Just Look Up

eleos-counselling_just-look-upDuring the summer I was to see something that set me thinking. I was in a large shopping mall; there was a seated area where I was waiting for my wife. A young woman was breastfeeding her baby, under a muslin cloth; nothing wrong with that quite natural but what she was doing while she was breastfeeding her child was looking at her mobile phone.

As someone who teaches anger management, I have learned through my research one of the fundamental ways that we assess threats by looking into the face of our would-be aggressor. We evaluate threats in less than the blinking of an eye quickly making the decision, whether a person is a threat or not a threat.  This response, according to research has found that in early childhood, looking at or mother’s eyes. I wondered, what the young lady breastfeeding her child was teaching her child, what internal message had this baby received from its mother, as she is updating  her Facebook status or text a friend. Experts say

I was recently touched by a post, ironically, on Facebook by a gentleman called Gary Turk, you may have seen this. Turk asked us to look up, from a mobile device, that life can be going by whilst we engage in social media. I urge you to watch this and paradoxically life is as we frantically engage in social media.

I wonder what mixed messages the baby in the arms, of the young lady, engaged with social media, had got from  its mother: who  was too busy engaging social media or texting  even to look at her child  breastfeeding, the most naturally bonding thing a mother can do for its child.

 

 

Your sex is not defined by your brain?

black-and-white picture of brain_eleoscounselling

 

A recent article in new scientist debunks the idea, of male and female brains. After scanning more than 1,400 brains, scientists at Tel Aviv University revealed there is no difference between male and female brains. Although male brains are known to be bigger, than female brains the features inside that brain do not differ greatly.

The idea that, when a baby boy is developing in the womb, and when testicles are formed these discharge testosterones which defines the brain as male, has now been disproved by research.

When the research group in Tel Aviv looked at 1400 magnetic image residence scans of subjects between the ages of 13 and 85, they found very little variance between male and female brains.

One interesting, spin off from this research is that the team found is that there are variations in the size of brain areas, as well as the interconnections between them. The researchers found 29 brain regions, but in general seem to be of different sizes between people who identify themselves as male or female. These include the hippocampus, which is involved in the laying down of memories and an area of the brain, which is considered to play a major role in risk aversion called the inferior frontal gyrus.

When the researchers looked at individual brain scans they found that they had very few people that have all the brain features they would expect, based on their sex. In fact, across the 1,400 brain scans, the research looked at, between 0 % and 8% of the people had all male or all female brains depending on a definition used in the past.

It is thought that we all somewhere along the continuum, with a mix of brain attributes that would define as individuals.

Researchers at the University of Tel Aviv commented saying that most people are in the middle.

 

Gender myths

Men are preoccupied with sex.

Many studies have verified that men have more casual sex than women. Nevertheless, the female sexual appetite may be underestimated. Women in general are likely to downplay the use of pornography or masturbation while men tend to exaggerate their use.

Women tend to be bigger gossips than men.

Is a common held belief that women are better communicators than men. The reality is gender difference in verbal abilities is very small. In fact, in some posts specific skills, men outclass women.

Boys are better at maths than girls.

An analysis of 240 studies found that girls and boys are equally matched when it comes to maths. The variable is girls tend to perform as well boys in countries where there is more gender equality.

 

Plug into your virtual therapist?

An interesting article appeared in the new scientist by reporter Samantha Murphy in the article Murphy suggests that the interactive role-playing game “second life” could offer an innovative way of working for psychotherapists/counsellors. In the piece, Murphy suggests that an avatar; a virtual caricature of oneself, could see clients in a virtual office.eleos counselling_second life_article picture

This may not sound as far-fetched as one would imagine, think of the advantages, the client could log on from anywhere in the world and have a virtual therapy session, at any time of day or night.

The article did make some interesting suggestions, on how this may help clients. One suggestion was working with clients with phobias such as agoraphobia; in severe cases the client would not be able to leave the safety of their own home, but using a virtual space the client could experience what it’s like to be outside, whilst in the comfort of their own home. The article suggests that the therapist may be able to guide the client through stressful environments and help them manage this in virtual space. Effectively, the therapist could create stressful environments and help the client manage this using their avatar (their virtual person).

Another interesting suggestion was that it might be able for the psychotherapist councillor to reconstruct stressful environments for sufferers of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Here again, the therapist would construct a virtual moment in time and help the client work through this in virtual space. Using virtual reality the client can really work in   the moment and the here and now. With the ability to be able to freeze time, in the virtual world, the therapist would be able to ask the client how they feel at that moment. Of course, how this all looks and how the therapist would hold professional boundaries in this virtual world is yet to be decided. Another factor, to be considered is would people, embrace new technology such as a virtual world quickly, or will this be a passing idea, time will only tell.

This is certainly pushing the boundaries, Eleos Counselling is very interested in embracing new technologies and has done since its inception in 2013. How working in virtual reality will really look like is yet to be seen, but please watch this space and we will keep you updated on our progression into the world of virtual reality.

 

New research looks at depression as a symptom of brain inflammation?

eleos counselling blog_brainLast week an article published in New Scientist threw a different light onto the subject of depression. Research carried out by the University of medicine in Germany, suggests that depression could be a reaction to an infection, causing the brain to become inflamed.

Although this study was very small research scientists are excited by the results. It is thought that stress may cause an inflammation which spreads to the brain. Although the brain has its own immune system, the blood-brain barrier, it is thought that some infection can go past this and cause cells in the brain’s very own immune system called microglia to kill off neurons.

What is also interesting is that the researchers speculated that Alzheimer’s disease can be a result of microglia killing off brain cells, due to ongoing infection. Research carried out in the UK at Southampton University suggest that an anti-inflammatory drug called Etanercept, which is normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, can help reduce some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as poor memory.

One comment made in the article is that categorising depression as a medical problem, rather than a psychological problem, in of itself can cause a stigma for people suffering with depression.

What was not clear from the article is whether depression causes the inflammation or the information causes depression. The article does state that poor diet, obesity, smoking and inactivity can cause an increase in the risk of inflammation. Ironically, a overeating, under exercising, and a bad diet are often some of the things that a depressed person would use to self soothe themselves.

The articled stated that more research needs to be carried out, to make a definite link between depression and inflammation, whether this will result in a new form of treatment for depression, one would have to wait and see.

 

Eye contact: eyes really are the windows of the soul.

eleoscounselling, West Sussex_eye contact_blogJust recently we were sent a short video on Facebook, nothing unusual you might say, but this video was quite profound inasmuch as it commented on the very media it was posted on, social media. In the short video, it spoke of how people are becoming increasingly isolated, as we use technology to interact with friends.

One thing that struck us about this video is often people do not give eye contact. Recently we have been looking into creating an anger management program for young people, as part of that study we found how important eye contact actually is.

If a child is denied eye contact it can become socially isolated, and angry. The part of the brain that governs emotions, the limbic system and particularly the amygdala needs input from faces to judge whether something is a threat. Studies have shown that averting your eyes can be a form of silent treatment; basically you’re saying you’re not worth looking at.

Now think how many times you pick up that phone during the day, to look at emails, your head is pointed down and away from people, and people who are trying to make contact with you. You’re saying that this text message or email is far more important than you are or what you are saying, or what you’re showing me.

How many times have you been annoyed with someone who picks up a smart phone and starts texting, whilst at the dinner table?

Fundamentally, the lack of eye contact can make one suspicious and ultimately angry.

Conversely, averting your gaze from someone to look at your smart phone or tablet can actually have a negative effect on you. When you’re looking down at your smart phone you increase the chance of losing the respect and trust because you’re essentially you  are not communicating those attributes to others.

 

The next point we would like to raises is what are we telling  our children, albeit silently. A study carried out in the Netherlands suggests that an infant’s brain is rapidly forming connections and new pathways linking the ancient limbic system to the neural cortex and prefrontal cortex, laying down circuitry which becomes arterial roads for emotion. This delicate and vital infrastructure result in how we interpret social interactions. If part of that interaction is missing, because I contact is not made or given, we do not receive the right information and thus cannot communicate effectively.

Our brains compare the incoming data with memories of past experiences and ultimately facial expressions effectively this is our own trust mistrust gauge or scale. If the infant hasn’t built up suitable knowledge, the default will be to see things as a threat, and thus become angry.