Thus far in this series, I have communicated what trauma is (Part 1), how trauma affects our mind (Part 2), and how trauma inhibits leaders’ abilities to be emotionally intelligent (Part 3), and agile (Part 4).
Knowing all of this, if we want to elevate our ability to be effective leaders, we need to heal our minds.
Part 5 was a high-level overview on how we can do this, identifying two general approaches: top-down and bottom-up approaches.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top-down approach.
Top-Down Approach to Trauma Healing
Part 5 indicated that since trauma causes disassociation (a breaking of the mind-body connection) and disintegration (neural wiring disruption in the mind), any approach toward healing requires a focus on re-association and integration.
In top-down approaches, the idea is to start at the “top” of our head (our human brain, where cognition occurs) and move down into more of the implicit processes of our mammalian and reptilian brains, and even further, into the feelings of our body. As we go through this process of consciously and cognitively connecting with ourselves, we help the body and mind reconnect (re-association) and we start to create better integration of the wiring in our mind.
The Best Top-Down Approach: Focus on Mindsets
While there are surely a variety of different top-down approaches, the approach that I have found the most helpful is through a focus on mindsets.
There are three reasons why focusing on mindsets are valuable to focus on when healing the mind:
- Our mindsets are directly involved in the neural connections associated with integration.
- Our mindsets are something that can be developed.
- All people have mindsets, but only some are conscious of their mindsets. The process of becoming conscious of our mindsets is the first part of this top-down healing process.
When we have “negative” mindsets or mindsets that are less-than-cognitively and emotionally sophisticated, this is a signal that we are living with trauma-induced neurological consequences.
As we shift our mindsets from being negative to being positive, or from being less to more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated, we are actually healing our mind.
Healing Our Minds by Improving Our Mindsets
There are three general steps for healing our minds through a focus on mindsets.
Step 1: Awaken to our mindsets
We all have mindsets, and for most people, they are operating below the level of our consciousness to influence how we think, learn, and behave.
So, the first step in improving our mindsets to heal our mind is to become conscious of our mindsets.
There are two things that I do to help people with this.
- First, I have them take my mindset assessment. This provides them with rather objective information about the quality of their mindsets.
- Second, I teach them about the different mindset sets that are out there and how they cause us to think, learn, and behave differently.
Between these two steps, what I am doing is I am putting labels and descriptions to mindsets. This is powerful because it is very difficult to awaken to something without a name and description of it. But, once we have a name and description, it becomes real to us. It is something that we can evaluate in ourselves, and we are able to identify healthier mindsets to develop.
Step 2: Learn About Mindsets
Gaining labels and descriptions to mindsets is the starting point; but, it is far from the finish line. My experience has taught me that if people want to truly awaken to the quality of their mindsets (most people think they have more positive mindsets than they really do) and get a sense of how their life can be different with more positive mindsets, they have to engage in deep learning about the different mindsets.
The more we know about mindsets, the more we can spot them in ourselves and in others.
Step 3: Exercise Our Mindsets
Our mindset neural connections are not too different from our muscles. They shrink if we don’t use them and they strengthen if we do. Thus, if we want to develop more positive mindsets, we need to exercise our positive mindset neural connections.
But, just as with our muscles, becoming strong takes continual effort over time. Working out once won’t make us strong.
When it comes to developing positive mindsets, science tells us that if we spend 5-15 minutes a day on a regular basis, we are going to experience significant long-term effects on our mindsets in as little as a few weeks.
If you would like guidance on identifying mindset strengthening exercises, take my mindset assessment. The results include PDFs of such exercises. Or, you could consider my Digital Mindset Coach, which is an email or app that gives you regular exercises for your positive mindset neural connections.
Four Sets of Mindsets
The four sets of mindsets that I focus on are:
- Fixed -> Growth
- Closed -> Open
- Prevention -> Promotion
- Inward -> Outward
When we awaken to and improve our mindsets to become more growth, open, promotion, and outward, this is evidence that our minds are healing from the past trauma we have been through. We are becoming more re-associated and more integrated.