Understanding the brain and REM in relation to Anxiety and Depression

As a solution focused hypnotherapy practitioner, I look to scientific explanations to understand how and why we feel the way we do, and at the initial consultation I provide clients with an understanding of how the brain works in relation to the key areas such as depression, anxiety and anger, as well as the physiology of certain neurotransmitters and neuro-chemicals. Thus, curbing the need to know "why?" and empowering my clients to take control of the situation and begin to make the necessary positive changes in their lives.

When we look at how the brain works, we split it into 2 key areas: the primitive versus the intellectual parts. 

Part 1: - The intellectual part is housed in our prefrontal cortex (the front section of the brain). When we operate from this part of the brain, we generally get things right in life.  It will always come up with answers based on a proper assessment of the situation and is generally very positive.

Part 2: - This part is the original primitive part. The central and influential bit of this brain is the amygdala. This is generally referred to as the fight/flight/freeze and the depression area of the brain.  It is associated with two other very primitive parts. The hippocampus, which holds all our primitive and sometimes inappropriate behavioural experiences and patterns, and the hypothalamus which regulates chemical responses in the body and mind.

This part of the mind is there to protect us if we run into a polar bear, however in today's society we tend not to be too worried about the threat of wild animals and other tribe's people. That said it is still quick to react.  When our anxiety goes up, and it can be a gradual process, we lose intellectual control and to a greater of lesser extent the primitive mind takes over and this mind always operates within the primitive parameters of the depression, anxiety and anger or a combination of all three.  

If our primitive mind thinks that, for one reason or another, our life is in some sort of crisis or emergency it will step in generally to help.  Depression, anxiety, and anger are all primitive opt out clauses. The primitive mind is a negative mind. It will always see things from the worst possible perspective. If you think about it, it has to for your self-preservation. It is an obsessional mind always checking. It is a vigilant mind.  If the perception is that danger is all around then it is wise to stay on red alert.  


And, because the primitive brain is not an intellect it can’t be innovative.  It has to refer to previous patterns of behaviour.  If what we did yesterday ensured our survival then we are encouraged to do it again.  

Anxiety is caused by negative thinking. It is not the events in one’s lives that necessarily cause the perception of crisis it is our thought patterns surrounding the events of our life. And every negative thought we have is converted into anxiety. Here we should remember that the primitive mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, that is why even though you are watching a horror film you still jump out of your skin, even though you are watching it on the TV the primitive mind can't tell the difference between the reality and steps in to preserve pumping your body with a dose of Adrenalin and the Amygdala preparing for that flight response. 

 Now, every negative thought that we have is accumulated and stored.  We say it is stored in a stress bucket (a metaphorical bucket not real one). Thankfully, we do have a method for emptying our bucket and it is known as REM sleep, rapid eye movement.  

At night we re-run events of the day and change them from being an emotional memory to a narrative memory.  A memory we have control over. 

Sadly, for one reason or another, REM is restricted to about 20% of our sleep patterns and sadly REM is enervating and it has enormous energy in that effort to diffuse that anxiety and empty that bucket.

 Sometimes we can overdo REM, causing our mind to wake us up, sometimes making us feel exhausted and this makes us even more depressed. So, emptying our bucket can add to the problem causing a vicious circle. The more you have in your bucket, the more time you will spend in your primitive brain and the more you will be encouraged to be negative.

If you would like to know more about how solution focused hypnotherapy can help you take control of the situation and begin to make the necessary positive changes in your life, then please contact J Lowson Hypnotherapy to make an appointment for a free non obligatory consultation.