Monday, 18 April 2016

Training our brains

In the early days of learning I’d never have children, I realised it was possible to retrain my brain. I remember catching myself thinking “if I get pregnant” and shutting down that thought - the thoughts that had almost become an obsession -  by a) telling myself “that is not going to happen now,” and then b) deliberately turning away from that thought. I think that the thoughts themselves brought such painful feelings of shame and failure in those early days, that I realised I simply couldn’t go on letting myself think that way.

I was reading an article this week when I found a reference to a quote by Jeffrey M. Shwartz, who, it turns out, writes books (that I might now read) about this exact idea – that you can consciously train or – as I have always called it – reprogramme your brain.
"The struggle is not to make the feeling go away; the struggle is to not give in to the feeling by thinking about the obsession.”
This is not an effort to shame those of us who feel grief, rather it allows us to understand that whilst those feelings are natural, our brains have also been programmed to think one way (ie, that our lives will be nothing without children). Unless we make a conscious effort to change, we risk being stuck in a pattern of grief and longing for what we will never have.

When we’re ready, it is indeed possible to say enough is enough, to look forward, and to embrace our futures wholeheartedly.

8 comments:

  1. Reprogramming....I love this image. Everything you wrote is so true!

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  2. Yes, I agree with BnB's comment!

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  3. "The struggle is not to make the feeling go away; the struggle is to not give in to the feeling by thinking about the obsession.” Yes.

    And yes, it can be done.

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  4. That is where I was working on heading with my brain 4 years ago. I didn't follow through with it in the end, as it wasn't needed for me. But I had started.

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  5. I like the point you make -- when you're ready. I think it not only allows people to honour the space they're in, but it also puts the person in the driver seat and gives control back to the person instead of the thought.

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  6. I think you've stumbled upon something huge. People always say: "I can't help what comes into my head." (I also like: "You can't help who you fall in love with" but that's a whole other topic.) Maybe you can't keep the thoughts out of your head completely, but what you do with those thoughts--how you react to them-- is really the difference between a life of happiness & optimism or anger & depression

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  7. Beautiful post. I fully believe that you can retrain your brain from the constructs that you've been led to believe are a given, in whatever arena of your life they may live. I bet the idea that you can program your brain is freeing if you're feeling stuck in the muck. When I was in my pit, I would have loved to have been able to turn off the cycle of thoughts that made me feel like a failure...now I know that's possible. :)

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  8. Yes! Reprogramming, or "reframing" your thoughts, to look at things from a different perspective. We often don't realize how much we've been trained to think about things in certain ways -- by our families, our peers, by advertisers (!), by the communities we live in. Breaking the mold is difficult, but it can be done! (Way behind on my reading & commenting, as you can see, but trying to catch up...!) ;)

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