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The Loving Brain - Healing and Treating Trauma, Addictions and Related Disorders Conference, Vancouver, Canada

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Over millions of years, social abilities – such as bonding, empathy, compassion, language, and cooperative planning – really aided survival. Love, broadly defined, has profoundly shaped the evolution of the human brain.

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The Loving Brain - Healing and Treating Trauma, Addictions and Related Disorders Conference, Vancouver, Canada

  1. 1. The Loving BrainHealing and Treating Trauma, Addictions, and Related Disorders December 2, 2011 Rick Hanson, Ph.D.The Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom www.WiseBrain.org www.RickHanson.net drrh@comcast.net
  2. 2. Topics Your loving nature Two wolves in the heart On your own side Empathy Compassion and lovingkindness
  3. 3. Your Loving Nature
  4. 4. Nerve cells form complete circuits that carry and transform information.Electrical signaling represents the language of mind.All animals have some form of mental life that reflects the architecture of their nervous system. Eric R. Kandel, 2006 4
  5. 5. All sentient beings developed through natural selection in such a way that pleasant sensations serve as their guide, and especially the pleasure derived from sociability and from loving our families. Charles Darwin
  6. 6. The Social Brain Social capabilities have been a primary driver of brain evolution. Reptiles and fish avoid and approach. Mammals and birds attach as well - especially primates and humans. Mammals and birds have bigger brains than reptiles and fish. The more social the primate species, the bigger the cortex. Since the first hominids began making tools ~ 2.5 million years ago, the brain has roughly tripled in size, much of its build-out devoted to social functions (e.g., cooperative planning, empathy, language). The growing brain needed a longer childhood, which required greater pair bonding and band cohesion.
  7. 7. Oxytocin It promotes bonding between parents and children - and between mates and friends, keeping kids alive In women, it triggers the let-down reflex in nursing, and tend-and-befriend behaviors during stress. In both sexes, it dampens the stress response; it feels pleasurable, relaxed, a “rightness.” It is stimulated by:  Physical contact (especially skin to skin)  Moving together harmoniously (e.g., dancing)  Warm feelings of rapport or love; devotion  Imagination of these  Nipple stimulation  Orgasm
  8. 8. Rewards of Love
  9. 9. Orgasm in a Woman’s Brain New Scientist, 5/11/11, study by Barry Kamisaruk, et al. [red = activation; A = PFC; B = ACC]
  10. 10. In the cherry blossom’s shade there is no thing as a stranger Issa
  11. 11. If there is anything I have learned about [people], it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident. Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released. (Hu)mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted, and bringing these underground waters to the surface. Albert Schweitzer
  12. 12. Two Wolves in the Heart
  13. 13. Us and Them Core evolutionary strategy: within-group cooperation, and between-group aggression. Both capacities and tendencies are hard-wired into our brains, ready for activation. And there is individual variation. Our biological nature is much more inclined toward cooperative sociability than toward aggression and indifference or cruelty. We are just very reactive to social distinctions and threats. That reactivity is intensified and often exploited by economic, cultural, and religious factors. Two wolves in your heart:  Love sees a vast circle in which all beings are “us.”  Hate sees a small circle of “us,” even only the self. Which one will you feed?
  14. 14. In between-family fights, the baboon’s ‘I’ expands to include all of her close kin; in within-family fights, it contracts to include only herself. This explanation serves for baboonsas much as for the Montagues and Capulets. Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth
  15. 15. Pain network: Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), insula (Ins), somatosensory cortex (SSC), thalamus (Thal), and periaqueductal gray (PAG).Reward network: Ventral tegmental area (VTA), ventral striatum (VS), ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and amygdala (Amyg). K. Sutliff, in Lieberman & Eisenberger, 2009, Science, 323:890-891
  16. 16. On Your Own Side
  17. 17. Self-Compassion Compassion is the wish that a being not suffer, combined with sympathetic concern. Self-compassion simply applies that to oneself. It is not self-pity, complaining, or wallowing in pain. Studies show that self-compassion buffers stress and increases resilience and self-worth. But self-compassion is hard for many people, due to feelings of unworthiness, self-criticism, or “internalized oppression.” To encourage the neural substrates of self-compassion:  Get the sense of being cared about by someone else.  Bring to mind someone you naturally feel compassion for  Sink into the experience of compassion in your body  Then shift the compassion to yourself, perhaps with phrases like: “May I not suffer. May the pain of this moment pass.”
  18. 18. “Anthem” Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in That’s how the light gets in Leonard Cohen
  19. 19. If one going down into a river, swollen and swiftly flowing,is carried away by the current --how can one help others across? The Buddha
  20. 20. The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life.I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good. Bertrand Russell
  21. 21. Empathy
  22. 22. What Is Empathy? It is sensing, feeling, and understanding how it is for the other person. In effect, you simulate his or her inner world. It involves (sometimes subtly) all of these elements:  Bodily resonance  Emotional attunement  Conceptual understanding Empathy is usually communicated, often tacitly. We can give empathy, we can receive it, and we can ask for it.
  23. 23. If we could read the secret history of our enemies,we should find in each [persons] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  24. 24. Neural Substrates of Empathy Three simulating systems:  Actions: “mirror” systems; temporal-parietal  Feelings: resonating emotionally; insula  Thoughts: “theory of mind”; prefrontal cortex These systems interact with each other through association and active inquiry. They produce an automatic, continual re-creation of aspects of others’ experience.
  25. 25. Empathy Skills Pay attention. Be open. Read emotion in face and eyes. Sense beneath the surface. Drop aversion (judgments, distaste, fear, anger, withdrawal). Investigate actively. Express empathic understanding:  Reflect the content  Resonate with the tone and implicit material  Questions are fine  Offer respect and wise speech throughout
  26. 26. Reflections about Empathy You’re more likely to get empathy if you’re:  Open, present  Honest, real, authentic  Reasonably clear  Responsible for your own experience  Taking it in when you feel felt Empathy can be negotiated:  Name it as a topic in the relationship  Follow NVC format: “When X happens, I feel Y, because I need Z. So I request ______ .”  Stay with it.
  27. 27. Compassion and Lovingkindness
  28. 28. The Wisdom of ConnectionA human being is a part of a whole, called by us“universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Albert Einstein
  29. 29. Lovingkindness Practice Types of wishes  Safety  Health  Happiness  Ease Types of beings  Self  Benefactor  Friend  Neutral  Difficult Continually “omitting none” in all directions
  30. 30. So that all cubs are our own . . . All beings are our clan . . . All life, our relatives . . .The whole earth, our home . . .
  31. 31. Where to Find Rick Hanson Onlinehttp://www.youtube.com/BuddhasBrainhttp://www.facebook.com/BuddhasBrain w www.RickHanson.net www.WiseBrain.org 59

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