Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting Out Of The Negative Loops

by Donna L. Watkins

This is the fifth and final article written around a very enlightening book I've read by Jill Bolte Taylor. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey has put a visual aspect (right brain) to my left brain knowledge of the Scripture commanding us to "take every thought captive" (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Lamb's Ears at Montpelier Gardens
The author, a brain scientist who had a stroke and eight years of recovery, paints a picture of how we can control our thoughts which in turn controls our emotions and sets a positive and joyful path through life. Not without troubles, but seeing them in a different light with the choices we make on what we allow our left brain to pump out at us, since it's the story-teller of our brain and will ramble and rattle on forever with things you do not want to waste life listening to.

Jill mentions a few more methods of getting out of the negative loops that our left brain weaves for us: “The cells in our verbal mind [left brain] are totally resourceful in their ability to run our loops of doom and gloom. These cells tap into our negative attributes of jealousy, fear, and rage. They thrive when they are whining, complaining, and sharing with everyone about how awful everything is.

In extreme situations of cellular disregard, I use my authentic voice to put my language center’s Peanut Gallery on a strict time schedule. I give my story-teller full permission to whine rampantly between 9-9:30 a.m. And then again between 9-9:30 p.m. If it accidentally misses whine time, it is not allowed to reengage in that behavior until its next allotted appointment. My cells quickly get the message that I am serious about not hooking into those negative loops of thought – but only if I am persistent and determined enough to pay attention to what circuits are running in my brain.

I’m a devout believer that paying attention to our self-talk is vitally important for our mental health. In my opinion, making the decision that internal verbal abuse is not acceptable behavior, is the first step toward finding deep inner peace. I have learned that in order to protect my overall mental health, it is necessary for me to tend the garden of my mind and keep these cells in check. My story-teller simply needs a little disciplining directive from my conscious mind about what I want versus what I find unacceptable."

Many of us grew up with parents nagging and shouting and saying things they didn't mean to say. Fear makes us project accusations in hopes of some warped way of preventing what we are accusing our children of. Those childhood accusations often continue on when we become adults and they are so deeply rooted that we have a challenge to wake up enough to listen to every conversation, but the more practice you get, the easier it becomes. You will be surprised at what you are saying to yourself once you begin to tune in. This new information has allowed me to go to new levels of subconscious loops that I didn't even recognize as thoughts.

The 9-9:30 routine doesn't fit for me, but what I've found very successful is to first recognize that I'm in a moment where I can take the whine road or "take a right turn" to let my right brain see a bigger picture. Generally I'm off on the rejoicing road focusing on blessings instead of the problem, or putting it up against what God's Word says about it. Since it's winter, I look out at a gray and bleak setting and miss the views of summer with all the color, blooms and butterflies.

So .. I go back to "THIS is the day the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it." Then I think of blessings I can count because it is winter. I can see the birds better. They are willing to eat closer to the windows. I have more time for reading than in summer. And on and on. It keeps me focused on the blessing of today ... and tomorrow may be a sunny day which alters my mind greatly.

However, there are times when something warrants a bit of whine time because I know it's going to come back up if I don't process through it more fully. For example, a beautiful Downy Woodpecker hit our deck door (even though it has 3 decals on it) and died. There are emotions we have to express to go through the steps of grief, but we have the option of moving through those stages a lot quicker than we often choose to. I allowed myself a few moments moaning about its death and it being "not fair" ... but then I moved on. It's okay to give yourself time to whine when life doesn't go your way, but don't let it keep you in its flow. Put your toes in the water, but don't step into the current. Choose to flow in the thoughts of blessings that are all around you.

Jill continues with more specifics to help us: "Just like children, these [left brain] cells may challenge the authority of my authentic voice and test my conviction. Once asked to be silent, they tend to pause for a moment and then immediately reengage those forbidden loops.

If I am not persistent with my desire to think about other things, and consciously initiate new circuits of thought, then those uninvited loops can generate new strength and begin monopolizing my mind again. To counter their activities, I keep a handy list of three things available for me to turn my consciousness toward when I am in a sate of need:

I remember something I find fascinating that I would like to ponder more deeply, or
I think about something that brings me terrific joy, or
I think about something I would like to do.

When I am desperate to change my mind, I use such tools.”

Jill mentions that she had to be willing to make these decisions a thousand times a day initially. That sounds overwhelming. However, in reality, isn’t allowing our mind to control us with negative thoughts overwhelming, besides being so destructive.

Allowing yourself to whine and wallow in despair and grief, fear and worry, or any other negative emotion is totally destructive. There is no good coming out of it. None! Spending that time and energy thinking about the things that bring you joy – even if you can only find one thing – brings about positive change and that change gains momentum.

It’s like exercise. When you begin it is not fun. Every muscle hurts from being reawakened and you can’t see much positive coming out of it ... But if you keep on going you soon begin noticing more energy, more strength, better physical and mental health. It’s worth the investment, but each day it’s a choice on whether to put our mind in gear for it.

Jill also relates all of this to the realm of physical health. She writes, “The first thing every morning and the last thing every night, I faithfully hug my pillow, wrap one hand in the other, and consciously thank my cells for another great day. I care enough to say it out loud. ‘Thank you girls. Thanks for another great day!,’ and I say it with an intense feeling of gratitude in my heart. I then implore my cells, 'Please, heal me,' and I visualize my immune cells responding.

I unconditionally love my cells with an open heart and grateful mind. Spontaneously throughout the day, I acknowledge their existence and enthusiastically cheer them on. I am a wonderful living being capable of beaming my energy into the world, only because of them ...

When I’m having hunger pangs and can’t get to food, I remind my cells that I have fuel (fat) stored on my hips ... I listen to my body when it speaks to me. If I feel tired, I give my cells sleep. When I’m feeling sloth-like, I give my cells movement. When I’m in pain, I become quiet, coddle the wound, and consciously surrender into the pain, which helps it dissipate.

Pain is the tool our cells use to communicate to our brain that there is trauma somewhere in our body. Our cells stimulate our pain receptors in order to get our brain to focus and pay attention. Once my brain acknowledges the existence of the pain, then it has served its purpose and either lightens up in intensity, or goes away.

Deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.”

One of the keys to being able to stay centered on peace is knowing you are part of something greater than yourself. For Christians, that’s being in Christ, and all that defines. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and this book certainly broke that down into visual, scientific and factual terms.

Realizing these are real physiological processes that we were wired to control is truly empowering. We can read about having the power of the Creator within us, but this shows exactly where and how He wired it in.

Here's one last tip from Jill: "One of the easiest ways to shift just about anyone’s mood (for better or worse) is through stimulation of their nose. If you are overly sensitive, life in the real world can be unbearable. Capitalizing on our noses to shift ourselves back into the present moment is easy. Light a scented candle and let vanilla, rose or almond life you up beyond your recollections of stress. When random smells waft past you, hook into that cognitive loop and spend quality time trying to identify the scent. Score it on a scale of one to ten for pleasure or yuck. Remember to feel the physiology that underlies different scents. Let them move you into the here and now."

I've found several essential oils that I love and keep them nearby for use. Since I mix them with a massage oil, I use them as my face moisturizer which eliminates all those face products with a long list of chemicals. Even natural products have a longer list than I have come to want on my body.

I have a mixture of Rosemary and Pine essential oils for mornings and Sandalwood for afternoons. Essential oils enter the bloodstream in seconds, so I always feel the joy of them very quickly. I've used Tei Fu for asthma (relaxes arthritis pain for many years and the smell of that lifts my spirit also ... maybe because it's such an effective pain reliever for me.

I pray that these excerpts that I’ve been writing from My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey will bring you much insight into getting out of the darkness that wants to envelope us so that our Light no longer shines.

Related Articles:
Your Amazing Brain
Power To Change Your Mind
Stroke Of Genius On Emotions
Taking Thoughts Captive
Fighting The Darkness

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