Archive - March 2016

The Resilient, Evolving Brain
Moving Beyond Trauma
Rise Up With Your Strengths

The Resilient, Evolving Brain

Neurons in the Brain

The recent attention to hope is significant and important, so important that we added the State Of Mind of hope to our Emotional Gym

But those who write about and research hope are still fixated by how they cast it as a “resilient resistant” skill set.

“Resilient resistance” rather than the capacity to move through life transitions in ways that evoke growth and forward movement, growth.

The problem comes from seeing hope from a problem-oriented basis, as “resilience” to an adversity, rather than a symptom of a larger approach to life issues, life transitions, that is the outcome of the natural growth and evolution of the brain, of consciousness.

The issue is not whether you are resilient, but how you respond to novelty, and to what degree it’s threat or safety.

No one asks, is there a deeper issue than a response to adversity going on here, a response to life in general, and at particular time in life?

Adversity just draws attention to the need for something that is vital to moving through transition.

The real adversity is what draws your life into the future, and how are you cooperating with that unfolding change into a new consciousness, or holding onto an old way of seeing reality.  That has to affect the movement of information from right to left hemisphere, but there are only inklings of research there.

The framework is wrong and the focus on adversity is too narrow.

The term resilience suggests a special set of abilities or strengths, rather than a response to an expanding consciousness trying to question meaning and the core of life satisfaction.

The response to adversity is “to get better” or to “get over it and go on with life”, rather than, what do YOU want? How do you want to live, what is working in your life that is meaningful, and what is meaningful in your life that is an illusion and providing no “cookies in your cookie jar,” even though the jar seems really, really important?

The issue isn’t whether you “bounce back.”

The issue is how you want to live and why.  The issue is adjusting to unfolding neurocognitive development and what it means to think and reason differently, undoing self-sabotage in the process, if necessary.

Resilience is not one set of permanently learned, default skills; it is different things at different times in life.

You invent hope differently at different stages of your life, and the transitions of your life.  And what you invent has to come from someplace in you that “believes” something.

We despair when we cannot find with some degree of clarity what it is that we believe.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Moving Beyond Trauma

Trauma Family

Perhaps one of the most popular approaches emerging from social work and public health is to help mothers with PTSD to deal with their infants so that they don’t reproduce their angst and stress in their young children.

The latest and best research in this area is the Polyvagal Theory by Dr. Stephen Porges. This truly is not theory, but rather the most significant and substantial research we have today in the area of what predisposes us to sympathetic nervous system, cortisol-driven, learned responses to trauma of any kind.

Trauma is trauma, just in degrees.

Focus on the trauma, and you will grow the reptilian brain’s identification with the trauma.

However, if you entirely change the focus to the parasympathetic potentials of the brain, and its very different different neuropathways, you grow a brain more frontal-lobe dependent.

I can promise you that whatever the past may be, that the future is always more compelling, if we will allow that change in our billion dollar, pharma-based, overly medicalized culture.

This “if” requires a huge shift from our focus on healing the past as the solution.


Once more, the future is more compelling than our past is in binding us.

We build that compelling future by taking the attention away from the focus on trauma, and place it on the discovery of scientifically tested strengths and their growth, and on identifying and growing the ever-present resiliency of the person.

Time is a great healer, when that time is filled with a focus on “can do”, “can be”, “can care”, “can give”, “can achieve”, “can find meaning”, “can find purpose”, “can contribute”, can learn one’s strengths, and can love others.

We are more compelled by the future than we are bound by the past.

Evolution depends on that truth!

We will never create the perfect world where mothers only pass on to their children high vagal tone, more resistant to trauma.

We can, though, teach their offspring that mother is not to blame, and that resiliency to trauma and recovery are within our grasp.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Rise Up With Your Strengths

Strengths Categories

One of the strongest of our cultural myths is how we grow in virtue, how we become “strong,” how we develop “strong” people. It goes something like this: unless it’s a struggle before you have achieved it, it really doesn’t mean a lot.

What’s the myth? The myth is that strength and strengths are wrought from suffering. You really have to suffer. Research tells a different story.

Courage is wrought from strengths, and strengths are wrought from knowing what they are, not suffering through life trying to find them. Great men and women have come into their own greatness by circumstances and times that were right for them to grasp their strengths, to rise up and use their strengths.

What if that just happened every day? What if every day, here’s another day for you to grasp your strengths, here’s another day for you to use your strengths. Grow them and develop them. We want you to go use and try what you are naturally good at. That’s very hard to get people to do; it’s very hard to get people to apply that to their life.

The use of strengths, when you really get into using strengths, is intrinsically satisfying. That is what’s called “autotelic,” the simple appreciation and joy of using our own strengths. Strengths are self-reinforcing. But you have to believe that using a strength is going to help you, that it’s going to change you, that it’s going to be effective.

What keeps people who know their strengths from using them and from being in flow?

It is for sure the learned patterns of anxiety, fear, anger, and blaming, as a result of learning and living in our weaknesses and being trained in them before we discovered our strengths. We simply haven’t had as much training and experience with our strengths as we have had with their opposites, our weaknesses.

The most powerful motivator of using a strength is someone outside of us, consistently recognizing the strength in us. That’s what we do as coaches. Second is the intrinsic satisfaction of using the strengths that our clients begin to understand and use. This is the research of Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his work on psychological “flow.”

Suffering in and of itself has defeated more people in trying to find their strengths than it has ever enabled those who have grown from it and accidentally learned what their strengths are in the process. No pain, no gain? How about less needless pain, more positive emotion, more knowledge of strengths?

How about if we get into our minds that strengths and intrinsic satisfaction and flow are stronger motivators than fear and suffering and pain! The growth of strengths and the confidence to use strengths are fostered in an UpSpiral of positive emotion. That’s what we have to create.

Let’s say it again. The growth of strengths and the confidence to use strengths are fostered in an UpSpiral of positive emotion.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute