Butterflies and Emotion

How childhood experiences affect us today

Back in the 1970’s a meteorologist by the name of Edward Lorenz developed a computer simulation programme that modelled virtual weather patterns. He found that by programming  specific sets of variable weather conditions such as wind, tide, rainfall, temperature and air pressure etc, he could watch their interactions and affects in a virtual computer world environment.

As often happens in science, a simple and 'seemingly' inconsequential error created an extraordinary and completely unexpected set of results.

Lorenz inadvertently entered the smallest incorrect data into the programme and instead of entering 0.606832, he entered 0.606. What happened next was nothing short of astonishing.

It showed that even the most infinitesimally small variation of data at the beginning of a dynamic process like the weather can yield massively different results further down the line. It became a phenomenon known as the chaos theory whereby, metaphorically at least, the flap of a butterfly’s wing in the Amazon rainforest can set off hurricane force winds across Ireland.

butterfly-mindsWhich brings me to the title of this page ‘Butterflies and Emotions’ and the reason why I have used a butterfly as an image on this website.

There is simply nothing more complex that the human brain. It makes millions of complex calculations during every second of life from pre-birth to death, stopping only at the end of life. The brain creates complex patterns of memories that interconnect and form templates that enable us to learn, develop and avoid threats to life.

During each and every moment of 'now', the brain is constantly scanning its memory banks for matching templates of past events in order to establish its relative safety during any given moment. If it interprets a current event or moment as threatening in some way because of template matching, it triggers an immediate emotional response such as anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, shame or jealousy etc.

All very well, however the early formative years of life responsible for these original memory templates are completely naïve, often imprecise and are usually misinterpretations based upon immature and childish perspectives of life.

A child subjected to simple name calling by friends in a playground can experience strong emotional pain and rejection. In terms of our evolutionary development, if we are rejected by our peers and ostracised from the safety of our social group, we will probably perish and die, especially as we haven’t developed the mature skills required for survival. So metaphorically at least, everyday we see tigers lurking in bushes where none physically exist.

Clearly the interpretation of a life experience at 5 years old is dramatically different to a similar incident experienced at 35 years old, and yet because the original one forms the initial sensitising template, the brain interprets the event from the perspective of the 5 year old. The result being that a rejection or abandonment neurosis is formed which in turn drives the 35 year old ‘child’ into maintaining unhealthy and unhelpful relationships. Ultimately the 35 year old adult is unable to finish with abusive relationships, because it just ‘feels’ that they must hang on at all costs.

Which returns me to the flap of a butterfly’s wings: A seemingly innocent 'sub atomic' particle sized event in early childhood, can manifest itself as a constant storm or crisis in mid life and beyond.

Every childhood, yours and mine, contains many such butterfly wing events. They form the framework of who you are today and unless dealt with, will continue to influence and shape your perspective of life and ultimately determine your ability to fully engage with and enjoy a life fulfilled.

The wonderful news however, is that these changes are there to be made. A skilled therapist using hypno-psychoanalysis can help you free yourself from old and inappropriate neurosis templates. As a professional hypno-psychotherapist Lee has witnessed it many times, and the changes are truly astonishing to behold at times.

“When you want to change but you just don’t know how…”