Kathryn Kitto’s article focuses on ways to release blocks in your mind and create new behaviours through making changes in your brain pathways. Kathryn is a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist and has a special interest in helping people create healthier thought patterns and behaviours.
For hundreds of years, as stated in “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge (2010), “mainstream medicine and science have believed that brain anatomy was fixed. The common wisdom was that after childhood the brain changed only when it began the long process of decline; that when brain cells failed to develop properly, or were injured, or died, they could not be replaced. [It was also believed that the brain could never] alter its structure or find a new way to function if part of it was damaged” (pp xiii – xiv).
However, in more recent times, there has been a revolutionary discovery that the brain can change itself, and that every experience we have in life, creates or deepens more neural pathways, and creates new thought patterns and behaviours. Therefore, neuroplasticity, as it is known, has major implications for how “love, sex, grief, relationships, learning, addictions, culture, technology, and psychotherapies change our brains” (Doidge, 2010: xiii – xvi). But then also importantly, being able to seize neuroplasticity, being able to find a way to create new neural pathways can also be a key to healing ourselves and others after life experiences, especially those of a traumatic nature, which have created unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours. And so how do we access this ability to change our brains?
As per my own experiences, one of the most recent ways to help people change their thought patterns and behaviours is through cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. But CBT by itself is limited in changing our thought patterns and behaviours because while we understand the changes that we want to make, it is often the case that we still can’t seem to do it. So why is this? CBT does not deal with the subconscious mind which is where our thought patterns and behaviours originate from. CBT is great for understanding what is actually happening with us, but not always great for making the actual change when it is something we have been doing for many, many years. And so why is this?
Imagine that the neural pathways in our brains are tiny little roads which we have been travelling down again and again for many years, representing the same thought patterns or behaviours we act out again and again for just as many years. Imagine that the road is really deeply gouged out because it has been travelled so many times, and so trying to deviate from that road is really difficult because we would have to use a lot of strength to get out over the high edges of the road and to create a new road. This is what happens when we try to make changes at a conscious level just using CBT. We could talk for years and years with our therapists, trying to make changes but it takes a lot of effort and time because the original road is so deeply gouged out and it is really difficult to create the new road at this conscious level. And so how else could we do this?
In more recent research, hypnosis is proving to be a popular research tool for neuroscience because it has been demonstrated that hypnosis can create changes in the brain at a much faster rate using the subconscious mind than at a conscious level. It is like the subconscious mind is a direct link to your brain pathways, and so therefore, if we are working with the subconscious, the brain is much more likely to create new pathways no matter how deeply gouged out the original road may be. For example, where a scan of the brain has been taken before hypnosis, and then after, neuroscientists can see the distinct differences in the pathways. And therefore, when someone experiences hypnotherapy, what is really happening is that new neural pathways are being created, creating new thought patterns or behaviours, releasing mind blocks, and if the treatment is appropriate, creating a healthier mental state.
Therefore, the use of hypnotherapy is a very powerful tool in the field of psychotherapy. It allows a therapist to not only tap into the subconscious mind, allowing the person to experience something new, but also to create new neural pathways in the brain, allowing the person to start a new journey with healthier thoughts and behaviours. Hypnotherapy literally can be a life-changing experience.
Reference: Doidge, Norman (2010) The Brain that Changes Itself. Scribe Publications P/L Melbourne