Increasing Your Understanding
*The invisible disability
*Changed behaviour – not personality
*Gentle and supportive feedback
*Personality tendencies can be exacerbated
*Every brain injury is unique
*How to move forwards
Very often, information about brain injury misses some of the key areas which help people to understand what is really going on. This information can be incredibly value to family and friends and can also help those who are struggling with symptoms and outcomes to understand more.
The way the mind functions is ‘wired’ into us both genetically and through the development of the wiring in the brain as a foetus and infant. This wiring continues throughout our lives, which, importantly is why we all change throughout life. We keep learning and updating our knowledge bases and sense of self, so, when it comes to people wanting to ‘get back to how they were,’ we need to keep this in context.
What people should be aiming for is regaining the familiar sense of self they held previously. Restoring the familiar voice in our head is an achievable goal, and we will share how to get there.
Hormones given out by the mother during pregnancy affect how the brain is wired. You may or not be able to read a map for a substantial reason!
There is a lot more science being developed about this on almost a day-by-day basis. It is hard to keep up with things; especially the findings of radically emerging quantum science. However, we don’t need to be scientists or neurological specialists to be able to do something to improve life for people affected by brain injury. There is enough published expert information to be able to learn more about brain injury and to try to improve the management of this experience.
Brain injury disrupts everything the brain was wired for and learned to be.
How much the workings of the brain have been affected will depend on many things; every brain injury is entirely unique.
The ‘invisible’ disability
That so much damage is ‘invisible,’ is one of the things that makes dealing with brain injury so terribly difficult for people who are desperately trying find ways to both be understood, and to understand themselves.
Personality change myth
Many people believe that brain injury changes the personality. Many doctors still tell people this, even though mechanically it isn’t true.
What brain injury does do is form a thick, and seemingly impenetrable layer, of disability between our innate drivers, the self, and perceptual awareness, and what others can observe on ‘the outside.’
It is this thick layer of impairment that seeps down into the sense of self, leaving people feeling lost and confused.
Very often, this confusion is so impermeable that people struggle with describing or knowing what is wrong past being able to say that their ‘brain works differently.’
There may be little or no understanding of what having an injured brain actually means; it may be difficult or impossible for someone to relate factual information to their concept of self. This could be caused by the loss of insight, self-awareness, or core beliefs, and in many cases, the sense of confusion may be ‘ignored,’ because there seems no hope of ever understanding it.
When brain injury strikes it can send all previous understanding into a cascading ‘re-think’ mode – only you no longer have the brain to use as a tool to think your way through things, and many of the thoughts you have lead nowhere. For some people, reasoning skills remain intact. Otherwise, it can easily seem as though there is no other end to the proverbial piece of string than the fray that you find and grasp onto in desperation.
It can be incredibly difficult, or even impossible, for some people to turn off the incessant internal chatter that fills their thinking space. It is for this reason that great care must be taken when people are trying to learn new coping strategies. Some people struggle to link their understanding and fail to understand why they are being shown something. It is essential to teach people to notice and have an awareness of what is going wrong so that they know what they are trying to fix.
It all seems very complicated, and it is, but a lot of this complexity can be diffused by dealing directly with the secondary biological cascade. Using the ‘One, Two, Three Plan‘ can help get a basis of health that supports rewiring.
For the ‘survivor’, there is often no direct correlation between their confusion and what has happened to them, and it can be impossible for them, on their own, to work out what is broken so that they can fix it.
Gentle and supportive feedback
It can take people a long time to learn that much of their supportive knowledge is now missing and that there is a very real discord between impetus and outcome. Very often, either a specialist or someone not personally involved may be the better one to explain this. Even when it is defined, it can still take an injured brain a very long time to learn, so, just because someone has been told what is happening to them, this doesn’t mean this learning can be instantly adopted.
What is often not realised is that the ‘drivers,’ the intentions, are still the same. When these have to navigate their way through the physical brain, the pathways that used to be the delivery system are now broken or no longer exist. What ‘comes out’ therefore, commonly has nothing, or little, to do with the initial impetus.
What is going on beneath the surface has always been there – what ‘we’ ‘see’ – is the best someone can do…
Everything you observe post-injury is a moment in time; even though it may seemingly take inordinate amounts of time to get to a stage where the improvements seem more obvious or pronounced – they are always going on. In a way, with brain injury, time stops mattering – its’ importance often diminishes as we move through the phases of understanding that tell us what really matters and what is of less importance. These things are figured out uniquely and individually based on need, support, treatments, and medical interventions, such as occupational therapy.
Previous tendencies can be exacerbated
For some people, there is a lot of extra frustration because of their individual beliefs and psychology. Previous tendencies can be exacerbated by a brain injury, so, someone who, for example, was totally focused on their goals, and had a glass overflowing, may now find it impossible to readdress and realign their goals given the changes in their circumstances. Someone who previously had a glass-half-full may now have an empty one. A lot of ‘extra’ stress can be added by theses individual mindsets, and many people forego grief and acceptance to at least try and feel better again. Importantly, they may never be conscious of this.
This issue is usually addressed by looking at previous personality tendencies such as stubbornness or a need to be right. It can be challenging adjusting perceptions when we see someone becoming angered more easily or crying at more than just a sad movie. Another example would be someone who was a ‘bit of a flirt’ before now finding it difficult to understand where this is appropriate or not – they may have difficulty understanding that their previous controls have now been broken, resulting in inappropriate sexual behaviours. To them, the part of them that exists beneath the surface that creates intentions still feels the same, so it can be tough for people to get to grips with understanding that what people see on the outside doesn’t match with this impetus or intention. They may be utterly oblivious to the fact that there is a very real discordance.
It is crucial to bear in mind that what we may see as psychological injury, is often an adept attempt to feel, and recover ‘normality.’ So, seeing someone ‘obsessed’ with the anger of not being able to provide for their family or provide things as readily as they could before is a widespread reaction. For those on the outside, it is best not to jump to conclusions or to make assumptions or judgements. If you can, let things be and think about and focus on helping loved one to restore the skills and brain environment that is needed for them to feel more like themselves again. People are always working really hard after a brain injury and need reassurance and support.
The brain is remarkable in its propensity to ‘glue to normal.’ This ability to ‘back-track’ or reinvent the same happens because of intrinsic brain design. For it to be able always to uphold its’ primary objective – to sustain life – most of what we do comes from learned habits, from unconscious competence and genetics. This inherent pattern means that the previous models of ‘normal’ thinking that feel so familiar to people can be regained. Also, coming back to the iceberg explanation – the fundamental self remains – what needs to be ‘fixed’ is the array of impairments that interfere with how people are able to present themselves.
Even with a brain that has suffered enormous amounts of cell death, there are always, always other parts of the brain that will ‘uptake’ ‘lost’ abilities.
In scientific terms this is called plasticity – in everyday terms – this is called ‘HOPE.’
‘Hope’ is a word that conjures all kinds of thought and speculation.
What we really have to think of is how it puts outcomes beyond a given moment and shifts our perception of possibility.
‘Hope’ is much better when it is perceived as reality, and taking certain supplements and eating for nutrition can do this because the changes can be seen very quickly. It is human nature sometimes to lose faith when we can’t ‘see’ that what we are doing is working.
Doing something positive translates hope into reality.
While we are on the subject of hope, it is crucial also to celebrate each positive change. The brain itself doesn’t have a clue whether something is ‘right or wrong,’ accurate or false, or whether it is doing well – unless we, or someone else, tell it. Think of parents praising a child, or teachers grading a paper – these things are designed to let the brain know whether or not it is on the right track.
The brain deals with data – it is we humans who do the directing and create the inner ‘executive’ of the brain through reinforcement.
Every brain injury is unique
It can seem strange that not all ‘normal’ or ‘everyday’ functional abilities may be lost as a result of brain injury, but this is the case. Someone may be able to read but not right. Someone else may be able to read a sentence and yet have no understanding of the meaning. These kinds of paradoxes happen all the time, and it is important not to make swift judgements and rather accept things as they present themselves. Brain injury not only causes physical neuronal damage but can also interrupt wiring, and, as such, results in someone having to ‘kick-start’ their brain all over again.
Many people have to start from scratch relearning many basic skills and do so by no easy measure. Every-day terminology doesn’t even begin to describe the impact this has on the enormous amounts of sustained effort people have to put into rewiring their brains.
Despite this, millions of people have to try without having any conceptual understanding of what they are doing. When people don’t get help or support, are left alone, rejected, and even dismissed by medical professionals, working towards recovery is much more than a ‘leap into the dark.’
Recovering, or ‘rewiring,’ after a brain injury takes excessive amounts of courage, will, and diligence. It takes stamina of the kind people living with brain injury often don’t have in a ready supply of energy. Debilitating fatigue can prolong recovery, but energy levels can be improved and increased, and in turn, this really helps with working things out.
Many of us look to the external world for answers and strength, and yet, while this may give us information and guidance, it doesn’t necessarily provide all the solutions we are looking for or want. When we still struggle to find answers, despite all efforts, we begin to ask why. We start to question ourselves – our concept of ‘self.’
Science actually gives us the reasons as to why this happens. Those beliefs that we may think of as being ‘spiritual’ or religious have now been studied and are backed by science. We are connected to a greater universal intelligence, and our inner wisdom is often the source that we forget to consider.
Many people think in terms of intuition, and even though many people lose this connection following a brain injury, a lot don’t realise it. Our relationship to this vital life energy can be interrupted for many reasons – including unresolved or undiagnosed and untreated misalignments of the spine. Damage to the brain stem can also interfere with the natural flow of energy and information throughout the body.
It can be incredibly difficult, or even impossible to be introspective following trauma, and this is why it is important to consider alternative therapies such as acupuncture and reiki healing.
We all know that problems with our understanding, as regards differential experiences, comes from our lack of intimate knowledge of a situation. If you are a family member or friend, thank you for being here.
If you are isolated and have struggled with understanding amongst your loved ones, please encourage them to come and look at this site. The information here will help to dissipate their worries and fears and will also increase their confidence to help you.
Brain injury is one of those things that brings abrupt change to the lives of everyone who is touched by it. It can be difficult to adjust, and it can be tough to understand what is really going on.
Focus on ‘forwards’
People battle with trying to come to terms with the myriad of what are sometimes worsening feelings about what happened to them. Many become consumed with ‘why’ questions, and few realise that:-
1. brain injury can cause obsessive behaviour
2. brain injury can cause problems with thinking, including the ‘outside of the box’ kind that would offer a different perspective if only you could think of it
3. brain injury symptoms can slow processing, interfere with mood and deflate the spirit
4. brain injury can cause problems with memory, so when you are trying to solve a difficult problem you can forget and lose threads that you had only a few minutes before – generally causing frustration and a worsening of the problem
These, and many other reasons and outcomes mean it can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with what happened. Sadness and loss can lead to depression and anger.
One of the main things to cause prolonged difficulties with coming to terms with change is the question, why.’ We often forget that this needs to be preceded by determining facts as addressed in ‘Using Strategies.’
The thing to bear in mind is that negativity itself can interfere with learning how to cope with life challenges. The answers always come to us when we are ready to hear them and sometimes it is better to release the issues we don’t feel able to solve until we are better geared up mentally and emotionally to deal with them.
Staying focused on what you are trying to achieve will naturally, during the course of a few days, start to diminish the amount of energy you try to put into understanding something that you may just not quite ready to deal with. Think about when we have difficult news to share with a loved one – sometimes we try and ‘pick-our-moment.’ Life is just like this – it is waiting until we are ready to ‘hear’ and understand what we need to in order to be able to release and move on. Not every answer we need will come to us immediately.
If you don’t have access to counselling, there is a lot that you can do to help yourself. If you feel you need to do a bit more inner work, try taking a look at dealing with anger and resentment and also grief. Sometimes all we need is that one little nugget that reminds us of who we are and how we deal with life to be able to get a healing momentum going.
How to move forward
We found a great tool for this – TBI Tracker. That you have a record makes it easier to spot the changes as you look back, and is a great way to boost your motivation and confidence in yourself. It also affirms your progress to your brain and believe it or not – your brain will be really excited that you are helping it!
Keeping a journal will also help. Dividing a page into columns allows you to easily divide your thoughts into the wins on one side, and the struggles on the other. As you make your entries it is important to date them, make a note at the top about your general thoughts for the day and then think about the things that are going well and the things that you need to keep in mind to increase your practice on.