The human brain as a complex dynamic system

At a fundamental level our nervous systems are simply very complex computational biological 'machines'. As with most complex systems there are a number of major components or aspects that have specific functions. Everything that we are and that we experience can be though of as a complex interaction of the following elements:

Logical V Emotional (Left / right hemispheres)

The left hemishere tends to be responsible for logical functions - this includes our ability to rationalise.

  • Chocolate is a source of sugars and fats that should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet

The right hemishere tends to be responsible for more emotional functions - this includes the emotional strength of beliefs.

  • Chocolate makes me feel good - I love chocolate

Conscious V Unconscious

The conscious mind is essentially whatever you are currently aware of.

The unconscious mind is whatever you are currently aware of plus everything else. Some functions are more unconscious than others eg temperature control (via the limbic system) is difficult to access directly.

Low level limbic thinking V Higher level thinking (beliefs / values)

The limbic system is part of our deep unconscious mind and is responsible for many of our automatic (autonomic) responses eg temperature control.

Our higher level cognitive functions are housed in our cortex and include our ability to rationalise and our ability to make evaluations about the world around us in accordance with beliefs and values.

Primary Beliefs and Attitudes

These are beliefs that influence every other belief and can change how we view the world:

  • Internal V External locus of control
    • Internal: I control how I think and feel in the main
    • External: How I think and feel is in the main determined by the actions of others that are beyond my control therefore I have no control over how I think and feel
  • Positive V Negative Outlook
  • Self-esteem
  • ...

Sympathetic V Para sympathetic

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our being awake through to being stressed. We can become stressed via a limbic system response, cognitively via beliefs / values, via something physical or via an emotional response.

The para-sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our being calm through to being asleep.

Core V Peripheral

The brain, limbic system and brain stem represent the core nervous systems.

The spinal cord and our sensory nervous systems provide information from the external world to the core systems and facilitate our ability to interact with the external world.

Information can be stored within or associated with feelings from the peripheral nervous system eg a knot in the stomach feeling in association with a particular thought.

Psychological V Physiological

When we become stressed our adrenaline levels increase. This generates a wide range of psychological changes and can setup a feedback loop that perpetuates the stress response and can reinforce particular thoughts.

Equally when we change something physiologically eg have a massage this can have an effect on how we 'feel' psychologically ie relaxed.

Locus of focus

This is where we choose to focus our awareness and can be internal (within ourselves) or external.

When we focus on internal sensations such as those associated with stress or the presence or absence of particular substances those feelings tend to be perpetuated and or amplified.

Time

Over time many responses will generally diminish unless something is being done to re-establish or reinforce that response.

  • Diminishing - I was mugged 10 years ago. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing similar has happened since and I am now a bit more street wise. Sure, there are bad people out there but most people are OK.
  • Reinforcing via limiting beliefs and behaviours - I was mugged 10 years ago. The world is unsafe. My world is unsafe. I don't go out at night at all now and view anyone that I know as being safe as being a potential threat.

Behaviours

How we behave can reinforce some psycological issues. Avoidance for example tends to perpetuate fear.

+Environmental and Social Factors

Our environment can directly influence how we think. If you are in a high risk environment eg a war zone you will probably be more stressed more of the time.

We can learn particular responses by virtue of seeing other people respond in the same way ie social learning.

Other environmental factors that may affect some people include microwave / UHF background radiation, ambient background sound levels, air pressure, weather conditions generally and air quality.

+Drugs, Medications, Alcohol, Diet, Hydration, Fitness

The consumption of drugs, alcohol and medications since conception will have had some effect on the nervous system.

The most important and direct effect of drugs and alcohol is during the time when an issue first started and thereafter.

Side effects of drugs and medications can also play a role in how we feel psychologically and physically.

Some argue that the nervous system is never the same after the consumption of some recreational and prescription drugs. Drugs such as ecstasy cocaine and cannabis have long term if not permanent effects on brain function.

What we eat and how much water we consume can also play a role.

Physical fitness has a direct impact of psychological health. Aerobic fitness is especially important.

+Epigenetics

This is the effect of the environment on the small-print of your genetic code. In particular links have been found been grandparents and their grandchildren (eg asthma, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stress all have proposed epigentic factors). This means that how your grandfather lived his life before his teen years and how your grandmother lived her life in the final 3 months of pregnancy when carrying your mother may have affected your genetic code in a very subtle may. The link between stress and epigentic is currently being researched via a major, long-term project following on from 9/11.

+Other

  • Sensitivity to the environment
  • Social and economic environment
  • ...

System dynamics view of human psychology



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Bill Frost - Clinical Hypnotherapist 1998-2018

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