The Applied Neuroscience Institute

Home of the NeuroPositive Method™
The Neuroscience of the UpSpiral Of Emotion, Health & Optimal Living

Coaching Clients In Transition
Thanks For The Memories
Cracking The Myth Of Relationships
The Freedom of the UpSpiral
The Thinking, Feeling, Evolving Brain
Relationships 101
The Gift Of Detachment
What’s Your Stress Response?
Positive Emotion & Terrorism

Coaching Clients In Transition

Transition Labyrinth



It is a sense of personal significance that sustains a sense of meaning. We are meaning making all the days of our lives.

When a sense of personal significance is threatened it is because a way of making meaning in life no longer works to provide that sense of significance.

NeuroPositive Coaching builds a sense of meaning and personal significance in every client.

The NeuroPositive Method is a brain-based template for well-being at every stage of life.

One of the 7 steps of this method is goal-setting, what we call the “FuturePac.”

The issue that underlies the formation of goals is meaning-making. How do we make meaning? What are the constructs of meaning-making that provide a sense of personal significance? These “meanings” are different at different times in our lives, so a knowledge of developmental issues is important.

There are stages in life with different kinds of meaning attached to them, related to getting one’s needs met, having relationships, a sense of personal power and self, and finally transcendence of some sort or another that represents the attempt to encounter “oneness.”

As important as stages of development are, what’s perhaps even more important are the transitions between them. People who are solidly established in a stage of their development of meaning are not likely to seek coaching.

At least they are not as likely as someone whose life is blowing up and whose sense of meaning is disintegrating because they are in a transition between the stages of making sense of their life and their world.

We need to know how people are making meaning before we believe that their goals are real representations of something that will give them any kind of lasting value, if they, in fact, don’t just fizzle and are ever accomplished.

We especially need to know if a person is going through a life transition that is causing them to question meaning in their lives before we agree to assist them in attempting to put great effort into pursuing goals that will be fleeting, in either accomplishing them or in feeling any sense of fulfillment in having done so.

Every stage of life has its unique challenges in sustaining enough of an UpSpiral to do creative problem-solving, to create meaning, and to experience personal significance.

When this sense of personal significance wanes, so do eagerness, anticipation, and openness to experiencing life.

How we make meaning in our lives changes developmentally as we grow a more NeuroPositive brain.

Meaning Perspective

NeuroPositive Coaching gives clients the tools to successfully navigate the transitions of meaning making in every stage of life.

Each unfolding major life transition in adulthood has within it the potential of bringing greater wholeness.

These opportunities are often missed because they are diagnosed as mental illness, which can simply be a symptom of the poorly navigated transitions.

The brain in transition, changing its very structures of reasoning and meaning-making, is most at risk, but also most alive with potential.

Having the insight and vision to navigate these transitions is a highly developed coaching skill set, and a deeply significant time of education and guidance.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 



Thanks For The Memories


There are four kinds of memory

  1. Short term memory
  2. Working memory
  3. Long term memory
  4. Muscular memory

However, none of these terms really identify what memory means. Memory is essentially about association.

We remember because of our associations between things and people, and the strengths of those associations.

If you learned to ride a bicycle and you did a lot of riding, there is a strong set of associations with your muscles. The same would be true about dancing. Walking is muscle memory. You don’t hold onto the other forms of memory like you do muscle memory. Your life doesn’t depend on them nearly so much as you think.

Memory is not nearly so much about the past as it is the use of past associations to prop up and inform forward moving decision-making, planning, and living today.

A lot of memories are just as well forgotten when they don’t serve us to move on in the transitions of life.

Memory is not identity. Identity is much more.

We depend too much on memory to secure our identity. What if you could not tell someone who you were without referring to the past or to your work? What if you couldn’t tell people your story as a way of identifying yourself? We have an increasing number of centenarians who do not let memories get in their way and they are not “super-glued” to their opinions.

The brain is always covering over memories and recovering them with new material to be stored. The brain is also always trying to build new, more meaningful associations between neurons. You have heard that neurons that fire together, wire together.

It is also true that when you sleep, cortisol is busy in the stress of your negative dreams, defragging many of those useless associations that don’t serve the ongoing development of the brain. That’s what nightmares do – they defrag your brain using cortisol or stress in the process. Consider that your nightmares are your “cleaning crew.”

The brain is always changing. It is only when we will not let the brain change that we need to worry. The stronger your opinions, the tighter your perception squeaks, the more at risk you are.


As you grow older, your brain is going to change the amount of diddle you can remember because it has a larger task. The energy that used to go into ridiculous song lyrics, answers for tests, the names of people you don’t care about, phone numbers and things that make you think you are losing your memory, is trying to be redirected into a larger vision of yourself and the world,  literally a “new identity.”

You are losing some of your short-term memory, and it’s very natural. You might argue that there are people who never forget a thing, no matter what age. So it is possible to hoard memories like we hoard junk.

Right now, there are memories and associations your brain is waxing over, building a kind of scab over, neurons of memories that aren’t useful for an evolving mind. And it’s all very, very normal. What is not normal is to refuse to allow the brain the cleanse and rewire itself, and for the structures of the stages of neurocognitive development and wisdom to emerge.

We treat memories as though they were all precious gold. A few are, most are not, and you usually know the difference. But you are making a big mistake to rely on them for meaning. Don’t allow yourself to say that your memories are all you have. That’s a terrible admission that you aren’t using your brain to grow and evolve into the next stages of your life.

Memories are not simply pictures of the past; they are working elements in the brain that move us on and move us forward to a wider and deeper comprehension and consciousness of reality. If we are moving ahead in a healthy way, we are learning to know ourselves more accurately, to see others more clearly, absent of our projection onto them of what we need them to be for us.

We are freer, and we allow everyone around us greater freedom from our expectations.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 


Cracking The Myth Of Relationships

Myth Busted

We all have potentially 7 stages of meaning-making in our lives that represent significant changes in the way we see ourselves, others, and the world. These are big, big changes in us potentially.

The movement into higher stages of more complex reasoning is resisted by those who have a greater tendency to turn what represents potentially safer, higher ground in life, to threat.

It represents the fear of letting go of something that needs to be left behind.

The meaning making myth is blowing energy into something that you believe holds meaning for you, but in fact, does not.

You keep holding on to something or someone because of the belief that things will change, when it is you who needs to change and move on with your life.

Your sense of meaning is where your desire, belief, and open mind (or closed) are derived.

Hold on or let go?

Hold On

“Holding on” is often motivated by the threat of loss. If you do not play the “game” as others expect, you risk begin seen by others as someone who’s inexplicably changed for the worse, in ways they tell you they can’t fathom.

But you feel threatened by what would happen if you don’t comply with what others want from you and be like you “used to be.”

They are like playground bullies arriving uninvited to take up residence in your mind.

How easy it is to drop the ball of keeping our eye on what it is that gives us meaning, the meaning where we ought to spend our precious psychic energy.

The real ball that has been dropped is your sense of meaning, from the threat of what would happen if you don’t comply with the habits, beliefs, and expectations of others.

It has such a force that it keeps you from even getting close to asking, “What do I really want? What would give meaning to my life?”

The meaning making myth is what sustains your blind momentum through it all, at the cost of your inner peace and your own desire.

Relationships All

So here is how you start to change course.

You ask questions like these: How meaningful are these relationships for you? What real relatedness do they create? Where are the real, true connections that happen because of them? What do you want?

Given the effort you put out, what is the return? What is the real, authentic meaning you wish they would give and how does that measure up to your relief that they will soon be over?

.How much of it is holding together a patchwork of ideas of what is important, that is really a myth, simply not true, and no longer working?

How much precious psychic energy are you burning in efforts that leave you feeling empty, more tired that you should feel, and vaguely discontent in an eerie way?

Your comeback might be that you do this for others. Is it that, or are you threatened that these “others” will be disappointed in you that you have not played your role to assure their happiness?

You do not assure anyone’s happiness.

If you are in a position where you believe it is your job to make someone else happy, you are ignoring the myth of your own meaning making, that puts you in a DownSpiral and opens the road to depression.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The Freedom of the UpSpiral


Brain Barbed

What is your personal “sense” of freedom?

How free are you?

We celebrate freedom on a number of specific holidays, but these days we can also hear the groan of tragedy.

It can make it seem less like celebrating and less like fireworks, especially for those who are most affected.

What do you do with the gigantic tragedies caused by climate change, natural disasters, or the uneasy feelings of the actions of a government that affect a part of the world so intertwined with our own?

Tragedy seems to rob freedom. The truth us that it brings it.

One of the things that tragedy brings is the knowledge that learning the “why” this or that happened, focusing on asking “why,” doesn’t solve a thing, especially not in tragedy.

The “why” doesn’t bring anyone or anything back. We may be comforted with the knowledge that lessons will be learned, but the real tragedy still confronts.

What is necessary is a very special kind of freedom.

Focus on the “why,” explanations and rationalizations, and reasons go out the window in the face of a more basic question.

What will I become? What will I do? How is it that we do not despair?

How is it that we have any kind of courage in the face of disaster that can happen in a few minutes or seconds?

How is it that we move on when we are blinded by grief or fear on any level of loss?

What we find is that the anxiety that used to fill us over what might happen is replaced by the fact that we can and we do have the strength to step up. It’s just in us.


When the chips are down, all of the time we spent worrying looks entirely futile because we are in the midst of the tragedy doing what we have to do with the strength to do it.

It was absolutely useless to worry and waste time with anxiety.


Think about it. If we could take all of the energy we spend worrying in anticipation and fearing the future, and just harness it in our present, knowing and believing that we would have the strength to face the tragedy, what difference would that make in the now?

We are most moved and brought to tears by the everyday people who do heroic things. And this is the truth. That same heroism and courage is within everyone.

We all have it when the chips are down.

What we need to learn is to play these chips of strengths, courage, and resilience, a few at a time, and allow them to teach us what they have to teach us.

Each day we can see anxiety and worry for the shadow of a lie that it is.

And so not only on “freedom holidays,” but every day of our lives, we are as free as we know this to be true about ourselves.

The capacity for celebration is a sign of our ability to make the truth about our own strength and resilience more and more pervasive in our own knowing about ourselves.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 


The Thinking, Feeling, Evolving Brain

Evolution Blue


Millions of years before we were thinking organisms, we were in our evolution collectively and individually sensing, feeling, and intuiting organisms.

The brain’s frontal lobes and their executive functions emerged only much later.

In other words, we had a thalamic feeling/sensing/intuitive brain for millions of years before the thinking functions of the frontal lobes and their executive functions evolved.

We have not, however, evolved nearly so far as some science would lead us to believe. Our frontal lobes have not replaced, by any means, the feeling, sensing and intuiting functions of the thalamic brain.

However, the evolutionary task today, in which we are all engaged, involves a balance or ‘coming into alignment’ of the proficiency of the frontal lobes with the “earthy” power of the thalamic brain.

In our tendency to “over think,” the thalamic brain reasserts its claims to deeper and different functions of the integration and action process.

It is important to understand the need to quiet the frontal lobes and to listen more deeply and differently to the messages of the rest of the brain, as in meditation.

Even our science has not caught up with this balancing, evolving brain.

Thinking, as we define it narrowly today, certainly has a strong role in our consciousness.

Feelings Circle

But the emotions you are used to feeling and the emotional patterns which you are used to, and in some cases even addicted to, also affect both thought and feeling.

The core issue in addiction, for example, is recycling and being unable to let go of an emotional pattern, far more based in the old brain than managed by the new brain.

Trigger the beginning emotion of an addictive cycle and you set in motion a series of emotions that lead to addictive behavior.

Thinking has little to do with it. In fact, in the addictive process (and in other times in life), thinking is the slave of feelings and reasoning has little to do with the process.

New findings show the old brain to be much more involved in addictive behavior than previously considered.

Our emotions are the most fundamental way that we measure our lives.

We want most to “feel good.”

© Dr. William K. Larkin 


Relationships 101

Relationshops 101

A New Year… time to sort through relationships, time for a “primer” on positive connection in relationships.

For many people, the experience of family togetherness, especially at the holidays, is not wonderful. It’s painful.

It is very difficult to realize and accept that relationships in our life can be toxic. What is a toxic relationship? It is largely characterized by hostility from another person that is aimed at “rounding” you. This is the person who lets you know in one way or another that you are not who you should be for them. You are not performing your assigned role in their set of expectations.

As nice as you are, there is never a real connection where you feel as though you are understood or known. Or you can say something, and the person is quick to point out that there is a different way of seeing what you said. Time and again, your half-wrong.

Toxic people round us down to their size, or at least they attempt to diminish our individuality or accomplishments or the significance of our presence. The message is that you are either out of line, inappropriate, or uninteresting. Bottom line, you are supposed to get that you are really nothing special, you are not seen, you are not really heard, you are ignored just enough to communicate to you that there is a silent distance of separation.

You are emotionally disinherited from a sense of fitting or belonging as you are, not directly, but subtly. Perhaps all they do is shake their head when you talk, or make a comment, or turn slightly away or even leave the room. One way or another, whatever it is, they let you know without ever saying. You know it and they know it.

Detached Man

Welcome to the territory of the American idea of the value of family, regardless of the personal cost. Family is family. Family comes first.

Says who?

You are being rounded, brought into line, brought down to the level of everyone else, and often put in a position where you expect of yourself to be extra obliging to this person, to give them some kind of extra or special attention, which is noticed but not really appreciated and changes nothing.

What do you do?

It is difficult to accept that the myth “family is family” may mean very little. If you have been raised in a family system where the rule is, “family always comes first”, it’s hard to get a hold on dynamics that are year after year, dinner after dinner, holiday after holiday, unpleasant, rejecting, and actually toxic, and you feel helpless.

The first is to recognize hostility and rounding when it occurs and to know that your awareness of it is probably not inaccurate. The second is to realize that, as much as we want family to fit the myth of a wonderful place, that, for some, that is not the case. Family can be a toxic environment and if it is, you need to pay particular attention to the abuse that it fosters and admit that to be the case.

One of the most important things we can do is to leave behind and detach from relationships that are toxic. Give up the idea that every relationship in your life has to work, especially in your family. It doesn’t and may never. Your expectations of having to repair every relationship, or be willing to, is like blowing air in a balloon with no skin.

When that is the case, detach and fade. That sounds like blasphemy in today’s world of seeing family relationships as sacred. Not every relationship is and some, especially if they are toxic, need to be left behind. Perhaps the gift of this New Year’s new beginning is that you realize that detachment from toxicity and from relationships that are empty and hollow, void of real connection, need to be left behind.

Detachment is a decision to leave behind what isn’t working and hasn’t been working for a long, long time. The decision to detach from people almost sounds like a sin. But it can be the most important area of detachment in our lives, especially in relationships that round us and have no meaning. The best way to detach from a toxic relationship is to fade.

Back off, respond less, unplug, and do it gradually over a period of time. Be less responsive, stay away from toxic people, and busy yourself in living your life. What about guilt? It’s a natural part of the process that you have to look at, so write down what the guilt is telling you.  What does it say about how you take care of yourself? Or don’t, more likely.


Healthy attachment is measured by real and true meaningful connection where you have an experience of “felt feelings,” and that you are “known” authentically. Go where you find healthy attachment. Build healthy attachments and allow the fade to give you less and less attention to the person from whom you are detaching. Do not allow them access to your world.

Give yourself an unusual and remarkable gift of the awareness that you can detach and still be a good person. The New Year is a good time to sort relationships and identify which ones are worth the effort and which ones are not or close to anything like toxic. Rather than so many resolutions about what we will do, it would be good to make another list of what we won’t do, a list of things from which we will detach because the cost of them is too emotionally great for what we get from them.

Sound selfish? Be fiercely selfish in protecting yourself from rounding –ANYWHERE. Identify toxicity where it exists as hostility or emptiness that demands too much of your time and attention without giving you the satisfaction that anything you do really matters.

Scrutinize what should be left behind. Admit what is not worth your effort and good will, and clean your house of relationships that are too costly, unfruitful, and unsatisfying and really illusions of love and caring. Admit where you just don’t care and admit what is really not breathing life into you in one way or another.

Sit with this and ask yourself: where do I need to detach to open my life to new energy? What are you keeping alive solely out of a misplaced sense of obligation or an unwise promise you made someone? Where you need to detach and do the “fade”?

In a world where networking is considered something holy, and where socialization is regarded as something like a god, take a second look and find out what really gives you meaning and go for that, put your efforts there.

You have permission to fade and detach.

The Gift Of Detachment

Seen Heard 2

It’s OK.

The greatest gift may be the one you lose.

We think that the term “detachment” means from “things.”

It is much more about relationships we try to foster that are illusions, that we hold onto as though they will finally come through for us, except they rarely do with much. Especially at the holidays, we are often bound by obligations that make it even more crystal clear to us that there are relationships in our life that are not based in the reality of real give and take, or real sharing and meaning.

By obligation we blow air into the never satisfied balloon of distorted expectations and often toxic silence, or subtle or not so subtle responses that make us try harder – when what is called for is detachment.

This just may be the greatest gift of these holidays: to let go of the attachments where it is impossible to really connect in a way that gives meaning.

Who doesn’t really “get you”? Who doesn’t really “know you” and doesn’t want to, because really understanding you would have to make them rethink their own narrow world?

STOP, reflect, and do what seems like the unholy thing – let go of the illusions of relationship and energy robbing relationships that simply are myths. They have lost their meaning.

We are terribly afraid of challenging the systems and networks that we believe are so holy. They aren’t holy if they aren’t life giving, and if you cannot be appreciated and experienced as who you are, if you can’t “be seen and be heard.”

Take a step back and see where you are blowing air into the illusion of a relationship that no longer works, no longer allows and helps you “be.”

We do no favor for ourselves by pretending to be what we are not, feigning interest when we don’t care, and using enormous energy to play the role someone else requires.

Perhaps it’s time to consider that the great gift may be to let go, to detach, and to let go of the expectations of how you think you should be and have to be, and to get really clear about what you want.

What do you WANT?

The rejection you fear when you are pretending to find meaning where you are not is really like you holding a mirror up to yourself and threatening yourself with nonsense that no longer serves.

Mirror Image

You are not enough, says the mirror. You are selfish, says the mirror. You are going to be rejected and unloved says the mirror, You will be alone, guilty, and full of shame, chants the mirror.

All of that is you, afraid to look at what is real and what is not.

Detaching from what robs you, from toxic expectations, or simply the ignorance of people who cannot appreciate you and fail to “know” you may be the beginning of your greatest holiday gift.

We fill our lives with the illusions of what satisfies and wonder why we are empty.

What do YOU WANT?

What’s Your Stress Response?



“Over time, the ends of your chromosomes fray, and as they fray, your DNA stops working as well, and eventually that could wind up ‘doing in’ the cell. There are now studies showing that chromosomal DNA aging accelerates in young, healthy humans who experience something incredibly psychologically stressful. That’s a huge finding.”

Dr. Robert Sapolsky

How does stress impact your health?

Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University has identified the activity of glucocorticoids as the result of stress that reduces the size of the hippocampus in the brain. The particular kind of stress affecting aging that can cause even our DNA to age faster is related to the experience of oppression.

This oppression is usually caused by being a part of a structure or a system that causes one to feel that “things are on top of me,” that a person doesn’t have control over their life being affected in major ways by a source other than themselves. It is the sense that all or most control and one’s fate rests unpredictably outside of one’s self.

This is certainly the case with traumatic events, but it also is the case with chronic stress over a period of time that results in the sense of being “oppressed” or “it’s on top of me, I’m not on top of it.”

There are certainly circumstances of oppression that exist in systems and cultures, but oppression can also exist as a matter of perception. The perception of freedom or control can be very idiosyncratic.

If we do not have a pretty rich and deep reservoir of positivity, the cumulative small events of life become stressors in themselves, or they become cumulative and we too easily begin to feel that things are on top of us.

Stress Meter

We can talk all we want about “catastrophizing” and “awfullizing,” and while that insight can be helpful, it doesn’t produce long-terms results unless we respond differently to negative events from having lived and developed what we call a “NeuroPositive™ life.”

This means that we become, over a period of time, wired to go to the positive in both feelings and thoughts. It builds upon already existing internal strengths as our major neuropathways. These are the super highways of the real or ideal self.

This takes practice.

We are not automatically positive in the face of small or larger stressors. It usually has to be learned.

Stressors grind at us because they are continual and always present.

Our NeuroPositive™ response to stressors can be elegantly simple, if we have learned it and it is wired-in.

We can wire it in by learning to pulse positive emotion.

Most of us never learned that we can grow positive emotion intentionally. Emotions are reactive indicators, but we can also control emotions and use them by choice. We have the power to decrease positive emotion and we have the power to increase positive emotion. We have just not been taught how to do it.

We have far more positive control over emotions that it not negative denial than we believe that we do. You can train your brain to go to a positive emotion with immediacy, you can make that positive emotion last (duration) and you can increase that positive emotion for long periods of time at will (intensity).

Immediacy, duration, intensity with positive emotion.

Welcome to The Emotional Gym.™



Positive Emotion & Terrorism

Resilience Jung

We now have research about the role of positive emotions in survivors of terrorist attacks.

Researchers found that the presence of positive emotion within a person is “linear.” This means that it is a kind of reservoir that we can draw upon in the face of negative events, in fact for ANY event in our lives.

Building this reservoir of positive emotions is exactly what we teach in our “Emotional Gym,” where the stress is on the importance of “positive emotional muscle” as a buffer against persistent, routine negativity, or any sense of threat.

However, I never considered it in the face of terrorist attacks, but it holds true even there. A group of researchers applied their skills to survivors of the terrorist attacks in Madrid, Spain, where El Qaeda terrorists placed bombs in 3 subway stops, killing 190 people and wounding 1500 others.

This is what the researchers wrote in The Journal of Positive Psychology in the article, “Perceived benefits after terrorist attacks; The role of positive and negative emotions:”

“Analyses showed that positive emotions experienced on the same day or immediately following the day of the attacks (gratitude, love) fully accounted for the relation between pre-attack resilience and post attack growth, which suggest that positive emotions experienced in the after math of the terrorist attacks increased perceptions of psychological growth.”

What this means is that positive emotions residing in the person before an attack or experienced afterwards increases resilience and diminishes any likelihood of post traumatic stress reactions and related illnesses.

This is very significant stuff.

Positive emotion, what we call “positive emotional muscle,” has great power to be a buffer to negative emotion and events.

It also speeds up recovering from negative emotion: you just don’t spend as much time being fearful, worrying, and being anxious.

If that can happen in the face of terrorist attacks, consider what positive emotion does in the face of our everyday encounters with the things in life that cause us fear and worry and dread.

* The research cited from the Journal of Positive Psychology appeared in an article by Carmelo Vazquez and Gonzalo Hervas., Volume 5, Issue 2, March 10, 2010.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 



Focus Feelings


As we tune into how we focus and how we manage our attention, we learn a great deal about what real intelligence is. It is certainly not just an IQ number. It is the application of knowledge to a challenge that requires focus and attention.

If you can’t focus and you can’t attend to a task over a period of time necessary to reach the solution, you dart from thing to thing and task to task.

What we need are validated measures of our strengths.

We think nothing of tests that tell us what’s wrong with us, but miss taking those measures that tell us who we really are. Everyone, yes everyone, takes his or her strengths for granted.

They are often the last things we learn to focus upon, yet they are the very things that will reveal our intelligence and our genius. And most importantly, the use of our real strengths, honed with attention and focus, is the core of our level of happiness and satisfaction in life.

The danger is that the only thing that begins to hold our attention is what we observe, what we watch on television or on a smartphone screen. Our attention span and focus begin to be directed by the message, rather than by our own inner ability to focus and attend to a task.

What is often overlooked is how much FOCUS is dependent upon feeling state. Our feelings are where we live, and we focus from our feeling state or in reaction to it. Regardless of how the brain functions and handles the physiological process, we are FOCUSING from feelings.

FOCUS and FEELINGS could very nearly be the same thing. Oftentimes we are so much on automatic pilot that we don’t know what we’re feeling. What are you feeling right now?

Can you tell me in words that really describe to me where you are in such a way that I could feel it with you?

You are not your feelings until you can decide which ones you want to have, and direct your FOCUS to have them.

FOCUS is a choice if we make it a choice. But always the power of that focus is largely defined by what we are feeling.

Before you label yourself ADHD, consider what you are feeling. Before you decide that you can’t focus on something, consider what you are feeling.

Mindfulness of FEELING STATES enhances FOCUS.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute