Good Advice For The Female Brain
I’m not gonna lie….I have occasional bouts with anxiety. It comes and goes according to its own agenda depending on the circumstances of my life, but it manefests usually as “anticipatory anxiety”. That is to say, I am a victim of “What If” thinking…The catastrophic world of my imagination is far worse than anything that has ever actually happened. When the “bad” stuff happens, its never what I expect or when I expect it. Talk about being your own worst enemy!
What I have learned recently from Dr. Daniel Amen, who is a well known neuropsychologist, is that the female brain is actually wired to encode anticipatory anxiety at a neurological level. This can be seen in brain scans done on adult females and then comparing them to male brain scans. Statistically speaking, the female brain “lights up” much more than the male brain in the area of emotional arousal, and emotional memory. Female brains are actually much more active than male brains, but not necessarily in an adaptive way. Perhaps, evolutionarily speaking, it was once an advantage for female tribe members to be acutely sensitive to legitimate threat to the tribe. She had to protect her babies. Now, however, acute “hypervigalence” can get in the way as modern women react to “perceived threat”. Now the threat exists inside of us. It has become “internalized” and our feelings of panic are easily triggered as our emotional memory “brings back up” all previous memories of times we have felt “like this”. The neural pathways then become reinforced, and we are easily set off again. The problem is that this type of sustained anxiety floods the body with adrenaline and cortisol and these stress hormones are harmful to our overall physical and mental health.
So, what can we do? To answer this question I draw upon the wise words of Dr. Harville Hendrix, a theologian and psychologist, who has been working with couples for 35 years and has written the books. “Getting The Love You Want”, and “Keeping The Love You Get”. Dr. Hendrix suggests that we women should become curious explorers of our own psyche when we are triggered by events and find ourselves in that place of extreme emotional reactivity. When the female brain is “Lit Up”, to use Dr. Amen’s language, the part of the brain that is fired up is located in the “limbic” system, which is where emotions are created, stored, and retrieved. Our emotional memories can be lovely memories of a time when we were happy, contented, and loved. Emotional memories can also create great suffering, and help us stay in some very dark places. Dr. Hendrix suggests that we can interrupt the emotional suffering by simply stepping away for a moment to become curious about ourselves. We need only ask the question: “I wonder why I am having such a reaction as this right now?” The asking of the question moves the brain from the limbic system to the neo cortex, where thinking and problem solving take place. We can become calm and begin to explore ourselves more dispassionately. This is much like becoming your own best friend, or therapist. Save yourself some cash!
So, try it if you like…..Im going to