“MOM I HATE YOU!” The Limbic System: Part I

Is this something that happens in your house?

Has your child ever done something or said something in a fit of anger? What about you?!

The fact is, most of us, young or old, have said something or done something that we regret while in a fit of anger. The reason behind this reaction is that anger comes from the portion of our brain called the LIMBIC SYSTEM (something that I will explain in further detail in Part II). The limbic system is the emotional centre of our brain. This part of our brain is not capable of rational thought. Therefore, if an action/response is made while an individual is in the limbic system, the outcome is often negative.

The great news is that through using specific skills, an individual can move from the LIMBIC brain to the CORTEX, the portion of the brain that is responsible for rational thought!

In my practice I help my clients and their parents (yes, parents can use these skills to!) to move from their limbic system to their cortex by teaching a variety of skills including grounding and breathing. Grounding the brain helps the individual become aware of his or her surrounds while proper breathing is vital as the brain needs oxygen to think!

If the comic strip above is all to familiar, don’t be discouraged:


The brain has the capacity to change the way it processes a specific event through adaptive learning.  If one mental “pathway” is blocked, the brain is very good at finding alternate pathways. However, like any pathway, the more a pathway is used, the more ingrained that pathway becomes. Understanding this, gives greater understanding as to the importance of dealing with specific behaviours at an earlier developmental stage. This is why I always commend parents who decide to get help sooner than later. This is not to say that adults can’t change the wiring of the brain, but it may take more practice!

Having worked with numerous clients over the years, I have seen some pretty incredible changes in my clients. What some would chalk up to being a personality trait (“Oh, my child is just strong-willed!”) might actually be something that is very easily reversible.

Are you interested in learning more? Some parents have found it very helpful to book a “strategy” session in order to learn some skills and techniques for helping their child. Please contact me directly if you would like to know more. I will also be providing more information in PART II of this blog.

I often ask children and youth to hit the rewind button and try to do something different, exploring alternative outcomes. One way of doing this is through comic strips. I built the comic strip above using Pixton Software and have created an account that allows clients to have their own profile and create their own comic strips with different (much better!) endings. If you think that your youth or child will benefit from this kind of therapy (in Calgary, Cochane or via Online Counselling), please contact Prusik Youth Services.

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