The processing part of our brain is made up of millions of separate ‘spider like’ neurones, all interconnected to make what looks like a web or hairnet… and if you can imagine that there’s one hairnet on top of another and so forth, you can understand it would look fairly dense and complicated. If you could view the brain processing actually working, you would be able to detect little flashing bursts of electrical energy flashing along the surface of that hairnet but also through the layers too. These electrical impulses are individual neurones firing in response to receiving information that’s being collected from our five senses. So the information comes in, then you get a pattern of electrical impulses across that hairnet making a pattern that we call a neural pathway. It follows that different information coming in creates different pathways..and so forth. This is what’s happening in your brain, every second of every day of your life. Which if you think about it, is fairly amazing.
Not only is this part of your brain collecting and decoding information to decide then what to do what to do with it but its also testing that incoming data looking for familiar patterns, to help it to easily decide where to put the information quickly. Simply by repeating certain tasks and behaviours over and over again you are actually programming the brain to copy what happened previously without too much conscious thought. The problem is, that the processing part of the brain can’t tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful information. So it will just keep repeating that same old unhelpful pattern, even if you don’t want it, over again until its retrained to do something else.
Humans have the ability to actually create new thoughts ( new neural pathways ) simply by thinking about something different. For example, we can design our environment by planning what our garden is going to look like next year by planting certain plants etc. So you might be thinking to yourself about now “Right I’m never eating biscuits again or I’m just not going to feel anxious anymore.” But If you’ve ever tried to STOP doing something that’s been ‘programmed in’ you’ll understand that it’s not really that easy to change things by trying to do it by yourself.
The problem is that you are using your conscious analytical part of your mind to try to change something and this was the last part of our brain to develop. That thought, ‘about changing something’ has to travel through 50 meters of the older parts of our brain , including the processing centre in order to get to the part that has conscious awareness. To recap, thoughts get to that automatic processing part of your brain much quicker than getting to your logical thought area.
A chap called Benjamin Libet won a Virtual Nobel prize in 1983 for his work that demonstrated that it’s literally 350 milliseconds quicker. So 350 milliseconds before you decide that you want to ‘change something’ the processing centre has already detected an old pattern and is repeating what you would normally do and is starting to put that into effect instead. How do we know this ? If someone unexpectedly threw a ball at your head, the processing part of your brain would work out the speed that the ball was travelling and decide accordingly to make you dodge or catch it. You don’t actually have to think consciously ‘Oh look, a ball travelling at speed – I must move my head out of the way’. A pattern has been detected and the processing part of the brain is already instructing muscles to move your head out of the way long before you consciously realise what is happening. Phew, that was close!
The 350 millisecond gap is where the therapy comes in. We work out where the mistake is happening, do some retraining of your brain and lose the pattern that doesn’t work for you by changing it for a pattern that works much better. That in a nutshell is Brain Working Recursive Therapy… or BWRT… you don’t need to know exactly how it works, just that you’ll notice the difference and feel better, even after the first session!