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This time our focus centers around the subject of beliefs, misconceptions and ambiguity. In the context of emotional, psychological and physical health and wellbeing, it’s what we tell ourselves, which really affects us in our daily lives. Our reactions to situations are both conscious and sub-conscious, and the patterns (or templates) we follow determine a huge part of our overall experience of the world. And here it must be noted that the mind works through association. But what do we mean by that?

Well, firstly we must consider how information is stored in the brain. A useful metaphor for this is the filing cabinet. In fact, countless filing cabinets containing all the information we have ever received about anything, are stored in the subconscious vaults of the mind. In this way, any new information received is matched with the truths we hold, in order to determine whether and where it may be filed. In other words, we learn and store information through association with information that we already have.

But this is where it can get a bit tricky. There are essentially two parts to the human brain, which we can usefully talk about here: the intellectual part, where all of our critical faculties are held, and the primitive part. When we operate from the intellectual part of the brain, we generally come up with answers based on a proper assessment of the situation, and are generally very positive. However, the other more primitive part, which is basically only there for our survival, will always refer to previous patterns of behavior. In other words, if what we did yesterday ensured our survival, then we are encouraged to do it again, even though this may not be the direction we’ve decided to go. Any deviation from the current held ‘truth’ will not be accepted without a fight, which may manifest itself in any part of the symptomology of depression, anxiety and anger, or a combination of all three.

Take a phobia such as fear of spiders for example. Relevant associations here may be obvious to everyone, such as the garden shed. However, to the sufferer the association will often reach much further. It can lead to all kinds of conscious and sub-conscious anxiety driven avoidance strategies. For example, even at the mere mention of mowing the lawn (because that means getting the mower out of the shed) can lead to making excuses such as ‘it’s too wet’, and ‘tomorrow will be a better day’. Of course, here we are talking about avoidance, but we are also talking about an increase in anxiety in all areas of life, as the primitive brain remains on the look out.

The primitive mind is a vigilant mind, so if the perception is that there may be danger all around, then it is wise to stay on red alert. It’s also an obsessional mind, so if there were a spider on the ceiling, the sufferer would keep checking. And, because the primitive mind is not an intellect, I cannot be innovative. Again, it has to refer to previous patterns of behavior. Although this example talks about the spider, this could represent anything at all such as public speaking, exams, social anxiety, or flying etc.

Any instance of anxiety adds to stress in our lives, which in turn moves us from the intellectual part of the brain, where we are capable of executive function, to the primitive part of the brain, where we are encouraged to see the worst-case scenario.

So, the more general stress a person has, the more acute their issues such as phobias will seem. It’s not that the issues has necessarily got worse, rather it’s our spare capacity to cope that is reduced, and we can more easily be tipped over the edge.

One great way to cope with stress and it’s associated responses is hypnotherapy, which works on both a conscious and sub-conscious level and have very specialized tools and techniques for addressing all kinds of undesirable thought patterns.