Autonomic Nervous System
The ANS and its Relationship to Private Subconscious Therapy
It’s important to note that this method is much about psycho-education as it is about psychotherapy and the aim is to resolve the “Feeling Cause” behind any present symptoms and discomforts. The following information highlights the physical stress on the body resulting from a “perceived“ threat/stress that a person “feels”.
To Desire Change Or Not: We usually only change our minds within our belief systems, once we are given new information that we agree with. Understanding the automatic functions between our emotions and physical operations of the body can substantially contribute to our desired changes.
The Autonomic Nervous System:
The ANS, part of the inner structure of the brain, is an automatic balancing system that constantly aims to keep the body in a balanced state of homeostasis. The communication system of the ANS consists of two long groups of nerve cells, running down either side of the spine, with connecting nerve fibres to the brain and to the different organs of the body.
It consists of two operating systems, the Sympathetic or “Activating” System and the Parasympathetic or “Relaxing” System, which normally act in a state of balanced opposition to each other.
When we experience a threat or stressful situation, the SS activates the “Fight or Flight” response, which is our primitive and inbuilt mechanism that prepares us to fight or flee from what we “perceive” as a threat to our survival. The fight or flight response affects almost every organ of the body and stimulates them in different ways.
Just some of the bodily reactions of organ imbalance at the time include; the eyes dilate so we can see the threat more clearly, liver stimulates and releases glucose for required energy, adrenal glands secrete the hormone epinephrine to increase blood circulation and breathing and to prepare the muscles for exertion. There is a great deal of internal chemical adjustment that is responsible for these reactions as energy is withdrawn from the digestive tract, skin and other organs so that the more energized organs needed to “fight or flee” are kept at maximum potential.
For every action there is a reaction and it is the Para-sympathetic Systems’ function to bring the body and all the affected organs back into the balanced state of homeostasis once the threat or stressful situation has passed. Sometimes called the “rest and digest” system, the PS conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.
It is, however, important to realise that these two systems are constantly at work in much more subtle ways to maintain function and balance within the human throughout their lives, ideally.
The Limbic System:
This is a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the edge of the cortex concerned with instinct and mood. It controls the basic emotions (fear, pleasure, anger) and drives (hunger, sex, dominance, care of offspring).
With the study of neuroscience we know that the amygdala and hippocampus are the primary regions of the “limbic brain system” where feelings and emotional reactive information memory are stored. The limbic system is responsible for the messages that are sent through the nervous system to every cell, organ and every other system in the body.
The role of the neocortex in generating thought is relatively slower in comparison to the limbic brain and subsequently is almost always hijacked by the immediate operation of the limbic-feeling-system.
So, we more often than not react with our feelings to something before we “consciously” and rationally think about it.
To function harmoniously together, the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Systems of the Autonomic Nervous System must interrelate and respond to the external and internal cues of the human being they are maintaining. The control centre, or interpreter for all of the information that must be responded to by the ANS (which comes from attendant systems including language and the senses) is the hypothalamus and the limbic system, which Leang, Seng & Kee refer to as the “Transducer” (or decoder of messages).
The hypothalamus is situated at the top of the spinal cord at the central base of the brain and interacts not only with the ANS, but also almost all the systems of the body and brain. The hypothalamus also regulates the activities of the pituitary gland (the importance of which most people are much more aware than its regulator). The activity of the hypothalamus in turn, is influenced by hormones, by sensory information that enters through the senses and by emotions (Seeley, Stephens and Tate, 1988).
The hypothalamus releases neuropeptides, which it makes, that via complex interactions with enzymes and effects on other regions of the brain (Palkovits 1992) give rise to the hopefully appropriate responses of the SS and PS for balance and proper function throughout the ANS and the body.
When we are under stress we produce chemicals (e.g. neuropeptides) that arouse responses throughout the system, most often stimulating response in the SS to prepare for action. Some are a response to physical pain; others are brought on by emotions such as fear. These chemicals, some of which can be measured in the blood are shown to occur in the unborn child (David Concar, New Scientist Oct 1996) as well as in the adult.
Mutke says that if no emotional outlet is found for an emotional biochemical response, then the results can be destructive. This is the formation of a repressed emotion, or a learned response that creates later conflict.
The inability to resolve that stress, or make sense of the situation (understand the ‘why’) would seem to be the critical cause of the inability to allow the balancing release of counteracting chemicals usually from the PS. The over‑stimulation of one part of the system, especially since that system regulates every part of the body, will inevitably lead to problems. If that imbalance remains for extended periods of time, then the resultant problems are likely to become more dramatic and potentially life‑altering or life‑threatening.
For instance, since one of the functions of the SS is to restrict blood flow to the skin and digestive systems, then over‑stimulation of this function, without proper respite could quite logically lead to skin problems (such as allergic sensitivities and eczema) and digestive disorders (such as irritated bowel syndrome and ulcers). It is already widely recognised that many such conditions are ‘stress‑related’ or at least aggravated by stress.
Ultimately the ANS is designed to bring about and maintain homeostasis in response to all the stimuli that are encountered, and these include emotions and learning. When repressed emotions and out‑dated learning’s bringing disharmony are properly resolved then homeostasis should again be possible.
This is, given that the person perceives and desires this to be the case. Again, the flaw in the healing equation is the same as in the causal equation, the individual’s perception.
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