Monday, May 31, 2010

The human brain has long been hard . . .

The human brain has long been hard-wired to be afraid of Being Attacked and Having Lack.

It has allowed us to evolve and survive. The reptilian (old brain) was constantly alert for saber toothed tigers and other predators; it was always guiding toward more food, more water, better shelter, and procreation.

As our brains have further evolved, humans are capable of creating, planning, analyzing, writing, understanding….and yet, it has been proven that the old—reptilian—brain, wrapped tightly around our brain stems is here to stay.

The ramifications of this are great job security for those of us in health care. Although most of my patients do not have saber toothed tigers after them, many lay fearfully in their beds for hours a night, overwhelmed by the Lack and Attack fears taking up space in their minds. Driving here in their SUVs after stopping for lunch at Subway, they describe their concerns about who is out to get them at work, their impending financial doom, fears about diseases they may eventually get. Many request medication for anxiety or depression.

I’m not saying that medication isn’t sometimes effective, especially for people who are severely depressed. What I am saying, and what I try to communicate to my patients in our 15 minute primary care “slots” is to sit back, look at the fears your brain is spouting off. It could be that the old reptilian brain, which is continually broadcasting Lack and Attack fears isn’t serving you anymore. Maybe, just maybe, you can feel your flannel sheets, realize there’s a roof over your head, food in your fridge, no saber toothed tigers, then sigh deeply and happily and get some sleep.

It’s the topic at our next free monthly workshop. Hope to see you there…check out for details.

Joan Shepherd - FNP

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