Why are you the way you are… and why do you need to know?

Estonian-American Neuroscientist and psychobiologist, Jaak Panksepp from Bowling Green State University argues that the brain is in many ways a seeking system. He suggests we all have an innate drive to discover and learn, to satisfy our curiosity and to understand why something is the way it is. More so if that something is related to ourselves. We may ask: “Why do I do that?” or “why am I the way I am?”. Not unnecessarily bad questions to ask ourselves but frustrating if we can not find an answer.

The psychologist Jerome Kagan also argues that uncertainty resolution is one of the biggest determinants of our behaviour. He suggests we want to relieve the distress of the unknown. This can of course lead us to difficulties if we are struggling with a condition or set of symptoms which our GP or other medical practitioner can not explain. The answer can often be found in neuroscience and for this reason I will often have brain based conversations with my clients, utilising the very latest in neuroscience research. By explaining, in simple terms, how the brain works, how we can struggle with some of the more, and less, well known symptoms, my clients and customers often have a moment of relief, a moment of understanding which allows them to realise that they are normal. This usually results in an immediate reduction in anxiety levels and an increase in hope. We are all looking for, to use Arie Kruglanski’s term, “cognitive closure”.

When we are faced with situations in which we are unable to achieve “cognitive closure” it can affect our mood, our actions and our choices. It can feed in to the obsessional nature of the primitive brain preventing us from seeing the bigger picture and beyond the problem, thereby making the problem worse.

In addition, by explaining to clients in general terms what they should be doing more (and less!) of, without advising them to do something specific, my clients come to understand how they can better engage their own intellectual and mental resources to see a way forward which may not have been obvious to them previously.

Generally speaking I make sure that clients have a very thorough understanding of how our minds works and how, if we are not careful, it can trip us up. This knowledge stays with them long after a series of sessions is completed which can lead to long term well-being rather than just a short term fix.

Alex Brounger is a full time Solution Focused Hypnotherapist with practices in Cirencester and Stroud, Gloucestershire. His website is: abHypnotherapy.co.uk

Alex is also a Hypnotherapy Supervisor and is a Senior Lecturer for CPHTBelfast.co.uk