I’ve tried a lot of different types of therapies and holistic modalities over the years, but few have been as surprising as brainspotting. It’s so simple that it’s kind of difficult to believe that it actually works. On top of that, it’s one of those things that has more subtle, long-term effects versus results that you feel immediately. The thing that keeps me coming back (besides my therapist’s enthusiasm for it), is that I can feel it working. It boggles my mind that I can be staring at a spot in space and literally feel the neural pathways shifting in my brain. Okay, I know I’m probably not actually feeling the neural pathways shift, but there is definitely a sensation inside my head and that is pretty damn cool.
Let’s back it up a bit. What in the world is brainspotting? Well, it’s a way to access the deep, nonverbal, reptilian part of your brain and all of the memories, patterns, and trauma stored there. It works like this: You think of an issue, emotion, trigger, etc. that you want to work on, allow that to become present in your body, then slowly and methodically move your gaze around your field of vision. What you’ll notice is that how the emotion feels in your body changes as your move your gaze. It will become stronger in some areas and milder in others. From there, you’ll find a spot that makes it feel stronger and stay there. This is the key. Our natural tendency is to move away from pressure and discomfort, but brainspotting shows us the power of staying with it. By holding that spot, you hold the file open, as they say. You give your brain the space and access it needs to process.
I’d like to point out that I’ve always done this with a therapist. It is possible to do brainspotting on your own, and you’ll find podcasts and books and videos that will teach you how to, but I don’t know that this is something I’d recommend. With my therapist’s guidance, I’ve used brainspotting to get into some strongly ingrained past trauma. I believe that if I had tried to use brainspotting on my own instead, that it would’ve been a much less positive experience. Aside from the guidance and supervision, doing brainspotting with a therapist can really deepen your experience of it. It is one of the few bottom-up modalities that works really well with talk therapy. A therapist trained in brainspotting can really help a client bridge the gap between the nonverbal, deeply-rooted elements of trauma and the thoughts we often have floating around our heads about it.
Perhaps my favorite thing about brainspotting is how intuitive and adaptive it can become. As I’ve gotten to know the different brainspots that I have and where certain traumas “live”, I’m able to use them to understand myself and my responses better. If I’m in a challenging conversation and I notice my eyes drifting to the lower left, I can deduce that the topic of our conversation is triggering some childhood trauma. I’m also able to use my brainspots to my advantage. There are certain spots, called resource spots, that can help you find calm, comfort, and reassurance. By looking to the upper right, I can often find a more positive perspective. And this is not to say that these spots will be like this forever – spots can move and change over time as our brains do.
In this episode of Psychiatria, Dr. Melanie Young and I talk all things brainspotting. She is a brainspotting trained therapist as well as a teacher of brainspotting to therapists. We discuss what we know about how brainspotting works in the brain, what a brainspotting session can look like, who brainspotting can be useful for, and so much more. I believe this is such a valuable tool for learning about ourselves and I hope you’ll find the same.
You can find Melanie on her website here: https://melanieyoungpsyd.com/.
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