This post in part of an ongoing series called Connection Point. Featuring content written by the professors and licensed counseling professionals in our graduate counseling program, these posts are designed to inform and encourage our readers as they strive for total health—mind, body and soul.
The study of positive psychology has spent a great deal of time and energy trying to decipher what makes us happy and what we can do on a daily basis to access the “happiness advantage.” One way to do so is to send a positive message to another person each day. The positive neural network works like this: the more you use it, the more accessible it becomes.
This information provides a framework that helps me notice signs that my clients are moving in the right direction. When I present this information to my clients, many won’t apply the above-mentioned principles to gain the “happiness advantage.” They know they should, and they deeply desire happiness. However, they don’t do what’s necessary to experience it. It seems like many people are missing an important cog in the very engine that drives them to healthy lifestyles. This cog is secure attachment.
Secure attachment is a healthy connection to others that begins in infancy and serves as a template of how we perceive others and ourselves on a daily basis. The good news is that this template can morph in a positive direction within a safe, empathic, and nurturing environment with another, or by accessing images of nurturing and protective environments. I have almost exclusively counseled most of my clients seeking to develop secure attachment to seek deeper connections with the people currently in their lives or develop new relationships. While this is a good idea, it may not be possible. Building relationships is a slow process, often taking too long to remedy the current state of despair and discouragement my clients were facing.
Fortunately, there is a technique called resource tapping, which helps a person access and build the positive neural network that helps develop secure attachment from within. You begin by visualizing a calm, peaceful place— including all the sights, sounds, smells, taste, physical sensations from the environment—and imagining how your body would feel in that environment. While imagining these things, you begin to very slowly and gently tap each knee in a right left rhythmic fashion, as long as positive memories and sensations are present, stopping if anything unpleasant emerges.
Then, you write down separate lists of nurturers and protectors. There is no limit; use your imagination. Now, go to your peaceful place and tap in these resources one at a time. Follow this by bringing in all the nurturers and protectors and tapping them in as a team of internal support for yourself that will continue to grow as you access more positive memories, deepen relationships, and support a lifestyle that helps develop the “happiness advantage.”
Bottom-line, as a person starts to experience a more secure foundation within, his or her relationships and pursuit of a healthy lifestyle start to improve as well. As healthy lifestyle patterns develop, the brain adjusts to these positive patterns, in turn supporting and sustaining the neural networks that enhance the “happiness advantage.”
Dr. Stride, a licensed psychologist in the state of Tennessee, certified Christian sex therapist, specializes in treating trauma, works with couples to enhance emotional and sexual intimacy within their marriages. His office is located in Mount Juliet. He can be contacted at email@example.com or www.intimacyquest.org.
This article was originally published in Nashville Christian Family magazine. Visit www.ChristianFamilyNashville.com to learn more.