Library talk by Rita, at Wagga City Library, 12th May 2014. Appx 35 people attended.
Article by Christine Bolton, Wagga Daily Advertiser, May 10 and 11
Rita’s interview with Katherine Lodge from Health Professionals Radio, explaining i-brainmap http://www.healthprofessionalradio.com.au
Fabulous evening at Bokeh Gallery in Daylesford to launch my book, ibrainmap, freeing your brain for happiness. Launched by Dr Craig Hassed from Monash Uni.
Many friends and well-wishers. Thanks to everyone for a wonderful launch.
Craig Hassed and Rita
First book sold to Lucy and Richard Mayes, with Sarah Newstead waiting for her copy.
Good friends gathered, Richard & Lucy Mayes, me (with the fabulous flowers), Sarah Newstead, Maggie O’Shea, Anne Bennet, and Karen Newstead, first to arrive.
My dear friend Karen Roben introducing me.
the book arrives
Media Backgrounder, i-brainmap freeing your brain for happiness
Author: Rita McInnnes, Psychologist
Qualifications & Experience:
Registered psychologist with 25 years in the field, predominantly in counselling and also as a supervisor/trainer
Book Launch Dr Craig Hassed MBBS, FRACGP
Dr Craig Hassed, will launch the book, i-brainmap freeing your brain for happiness.
Dr Craig Hassed is a general practitioner and senior lecturer in the Monash University Department of General Practice where he has been teaching at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels since 1989. He has been instrumental in introducing a variety of innovations into medical education and practice with an emphasis on the application of holistic, integrative and mind-body medicine in medical practice, and reconnecting different knowledge systems, e.g. medical science and philosophy, in a way which is grounded, balanced, scientifically valid and clinically effective. He is a regular speaker in Australia and internationally on these topics and is regularly invited to contribute to a variety of community and professional groups.
The book completes a journey that began with the personal trauma of the death of her brother when Rita was 17. This set her on a path to understand how to integrate past trauma. She studied and travelled the world in search of answers trying many kinds of practice in India and Asia.
In her late twenties, Rita studied English and Psychology. Her work was always grounded in principles of mindfulness, which she had encountered in her travels and found invaluable in finding a way through inner turmoil.
But it wasn’t until Rita discovered the brain and how the brain behaves during traumatic and overwhelming events that things started to come together. Out of this growing insight in tracking brain integration in herself and her clients the i-brainmap emerged and became what it is today, an approach founded in the principles of brain change to assist the brain to integrate past traumatic experiences.
How does the i-brainmap help people?
It normalizes their experience. For most people it means understanding that the reason they experience hyperarousal or dissociation for instance, isn’t their fault and doesn’t mean they are crazy (which is how a lot of people feel who suffer from post traumatic stress, especially complex trauma such as sexual assault or what I call invisible traumas – meaning something that has overwhelmed their nervous system – such as work place bullying).
It gives people a way of understanding what is happening and what they can do to move through it as it happens, which can be anywhere any time. Feeling like you could have a panic attack at any moment and not understanding what is happening is very disturbing. Most people respond by trying to avoid doing anything that might trigger a panic attack. Their lives shrink and they become increasingly afraid. But if you understand what is happening and have a map, which people often carry with them, and some strategies to try, even if they aren’t immediately effective, you start to feel less overwhelmed.
Another important aspect of i-brainmap is working with the brain not on the brain. i-brainmap tells the brain that there is a little glitch, or disconnection, and some parts of the brain have stopped talking to each other. People are also given a mindfulness based technique they can use to move through lower brain activation, what is usually referred to as re-experiencing or flashbacks, to engage the right parts of brain function to take them into what Rita calls the integration Zone, or i-Zone.
i-brainmap assists people to become more aware of the language of their body, or lower brain. Noticing when they hold their breath for instance or when their shoulders are pulling up in a defense response.
i-brainmap is very effective in helping people with flashbacks and nightmares if it is a discrete event, such as a car accident. Take Jock an elderly gentleman who had had a MVA a few weeks prior to seeing Rita. He was having frequent flashbacks, with vivid memories of the sound of the cars colliding and the terror of thinking his son was dead. A week after the session with the i-brainmap the flashbacks had stopped. Some exposure therapy followed because Jock was still feeling anxious about driving and also concerned about the safety of family. Because Jock had a new map of the experience of the trauma exposure, therapy was brief. We only had a couple more sessions and Jock felt ready to drive again but had to wait till his injuries had healed.
International Brain Awareness Week
Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.
Dan Siegel up a giant fig tree
Yesterday I saw Dan Siegel up a giant fig tree in Treasury Gardens. For those of you who don’t know Dan Siegel he’s a world famous neuropsychiatrist. You might be wondering why a world famous neuroscientist was up a tree in Treasury Gardens. Yes you might.
I love Dan Siegel, MD. I’m only telling you that so you know that what I say may not be completely objective. I’m not in love with all of Dan, just his brain, his ideas, his words, how he wakes up my mind and makes me think and especially how he ignites my brain and gets my neurons fired up. Dan is on about neuroplasticity, changing the brain. This is the modern-day story of our amazing brain. That mushy grey stuff between our ears it turns out is much more amazing than anyone had ever imagined. Seems obvious really but there you go, obvious that the brain is our connection (and limit) to our universe because we can only know the universe and anything really, through the brain.
This modern story of the brain has a happy ending; is never ending, in fact, because the brain can change itself, even change the ending, right up until we take our last gasp. This is the most exciting piece of information – this is News with a capital N. This news changes everything. So there’s Dan Siegel up a tree talking about neural plasticity and flexibility while helicopters chatter noisily overhead drowning out his voice, and he just grins back at us and makes some joke about the whole thing.
Not only was Dan walking the talk, he was talking the walking that he was talking. All morning before he went up the tree he had been telling us that a healthy brain is plastic, flexible and can adapt to change in the environment. May not sound all that exciting to some, but to a room full of educators and mental wellness practitioners (most of the so called Mental Health professionals were back in their offices trying to classify problems in the mind with the DSM, the diagnostic classification manual – I’m only telling you what Dan said), it’s fascinating.
The stuff he was telling us was probably old news to the yogis and monks who have stood on their heads for centuries or who sat cross-legged feeling the flap of a butterfly’s wings. But this is breaking news to the scientific and psychological community. Dan speaks about, not just that the brain is plastic but what promotes neuroplasticity. Not only that, he gets us to do an experiential exercise, but really it’s meditation. Yes meditation! I quite like to meditate but I don’t usually get much of a chance at seminars on neuroscience. But that was after he came down from the tree.
So, let me get to your question, the one I’m sure you’re asking yourselves by now, ‘What changes the brain?’ This is the question of the new millennium on the tips of the lips of every brain owner. Here it turns out that old Gautama, aka Buddha, was onto something. What he discovered under the Bodhisattva tree two and half thousand years ago is now getting the attention of scientists and other big brains. Being present and focusing attention on what we are experiencing is a radical act, or more correctly, radical attention, that promotes neuroplasticity. This focusing of attention is referred to as Mindfulness, “living in the moment,” Presence, Compassionate Mind.
How did it leap from attention to compassion? When we are fully present it appears that compassion is the natural state of flow. But the biggest problem in an overstimulated culture of mobile phones and whirring, buzzing things is that it’s hard to get our own attention. But wait, there’s more.
The other thing that changes the brain that probably all of you Mums and Dads out there already know, is attachment and relationship. Some might even say that love changes the brain, but most of the scientists and people who work with people’s brains or minds, such as counsellors, wouldn’t use that word. We might talk about therapeutic relationship, but not love.
What Dan told everyone in that room is that it doesn’t really matter what we do as practitioners of mind as long as we are present, and I don’t mean just sitting there thinking about what to have for dinner, I mean really present with our full attention. This is a bummer for all those counsellors, therapists and clinicians who studied for so many years.
Maybe Grandma was a better counsellor because she just listened and smiled and held my hand, then made me a cup of sweet tea and didn’t try to change anything about me or tell me what to do. While I’m on the subject of counselling, Dan said he’s asked more than 94,000 people who work in the field of Mental Health if they have ever had a lecture on mind, and not one of them has. Not one! Apparently it’s a global conspiracy that people who work with the mind are taught about pathology and techniques but nothing about what the mind is. Now Dan is telling us that none of what we learnt about pathology or techniques matters. Oh dear.
The interpersonal brain is the new theory of relativity of brain-mind science. The brain is in relationship with every other brain. Scientists attribute this to what they call mirror neurons. Apparently brains watch other brains and are chatting away to each other all the time, kind of creepy really, all this neural activity going on and we don’t even know about it. My brain and your brain are inter-connected, a bit like the old butterfly-flapping, or chaos theory that says everything is connected to everything else. Sound a bit like all that New Age stuff you read years ago? Yep, but now it’s the neuroscientists talking it up and showing it on their little screens in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging technicolour.
Anyway that was my day with Dan. I’ve been reading his books for years and loving him from afar, and trying to change my brain in my own humble way. And just as an aside, someone told me a bit of hot brain gossip last week. Apparently a guy in Pittsburgh, probably another neuroscientist, measured the brains of older adults and he found that people who walk more than ten kilometres a week have a three percent bigger brain! I haven’t checked the source on this one but I intend to. I’ve been walking my brain every day for more than 30 years and now I’m on a mission to grow my brain. I did yell out to Dan when he asked a question about exercising neuroplasiticy, “walk the brain” I called, but I don’t think he heard me or he thought I was just some nutter (who hasn’t been able to change their brain) in the park.
So that was my day with Dan. He told me other things but they are all in my notes and I can’t read them they were scrawled down in such a fury of ideas. If you want to know anything about it you could always read his books. My favourite is still, Parenting from the Inside Out, and I like Mindsight, but there are plenty to choose from.
Oh yes. Why was Dan Siegel up a tree in Treasury Gardens on a warm spring afternoon? A few hundred of us at a conference in Sofitel Melbourne on Collins had been evacuated moments before Dan was about to give us a definition of mind. Everyone in the multi-story building was evacuated. I never did hear the definition, I went off the get a coffee while Dan and the others escaped to the park and then when I came back I couldn’t find them. It was only that I decided to take my brain for a walk in the park that I found the group and joined them on the lawn under the fig tree listening up to Dan as he talked over top the helicopters.
The “situation” that caused the evacuation was a fire that started in an exhaust fan, at least that’s what my sources (a guy on the street) told me. We re-entered the building several hours later and I never did hear that definition of mind but my brain had a good walk in the park.
Images provided by Andrew McKennaPUBLISHED 26 OCTOBER 2010 CASTLEMAINE INDEPENDANT.