from the


from the Top of the Mind


from the
Top of the Mind

“Dr. Crawford’s presentation was the highlight of the conference and a much needed reminder for all of us (especially nurses) to keep it all balanced. Bill’s psychology background surely protruded through his messages and I know it was well-received by all!”

Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL

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How Wounds from Our Past Can Affect Relationships in Our Future

I was a little apprehensive about going with this quote because, as a rule, I don’t like speaking about change in terms of what we need to avoid (i.e., healing so that we don’t bleed all over people who didn’t cut us). However, I have decided to go ahead and speak to this issue because I feel I can bring a new perspective to both the concept of healing, and how our wounds from the past can impact our relationships today.

This new perspective has to do with how the brain processes information, and can explain why we continue to be negatively impacted by things that have happened to us in the past. You see, the middle brain (limbic system) is responsible for keeping us alive and safe as a specie, and, therefore, tends to encode negative events with more intensity than positive events. Further, this part of the brain continues to trigger worry or anxiety about these events long after they are over, thinking that it is keeping us safe from this happening again.

While this may have kept us safe in the past from sabertooth tigers and marauding tribes, today it only serves to keep us anxious and reactive, and stuck in the lower 20% of the brain. Unfortunately, it is from this anxious, worried, reactive brain that our anger, resentment, and suspicion comes from, which can do real damage to our relationships.

This is where today’s quote comes from. In other words, if we don’t heal the wounds from the past, our middle brain will continue to react to those with whom we are close to as if they are dangerous. This means that we will find ourselves pushing them away, keeping them at arm’s length, and treating them with suspicion, if not outright hostility, which will result in their feeling hurt and confused.

The solution, therefore, is first to ensure that we are in relationships with people that we can trust. These people should share our values and vision of what a loving relationship should look like, and be committed to co-creating this sort of connection with us.

Next, we need to understand where our anxiety and reactions are coming from (i.e., data being sent to the wrong part of the brain), so that we don’t find ourselves trusting or feeding these negative perspectives.

There are four questions I aways recommend that can help us with this sort of clarity:

1. Was this feeling chosen on purpose?
2. Is it helping me to create the life that I want?
3. Is this how I want to be defined?
4. Would I teach or recommend this feeling to someone that I love?

These are what I call “neocortex,” or Top of the Mind” questions because they actually engage the more clear, confident, creative part of our brain, and, therefore, are likely to give us good information about what we want to hang on to and what we want to change.

In other words, if the answers to all of these questions is a resounding “No!,” then we can use them to shift from simply avoiding the problem to creating a solution. We can say, “Okay, if I were responding to this situation in a way that…

1. Was more purposeful,
2. Helped me to create the life that I want,
3. Made the statement I want to make about who I am,
4. I would teach or recommend to someone that I love… what would that look like?

Chances are that the qualities that would come to mind as a result of these questions (compassionate, open, loving, engaged, etc.) would be ones that would result in those around us feeling loved, and our relationships being nurtured.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. The feelings of apprehension, anxiety, and suspicion are powerful, and, therefore, it will take a true commitment to a new way of life (and potentially working with someone who knows how to help) to become skilled at this new perspective. However, if we know that trusting the best of who we are (which comes from the upper 80% of the brain) versus our worries and fears, we will have the highest potential for creating the life that we want, and we can begin to practice this “Top of the Mind” perspective until it becomes a habit.

This way we are not simply avoiding bleeding on people who didn’t cut us… we are instead “showering the people we love with love,” as James Taylor would say.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

Dr. Crawford's Info Packet

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