NEUROPLASTICITY AND EPIGENETICS
It's an exciting time in the field of psychotherapy. In the past few years through the use of advanced imaging technology, scientists have been able to study the brain in ways that were previously not possible. One positive outcome of these studies has been the discovery of the neuroplasticity of the brain. The commonly-held belief that the brain is hardwired and therefore unchangeable has given way to the reality that we can change our brains. In fact, this is happening all the time whether we are conscious of it or not.
We now know we can make conscious changes that can benefit our lives by modifying the neuronal structures in our brains. The study of Epigenetics has shown that we are not hostage to our genes, but that various environmental factors such as lifestyle choices can actually turn a specific gene on or off. This determines if that gene will express in our life or not.
The implications of these discoveries are far-reaching. Just knowing that we are not captives of our genetics can be a great motivator for us to take the steps to make positive changes in our lives. And advances in psychology reflect this new knowledge. Techniques like EMDR and Mindfulness have now been studied extensively and shown to be highly effective tools for changing the brain and, as a consequence, changing our lives.
EASTERN AND WESTERN PSYCHOLOGY
Partly because of advances in brain imaging, Eastern psychology has slowly crept into the practice of psychology here in the West. To understand the differences between the two approaches it is important to understand how each one views the self. In the West, we postulate a solid, individual self, separate from the world. The East sees an intrinsic unity within all creation of which we are an inextricable part-- just as the wave is not separate from the ocean.
Neuroscience has shown that there are actual areas of the brain that give us the sense of a solid, separate self. And we can cultivate other parts of the brain to give us the sense that we are connected to all that is. The value of this knowledge of our connectedness is that it increases our sense of well-being and reduces our tendency for conflict with others and with life. Incorporating Eastern techniques such as mindfulness and meditation into Western psychology has greatly enhanced its effectiveness and given it new depth and richness.
Please visit irenekokataybooks.com for information on my new book, Simply Sacred, which discusses this topic in further detail.