Retrain Your Brain

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Our Inner Conflict–from the Adult children of Alcoholics Red Book-

Ending the Internal Conflict

The conflict between the two sides of self is one of strategy and not of intent. Both the adult and the child long for the love and respect necessary to sustain the human spirit but disagree on how to attain their desire; the child by hopefully waiting in isolation and the adult by rushing into frustrated action. In ACA we learn both strategies lead only to despair.

Ending our inner conflict depends on both the adult and the child recognizing the need for unity in recovery. By acknowledging their need for each other, the adult and the child create the sense of wholeness needed to fully respond to the world.

Mutual acceptance allows the child to see that the ability in trust is damaged but not broken and can be restored by gently and slowly emerging from the protective prison of isolation. The adult becomes aware of the spirit of joy that inhabits every child and recognizes the need for openness and spontaneity in feeling completely alive.

Change Your Thinking: Change Your Life–

What thoughts am I allowing to dominate my consciousness? The learning of what we are choosing to think about takes some practice, but you are really not in control of your life until you do it.

It is only after becoming aware the direction of our thoughts that we can learn to stop negative thoughts. Many people believe that they have no control over their own minds. They think this because they haven’t found their observer self.

It may be easier to think of this as getting control of your subconscious mind or learning to listen to the “little voice inside your head”. Some posts to help you with this mental learning are:

(1)  How to Control Your Subconscious Mind

(2)  Learn to Take Control of Your Mind

(3)  How to Reprogram Your Mind for Success

(4)  Thoughts and Peace of Mind

One of the first aspects toward taking control of your life has to be learning how to use your mind for thought control instead of allowing your mind to control your thoughts. I know when I first read about this over thirty years ago, I was mystified about taking control of my mind. I mean I thought I did control my thoughts. As I’ve written before, transactional analysis helped me the most to find my inner personas. Once you learn to recognize parent, adult and child thinking, you will be on your way to learning how to be your observer self.

Some other links I believe will help you to retrain your brain are:

1. From Barrie Davenport: “How Positive Thinking Re-Wires Your Brain“:

The power of positive thinking.

How many times have you heard that phrase thrown around? It’s so much a part of our vernacular now that it’s almost become meaningless. We’d all agree that thinking positively is a good thing. Especially when we’re feeling positive. When you’re feeling good, how much trouble is it to think, “Hey, I like me. My life is cool. Things are going great.”

But what about when things are crappy? What about those days when you’re so stressed the veins pop out of your forehead? When you hate your job — or you’ve lost it? What about those days when you are sucker-punched by a series of unfortunate events that makes the life of Job look like a garden party?

I’ve met people who remain perky during really bad times. And to be honest, they make me want to slap them around a bit. That Pollyanna, “life is still beautiful” attitude when things are falling apart just yanks my chain. However, I’ve come to learn that these people know something I don’t.

Here’s the secret that’s not really a secret. It’s revolutionary, exciting science.

Positive thinking really does change your brain. Not in some magical, woo woo kind of way, but in a real physical way.

The science is called neuroplasticity. It means that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains. The idea was first introduced by William James in 1890, but it was soundly rejected by scientists who uniformly believed the brain is rigidly mapped out, with certain parts of the brain controlling certain functions. If that part is dead or damaged, the function is altered or lost. Well, it appears they were wrong.

Neuroplasticity now enjoys wide acceptance as scientists are proving the brain is endlessly adaptable and dynamic.

It has the power to change its own structure, even for those with the severe neurological afflictions. People with problems like strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. It is completely life-altering.

So what does this have to do with positive thinking and with you?

It means that repetitive positive thought and positive activity can rewire your brain and strengthen brain areas that stimulate positive feelings.

In his widely-acclaimed book, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Norman Doidge M.D. states plainly that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself and/or form new neural pathways — if we do the work. Just like exercise, the work requires repetition and activity to reinforce new learning.

Here are some actions you can take to change your own brain during the bad times.

Fear of failure.

Everyone fears doing something new because we don’t wait to fail. The truth is, we can do most anything if we take action, stop negative thinking, and shift our perceptions of the truth about our abilities.

  • Action steps: Force yourself to stop thinking about reasons you can’t do something, even if you don’t feel brave or capable. Every time a negative thought creeps in, retrain your brain to think a positive thought about your abilities instead. Then take small actions every day toward achieving your goal or desired change.  Nike’s slogan, “Just do it,” has real validity.

Over-thinking/Worrying

Have you ever found yourself trapped in obsessive over-thinking about a problem or in a state of anxiety or worry that lasts for days or even weeks? It drains your energy, affects your sleep, and spirals your mood and outlook on life. Focusing on your problem only strengthens the worry function in your brain.

  • Action steps: When you find yourself in that cycle of worry or compulsive thinking, remember the three R’s — rename, re-frame, and redirect. When the worry begins, mentally yell “Stop!” Rename the issue by reminding yourself that worry isn’t real.Rename it as a compulsive reaction, not reality. Re-frame your thinking by focusing on positive or distracting thoughts, even if you still feel anxious. Force yourself to think different thoughts. Redirect your actions. Go do something uplifting, fun or mentally engaging. The key is following these steps repeatedly, every time you worry obsessively, to break the pattern and rewire your brain.

Mood Disorders/Phobias

Sometimes we might feel blue or out-of-sorts, and it’s just a temporary fog that settles in and lifts after a few days. Some mood disorders, like depression or serious anxieties that morph into phobias, can be debilitating and unrelenting. Psychologists and therapists have used treatments based on neuroplasticity to get to the cognitive root of these disorders and put a patient’s life back on track.

  • Action steps: A serious mood disorder or phobia requires the help of a trained counselor. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and feelings. If you suffer from severe anxiety or depression, you need someone skilled to help you get to the root of these thoughts and to show you how to change them. Ask them about CBT.

2.   From  Through An Al-Anon Filter: “Willing to Receive Help”:

“I need to be teachable. Do I understand that my way is only one way of doing things? Do I accept that my thinking can be distorted? This has to have been one of the most intensely difficult lessons I had to accept when new to program, this concept that what went on inside my own head could be less than sane.  But, when through the working of my first Fourth Step, said thinking was dragged out into the light of day, laid flat and closely examined, there was no other conclusion – in some areas, my thinking was not that of a sane and rational person. I was obsessive, obsessively controlling, fearful, and able to deny to a quite astounding degree.”

3.  From Elisha Goldstein: “Dogen Zenji’s Secret to Leading a Happy Life”:

“As is said in The Now Effect, “we are all perfectly imperfect.”

“I just want to clarify that this does not mean that we’re becoming complacent and not making plans to move toward mental and physical health. This simply means to understand that we are all imperfect and to begin practicing kindness, instead of fear and hate, toward your imperfections when they arise. Then you can make a plan to improve things and engage with that plan.”

“OK, so let’s get practical. How does this work in our daily lives?”

  1. “Acceptance – The first step is to accept the fact that you are imperfect as we all are.”
  2. “ANTS – The automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) may arise “yes, but I have many more imperfections than most people.” If and/or when this happens, notice that as an automatic, habitual thought pattern (because that is what it is), let it be and bring your attention to this third step.”
  3. “Re-parenting with kindness – Bring kindness to the moment. Bring your attention to the feeling that is there right now. It is likely a physical feeling that is connected to an emotion. Possibly an emotion of shame, disgust, fear, sadness, or anger. Put your hand where the feeling is and imagine it as a little baby; maybe even imagine yourself as a little baby or little boy or girl. Now say to this part of yourself, “I care about your pain and I love you just the way you are.” Or use whatever words fit for you. You can do this for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Whatever feels right for you in the moment.”

Photo credit.

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