The Science and Methodology Behind IFS
Welcome to a journey of discovery where scepticism is as valuable as belief. Understanding the science behind the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model doesn't require blind faith. It’s about exploring new perspectives on your mind's incredible capabilities.
Neuroscience Meets Psychology: My approach weaves the intricate details of neuroscience psychology – a vibrant mix of psychology, biology, chemistry, and physics – into the fabric of the IFS model. This interdisciplinary blend sheds light on the human experience, revealing how our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are intricately connected to the nervous system.
The IFS Model and You: At the core of The Concinnity Group is this fusion of science and therapy. It's not just about learning theories; it's about accessing and communicating with different parts of yourself.
These parts, often taking on protective roles, are deeply linked to your brain's biochemistry and neural pathways. By understanding this connection, you can start a transformative process, leading to a more harmonious internal system and becoming a better practitioner.
Join us in unraveling the mysteries of your mind and emotions through the lens of neuroscience psychology, tailored within the IFS framework. It's a path not just of healing, but of profound self-discovery and professional growth.
Hormonal Responses to Trauma
When we encounter stress or danger, our bodies react in complex ways, influencing both our memories and emotions. Here's how it works:
The Role of Cortisol: In stressful situations, our bodies release cortisol. This hormone plays a crucial role in our survival mechanism, but it also temporarily impairs the hippocampus - the part of our brain responsible for forming and integrating memories. When cortisol levels are high, our ability to process and store memories becomes less efficient.
Adrenaline and Emotional Memory: While cortisol is at work, adrenaline steps in to enhance the amygdala’s function - the brain region tied to emotional memories. This results in the strong encoding of emotional aspects of the experience.
Long-Term Effects: Prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels, such as in abusive environments, can be harmful to brain functions. This is especially significant in understanding why traumatic memories from such contexts are particularly vivid and challenging to integrate.
Trauma Therapy Insights: This understanding is crucial in trauma therapy. Simply talking through traumatic experiences might not be enough, as it doesn’t directly address the emotional and hormonal imprints left behind. Effective trauma therapy often involves strategies that go beyond verbal processing, targeting the emotional and physiological aspects of trauma.
Understanding these hormonal dynamics sheds light on why certain memories associated with trauma are so powerful and why specialised approaches are often necessary for healing.
The Impact of Trauma on the Brain Network
Trauma leaves a profound impact on both the brain and the body. It's not just a fleeting experience; it changes the very way our cells and neural pathways function. Here's how this complex process unfolds:
The Brain’s Initial Reaction: During a traumatic event, the primitive part of the brain, primarily the brain stem, springs into action. This part of the brain, focused on basic survival, overrides other functions and puts the body into a high-alert state. The sympathetic nervous system floods the body with stress hormones, preparing us to fight, flee, or freeze.
Typical Stress Response: In ordinary circumstances, once the immediate threat passes, the parasympathetic nervous system helps the body shift back to a state of balance, promoting rest and recovery.
Persistent Trauma Response: However, for some individuals who have experienced trauma, this shift back to balance never fully occurs. Instead, key brain structures, still echoing the trauma, keep the person in a heightened state of alertness. This continuous state of vigilance can have long-term effects on both mental and physical health, as the body and mind remain in a perpetual state of emergency readiness.
This insight into trauma's impact on the brain underscores why recovery from trauma is more complex than simply moving past the traumatic event. It requires a nuanced understanding of these physiological changes and tailored approaches to help restore balance.
The Body's Response to Trauma
The human body's response to trauma is a multifaceted subject that has long intrigued scientists. Trauma impacts both our physical and psychological well-being, leading to a range of complex reactions within the body.
The Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges, Ph.D. A significant contribution to this field is the Polyvagal theory, developed by Stephen Porges, Ph.D. This theory proposes that our nervous system has evolved to prioritize not only survival but also social connections, like feeling safe and intimate with others.
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems in Trauma At the heart of this theory are two components of the nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the 'fight or flight' response during perceived threats. Conversely, the parasympathetic system promotes energy conservation, often resulting in a 'freeze' response post-trauma.
Trauma's Impact on Bodily Functions These systems extend beyond mere survival responses. They regulate critical functions such as digestion and heart rate. When activated by trauma, they can significantly alter the body's normal functioning. This sheds light on why trauma survivors are more susceptible to issues like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. The body remains in a state of high alert or energy conservation as if the traumatic event is still occurring.
The Polyvagal theory provides key insights into the extensive and lasting impact of trauma on our bodies. It highlights the intertwined nature of mental and physical health in understanding and treating trauma's aftermath.
It's Not Your Fault
Understanding Trauma: A Whole Body Response
Trauma isn't just an event; it's a profound, overwhelming experience that challenges our ability to cope. But why does it have such a profound impact?
Renowned trauma expert Bessel Van der Kolk offers this insight: Trauma affects almost every part of the brain. The emotional right brain becomes more active, while the logical left brain recedes. The primitive brain at the back enters a hyperactive state, and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for higher-order thinking, becomes subdued.
This upheaval disrupts the brain's normal connections and neurotransmitters. As a result, the brain enters a state of heightened alertness, involving various brain structures in a complex response.
Trauma's impact is universal and does not discriminate. It can cloud our thinking, numb our feelings, and hinder our actions, often leading to a sense of paralysis or helplessness. This response isn't a choice or a failure; it's your brain's way of trying to protect you. Recognising this is crucial: The feelings of overwhelm and helplessness are not your fault. They are natural responses of a body and mind striving to cope with extraordinary circumstances.
"Each of us has a mind like a family, with members varying in maturity, excitability, wisdom, and pain. The parts of this internal family form a network, where changes in one affect the whole," explains Bessel Van der Kolk about Internal Family Systems (IFS).
At the heart of IFS lies the goal of creating safety within this internal network. By working with the various 'Parts' of ourselves, especially those that have adopted extreme roles for protection, we can reconnect them with the 'Self'. This reconnection is key to rebalancing the nervous system and reintegrating the brain's networks.
Our training and workshops are designed to guide you through this transformative process. You don’t have to be at the mercy of stress hormones or past traumas. Join us to regain control over your life and help your clients do the same.
Remember, you are not broken, and you don’t need fixing. Through IFS, you can release the burdens of the past and embrace the life you are meant to live.