221: How the generalisation principle can change your life

221: How the generalisation principle can change your life

Welcome to this episode of our short daily podcast - A Slice of Therapy.

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With Alun Parry https://liverpoolpsychotherapy.co.uk

Automatically Generated Transcript

00:01
you’re listening to a slice of therapy
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with me alun parry
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[Music]
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i wonder if you remember when you were
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younger
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and you first learned to use a cup
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do you remember that when you first
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learned
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to use a cup for the very first time
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and the interesting thing is that the
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moment
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that you learned to use that cup
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was the moment that you learned to use
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every cup you didn’t simply know how to
00:45
use
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that particular cup and then when you
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encountered a different one you had to
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learn all over again
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no you generalized once you learned how
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to use this cup
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you knew how to use every cup
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now that generalization principle
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is what the brain does it allows us to
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learn things efficiently
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it allows us to save time
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because once we know how to use this cup
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then every other cup in the world and no
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matter what household we go to and they
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make us a cup of tea
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we know how to use the cup simply
01:29
because we learned to use that one
01:31
it applied right across the board
01:36
and it’s interesting that the brain does
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that
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and it also does that as well
01:43
for when we suffer something that’s
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traumatic in our lives
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something that’s upsetting something
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that leaves a mark
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leaves a mark simply because of the same
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process of generalization
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so when i was
02:05
practicing from a different office
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the radiator i might have told you this
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before in fact but the radiator used to
02:14
give a static shock
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you know that sometimes you get you
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touch it and it gives you a static shock
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it’s horrible isn’t it
02:22
and every time i went to turn the
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radiator up or down i would get this
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static shock
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now as it happened i changed rooms for a
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different reason
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and thankfully the radiator in the new
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room
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it was fine didn’t give me a static
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shock at all
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and yet every time i approached the
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radiator
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this completely innocent radiator that
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had never shocked me at all
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i was ever so cautious
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now logically i was saying now come on
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al
02:56
this is a completely different radiator
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you don’t get an electric shock from
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this one
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you don’t get a static shock from this
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one
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and my nervous system was going well you
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say that
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but i remember what radiators are like
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now when something significant happens
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to us
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that might be upsetting or distressing
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that obviously is one of those
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significant things that the the brain
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wants to make sure that it lands after
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all if something threatening has
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happened to you
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then much more so even than
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how to use a cup it wants to remember
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that because of course the brain’s job
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is to keep you alive
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and your nervous system’s job is to keep
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you alive and so
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it wants to remember those things and it
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also wants to make sure that
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you generalize your learning
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so if for example
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you’re standing by a bush and a lion
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somehow comes out
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or an alligator somehow comes out from
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nowhere
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and tries to bite you your nervous
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system and your brain will implant that
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and just like the generalization of the
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cup
04:20
it won’t just make you nervous around
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that particular bush it’ll basically say
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now listen
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you need to be careful when you’re
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standing near a bush
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because alligators come out at you
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now obviously this is really useful
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because it allows you to extrapolate
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dangerous situations
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in the same way as you could extrapolate
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one cup from another
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and it’s more important isn’t it to be
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able to
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extrapolate dangerous situations
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so i can encounter a similar dangerous
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situation
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in a completely different scenario and a
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completely different location
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and i will still recognize it as
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dangerous
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that’s a wonderful thing that the brain
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does on our behalf
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unfortunately
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one of the downsides of this
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generalization principle
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is that
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the brain can trigger feelings of danger
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even when we’re not in danger sometimes
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because
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it’s looking out for subtle cues
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you know maybe the key thing about
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that particular environment was not
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actually
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the bush maybe it was something else
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entirely that signals danger but your
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brain will pick it all up
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and we’ll give subtle we’ll pick up on
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these subtle cues
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and when those subtle cues match it will
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give you a sign of danger
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as well and so what will happen then is
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that you will likely
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spring up into anxious feelings agitated
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feelings
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your energy will increase and that makes
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sense because if your brain is picking
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up danger because of this generalization
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principle
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then it’ll want you to react to that
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it’ll want you to prepare
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to escape from the danger even if your
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logical mind can look around and say
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well there’s no danger here
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just as my logical mind would look at
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the radiator and say this isn’t the same
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radiator
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you don’t get a static shock off this
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one my nervous system was a lot more
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wary
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now the good thing about this
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generalization principle
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is that we can actually use it in our
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favor as well
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and so if you’ve had a difficult set of
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experiences
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maybe home life when you were a child or
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something else maybe maybe
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experiences in school or whatever
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the generalization principle means
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that what you can actually do is to pick
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a scene
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and go through a process that allows you
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to
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reimagine it in a very particular way
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in such a way in fact that your feelings
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are essentially rewritten
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now the common objection to this is well
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a lot happened to me when i was growing
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up
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and so i can’t do an imaginal scene on
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all of this
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but the generalization principle means
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that you don’t have to
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now if i went and took
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any particular scene that felt
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representative
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especially if it was a scene that i was
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kind of connected to in my mind that
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that particularly stuck out then we
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could use these
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imagination techniques
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in order to change how your nervous
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system responds
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to things that are like that and so it
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means you don’t have to rewrite
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everything you just need to kind of
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reimagine
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one maybe two scenes
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which are going to be important for you
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and then and then that generalization
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principle kicks into play
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the principle which allowed you to
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be able to know how to use every cup
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just because you’d used one
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the same generalization principle that
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made me frightened of this radiator
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just because i’d encountered a problem
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with the other one
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the same generalization principle allows
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you to be
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anxious around this bush just because a
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similar bush
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produced an alligator and so we can use
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that generalization principle
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to imaginely
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recreate a scene that produced
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a scared response in us
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so that it creates feelings instead that
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will trigger
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a different response from our nervous
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system
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now the benefit of that is that when you
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then encounter a scene
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that isn’t dangerous but our nervous
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system has somehow responded as if it is
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it’ll stop doing that and because it
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stops doing that our
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nervous systems won’t trigger in the
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same way
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and because our nervous systems don’t
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trigger in the same way
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then our experience of life is different
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too our experience of being able to
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communicate effectively
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with others is different the
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self-sabotage that we might engage in
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in order to keep us safe
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can go away because it’s simply not
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needed anymore
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because we’re not having that trigger
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and that response
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from our nervous systems
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that make us feel as though we’re not
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safe even though logically
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our logical brain will say we are
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and so to recap we looked at how when
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you used one cup and learns how to use
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one cup
10:30
you therefore knew them all you saw as
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well as
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when i had trouble with a static shock
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from one radiator it made me nervous
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of the radiator next door even though i
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knew it was safe
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and how that is so similar to when
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something bad happens something
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memorably
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significant happens in an upsetting way
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how we do exactly the same as what i did
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with the radiator
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but we saw too as well that the
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generalization principle
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means that we can take even if there’s
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been lots of these
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situations throughout our history we can
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simply take a representative scene
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and by using this special imaginational
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technique
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that i use in my practice we can
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actually rewrite that scene in such a
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way
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that the feelings
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and the never system responses
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are rewritten too and so when you
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encounter that situation
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so when i encounter the radiator for
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instance
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i don’t have that scared response
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anymore
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and because i don’t have that scared
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response and because you don’t have that
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scared response
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then you have a very different
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experience of the world
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and much more greater control over
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yourself
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and those strategies that you use
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in order to keep you safe
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whether that’s hiding whether that’s
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some sort of self-sabotage whether it’s
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some action that you take in order to
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kind of soothe the difficult feelings
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that come up
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when our nervous systems respond
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whatever it is
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because the nervous system isn’t
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responding to that thing anymore
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then those kind of strategies
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are not needed either
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so if you like this idea please spread
12:39
it around if you’d like to work with me
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directly one to one
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on this or any other matter then
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you can find out more about me alun
12:47
parry at liverpool psychotherapy dot co
12:50
dot uk
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and of course i’m working on lines so it
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doesn’t matter matter where you’re
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actually located
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12:58
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so thanks for listening i’ll be back
13:03
again tomorrow with another one

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