A Tale of Two Brains
How REMAP Can Help
By Steve B.
Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT
know that you have more than one brain? It is true. The
simplest way to describe it is that you have a "thinking"
brain and you have an "emotional" brain. Great you say,
after all two brains are better than one. Well, that is
true most of the time. However, some of the time your two
brains do not get along. They do not always work well
together. Occasionally, the emotional brain tries to take
over the thinking brain.
it comes to these two brains, you have a favorite, it is the
thinking brain. You typically like this brain best because
you can relate to it. You can see it working. You can
listen-in on its thoughts and inner conversations. It is
what we relate to as the mind, our identity. This thinking
part of our brain—it is called the cortex.
cortex is the top layer of the brain. It is the latest part
to develop in our evolution. However, there is more to the
brain than just the cortex. Underneath it is the mid-brain
(sometimes called the limbic system). If the cortex is the
thinking brain, then the limbic system is the emotional
brain. This brain is hard for people to relate to. Its
functions are autonomic. You cannot see it working. You
can only feel its effects, which are both physical and
emotional. A good example is the physical and emotional
effect that we experience when something triggers our "fight
or flight" reflex.
"fight or flight" reflex is fired-up by the emotional
brain's alarm center, the amygdala. Amygdala is a Greek
word for almond. It was given that name because it is
a small almond shaped structure in the mid-brain. In
some ways, it works like the alarm system in a house.
However, when this alarm goes off you do not hear a siren.
Instead, you feel the alarm. The muscles tighten, the
mouth becomes dry and some of the blood vessels constrict.
Adrenalin pumps into the body, the pores open to release sweat and
the bronchi expand so we can get more oxygen. The heart
begins to race and you feel either fear or anger as the body
prepares to run for your life or fight for your life.
reactions are the work of the mid-brain and they are outside
of our conscious control. Many times when people feel out
of control, they are in fact being controlled by this part
of their brain. The scary thought of losing one's mind
relates to losing one's ability to think in a rational or
functional way. No one wants to suffer a loss of the
ability to control their thoughts or to make reasonable
choices. Yet, it can happen to every one of us. For most
people it is not permanent. It is only temporary. It can
happen in response to a perceived threat (real or
"fight or flight" response is engaged, the emotional brain
takes over. If the emotional intensity of the experience is
high enough, the thinking brain literally begins to
shutdown. In essence, the emotional brain hi-jacks the
thinking brain and we may run amuck. This happens because
when we are in a dire crisis, we do not need to sit around
and think. We need to take quick action. Life may depend
walk through the woods and see something out of the corner
of your eye, you do not stop to ponder whether it is a stick
or a snake. You jump out of harms way and evaluate later.
If it is a snake, you do not pause wondering, "red stripes
and black stripes, hum, now is that poisonous or
nonpoisonous"? You do not need to do critical thinking when
you are about to be bitten by a snake. Such over indulgence
by the thinking brain could prevent our species from
surviving. Instead, what happens is the mid-brain overrides
and takes action. When the threat is gone, the thinking
brain can come back online.
someone says to you, "Oh, he panicked" you know exactly what
they are referring to. In the frantic moments of an
emergency, someone has lost their ability to think. Their
cortex has gone offline. Their emotional brain has
commandeered control. Some unfortunate soul has lost their
mind or at least the ability to use it. In cases like this,
it feels like we have lost control, because we have. We
have been taken-over by something more primitive—an
emotional intensity is high enough, it impairs thinking. At
times like this, it is hard to think your way through a
problem. This is one reason cognitive psychotherapy, which
focuses exclusively on the thinking brain, frequently
reason talk therapy fails is that the problems people have
often do not lie in the thinking brain. Instead, the impact
event is imprinted in the emotional mid-brain. The thinking
brain is a world of words, language. The emotional brain is
only minimally accessible through language. It is a world
of sensations and emotions. You cannot get to the emotional
brain through the language of the thinking brain.
find a different way to reach and teach the emotional
mid-brain. We need a means of connecting to and calming the
fight or flight reflex. It has to be powerful enough to
disarm that inner alarm reflex even when it is in full
force. We need a means to heal intense emotional pain,
soothe distressed emotional memories and recondition an out
of control alarm reflex. In those moments when the mind is
so lost, there must be a way to return to our senses.
Fortunately, there is.
Now there is a treatment designed especially for the
emotional brain. It does not need to rely on language
alone. It can produce a direct effect on the limbic system
within seconds. It calms the mid-brain, turns-off the fight
or flight reflex and restores access to our thinking brain.
It heals the crater left by an impact event on the landscape of
the emotional brain. The effects of acute stress, everyday
traumas, and cumulative life stress are soothed and smoothed
by a process that remaps your emotional landscape. It
is the REMAP process.