Member Question: Neurobiology and Anxiety

Member Question

Something happened to me as a teenager. It was terrible and afterward I never really felt the same. I can’t stand to see anyone hurt so even in a dangerous situation, I will have to get involved. I’m a good listener but I don’t feel good about myself. I go the extra mile for the few friends I have but I don’t really feel that anyone really likes or respects me. - Stephanie

 

Learning Together: Neurobiology and Anxiety

First, let’s look at how your brain deals with the wide variety of situations you might find yourself in. We'll also consider a little bit about neurobiology and anxiety. Whether by inheritance, upbringing or other environmental factors, brain regions connected by brain circuits work together to optimize every moment of our lives. This allows you to accurately assess and adjust to most life situations. It is always incorporating into its data banks anything that you are exposed to. It learns what to avoid, how to make small and large adjustments to any body system. It seeks to maximize the results of any positive effort and minimize any potential pain, warning us if need be to avoid impending danger. Although the complexities of the brain are far from being fully realized, I find the following generalizations helpful.

The left brain tends to respond more to things we find pleasing and are like us. The right brain on the other hand tends to respond to things we are interested in that are different from us. When our left brain is presented with a situation that extends it’s function beyond what it can successfully deal with, increasing numbers of these brain cells begin to run outside the brains normal regulatory process. This cells then become ‘stuck’ in the hyperactive mode. For example, if we continue under these environmental influences these hyperactive cells will generate excessive interest in something e.g. food, drugs, or alcohol, all of which exist outside the bodies normal control mechanisms.

The same can happen on the right side of the brain. Under normal situations it is busy looking for aspects of the environment that are different and interesting. As the difference increases or otherwise changes, the cells begin to send out warnings to the rest of the body. Over time these cells can slowly increase their function providing a more sensitive assessment of danger and a greater response when danger exists. When even this organization is overcome, these cells begin to run outside the usual regulatory mechanisms and episodes of anger, anxiety and flashbacks can result with little to no provocation.

The circuits related to the Nucleus Accumbens define the ‘biological relevance’ of various stimuli in the environment. When these cells fall out of regulatory control we can become addicted when the cells are overly active (neurobiology and anxiety), and depressed when their activity falls under our ability to ‘pick ourselves back up!

The neuro-circuits of the Orbital-Frontal Cortex (OFC) provide the highest organization of our brain. All aspects of our body in one way or another is optimized by this part of our brain. It also is responsible for assessing everything outside of our body. This is particularly true when information is scant and decisions complex. This is the part of our brain that must accumulate answers when no real answers exist and looks to simplify the complex. It looks for a way to make life assessments that satisfy all of your bodily needs. Additionally, this part of our mind, through specialized cells called mirror neurons, is also able to communicate with the minds of others. This part of our mind, I believe, is where we learn about and accept our Higher Power. Over time with the entire brain under its regulations we can learn to become wise.

The competition between these organizational centers can help explain some of our interpretive tendencies, as these centers are given differential access to our moment-to-moment incoming information. The more successfully a strategy avoids pain in the short term, the more our right brain activates. The more successfully a strategy seems to offer short and long term pleasure, the more our left brain activates. Eventually, a dynamic balance is reached where our mind develops carefully realized patterns that tend to function best under specific types of situations. When the highest centers of our mind in the OFC remain active, we tend to find our greatest internal and external optimization.

Personal Development Activity

Explore carefully the ‘dynamic balance’ you enjoy as a result of how your brain matured. You may want to ask a few people who know you what they think as well. These questions are meant to explore the way you function day-in and day-out. Where do you presently put your emphasis?:

  • Are you more interested in people who are like you or those that offer a difference?
  • Are you more more interested in personal achievement or connection with others?
  • Which do you seek first, personal growth or contribution?

 

This sets up where we may struggle as well. Please see more on this discussion of human needs.

Starting with  your Oneness with your spiritual source, look at your gifts, in what ways can you better know when to use your gift of 'being nice', when you need to set it down and if it needs a slight adjustment to 'nicely honest'.

 

Understanding Relationships through Neurobiology
How Mirror Neurons Help Us Find Answers
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