Tough Love Does Not Work; In This Case…

Frank’s Mother called me for the East Coast. She is a bit desperate to get some help for her son who is going to college in the Boulder area. He should be in his senior year of college but because of anxiety issues, poor focus and an inability to accomplish his work, has been told he is on probation and must take night classes and achieve B+ grades or her cannot return to finish his degree.

I discover that this sort of scenario has been happening to him for a long time; has seen many therapists, doctors, tried lots of different medications, and although clearly intelligent, nothing has helped him for years. His Mother even thought that using tough love to help him ‘get over ‘ his problems, was the way to go. But that made things even worse!

What I discover is that he is sensitive person and that he had some head injuries that caused his ineffective behavior. It isn’t ‘psychological’ after all. He is really doing the best that he can given the unresolved trauma he is caring around inside. Our Central Nervous System ( CNS or brain and spinal chord) cannot function adaptively if there is any overload whatsoever. When it is compromised, it cannot function with the healthy chaos that is needed in our fast paced world. This is a well known scientific fact! So we begin doing brain training while we simultaneously do counseling. This allows his CNS to begin to make corrections in how it uses its energy to adapt to life changes and this all happens at the instinctive level so he and I can talk, while is CNS make internal corrections and improves how it functions.

I discover that he had a series of head injuries and this makes complete sense; he acts like someone who is carrying trauma. He processes slower than most clients; it takes him time to access information and communicate it. He also acts like someone who is a loser; what is the point of me trying since nothing changes anyway. I continue to get to know him over the course of 10 or so visits. He feels drawn to talk to a psychiatrist for medications once again; but when he comes in after that doctor visit, he tells me that he doesn’t believe that he wants to go the route, this time. He feels, for the first time, that what we are doing is actually making an impact. He has a healthy skepticism when he tells me that, which I encourage. We don’t want any false hope or belief. We want him to really feel the impact of our work here in his day to day life, seeing and feeling improvement.

He notices that his social interaction is improving; it is simply easier to converse with people. And he is keeping up with his classes as well. His mother tells me, on a recent check-in call, that this is the first thing that she has seen help him, in years. I know what she is saying; I hear this from allot of my clients and their families. Without being able to heal the core of the issue, how the brain uses biological energy sustainably, progress is often negligible or not at all.

Our CNS is now known to be completely adaptable, dare I use the term regenerative; thus the research on neuroplasticity which demonstrates that the CNS can re-organize itself, or improve its own effectiveness, by simply being given information about how it is behaving, in its own language. If we can show your CNS that it is generating its own suffering, it is capable to learning to not do it. Since it is an energy saving system as well as a difference detector, it can drop old, inefficient pathways that it developed at an earlier time, build new neurons (nerve cells) and make new and more complex and effective connections throughout the brain. So Frank now has a glimmer of hope and is motivated to move forward with our work. He has a sparkle in his eye and is motivated to keep improving. He is finally understanding that his path is different from others and is no longer comparing himself to others in an attempt to build evidence that he bound to be a failure! Big stuff…