The colors bloomed in front of my eyes – lime and copper chrysanthemums expanding across a cobalt field. Suddenly hot pink oil spots, edged in incongruous grey, ran up both sides like a strafing run from an unseen fighter high overhead.
“Wait!” my brain screamed, “Slow it down! I can’t keep up!”
Which is exactly, I realized, what a brain like mine would say.
I was sitting in a darkened room at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. I already use a generous percentage of their services to safeguard my body; now – in deference to the depression I seem to be suffering as we approach the one-year anniversary of my husband’s startling and dreadful death, I’m using the opportunity to learn about safeguarding my mental and emotional health with Regina, one of their biofeedback counselors.
Regina and I had been talking about brains in general and my brain in particular. (Is there any topic more fascinating than oneself? I could just talk about me ALL DAY!)
I had six leads affixed to my head by white, innocent stickum; three per cranium hemisphere. Regina swiveled her laptop to show me what she was seeing – which is that the left side of my brain was firing with more vigor than the right side.
“The left side controls analysis – and language. You’re clearly someone who is comfortable expressing yourself through language.”
(I have upon occasion actually said the words “I won’t know how I feel about that until I write about it.” Words are the ONLY handles I have to understand the world around me.)
“That’s perfectly normal,” Regina went on, “and there’s nothing wrong with the energy coming from your right hemisphere; it just means that at the moment, you’re not in a “be in the now, man” sort of mindset.”
Boy, was that right. New situations – like having stickum in your hair to pick up brain electricity – puts all of us on alert; it’s tough to drift and allow the world to unfold before us when the laptop display is spiking like a graphic equalizer during the 1812 Overture.
So we talked about Jonathan’s death and how I handle stress and how HE handled stress, and all the while the monitor facing me was spinning out endless fractal patterns in vivid colors against inky skies. Music played quietly from speakers.
And, I’m told, when the laptop detected inefficiencies in my brain – when I was processing things at speeds far faster than my conscious mind could realize and the processing was getting into an anxiety loop or was being derailed by an imbalance between left and right brains, the fractal patterns were interrupted by a flash of light far quicker than I could see; the music uttered a brief and almost inaudible burst of static – a cue to my unconscious brain to help me identify inefficiencies. It doesn’t change the way I think, and it certainly doesn’t change HOW I think – but it does flag the stutter, and allows my lizard brain (that lightning-fast consciousness deep below and far faster than the thinking brain) to recognize when something should be addressed – smoothed out – rebalanced.
Regina took a baseline reading at the beginning of our meeting – “Just sit there and look at the pretty pictures” and again at the end (which showed that indeed, my brain was already better balanced – supposed to help me approach stressful situations with the full complement of coping skills and not only the ability to stub my toe and cry out curse words in foreign languages).
And even though I’d just realized that I had a hard time “being in the now” and allowing events to happen while I simply observed – sounds like meditation, dunnit? – I STILL wanted to ask her to slow down the fractal patterns at the second baseline. TOO FAST! I can’t understand it – I can’t predict it!
Yeah, that sounds like me.
Okay. I can at least be mindful of my tendencies!
This is even groovier than the patterns on Regina’s screen. Let’s use THIS one!