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Brainspotting: Where We Look Affects How We Feel


It is well understood that how we feel affects how we see. When we are in a good mood, we might be said to be wearing rose-colored glasses. This is meant as a metaphor, indicating more about our perceptions of the world rather than what we are actually seeing with our eyes: when in a good mood, we to perceive situations in positive ways, or we may find it easier for us to unconsciously overlook things that may otherwise frustrate or annoy us. However, research has shown that our mood may even impact how our vision works, quite literally, indicating that a good mood broadens our visual field while negative emotions constricts our visual field.

Of course, our emotions have been linked to impacts on much of our experience, from our thoughts to our movement (which can be as simple as frowning when we are sad). Yet research has shown that the causal link is not as one-way as we might expect. Take for example a study in which women who were given Botox injections to prevent the ability to frown reporting feeling happier than a group of women who were able to frown. And, of course, most people have heard of recent research that shows that following the directive “Turn that frown upside down” might actually help your mood.

Brainspotting, developed by David Grand, is largely organized around the fact that our emotions do not have a strict causal relationship with our thoughts, movements, and expressions, but, rather, they all correlate. Thus, a central maxim of Brainspotting is, “Where we look affects how we feel.”

To see what this actually means, let’s try a small experiment:

  • Scan your body for any sensations. Notice anything you are experiencing in your body in this moment. If you’re not noticing much, start with your breath. Without needing to change it, just note the pace and depth of your breath.

  • Think about something relatively minor that has been bothering you in the past week or two – choose something that won’t upset you too much.

  • While thinking about this thing, notice what has changed in your body or breath.

  • Based on the sensations you are experiencing, what emotion is attached to these thoughts?

  • Remain aware of your sensations in your body and your emotions while slowly tracking your eyes across your visual field, first to your left and then to the right. Notice where your eyes are looking when your sensations or emotions become more and less intense. (If tracking your eyes is uncomfortable, rotate your head left to right rather than moving only your eyes. This change may actually produce different results, so it can also be interesting to try this experiment both ways.)

If you are able to attune to your sensations and emotions during this experiment, it is likely that you noticed that certain parts of your visual field either increased or decreased the intensity of your sensations or emotions; thus, where we look affects how we feel. Brainspotting uses these eye positions, called ‘brainspots,’ to help clients gently access and process difficult memories and beliefs in order to heal emotional wounds.

To learn more about Brainspotting and how it could help you, contact me to discuss your unique situation.

Rose-colored glasses image courtesy of trakygraves.

Sad girl image courtesy of Taston.

#perception #brainspotting #davidgrand #traumatherapy #ptsd #mood

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Steven Moore, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor