7 Brain-based Tips You Can Use to Help Clients Cope with Uncertainty and FEAR- less
The neuroscience, research and practice of psychotherapy are all aligned to help humans suffer less, but you may see that your clients are experiencing more emotional pain, stress and misery. Here are some tips from neuroscience that will inform a new approach to combat client’s emotional experiences of FEAR and their struggles with Uncertainty.
1. Encourage your clients to view uncertainty in a new way.
Reframe the problem. Reframing is a common technique in psychotherapy in which you help your client take something and rearrange it so it looks different. Reframing allows a completely new perspective or view; like taking an photo out of an old frame and putting it in a new one. When you change the problem context and the understanding, then you can open possibilities for a new solution or resolution.
2. Help your clients consider uncertainty as both normal – and a brain-based phenomenon.
You want your clients to know that when they experience emotional pain, they are not defined by what their brain is doing. Through training awareness, you help build distance from what the brain is processing while slowing down the speed and reaction. When you train your clients to observe, distance, and be aware, you are growing their prefrontal cortex or TOP Brain’s meta-cognitive abilities. These techniques help them to be mindful. They build the client’s capacity for emotional control, cognitive de-fusion and psychological flexibility.
3. Teach clients to give labels and locate uncertainty data as coming from the Automatic Thought Generator of MIDDLE Brain.
When there’s emotional pain, the brain’s automatic thinking center gets busy thinking of things related to this from the past and dragging information into future – all while losing the present. We’ve all seen how negative thoughts, images or memories often limit, confuse and activate emotional systems. And what about when daydreams, ruminations and preoccupations take over? They often add more incoming data for BOTTOM brain reaction. Plus, there may even be more data flooding in from brain-storming the negatively-biased possibilities for what you don’t want, can’t have, or won’t do.
When our client’s attention isn’t focused, our human brains go into automatic survival-based thoughts, getting prepared for the worst, thinking in past and future, and making social comparisons and inventing stories. Teach them to be aware when their MIDDLE Thought mode kicks in, limiting, confusing, or activating the emotional center or BOTTOM Brain. You can train them to think, for instance: “This is a MIDDLE Brain thought. I’m thinking entirely about what I don’t want to happen. It’s not happening, this
is a thought, and my BOTTOM Brain is processing and responding to it because I feel emotional pain.”
4. Train clients to use MIDDLE Brain thoughts in order to change their approach or tactic to avoid becoming stuck or preoccupied with uncertainty.
When uncertainty becomes a MIDDLE BRAIN automatic thought focus, there will be an increase in what they don’t want; think of that as a problematic preoccupation. By attending to these automatically generated preoccupations and focusing on the negative outcomes suggested by thoughts or images, clients’ brains may automatically trigger emotional pain responses, such as FEAR in BOTTOM Brain. Mindfulness, meditation, and self-hypnosis can all be helpful for gaining a greater ability to focus and influence the MIDDLE Brain to turn off and stop activating the BOTTOM Brain. Clients can learn the tools and techniques to train their brain to be more flexible and less reactive to stress.
5. Encourage clients to learn to never-mind the MIDDLE Brain thoughts when they show up, as they are irrelevant for action, but may confuse and activate BOTTOM Brain emotions.
You can help clients recognize the uncertainty they live with every-day but typically ignore when life goes along in a more routine way. You can share with clients some common examples that normalize uncertainty. For instance, one story I share with clients is about two people who are on their third Match.com date while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The guy says, “You know sometimes when I’m stuck on a bridge, I have the thought come up that I should roll the window down so if the bridge were to collapse I could get out. I never actually do that, but I think of it from time to time.” She replies, “Yes, me, too. I guess our minds think alike, so we should date.” Using stories and anecdotes help clients deal with uncertainty.
6. Help clients find the good in uncertainty.
Without uncertainty we couldn’t experience the true joy of surprises. You never know when you might see a shooting star, a dolphin or run into an old friend. What would that surprise visit from your deployed parent or a surprise birthday be without uncertainty? Novelty, surprise and uncertainty are useful when healing and changing the brain. In therapy we can intentionally create new neuroplastic emotional experiences to prepare the whole brain for change and transformation. You help your clients see the good in uncertainty and surprises when they discover they can react and feel differently, especially when they never imagined they could change.
7. Give your clients TOP Brain Awareness and Attention Training tools that Play the Brain for Change.
Help clients understand what their brain has been doing with thought data, and how that may be activating their BOTTOM Brain’s emotional center. Use experiential techniques to condition, decondition, and recondition emotional pain patterns, so your clients can be FEAR-less.
I hope these neuroscience keys help you help your clients deal with uncertainty in new and effective ways.
Play the Brain For Change Teleconference
If this revolutionary new intervention intrigues you, I have good news. In May, you can participate in the Play the Brain For Change Teleconference. Not only will you receive a bonus ebook, you will also learn how to use Emotional Pain Intervention® TUNE steps to help clients self-direct neuroplasticity. Also learn about RETUNE steps where you, as the therapist, direct neuroplasticity using memory reconsolidation. This process enables you to intentionally create a new emotional experience to mismatch the fear.Learn More