Everything around us and inside us is all about patterns. This includes physics, astronomy, biology, cultural relationships, and everything else. For a hypnotherapist this concept is crucial, as it extends to the totality of human experience and transformation.
The commonality of all existence is the tendency to move from chaos to order. Order implies the elements of a system are organized in a logical pattern reflecting relationships of interdependency. Chaos means that everything entropies eventually into disorder. Regardless, the next step is always a return to order. Patterns mean order; order means patterns.
Patterns are all around us. They can be organic, physical, or social. Examples include such mundane, everyday experiences as traffic patterns, medical and therapeutic protocols, values, beliefs and cultural norms, languages and linguistics, the rules of physics, and martial arts traditions. We live around, and even within patterns every second of the day. In fact, both our mental and physiological existence is dominated and defined by the patterns inside us, and in the world around us.
An excellent metaphor for patterns is found in the conventions of Western music. Music is recorded on a staff, which is a series of five horizontal lines and four gaps. The musical environment is further defined by establishing the cleft, which describes the range of pitches; key signature, which establishes whether notes are to be flat or sharp; and a time signature, which divides a piece of music into regular groupings of beats. Next, notes are added in order to demarcate rhythm and frequency. This over simplification of musical notation merely serves as an illustration of a pattern. (Note that different cultures may use different methods to notate music. However, the core concepts are shared despite their differences on the mechanics of notation.)
From the genetic influence on neonatal development to the neurological and physiological patterns derived from our environment, patterns define our existence and interactions with others. Those which involve the human mind and body are neuro-physiological patterns. Unlike myths and superstitions, they are tangible scientific realities which can be analyzed by using medical, social, and psychotherapeutic investigative methods. They can also be detected through our visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory sensory channels. Most importantly, it is through our heightened kinesthetic awareness that we can actually feel our neuro-physiological patterns.
Patterns dominate our lives. When a pattern is established we become accustomed to it. In the brain and body we say that the patterns are habituated – which means that they have become firmly hardwired and strengthened in our neural networks and firmly rooted in the relationships and routines of our physiology.
We exist in a world with multiple systems, such as biological, physical, and cultural. Also, they exist at different levels, like cellular, organic, aggregate human, and transpersonal. Therefore, patterns are at a minimum two-dimensional in that by nature they are interrelated with the patterns of other systems and sub-systems.
Although patterns of one system will work in harmony and concert with those of other affected systems, conflicts among one or more of them must be resolved. For instance, any unexpected pattern – such as a parallel fifth in Western music – almost always will create an uncomfortable disruption. In humans and other organisms this is reflected by an uncomfortable feeling and will result in some type of a reaction, such as entrainment of the patterns of one system to match the disharmonious patterns – thereby creating a new harmonic synthesis. Failure to do so will create an excommunication, obsolescence, and even extinction of the system which fails to adapt. Therefore, like resistance to transformation, correcting discord through entrainment and adaptation is a critical feature of pattern theory.
Instinctually our brains are perceptually organized to recognize patterns. As will be discussed below when memory and thought formation is explained, the brain will immediately filter all perceptions and attempt to locate matching patterns. Examples of this include a geologist studying aerial photographs and satellite imagery in an effort to locate natural resources, a fireman in a smoke filled room looking for unconscious humans, and participants in a television game show.
Sometimes our pattern recognition efforts lead us to false conclusions. Illusions occur when our recognition system misidentifies a pattern. These are sometimes referred to as hallucinations when we detect something that is not actually present or fail to recognize something which is. NLP practitioners state that these pattern recognition failures are due to the fact that our filters distort, delete, or generalize perceptual data
The human mind and body is comprised of multi-level systems at the cellular, organic, and aggregate levels. Each level has multiple variations (e.g. types of cells) and sub-systems (e.g. histological components such as proteins), and integrates with peer, subordinate, and superior systems (e.g. the organization of cells into organs and organs into the aggregate body, etc.).
Each system participates in proactive and reactive processes and uses specific languages to codify states (e.g. bioelectric, hormonal release or inhibition, protein polarity, nurturing/protective reactions, and immune response). Additionally, each system has an ability to communicate with peers, subordinate, and superior systems and possesses the ability to self-monitor, entrain, and adapt.
The ability for a system or an element of a system to be both self-aware and aware of its environment strongly implies that each element has a consciousness. For example, on the surface of the human cell are two types of proteins which are critical to its awareness and its ability to sustain itself. One – the receptor – scans the environment and signals the other – the effector – which serves as the portal for nutrition, to open or close. This is just one form of cellular awareness. Also, the open or closed state is not dissimilar to a computer chip’s binary operation – and therefore presents another metaphor for the human body to store information and programs. Additionally, the actions of the various proteins inside the cell will change as they adapt to the input they receive. When the appropriate proteins are not currently available, RNA/DNA interaction will produce them. If the appropriate DNA programs do not exist, they will be altered so that the cell can adapt to the situation. This system of self and environmental awareness and the intelligence to adapt gives cells a level of intelligence. From the cellular level upward, every element and system possesses an innate level of consciousness. Therefore, as no element or system is below the threshold of consciousness, the terms subconscious or unconscious are misnomers.
A neuro-physiological pattern is a codification of multiple states within a system. The mental and physical manifestation of an emotion is a neuro-physiological pattern. The current status of one’s health is a neuro-physiological pattern. The mental and physiologically codified states associated with an addiction such as smoking are a pattern. A memory is a neuro-physiological pattern. So is the letter I or any other symbol or idea that is encoded into memory.
Upon transcending neonatal development, the human brain continually develops in stages generally through the first 25 years of life. Unless interfered with by trauma, disease, or inherited disorders, this development follows specific genetically-determined patterns.
A major portion of neurological development is environmentally based. During the first 26 months of life, an infant increasingly responds to the environment Neurologists believe that during the initial period, the brain contains a massive number of undifferentiated neurons. Environmental influences, to include encounters with family and surroundings, result in the strengthening of various neural networks. Other networks weaken through disuse. Through a process called apostasis, redundant cellular structures die and are not replaced. (However, recent discoveries relating to reorganization and neural stem cells tend to contradict this belief.) The remaining networks become the basis of patterns which affect identity and rival DNA in their impact on establishing the nature of personality. Around the 26th month of life, the basal ganglia – a dual substrate of the limbic system which sits laterally astride the two thalami – produces a burst of dopamine. This act curtails this period of rapid differentiation.
The adherents of localization and plasticity disagree about the subjects of brain development and maturity. Both agree that development continues until all substrates mature around the 25th year. However, the popular belief among the former maintain that every network which will ever exist is created during an initial differentiation period ending at about the 26th month. They are consistently contradicted by the preponderance of evidence provided by researchers who promote the theory of brain plasticity. This latter group presents the idea that new neural networks and further differentiation are created all the way through old age. Specifically, research involving stroke victims and Alzheimer’s Syndrome prevention supports their claims.