Updated: Aug 11, 2020
By Andrea Seydel Live Life Happy Podcast & Unconventional Bookclub
You Are Not Your Brain
Does your Brain ever Run on autopilot in a most unhelpful way, like your “brain just took over,” filling you with self-doubt and anxiety?
When your brain takes over your thoughts, attacks your self-worth, questions your abilities, overpowers you with cravings, or attempts to dictate your actions. Do you ever wonder where did these negative beliefs and doubts come from? Where did that self-sabotaging sometimes avoiding behaviour come from?
WHAT ARE YOU DOING THAT YOU WANT TO STOP? This book is about Standing Up for Your True Self—–Saying What You Really Think and Feel and Acting in Accordance with Your True Interests.
WHAT ARE YOU NOT DOING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO?
MAKING THE BRAIN WORK FOR YOU
You are not your Brain
The skills you need to learn to untangle that unhelpful web of thoughts, emotions, and actions becomes essential. Becoming aware of deceptive brain messages, your true self and become your own wise advocate.
Deceptive Brain Messages: Any false or inaccurate thought or any unhelpful or distracting impulse, urge, or desire that takes you away from your true goals and intentions in life (i.e., your true self).
The good news is that you have an ally that can help you sculpt your brain to work for you, rather than against you: the mind.
True Self: Living according to your true self means seeing yourself for who you really are based on your sincere striving to embody the values and achieve the goals you truly believe in.It includes approaching yourself, your true emotions and needs, from a loving, caring, nurturing perspective that is consistent with how your loving inner guide (Wise Advocate) sees you.
Wise Advocate: The aspect of your attentive mind that can see the bigger picture, including your inherent worth, capabilities, and accomplishments. The Wise Advocate knows what you are thinking, can see the deceptive brain messages for what they are and where they came from, understands how you feel (physically, emotionally), and is aware of how destructive and unhealthy your habitual, automatic responses have been for you. The Wise Advocate wants the best for you because it loves and cares for you, so it encourages you to value your true self and make decisions in a rational way based on what is in your overall best interest in the long term.
Throughout the book, we will use the term emotional sensation to refer to feelings that are caused by deceptive brain messages.
When someone mentions the word habit, most people think of repetitive physical actions. (like biting nails). While those certainly are habits, they consider a larger range of responses to be habits as well. For example, if you constantly avoid a situation, person, or location because of how uncomfortable it makes you feel, you also are acting in a habitual way. They also consider overanalyzing and overthinking to be habitual responses. Repetitively thinking about something ( include rumination, mental compulsions, and overthinking) or anything that you do repeatedly that is caused by a deceptive brain message and takes you away from focusing on something that is beneficial to you.
Disruptive Brain Messages
How can you begin to recognize the false, negative thoughts associated with your actions and uncomfortable sensations? One of the best ways to “see” the deceptive thoughts is to be attentive to your “negative self-talk”—those things you automatically say to yourself without awareness.
Some examples of deceptive brain messages, uncomfortable sensations, and unhealthy habitual responses.
False Thoughts/Impulses/Urges (i.e., Deceptive Brain Messages)-- I’m not good enough. I should have/I shouldn’t have. I’m crazy/I’m a sick person. I’m a bad person/I am not as good as . . . I don’t matter/Everyone else is more important than me. I will be rejected/Everyone thinks I am . . . There’s something wrong with me. I have no control. No one likes me/I am unlovable/I will be alone. .
Uncomfortable Sensations Anxiety Pit in my stomach Butterflies Tightness or pounding in my chest Sweating Heart beating fast Excessive anger Heat in my chest, arms, or face Sadness/depression Fatigue Feeling scared/frightened Feeling helpless/hopeless Having a physical craving for something pleasurable.
Habitual Responses Using drugs or alcohol Shopping/spending money I do not have Wasting time on things I do not need to do Fighting/arguing Compulsive sex Excessive eating, dieting, or purging Avoiding people, places, events Smoking Eating things that are not good for me Repeatedly checking something (e.g., e-mail, text, facts, information) Avoiding unpleasant (but beneficial) things like exercise Overthinking or overanalyzing.
Why Habits are so Hard to Break
QUESTION/REFLECTION: Think about your deceptive brain messages and the cycles you go through. What are the false messages your brain sends to you and what do you do as a result of those negative messages?
Deceptive brain messages create a perpetual cycle. Eg. I am so stressed out (brain message) Overwhelmed pit in stomach (uncomfortable sensation) Use alcohol, pot or other drugs to escape (habitual response)
Start becoming aware of all the times during the day that your brain tries to tell you one thing, whereas your goals or intentions would guide you to do something else.
HEBB'S LAW: Neurons that “fire together wire together.” This means that when groups of nerve cells (or brain regions) are repeatedly activated at the same time, they form a circuit and are essentially “locked in” together. Eg. Scenic Hiking trail. Your brain—not your mind—generates the initial desires, impulses, thoughts, and sensations, but you can veto (HALT) almost any action before it starts.
GOOD NEWS: You are not your brian: Now that you understand what deceptive brain messages are and how much damage they can cause, you likely want to know the solution: constructively focusing your attention with your mind.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MIND AND THE BRAIN- The brain receives inputs and generates the passive side of experience, whereas the mind is active, focusing attention, and making decisions.
You are not a disease, problem, or disorder. You are a person struggling with upsetting symptoms from which you want to find relief.
SUMMARY: Your brain sends you false messages all the time throughout your day. These messages often are destructive and can prevent you from achieving your goals. Deceptive brain messages are any thoughts, impulses, or desires that take you away from your true goals and intentions in life. The Wise Advocate can help you decide how to act and how you perceive/think about things. The mind chooses how you focus your attention. You have the ability to define your true self and align your actions with those goals and values on a moment-to-moment basis. YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN.
MORE GOOD NEWS: Neuroplasticity includes any process that results in a change in the brain’s structure, circuits, chemical composition, or functions in response to changes in the brain’s environment. If one action is repeatedly needed or requested, the brain is “taught” that the new function is important and that previously allocated brain areas need to be redirected for novel uses.
SELF-DIRECTED NEUROPLASTICITY Using the power of focused attention, along with the ability to apply commitment, hard work, and dedication, to direct your choices and actions, thereby rewiring your brain to work for you and with your true self. The goal of Self-Directed Neuroplasticity is to weaken brain circuits associated with unhealthy habits and strengthen those that support healthy actions.
QUESTION/REFLECTION: How do you want to act? Who do you want to be? Understand how important meaning is when setting goals, start defining your true goals and values.
When times are difficult, you need to use meaningful goals as a foundation to help you persevere through adversity. In order for you must muster up the effort to keep going forward, even when your deceptive brain messages are at their worst.
1. QUESTION/REFLECTION: What are you doing that you wan to stop? Eating food when you're procrastinating. Using alcholhol to calm yourself down. Calling an ex or someone when you feel lonely.
2. QUESTION/REFLECTION: What are you NOT doing that you would like to do?
TIP: List your prioritiesL: Meaningful goal/ effort required/ importance level.
Moving Forward with Four Steps- TIPS and RECOMMENDATIONS
Start by thinking about--What happens to you when you follow your brain’s false messages? Take a few moments to think of opportunities you’ve missed, people/places/events you’ve avoided, relationships that have been negatively impacted, and other consequences of paying allegiance to deceptive brain messages. Write them down below. LIST YOUR DECEPTIVE BRAIN MESSAGE- LIST WHAT IT MAKES YOU MISS OUT ON. Example- I am not worthy of love—I likely will be rejected, or unlovable so I do not bother going out on dates-- This makes me miss out on opportunities to meet new people, network and find love.
EXERCISE: Write down what you will say to inspire and motivate you to keep going when you feel like giving up or believe the deceptive brain messages are true: Example 1. These deceptive brain messages have no power—they are false. 2. With respect to deceptive brain messages, it’s not what you think or feel, it’s what you do that counts. 3. These thoughts and sensations are not real—do not give in to them. 4. I don’t have unlimited time to flail around in the universe.
Allow your sensations to be present, but don't act on them. Practice, practice, practice. Repetition is the key. Journal your successes. Don't tackle all your deceptive brain messages or habits at once. Focus on paying attention. Don't procrastinate! It is what you do that counts.
STEP 1: The Power of Awareness RE-LABEL
Step 1: Relabel—Identify your deceptive brain messages and the uncomfortable sensations; call them what they really are. You can't change what you can't see. WHAT ARE YOUR DECEPTIVE THOUGHTS? WHAT ARE THE URGES, DESIRES, CRAVINGS, IMPULSES? HOW DOES YOUR BODY AND BRAIN WANT YOU TO ACT OR RESPOND?
What are the false messages your brain sends to you and what do you do as a result of those negative messages? THE ABILITY TO SEE WITH FRESH EYES, FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE WISE ADVOCATE AND YOUR TRUE SELF What the deceptive brain messages are and what they cause you to do.
Mindfulness Is Awareness At its core, mindfulness is about awareness—being fully knowledgeable that something is happening right now, in this very moment. Focusing is an activity in which you consciously direct your attention. Identify your deceptive brain messages and the uncomfortable sensations: Call them what they really are.
TIP: write down all the different ways your body and brain respond when you are stressed out, anxious, depressed, feel hopeless, or are craving something. NOTE: avoidance is tricky- questions to ask when you are avoiding- Is this action I am about to do helping or hurting me? Is it aligned with my true goals and values? Am I avoiding something right now? Am I about to go do something based on craving? What is motivating me to do
STEP 2: Reframe Your Thinking Errors REFRAME
Step 2: Reframe—Change your perception of the importance of the deceptive brain messages; say why these thoughts, urges, and impulses keep bothering you: They are false brain messages (It’s not ME, it’s just my BRAIN!). WHY DOES THIS KEEP BOTHERING ME? IS THIS A FALSE MESSAGE? AM I USING ANY THINKING ERRORS?
Moving from “Part of Me” Mode Toward Awareness and Truth. How can you start making distinctions between helpful, productive thoughts and behaviors and deceptive or unhealthy ones? Reframe to help you separate the deceptive thought patterns and habits from your healthy thoughts and behaviors—
TIPS: We tend to take things personally. Sensations will pass. We need to Relabel and Reframe Calm the Uh Oh Center and Strengthen the Assessment Center. Suppressing Your Emotional Responses Negatively Impacts You. Reframe your experience. 1. REFRAME THE BIOLOGY- its not me, it's my brain. 2. REFRAME THE SOCIAL PAIN- I'm feeling rejected- this is so painful. 3. REFRAME THINKING ERRORS- Ways your brain erroneously and inaccurately filters information or applies meaning to situations. choose to focus your attention differently.
Typical Error thinking to reframe: All or nothing, black or white. CATASTROPHIZING (AKA FORTUNE-TELLING OR WORST-CASE-SCENARIO THINKING). DISCOUNTING THE POSITIVE. EMOTIONAL REASONING, MIND READING. “SHOULD” STATEMENTS. Clearly, false expectations and faulty comparisons can profoundly affect your life, False expectations.
QUESTION/REFLECTION: What are your thinking errors? Recognize the deceptive brain message or uncomfortable sensation (Relabel). Dismiss the faulty logic or strong pull to act on the sensations (Reframe). Accept that deceptive thoughts, urges, impulses, and sensations will arise, but that you do not have to act on them.
STEP 3: The Power of Focus REFOCUS
Step 3: Refocus—Direct your attention toward an activity or mental process that is wholesome and productive—even while the false and deceptive urges, thoughts, impulses, and sensations are still present and bothering you. WHAT ACTIVITY CAN I DO RIGHT NOW TO TURN MY ATTENTION TOWARDS SOMETHING THAT IS HEALTHY, CONSTRUCTIVE OR BENEFICIAL? AM I AVOIDING SOMETHING I WANT TO DO?
TIPS: 1. NOTICE WHERE YOUR ATTENTION IS FOCUSED 2. REFOCUS ACTIVITIES—MAKE A LIST (Go for a walk, Exercise play read write, meditate, relax, journal) 3. IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING DISTRACTED-deliberately place your attention somewhere, 4. FIFTEEN-MINUTE RULE AND MINDFUL CHECKING.5. Mental notes, (Notice what you are avoiding) 6. Mindfulness.7. Gratitude list.
STEP 4: Mindfulness REVALUE
Step 4: Revalue—Clearly see the thoughts, urges, and impulses for what they are, simply sensations caused by deceptive brain messages that are not true and that have little to no value (they are something to dismiss, not focus on).
USING THE WISE ADVOCATE, SUM UP WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING. Is this thought, urge, impulse, craving, or desire true or is this the feeling of a deceptive brain message only and not something that must be followed blindly? In other words, is this a true emotion that reflects my true self or is it a false emotional sensation?
THINGS I WANT TO CHANGE WITH THE FOUR STEPS:
WHAT ARE YOU NOT DOING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO?
WHAT ARE YOU DOING THAT YOU WANT TO STOP?
MAKING THE BRAIN WORK FOR YOU