In terms of my own search for wellness, I'm fairly sure the brain is the key to everything. So, when I saw a book called Neural Path Therapy: How to Change Your Brain's Response to Anger, Fear, Pain & Desire, I was hooked. And the fact it was co-authored by David Harp, M.A. (He uses the harmonica to teach stress reduction training as well as creativity training and peak performance training) was the final selling point. I have bought two other books by David on music and playing the blues harmonica, and I think he's wonderful. The other co-author is Matthew McKay, Ph.D. and he's the co-author of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook.
While I've only read about half the book, it's already had a huge impact. The point they make, which is critical to me, is that you can change "automaticity." This is such an important concept that I need to explain it further in relationship to bipolar disorder.
One of the key arguments psychiatrists use when they say you can't "cure" bipolar disorder is "brain kindling," which I've discussed before. Basically it means that after a few depressive episodes, whenever you get stressed, your brain automatically will respond the same way to the same triggers.
I've always found this argument to be depressing, because what they are suggesting that even if you change significantly, your brain won't change. But Harp and McKay disagree. They write, "The crucial mental skill is to be able to focus attention onto--or away from--the thought, or neural path of your choice."
What they believe is that you can learn how to observe neural pathways and change them. They say that if you stop using the same neural pathways (i.e. your supervisor always demeans you and as a result you feel powerless, or your sister pushes your hot buttons and as a result you get angry), they will fall into disuse.
Thus, if your supervisor says, "I don't like the copy you've written or the way you edited this article," rather than feeling powerless (and becoming depressed), you can anticipate she will say this, identify that it always makes you feel powerless, and stop feeling depressed.
What this means is that you can train your brain to stop kindling! How do you do it? By breathing exercises. While it sounds simplistic, it's truly a powerful tool. I've already begun using it, and it works!
P.S. I just learned there a Neural Path Therapy site, which provides a lot of additional information. So I've listed it on both posts on this topic.
(more to come)