NeurOptimal Neurofeedback – A guide to the training journey

Nov 18, 2022

The journey to brain and nervous system optimisation with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback will be different for everyone. Each person’s brain, body set-up and psychology are uniquely different and alll these factors interplay with brain training. It is completely understandable that when we suffer, we want things to get incrementally better in a straight, predictable or manageable line. Unfortunately that isn’t always the way with the brain. As we heal and become optimised, our growth isn’t linear and not fully under our conscious control.

The journey with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback is exactly the same, the brain’s task is to self assess and move towards efficiency. That learning process will happen in its own time as your brain finds its way. Most people tend to describe the neurofeedback training process as relaxing and that life outside the training starts to shift towards ease of living, incrementally over time. For others thought with more complex histories, then the letting go and learning to live with the emotional balance that NeurOptimal delivers, can be met with resistance. 

Where there is a history of adversity which has led the brain to become self protective and defensive, then it isn’t going to give up that self protective position without a good reason.

The scenarios I see with training are:

Tired / spaced out after NeurOptimal Neurofeedback

Sometimes after training people can feel tired or spacey, others fall straight asleep while training. It really is no different to a gym workout, your brain is working hard to readjust and optimise itself through the feedback. Tiredness is a sign that your brain was accepting the feedback and working with it. With ongoing training and the brain’s familiarity with the training process this tiredness will reduce. 

Anxiety while getting used to being calm

Long term sufferers with anxiety or mood disorders and single or complex trauma will have been used to living in defence. Symptoms of anxiety, coping strategies to deal with the anxiety, hyper-vigilance and sleep issues all go with the territory of a body, mind and brain overly switched on. It’s important to understand that all these disruptive symptoms have been rallied in an attempt to help, even if they don’t feel helpful. Your brain and nervous system won’t want to leave you unprotected until there is good consistent evidence that all is well and safe. Therefore, sometimes with Neuroptimal training, you may find that as the brain starts to relax and let go of defence, it can suddenly jump straight back into defence because it has not yet learnt how to maintain living without it. This is also true for dissociation and depression. When NeurOptimal softens these defences, we unconsciously reassert them because that is what has been best in the past. Your brain will need to continue to reinforce its learning, many times over, towards being able to sustain balance and resilience.

If symptoms have reasserted themselves while you train, I always advise people to try and stay with the training because your brain is in a process of learning to regulate itself and it will take time. In the meanwhile you could support the neurofeedback process by engaging with other activities that help to regulate your emotions such as diaphragmatic breathing exercises, walks in nature, hot baths, listening to relaxing music, hanging out with safe people, exercise etc.  Alternatively, adaptogen supplements such as Ashwaghanda or Reishi Mushrooms can help with fight/flight responses because adaptogens help the nervous system to regulate the stress response.

Dissociation lessening /Present moment focus

Another process I witness with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback training is that people tend to gain much more emotional access to how they are feeling and gain much more clarity about how things are and have been. People switch from intellectual insight about how they feel to something much more emotionally connected and present. People don’t always like what they are ‘waking up’ to. Sometimes this is perceived as feeling worse. but actually the brain is working more effectively because it has softened the emotional disconnection defence. While this is helpful in the long term because, if we cannot feel then we cannot fully move forward. In the short term it can mean emotional discomfort while the brain learns to regulate these newly felt emotions. Similarly it may help us to realise there is work to be done in the way our life is set up and this might not always feel good. 

Both these scenarios can lead to discomfort, sadness, anxiety, frustration etc and neither are a direct result of the training but rather our reaction to being more present. This could be a time for talking therapy or other kinds of support that help to come to terms with the past and plan for any changes that need to be instigated.

Applying old solutions with force

In the course of NeurOptimal neurofeedback training we start to perform and feel better across many areas and for many people it just continues in this direction. For others, mostly with a history of or current mood disorder or similar mental health issue, when old and difficult emotions come up, you may see a revisiting of old feelings and coping strategies. Even the act of feeling better can send our threat detection system into defence – change itself, even if ultimately desired, can be very challenging for some people who have lived with longer term anxiety and depression. In these cases you may notice the journey having its ups and downs.

As NeurOptimal trains the brain towards efficiency and resilience, we can meet challenges with new flexibility but for some old strategies will sometimes prevail because the new learning has not fully integrated. Therefore it can appear as if old coping mechanisms appear stronger but overall it is often that amongst feeling better, the old ways feel more uncomfortable.  Learning takes time.  The training hasn’t made these symptoms worse but it can sometimes feel this way while we bear with the learning process to managing more effectively across all areas. Patience is often key and therapy can help to recognise old coping strategies and find better ways to cope.

A Shift in the Subjective Experience of Ourselves

Many people start to achieve the changes they have been seeking with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback but hadn’t anticipated how that would really feel. Most people observe themselves become incrementally calmer, reacting in more balanced and moderate ways, being able to go with the flow of life more easily. For those who have lived with strong patterns of reactivity or anxious for many years, this new version of themselves can feel strange and unfamiliar. Loss the person we have been can feel scary. Part of the process often involves taking time to familiarise yourself  with the new emerging, regulated ‘self’. While for some the process will bring back the ‘old’ them, for others the transformation can bring on profound changes that lead to a new version of self. Therapy support can be helpful here. Either way, the benefits of NeurOptimal are far more profound than mere symptom reduction.

Conclusions with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback

Overall NeurOptimal offers the chance at a complete reorganisation of the nervous system. It is a powerful intervention and, for many, this will be straight forward and joyfully transformative but for others it will require bearing with some ups and downs before the full transformation settles.

My experience over the past few years with NeurOptimal means that I understand the different types of journey people go on in their attempt to heal and live easier lives. I am there to fully support you in any way I can as you go through your process. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss things further with me.