely different mindset, with different chemicals produced.

Depression is also a mindset. We get to the depressive mindset the same way we get to any other mindset. We think our way into it. And just as we think our way into a mindset through learned association, we can also think our way out of it through learned association. One thought leads to another similar thought, etc., etc.

Again, this is the reason depression is cyclical. The mindset of depression can be temporarily interrupted by some maverick learned association that randomly sparks up. Or some outside circumstance might lead to alternative thoughts that can send the mind off in another direction away from depression. Remember, the brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought.

In the midst of a terrible depression you could win the lottery, or a fire could suddenly blaze up in front of you. The depressive thought pattern would then be interrupted by other kinds of thought leading the neural thought pattern away from the depressive mindset into another mindset. Like the mindset of buying a new car with your lottery winnings, or trying to save your life from a fire.

But we don’t have to wait for circumstances around us to change so that our thinking can change. We can change our thinking anytime we want and interrupt the depressive mindset. We just have to remember that this is an option. This is the whole point of Brainswitching. We can take full advantage of this random, cyclical nature of depression. We can move the mind, on purpose, as an act of will, into a new thought pattern and thus more quickly out of depression mode.

Getting out of Depression is not a war of will and mind. We are not working in opposition to some part of our mind as may be the case with other methods. We are simply letting depression go, according to its nature, in the direction it would go anyway, away from itself.

This happens as a result of the firing of neurons with different learned associations than depressive ones. We can always think of anti-depressive learned associations on purpose instead of waiting for a fire or the lottery to spark them up by accident. This way we can move depression out faster and as an act of will. Once you get the hang of this you never have to fear depression again. Whenever it comes you can quickly brainswitch out of it.

2 comments:

Liana said...

What can I say. Great post AB, thankyou for sharing this. Wow its given me insight into how our minds work especially regarding "low level thinking" and therefore the decreased need for neurotransmitters. So that explains why I was on Fluvox, an SRRI. Of all the psychiatrists I've seen in my life, not one of them have informed me of how the mind works particularly in regards to my bipolar. All of them have only ever explained it in layman terms that its a "chemical imbalance" and left it at that. Apart from the fact that I've been in denial about the diagnosis until recently accepting it, it never occurred to me to ask either. I've just gone along with what they've diagnosed and researched the usual: bipolar disorder, symptoms, causes, treatment and how to manage it. My clinical psychologist has never explained how the mind works either. However she has explained and drawn an awesome diagram to illustrate how the dynamics of my thoughts, feelings and behaviour play out during a depressive episode, and how to manage it, eg. make a list of the things I enjoy doing, go for a walk, do some painting and drawing etc to keep myself busy.
PS...I've plugged your books, blog and website again in my latest post, and I'm hoping you don't mind AB, but I've also added the photos of your 2 books on my post as well(coz they're copyright, I thought I'd let you know...good advertising for you!!!).

A. .B. Curtiss said...

Thank you for your post Liana. I hope others will also post their experiences with psychiatrists and clinical psychologists as to what information is forthcoming in their sessions about how their brain functions and what strategies they can employ to help themselves get out of a depressive episode. With this information you need not ever fear that your thoughts are more powerful than you are and can overwhelm you until you are helplessly lost in depression. Depression may pop up temporarily, but it does not need to be the focus of your life. That depression is the focus of your life is simply not necessary.