How the brain heals

The gaffer — Prof Steve Peters

If you work as a Performance Coach and Psych, for professional development, you are required to maintain the quality of your work by getting it reviewed by a Supervisor. In my case, I’m fortunate that my Supervisor is Professor Steve Peters. We’ve worked together for coming up to 4 years now and along with a number of other mentors in the field (Caroline Marlow, Matt Buman, and Dave Alcock spring to mind), through the supervision process, I’ve developed as a practitioner to better understand human behaviour, how to be more empathic and effective as a practitioner and how to take different perspectives on situations where your focus might be locked in one position at the risk of missing other important details. Through this process you get some awesome and inspiring insights — often so simple you afterwards think “why didn’t I think of that?!”

Although I couldn’t publish the details of a client’s case or specific problem here, I want to share an insight from my last session with the Prof, as that really left an impression. We were talking about the effects of trauma on individuals, whether through an accident, or say divorce or grief at the loss of a loved one and what effect that has on the brain and how people cope.

Steve explained that: “Trauma leaves an emotional scar on the brain. But to then progress, two things need to happen. First of all the individual needs to lead a new life with a new image of themselves in a new setting. This might be the same geographical location a person lives in, but they have to be able to at least imagine themselves anew there.”

“Secondly, the scar has to go with them. It won’t ever disappear and will shape them and their subsequent behaviour, but the process of coping will mean the person can live with their scar. The role of a therapist or counsellor is to then help the individual adjust and recognise that the scar will hit that individual again on the backside — possibly when they least expect it. At first they’ll need TLC and support for the bad days but eventually they will need to develop a strategy to cope when the scar ‘opens’ and hits them emotionally. To have an understanding that the pain could hit them at any time is useful, something like: ‘My scar will bite me now and again.’ But recognise that it’ll be painful, take as long as it takes to overcome, but that you’ll be OK long term.”

It seems so simple in its eloquence, but when you apply it to painful memories from your life, try and see how your brilliant brain machinery has adapted to the initial pain or trauma you’ve experienced and how you can better cope with that situation now.

Enjoy your weekend.