do you ever have like a breakdown but your logical brain is still active just thinking “ok this is annoying can we wrap this up so we can go back to bottling these feelings and like going to work or whatever” lol

like can we finish this early im trying to build a potato farm in minecraft

Emotional brain: 

Logical brain:

There’s actually a reason for this!

There are two separate parts to your brain’s conscious awareness: your mind, and your brain.

Your brain handles more survival-based functioning. Heart rate, hunger, sleep, so on. It also is the source of emotion. Except it’s not very bright, and can’t be ‘reasoned with’ very well. It reacts to things and only seeks to keep you alive. What it thinks is necessary to do that, however, can become distorted or actually harmful.

That is how you get situations where you want to self-harm to release pain or ‘feel something.’ Your brain wants to let out the emotional pain so you can function better, and relieve the emotions that are becoming overwhelming. In the other situation, the body is in need of knowing you’re still actually alive.

When you feel the want to be with an abuser, your brain is used to being in that situation and sees it as the “normal” way of living. Not having that enforcement and control can be hard for the brain to get used to, as you now have to live independently. There is also an emotional attachment caused by wanting the moments the abuser was kind, or provided things needed for survival. An abuser can convince you, and the brain, that you need their care in order to survive.

Then there’s your mind. Your mind handles high functions, like mathematics, logical reasoning, and understanding concepts and inferences. It’s the one that goes “2+2=4” and “if I punch that guy, he could hurt me.”

However, it can come to disagreement with the brain easily. While your brain may say you NEED something to survive, or that you should hurt yourself to release emotion, your mind would say “I don’t need alcohol to survive,” and “self-harming has more consequences than solutions.” Your brain isn’t a very good listener though, so you have to coax and repeat to it before it comes to understand you.

The brain can influence the mind, too. “I’m an embarrassment” or “I’m a burden” may FEEL true, but that’s the thing: They’re feelings. Emotion-based logic is not logic at all. Feelings of guilt, shame and feer of relying on others can cause the mind to think “I’m being a burden,” when the truth is “I feel like a burden.”

The mind can be tricked, too, same as the brain. You can feel certain that you deserve to die simply because so many have said so. This can be harmful in situations where you have no preexisting opinion, but internalize what others say. Coming to faulty conclusions after a bad experience can be dangerous, as well.

So how do you tell the two apart? Can you change your thoughts and emotions to stop this mental self-harm?

Yes! The answer is you can, through cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy focuses on your thoughts and your emotions, processing them individually, and then correcting harmful or untrue thoughts and emotions to prevent harmful actions/beliefs and help develop a healthier coping method and lifestyle. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s the most common type of therapy, and fortunately, you can learn how to do it yourself through wirkbooks, online lessons and even diary apps, though it’s much more difficult without an outsider to help you see your thoughts and emotions objectively.

CBT is really good stuff. it’s the reason i survived thirty-some years of severe depression unmedicated. i didn’t start out with formal CBT, but i was raised by an engineer and an editor, and they taught me to think on purpose. like, deliberately sit down and think about things. that gave me a bit of an edge. later, i had proper CBT, and developed the ability to distinguish ‘feels true’ from ‘actually true’ and do science on it.

result: i spent about the last decade of my unmedicated time happy despite being severely depressed!

the depression still sucked a whole lot. but it sucked like a flu; it was an illness i was going through. it wasn’t my entire reality. it wasn’t my selfhood. i felt shitty, but was also glad about many things. i could make plans and have goals, despite the hecked up chemicals in my brain sending out signals that all was futile and everything would fail. i could cherish the warmth of love, despite depression trying to cast doubt on the idea that i could ever be loved. because i did the work and separated out the illness from the truth.

of course, finding a medication that worked was a really huge relief, because now i don’t have to do all that homework on all my feelings. i can just experience happiness on the brain level as well as the mind level. but cognitive-behavioral therapy kept me alive until i found it.

CBT doesn’t work at all for me, and trying to do CBT actively makes me feel worse. Specifically, the two things that CBT tends to do to me is:

  • Make me go in mental loops (“my parents hate me”, “no, they have shown pretty clearly that they love me”, “my parents hate me”) with my anxiety ramping up with each loop.
  • Make me feel like my emotions are invalid and I’m bad for feeling them. I remember trying to use a mood tracking app with CBT-style questions, and my Mom woke us up in the middle of the night with suicidal thoughts, so I entered how that made me feel in the app, and the app asked what would be a more accurate & positive appraisal of the situation, and I felt like it was telling me “you shouldn’t be upset that your mother wants to die”.

And I’ve had enough bad experiences with CBT by now (since so many people seem to treat CBT as a hammer and every single mental health issue as a nail), that CBT has become a trigger for me. So any slim chance it had of working has been ruined by now.

Not knocking it for those it helps, but I feel it’s important to recognize that CBT doesn’t work for everyone, and can even make things worse for some people.


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