Today in my psychotherapy group, “Living Well with Bipolar Disorder and Depression,” we discussed isolation vs. connectedness. Group members shared that while isolation is often their choice when depressed, ultimately connecting with others is more helpful to them. Group members find that connection gives them comfort, energy and hope in the midst of their depression.
Now there is more than shared experience to support the benefits of connection. Research using brain scanning technology confirms that our brains actually change under the influence of others. Interpersonal neurobiologists, including Daniel Siegel and Allan Schore, use the term “regulation” to describe how we internally manage our emotional and physiological responses to stress and stimulation, and they have demonstrated in their research that we rely on others to help us in this process. Connection with others helps us calm and quiet ourselves in difficult moments, and over the course of time, even heal from early psychological wounds. The most exciting new thought is that our brains are not as unchangeable as once believed, but can be changed and healed through positive relationships.
A March 24, 2012, article, The Brain on Love – NYTimes.com by Diane Ackerman gives a nice summary of the theory while focusing on love relationships. An excerpt:
“All relationships change the brain–but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that
shape memories, emotions and that ultimate souvenir, the self.”
Interpersonal neurobiology also supports the usefulness of the client-therapist relationship and the relationships formed in group therapy. If you are interested in reading more about interpersoan neurobiology and psychotherapy, Austin In Connection :: Psychotherapy for articles and links.