Occasionally I'll encounter 40-ish or older male patients who are encountering learning, memory, and motivation problems. During their intake and subsequent discussions I often detect similar patterns. They are individuals who are successful in their professional lives. Yet, they tend to be over controlling workaholics who equate effort with results. I've even heard more than one of them using the phrase "no pain, no gain." Indeed, too often they equate personal sacrifice with results. This leads to an unbalanced life which will eventually affect their effectiveness. In short, trying too hard will lead to ineffectiveness, a loss of control of their temper, and health problems. To merely treat the presenting memory and motivation problem blindly with hypnosis or allopathic remedies would be unfruitful and potentially harmfully.
While medical doctors looking into learning, memory, and motivation may uncover a plethora of maladies such as thyroid problems and neurological disorders resulting from trauma and abuse, these may not be the most obvious causes. The answer may just lie in the inability of the basil ganglia to continue to supply the required dopamine.
Our two basil ganglia sit laterally astride our two thalami. Their major overt function is to facilitate repetitive motor activities. Think of typing as an example. The caudate nucleus is one of its three major substructures of the basil ganglia. It plays the role of signally the anterior cingulate cortex, our brain's thought switchboard, to slow down once a problem or situation is adequately resolved. (Failure to do so results in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or recurrent anxiety.)
The basil ganglia fulfill their primary functions by producing and transmitting the inhibitory neurotransmitter dopamine to the appropriate substrate. The existence of increased levels of dopamine is related to feelings of excitement and stimulation. Hence, the absence of adequate levels could be the cause of a general feeling of lethargy or the lack of motivation. Along with acetylcholine and brain derived neural growth factor, adequate dopamine, is also vital to the encoding of new memories. Therefore, without it, learning and motivation become problematic.
With a high stress, "can do", testosterone dominated lifestyle, the basil ganglia is forced to continually produce increased amounts of dopamine. When certain sensations are increasingly habituated, the brain demands more and more dopamine in order to produce the same results. Even though this is frequently accomplished during our early years, as we get older the ability for the basil ganglia to continue to keep up the demand diminishes. Therefore, memory begins to be an issue, it becomes more difficult for an "old dog to learn new tricks", and we develop the recurring desire to recharge. (Note that this is concomitant with what is now being discusses as adrenal fatigue.)
What role does hypnosis play in correcting this problem? First of all, I warn many of my colleagues who may lack medical licensure that they must not diagnose basil ganglia fatigue. However, this does not stop such clinicians from accepting a medical referral for learning and motivation issues or recognizing that this may be an underlying problem for which their hypnotic protocols must be adapted. It should suffice for you to understand that the person sitting before you has a pretty unbalanced life of continued efforts to over achieve at their mind and body's expense.
Basil ganglia fatigue, which is the same as dopamine fatigue, is normally the result of a dysfunctional neuro-physiological behavior pattern. Hypnosis is uniquely suited for rectifying this problem as it is the best technique suited to bypass a subject's resistance to change and install a stronger countervailing pattern.
One approach that I take is to have the patient discuss lifestyle changes which they believe will help facilitate the change. What I normally hear is words like acceptance, tolerance, compassion, and patience. I have never experienced a case where improved relationships with their significant others, family, co-workers, and even pets were not mentioned. Then, using a hypnotic intervention I endeavor to bypass their resistance (e.g., critical factor or facility, which is synonymous with the function of the left prefrontal cortex). Once I feel that this has been adequately accomplished, I will use guided imagery to allow them to experience the heightened affective quality of the alternate reality. The experience almost always amazes even the most hardened Type A personality. My goal is to "install" a new more dominant pattern to effectively crowd out the dysfunctional one. The session is typically ended by teaching the subject self-hypnosis skills so that they can reinforce this pattern through rehearsal.
Even though many hypnotherapists may feel that this procedure should be obvious, failure to select the right imagery during the therapy phase will most likely backfire. As many dopamanergic issues are the result of excessive prolonged energizing stimuli, the clinician must find and employ imagery which empowers change without representing additional excitement. The goal is to install a pattern which reinforces calmness and regeneration as part of their new lifestyle. This should be done in a way that assures them that by struggling less they actually will not only produce more results, but also will encounter a more satisfying life and experience appreciation from those they care about the most. Unfortunately, too many therapists would err by trying to use imagery which would tend to seek motivation by inserting more excitement and thrills. By understanding the organic fatigue that stimulation has caused, they should find imagery which is more appropriate and with less potential to do further harm.
Like the related adrenal fatigue, dopamine fatigue gets worse over time and takes maintaining a significantly different lifestyle over a prolonged period to reverse. However, like any significant change, resistance will be difficult to overcome. Learned advice from a competent and respected allopathic medical doctor too often fails to garner requisite patient compliance. Therefore, the adjunctive intervention from a hypnotherapist is indicated as the most likely avenue to produce the desired outcome.
Tim Brunson, PhD
The International Hypnosis Research Institute is a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. We provide information and educational resources to clinicians. Dr. Brunson is the author of over 150 self-help and clinical CD's and MP3's.
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