L.T. Force, Ph.D.
People portray an enormous amount of behavioral patterns. The patterns of behavior that exist - are beyond capturing by name and number. Think about it. There are approximately 7.9 Billion people in the world (census.gov, 2023). Can we even begin to calculate the number of behavioral patterns that each individual presents? I would say, No. And as such, for the purpose of debate - it is an infinite number. Think about that: “Infinity”.
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, the philosophical nature of infinity was the subject of many discussions among philosophers. In the 17th century, with the introduction of the infinity symbol and the infinitesimal calculus, mathematicians began to work with infinite series and what some mathematicians (including l'Hôpital and Bernoulli) regarded as infinitely small quantities, but infinity continued to be associated with endless processes.
Although, there are an “infinite number” of behaviors that people can exhibit….from my Clinical Practice, I do see: “clusters of behavior patterns” that appear to share common characteristics. Those “patterns of behavior” referenced before can have a foundation or originate as: positive behaviors, negative behaviors, empathetic behaviors, self-serving behaviors, rote behaviors, atypical behaviors, predictable behaviors, and addictive behaviors….and the list goes on….etc.
What I am consistently taken by, specifically with addictive patterns of behavior, there appears to be a shared commonality (regardless of the focus of the addictive pattern, i.e. alcohol, narcotics, sex, gambling, food, shopping….etc. to name a few). The person appears to be consumed and obsessed by their specific addictive patterns and rituals. The one thing I see, the image that stands out, as I listen to the life stories of clients is that as a result of their obsession - it appears as though their: “Brain is on Fire!”. Typically, they are in a “hyper-vigilant state” fueled by racing thoughts and circular thinking. They present: stress-related patterns consisting of: “agitation, lack of sleep, inadequate food and water intake, negative self-talk and magical thinking (where, they believe one more engagement in the pattern, that is surrounding them, will have a positive outcome or they will be able to manage their pattern of behavior or this will be their last engagement with that pattern). When in fact, what is really going on? They aren’t thinking or processing with a sense of clarity, or have the ability to reflect on the consequences of their behavior. Why? Because their: “Brain is on Fire!”
How to address a “Brain Fire!”
(These words and recommendations are for the individual, family members and Practitioners).
As we know, one of the best ways to address a fire is to put a fire out, to: “douse it with water”. Same here. What are we hoping? We are hoping the person begins to decrease the consumptive behavior patterns that are no longer working or are non- productive…. and in their place develop and integrate new behavior patterns that are productive and rewarding. However, where does one start with this transition? Does it begin with generating new thoughts or begin with the development of new behaviors? For me, I think they’re interchangeable - where one impacts the other, i.e. thought effects behavior….as behavior effects thoughts. The beginning of this transition doesn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing effort”. It can begin with a very small step - in a new position. Where?
What are we hoping for - to put the: “Brain Fire” out. In the professional literature now - there is some discussion that depression may result from: “an inflammation of the brain” and that is why the traditional approaches of existing anti-depressants may not be the most effective way to treat depression. (Washington Post, 2023 https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/02/23/depression-brain-inflammation-treatment/). In addition, there is also a discussion about the interaction between cortisol and mental health (Florina Lungu, MD, 2023, https://florinalungu.com/). That being said - if we know there is a Body/Brain interaction - let’s treat it accordingly.
My recommendation, at the very beginning….a way to telegraph yourself, your Brain, your family and friends that you are: “committing to a change”- is every morning upon waking - focus on some breathing, then close your eyes down, relax, inhale /exhale…. take slow deep breathes…breathe-in / breathe-out.... "staying in the moment" (a Mindfulness Practice approach: https://www.mindfultext.com) and then have 2 glasses of water. (My friend is a nutritionist - she highly encourages people to drink 2-glasses of water in the morning - as your brain (a muscle) becomes dehydrated during the night. She believes that the hydration of the body - hydrates the brain and provides a clarity of thinking). The drinking of 2-glasses of water in the morning is the beginning of putting the: “Brain Fire!” out….as you begin this “change-journey” integrate some breath-work and hydration. Sounds too simple? Try it….you will see! It’s a great place to start….