New Pathways

In How To Stay Sane by Philippa Perry, there is a section titled “Learning” where she discusses neural plasticity, differing levels of stress, and psychotherapy. “Good stress” and “moderate levels of stress” promotes “the neural growth hormones that support learning” according to Perry (p. 75). She goes on to describe her work with a client:

To work at this level we cannot be too comfortable, because then new learning does not take place; but nor can we be too uncomfortable, for then we would in the zone where dissociation or panic takes over. Good work takes place on the boundary of comfort. Some psychotherapists refer to this place as ‘the growing edge’ or ‘a good-stress zone’…The good stress zone is where our brains are able to adapt, recon-figure and grow. Think of the brain as a muscle and think of opportunities to flex it. The more we flex it, the better our brain functions (p. 76).

Environmental stimulation, Perry emphasizes, is an important part of learning and “brain building.” She reminds us that what we are comfortable learning may feel like it’s keeping our brains active, but it’s actually the things we are curious about that increases our brain’s capacity for learning. She writes,

We must be doing something genuinely new, and must pay close attention, be emotionally engaged and keep at it. New pathways will form if two or more of these conditions are met, but we will ideally meet all four at once (p. 83).

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See also (source).

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