Healing Strategies: Using the Mind

Lesson objective:

We learn in this lesson about top-down recovery strategies: from the brain to the body. This means that we use our brains to influence our bodies.  We have already learned that thoughts and images of self and psychological processes are negatively affected by stress and trauma. This strategy deliberately enhances the ability to deal with negative internal dialogue, intrusive memories, and negative beliefs about ourselves resulting from stressful experiences, it teaches us how to manage and control those thoughts and beliefs.

As we mentioned, there are many ways to use the body to help recover from the effects of stress and trauma. 

That said, we can also leverage the mind–our thoughts, self-talk, and cognitive capacities, to promote better mental health and managing the effects of stress and trauma. 

The other type of strategies, top-down strategies, go from the brain to the body, and that means using our mind to influence our bodies.  

Just as your thoughts, self-image, and psychological processes are negatively affected by stress and trauma, top-down strategies focus on thought patterns and cognitions as a way to undo some of the unwanted effects.

These strategies deliberately boost your capacity to deal with, manage, and control negative self-talk, intrusive memories, and negative beliefs about yourself that have resulted from stressful experiences. 

Basically, these strategies use thought management, thought replacement, or thought adjustment to create new responses, senses of self, and behaviors.

Think again of the control tower. 

Top-down strategies can be likened to training courses for the engineers in the tower. 

They need to confront the tower damage and regain their calm if they are to continue working in the tower. 

They need to learn to read the radar again. And they need to learn to manage their own fears and anxieties about the future safety of the airport. 

After a period of stress, the engineers will be nervous, and they will need some retraining to be able to manage the new reality of the tower. In the same way, top-down strategies focus on shifting thought patterns, confronting traumatic memories, and adjusting your internal monologue. 

Top down strategies include certain forms of meditation, cognitive reframing, and affirmations exercises, among many other activities. Note that just as stress and trauma affect each person differently, each person’s strategy for healing, coping, and symptom management is different based on the type and duration of the traumatic or stressful experience, personality, genetic makeup, and physical abilities, among many other factors.