Find a Therapist at

Find a Therapist or Treatment Center

   for Consumers
Find a Therapist
Find a Treatment Center
About Therapy
Research a Condition
Research a Medication
Support Groups
National Hotlines
Featured Articles
What's New

   for Providers
List Your Practice
List Your Treatment Center
Publish an Article
My Account

I'm Not Crazy, Weak, or Broken!

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Stress » Featured Article

By Colleen A. McCann, MSW, LGSW

Colleen A. McCann, MSW, LGSW

Your're Right!

Most of us experience problematic patterns of emotion and behavior that feel unsteady and out of control. The question is, how did we get there and how do we get "unstuck?"

How We Get Stuck

We give almost no conscious thought to complex tasks such as driving a car or even putting on a pair of pants. But for a novice driver or budding toddler the level of difficulty is very high and both struggle to master these tasks. With practice there is a shift from "manual" to "auto" that happens in the brain when neurons form a reliable firing pattern that automatically takes over. The rule is "neurons that fire together, wire together" creating efficiency in brain processing, allowing us the ability to multitask.

Patterns of emotion and reactive behavior are another example of neural firing patterns that wire together, but in this case to protect us and launch us into an immediate, practiced response. The fight or flight center of the brain rapidly fires practiced responses to situations that register as a threat, literally hijacking our whole reality. Unresolved emotion from childhood can deeply imprint a threat response in the brain that, when triggered, will hijack our adult experience. Our automatic response is usually out-of-control emotionally and a bit "childish." We can feel stuck in anger, restlessness, jealousy or sadness without knowing exactly how we got there. Without taking time to consciously rewire automatic responses, old patterns will continue to fire throughout adulthood and can create tremendous stress within relationship, parenting, and at work.

Getting Unstuck

Getting unstuck begins with practiced awareness. Changing automatic patterns of behavior requires that we wake up to where we are stuck and learn how patterned behavior plays out both physically and emotionally. Stuck emotions can feel scary and that's why most of us spend tremendous energy avoiding an encounter with them. And with good reason! An unconscious replay of overwhelming childhood helplessness can be very destabilizing to our adult world.

Freedom from stuck places requires a back and forth process, oscillating between old patterns and newer ways of feeling and acting. This teetering process works to loosen rigid brain patterns and open access to higher level brain processing.

How Counseling Can Help

Change happens within relationship. The counseling process encourages the development of higher level, left brain activity by addressing identified issues with words, logic and insight. In addition, skills for monitoring experience through the body ("gut feel") and techniques for emotional regulation are also taught. The counseling experience works to literally rewire the brain for renewed flexibility, creating a sense of mastery in previously problematic areas.

ONE CAVEAT - getting unstuck requires that we "hold our seat" and take a bumpy and uncertain new road enough times to short circuit the old brain pattern. With practice we learn something that we didn't realize previously; which is that we absolutely can manage the distress we are feeling without freaking out, falling apart, isolating, or using chemicals. We also realize that we aren't crazy, rather this is how EVERYONE feels when they get stuck in an emotional pattern.

About the Author...

Colleen A. McCann, MBA, MSW, LGSW is a licensed clinical social worker / therapist in Minneapolis MN. Colleen helps clients escape patterns of negative behavior and emotion and "re-wire" the brain for happiness. Colleen also provides on-demand telephone counseling to help clients take immediate action toward re-establishing life balance.

Last Update: 5/3/2007

Home  |  Provider Directory  |  Mental Health Library  |  Resource Center  |  For Providers
Find a Therapist  |  Find a Treatment Center  |  List Your Practice  |  List Your Treatment Center
About Us  |  Contact Us  |  User Agreement  |  Privacy Policy  |  Site Map
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here. The information provided on this site is for educational or informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or behavioral health care advice. The information is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care provider. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about your health.
Copyright © 2000-2019, Inc. All rights reserved.
Welcome Guestbook What's New Site Map Find a Therapist Find a Treatment Center About Therapy Frequently Asked Questions Disorders & Conditions Medications Treatment Approaches Featured Articles News Archive Mental Health Dictionary Support Groups National Hotlines Web Directory Mental Health Books Related Web Sites For Providers Provider Login Back to top of page