The Theory Part 3 - The Brain

Visualisation techniques section 3 is a little different, in that we will not be giving you a specific visualisation technique. Instead we am going to explain a little about how the brain works and how events and memories activate thoughts. This is the root cause of anxiety so understanding it is beneficial to finding methods to get it under control. Once we have explained this, the next section – part 4, will make visualisation much easier to understand and we can then expand on the technique and take it to an advanced level.

The average human brain weighs about 3 lb (1.4 kg) which, when removed from the skull, looks a bit like a large pinkish-grey walnut.

Food and oxygen are carried to the brain by many blood vessels found on the surface of and deep within the brain. Although the brain is only about 2% of our total body weight, it receives between 15 and 20% of the body's blood supply. Of all the organs in the body, the brain has top priority for blood, because brain cells start to die if the supply of blood carrying oxygen is stopped.

The brain can be divided down the middle lengthwise into two halves called the cerebral hemispheres, the left brain and the right brain, connected together by an area called the corpus callosum which contains some 200-250 million nerve fibres.

Each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex has grooves and bumps that can be seen on the surface of the brain. The folding of the cerebral cortex produced by these bumps and grooves increases the amount of cerebral cortex that can fit in the skull. Each hemisphere of the brain has its own special dominant abilities. In general the right brain is dominant for spatial abilities, face recognition, visual imagery, music and artistic things. The left brain is normally more dominant for calculations, mathematics, science and logical operations. The two hemispheres work together however, sharing information through the corpus callosum.

In most people, the left brain is most dominant and as a result most of us tend to look at life’s challenges from a logical point of view. However, the geniuses of this world often find a creative solution to their issues, because they use the right hand side of their brain, more that the average person. Albert Einstein for example though a brilliant scientist and therefore you would think, a very left brain dominated person, was also a concert level Violinist, who used his right brain consistently to tackle challenges of an extremely complicated and technical nature. In arriving at his groundbreaking theory of relativity for instance, he imagined what it would be like to sit on a beam of light and travel along at vast speeds. Einstein is quoted as saying “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

If we look at the brain in a pet scan, we see areas of electrical activity, like a thunder storm in the brain. The brain is made up of tiny nerve cells, called neurons. These neurons have tiny branches which reach over and connect with other neurons to form a neural network. Each place where they connect is integrated into a thought or memory, thoughts feelings and beliefs are all constructed in a neural net.

The feeling of love, for instance is stored in this vast neural network, but we form the concept of love from many other different ideas. Some people have love connected to disappointment. When they think about love, they experience the memory of pain, sorrow, anger or even rage. Rage, may be linked to hurt which could be linked to a specific person or event, which in turn is linked back to love.

We build up a model in the brain from our experiences and the more information or experiences we have, the more that model is strengthened. What we ultimately do is tell ourselves a story about what the outside world is.

Nerve cells that fire together, wire together. If we practice something over and over again, these nerve cells have a long term relationship. However nerve cells that no longer fire together, no longer wire together. It’s a bit like a path in a field. If you keep walking the same path, the path becomes more and more distinct. However if people choose to walk a different way, the old path grows over and eventually disappears.

The most sophisticated pharmacy in the world exists inside the brain. Lots of what are labelled psychological problems really amount to defective thought networks, but we needn’t live with these, we can chose to make different ones and that’s where visualisation comes in!

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