WARNING: If you’re triggered by cussing, this is not the book or the blogpost for you. 😉
Ever wonder what’s really going on upstairs? Insert this book into your repertoire and find the fuck out!
Licensed Professional Counselor, Sexologist–overall brain enthusiast, Faith G. Harper fluidly breaks down its processes using a harmonious balance of humor and gentle assertions of approachable facts based in scientific data. The reader is left rich with self-revelation, without the overwhelm of medical jargon or manipulative self-help dialogue that often weighs down a book on this subject.
The introduction comes correct with facts about mental health that remove the myth of mental illness as a genetic predisposition you are doomed to at birth. Instead Harper asserts that brain chemicals can be corrected, as much as disrupted. Harper writes;
So much of what we call mental illness is really a case of brain chemicals gone batshit. And most of this comes from the stressful and traumatic life events we cope with.
Recent research shows that only two to five percent of the diagnoses people struggle with come from a singular, faulty gene. So we know that the case of trouble is waaaaaaay more likely to be our environment and how we cope with it. […] Anger, depression, the rest of it– are adaptive strategies.
For example, say you deal with chronic anger. You could understand this as a maladaptive behavior your brain has established to help you survive your environment.
Newsflash: your brain’s been acting on its best interest, but maybe not your personal best interest. Your behavior is not who you are, but a summation of where you are and how you’ve wired yourself to respond to your surroundings in order to live. These things can be reversed when you realize you have some control over it.
So what message was I ultimately left with?
Change your environment and change your mind. Which sounds like an oversimplification of your problems. Please know that’s not what you’ll receive in this book.
What you’re given is information as to the all important “whys” and “hows” these emotional currents swell within.
Say you got flowers. Flowers are excellent, right? Sure… if your past memories of getting flowers were happy ones. [ …] But say you got flowers when a loved one died… terribly and suddenly. Some nice person knew you were hurting and sent you flowers. But now even the smell of flowers may make you queasy.
The amygdala had turned the memory of flowers into an actual mnemonic for certain emotions. A mnemonic like ROY G BIV to remember the colors of the rainbow […] Shit I’ve not been able to unlearn from grade school.
The amygdala’s job is to make sure you don’t forget things that are very important. Remembering important-good is awesome. Nobody bitches about nice memories. Constant memories of important-bad can sucketh muchly.
Sucketh muchly, indeed. Cuz your amygdala does that with flowers, faces, smells, and everything in between.
Having been through depression, diagnosed with varying anxiety disorders, finally landing squarely on PTSD, the greatest and most useful skill in my mental tool belt has been cognitive behavioral therapy and techniques. These techniques we all use on a daily basis and in varying degrees, and can significantly change a person in crisis’ life, when put in the context of treatment.
Often these are skills that weren’t taught or encouraged in certain environments– things like mindfulness, challenging your own thoughts, or speaking kindly to yourself.
Unfuck Your Brain is useful in that it instills the essence of reclaiming your personal power by understanding how your damn brain is working! When you begin to understand its functions, manipulations, and current hardwired responses, that’s when you can start to reroute, and redefine your mental connections. That’s when the external connections in your life begin to change.
I’ll end this with an eye-opening quote on anxiety. A condition I began to see in myself as ultimately serving a purpose.
I was once someone who couldn’t check their own mailbox. High-alert as hell. The less I fought my physiological responses to my environment at the time, the more I began to research them and understand my brain was merely trying to protect me from the place I was living (which was a shitshow, btw). I came to a point of thankfulness for my brains intelligence at wanting to protect me from perceived threats, which at times were some real-ass threats, folks!
So reading this quote from Harper helped me to validate that I shouldn’t fight my anxiety, so much as be patient with my physiological responses, in order to decipher whether I really am in a dangerous situation or simply having a flashback to another familiar, unsettling situation from the past:
Anxiety means the body is still fighting back. This is fundamentally different from depression, which is essentially a wired response of learned helplessness. Anxiety symptoms are active coping skills in the face of threat. The problem is only when the brain has decided that most everything, most everywhere is a threat. And, boom. That right there is a trauma response.
So fuck yeah getting through trauma, fuck yeah anxiety, and fuck yeah to Unfuck Your Brain.
I give it two enthusiastic middle fingers up!