Up until recently, I rarely spontaneously awoke in the middle of the night. When it started, I got alarmed. I thought, wow, I must be really stressed right now. But when I looked at what was expected for my age group, I found that my new pattern of sleeping fewer hours and waking up earlier in the morning is not so unusual—although the medical community seems rather intent upon pathologizing it.
Alice, our first born, started out as a dog lover. In fact, she took her first steps in pursuit of three frolicking pups. She fearlessly toddled to the panting dogs, giggling with delight when they swiped at her cheeks with their long pink tongues. We thought that was it; she'd be a dog lover for life. But around age four, she began to recoil when dogs jumped to greet her; suddenly she seemed to perceive their open mouths and high energy as threatening.
Can therapy, support groups, or religious communities literally change our minds? Can they can fix my brain, rewrite my amygdala's deep-seated fear-based memories, tip the neurotransmitter balance in my anxiety-ridden neuronal circuits? I like empirical evidence. (I'd like to see courage on a hi-resolution brain scan.) So I was happy to read a recent study showing that "finding a safe place" emotionally brings about real changes in our neurophysiology.