You Are Not Your Brain : The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life
Two neuroscience experts explain how their 4-Step Method can help break destructive thoughts and actions and change bad habits for good.
A leading neuroplasticity researcher and the coauthor of the groundbreaking books Brain Lock and The Mind and the Brain, Jeffrey M. Schwartz has spent his career studying the structure and neuronal firing patterns of the human brain. He pioneered the first mindfulness-based treatment program for people suffering from OCD, teaching patients how to achieve long-term relief from their compulsions.
For the past six years, Schwartz has worked with psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding to refine a program that successfully explains how the brain works and why we often feel besieged by bad brain wiring. Just like with the compulsions of OCD patients, they discovered that bad habits, social anxieties, self-deprecating thoughts, and compulsive overindulgence are all rooted in overactive brain circuits. The key to making life changes that you want-to make your brain work for you-is to consciously choose to "starve" these circuits of focused attention, thereby decreasing their influence and strength.
As evidenced by the huge success of Schwartz's previous books, as well as Daniel Amen's Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, and Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself, there is a large audience interested in harnessing the brain's untapped potential, yearning for a step-by-step, scientifically grounded and clinically proven approach. In fact, readers of Brain Lock wrote to the authors in record numbers asking for such a book. In You Are Not Your Brain, Schwartz and Gladding carefully outline their program, showing readers how to identify negative brain impulses, channel them through the power of focused attention, and ultimately lead more fulfilling and empowered lives.
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June 09, 2011
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Excerpt from You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz
There are only a few true necessities in life, but for many of us, it doesn't feel that way. A lifetime of habits, ingrained by repetition, can seemingly make us slaves to a not always beneficial master--our own brain.
Nothing is more confusing or painful than when your brain takes over your thoughts, attacks your self-worth, questions your abilities, overpowers you with cravings, or attempts to dictate your actions. Have you ever felt that something is compelling you to "go" places, mentally or emotionally, where you don't want to be? Do you find yourself acting in uncharacteristic ways or doing things you don't really want to be doing?
The reason is simple: Deceptive brain messages have intruded into your psyche and taken over your life. Left to its own devices, your brain can cause you to believe things that are not true and to act in any number of self-destructive ways, such as:
Overthinking problems and fretting over things that are out of your control
Getting stuck or panicked by unfounded fear and worries
Blaming and chastising yourself for things that are not your fault
Engaging in unhealthy behaviors to escape life's daily stresses
Reverting to past patterns when you are trying to make a change
The more often you act in these unhealthy ways, the more you teach your brain that what is simply a habit (a learned behavior) is essential to your survival. Your brain does not distinguish whether the action is beneficial or destructive; it just responds to how you behave and then generates strong impulses, thoughts, desires, cravings, and urges that compel you to perpetuate your habit, whatever it may be. Unfortunately, more often than not, these behaviors are not ones that improve your life.
Clearly, the brain can exert a powerful grip on one's life--but only if you let it. The good news is that you can overcome the brain's control and rewire your brain to work for you by learning to debunk the myths it has been so successfully selling you and by choosing to act in healthy, adaptive ways. That's the mission of this book and the cornerstone of our approach: to share our innovative, empowering method of learning how to identify and demystify deceptive brain messages, so that you develop healthy, adaptive brain circuits that enable you to live a fulfilling life free from these unwanted, unhelpful, and false intruders.
It will be your life, the life you have chosen, with the brain you have sculpted--not the old path of troubling actions and behaviors imposed upon you by deceptive brain messages.
How can you achieve this? With our Four Step method, which teaches simple skills you can use and practice every day and apply to any unsatisfactory part of your life. The result will be a lasting change in perspective, courtesy of a source that has been seriously stifled by the deceptive brain messages: your intelligent, caring inner guide. This friend will help you counteract deceptive brain messages and act in concert with your own goals, values, and interests. You will finally see who you really are --not who your brain has been telling you that you are--and put your true self in the driver's seat for the rest of your life.
Sound difficult to accomplish? You won't think so after you read the stories of others who have successfully employed our Four Step method to turn their lives around. You Are Not Your Brain touches on intimate personal journeys of several people whose lives were once plagued by deceptive brain messages and who managed to break the cycle--like Sarah, who struggled with depression and self-doubt; Ed, who was paralyzed by fears of rejection; Steve, who used alcohol to relieve stress; Liz, who worried about her future; Kara, who felt she was unlovable unless she was physically perfect; John, who repetitively checked e-mail as a way to assuage his fear that his girlfriend was leaving him; or Abby, who constantly worried that something bad would happen to someone she loved.
While your situation may not be as dramatic or intense, some form of deceptive brain messages impacts almost everyone at some point in life. Even if our lives usually run smoothly, when we are stressed or feeling down these false thoughts and unhealthy actions find a way to sneak in and cause havoc. They can shake our confidence, make us find ways to escape reality, use drugs or alcohol, overeat, spend money we don't have, avoid people we care about, become angry, develop excessive expectations of ourselves, not say what we really think or feel, limit our range of experiences, worry excessively . . . you name it. Even in the most benign situations, giving in to deceptive brain messages causes us to lose time that would have been better spent elsewhere. At its worst, we end up acting impulsively--in ways that are not representative of who we really are-- and falling into grief and regret.
Most encouragingly, however, this powerful approach will help you identify and deal with the majority of your problems, not just one symptom, because we focus on the underlying, unifying cause of your distress: deceptive brain messages. In short, You Are Not Your Brain will empower you to approach life's ups and downs in a skillful way, using just four easily learned steps. You will find that repeated practice with the Four Steps will transform your life--and your brain--giving you the power to become the person you want to be.