I hear that a lot. “I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it”.
How can it be, that our logical mind can be so split from our emotional mind? For example, I might feel terrified at the prospect of having a needle put into my arm. I try to reassure myself with my logical mind. I tell myself “of course it is safe to have my bloods taken, I like the midwife, I trust her, I want my bloods taken and I know it’s not dangerous”. In spite of these logical, rational, more-likely-than-not true, words, my body and mind aren’t listening. Because when I enter the room, my heart races, my palms sweat, I want to cry, I want to run away, and I feel absolutely awful. My anxiety takes over.
This is why, if you meet a frightened woman, it doesn’t always help to reassure her rationally, that she doesn’t need to be frightened. She may “know” what you’re saying it right, but she won’t be able to “feel” it. It can be much more effective and much quicker to work at the emotional level, not the rational level. The “emotional” level can mean many things, according to your personal understanding. It can mean “intuitive” “automatic” “subconscious” “mammalian”. This “level” of brain processing seems to be housed in the amygdala, and research suggests that the brain holds on strongly to frightening emotional information (or scary memories) for a very long time, in order to be better safe than sorry. This captured emotional memory is evolved and designed to do the following:
- It is designed to be “fired” or “triggered” whenever it finds itself in a similar situation (even if the similarity is very vague or arbitrary)
- It is designed to override reason and logic. It literally stops us from thinking clearly
- It is designed to consider the worst-case scenario
- It is designed to create a very quick and unpleasant release of stress hormones which make us compelled to escape or avoid.
What do we do, if our emotional memory has “locked in” a scary event, and plays it out in the form of anxiety, again and again, even though our logical mind knows there is nothing to fear? How can we help a woman frightened to labour again? How can we help a woman frightened to have an internal examination? How can we help her to feel freed from her birth, and able to move on into motherhood without debilitating distress and fear?
There is a simple and easy technique called the Rewind method, which can be used to “unhook” the locked-in emotional memory, so that logic and reason can once again function. It’s been around for years, and although we don’t actually know how it works, one theory is that the rewind method activates a process in the brain similar to dreaming, which helps to move the memory from the amygdala (the emotional seat of the brain), to another part of the brain in the neo-cortex, involved in storing past memories in a more logical/historical fashion.
While scientists try to get to a greater understanding of how it works, I’m just going to crack on and use it, because I have seen phenomenal results in my practice over the past 5 years of using it, but also in the practice of those that I have had the honour of teaching it to. Mark and I teach it to non-therapists, because we believe that it doesn’t need to be part of a therapeutic package. What you do need, is opportunity to spend time together (about two hours), a motivation to help, and a good relationship in the first place. So, we teach this method to doulas, yoga teachers, hypnobirthing practitioners, midwives, health visitors, social workers, and so on. If that’s you, and you’re interested, get in touch.