Friday, December 12, 2008

Stroke Of Genius On Emotions

I've been writing about the book I've been reading, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor, and wanted to give you more of her insight into controlling our brain. This brain scientist had a massive stroke and learned so much about controlling all the brain chatter, judging and critical aspects of the left brain. There's much wisdom to be learned for "taking every thought captive" as God tells us to do.

Jill says, "I define responsibility (response ability) as the ability to choose how we respond to stimulation coming in through our sensory systems at any moment in time ... Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our bloodstream. My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set off automatically.

Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over.

If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have CHOSEN to let that circuit continue to run. Moment by moment, I make the choice to either hook into my neurocircuitry or move back into the present moment, allowing that reaction to melt away as fleeting physiology.

I always have an alternative way of looking at any situation - is my glass half full or half empty?

If you approach me with anger and frustration, then I make the choice to either reflect your anger and engage in argument (left brain), or be empathic and approach you with a compassionate heart (right brain).

What most of us don't realize is that we are unconsciously making choices about how we respond all the time. It is so easy to get caught up in the wiring of our pre-programmed reactivity (limbic system) that we live our lives cruising along on automatic pilot.

By paying attention to the choices my automatic circuitry is making, I own my power and make more choices consciously. In the long run, I take responsibility for what I attract into my life.

There has been nothing more empowering than the realization that I don't have to think thoughts that bring me pain. I have the conscious power to stop thinking those thoughts when I am satiated and it is liberating to know that I have the ability to choose a peaceful and loving mind (my right mind), whatever my physical or mental circumstances, by deciding to 'step to the right' and bring my thoughts back to the present moment."

Jill told the story of driving down the highway singing along with one of her favorite CDs, "I've got joy in my heart." She was pulled over by the police for speeding. After receiving the ticket, she had to make the decision at least 100 times not to feel down about it. The little voice of negativity kept raising its head to remind her of the situation, most likely with a lot of name calling. She found her left brain wanting to mull over the event again and again from every angle. No matter how much thought she would've allowed it, nothing would change the situation, and she finds that kind of mental obsessing by the left hemisphere to be a waste of time and emotionally draining.

She tunes in to how thoughts make her feel and then makes the choice for feeling better. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, but it takes a lot less time and mental and physical health than all the negative thinking ... and totally avoids the long-term consequences of allowing that kind of thinking to continue in our minds and set up highway systems to welcome more of it.

We can use our power to stop thinking about events that we cannot change or have any control over, and bring our minds back to the present and the blessings in it. Feeling deep inner peace and sharing kindness rather than anger and frustration (even sharing it with ourselves), is always a choice we get to make. We choose to forgive or stuff it away.

Jill's book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, has really been a stroke of genius for insight into the workings of the mind and how we can truly be obedient to the Scripture telling us to "take every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Related Articles:
Your Amazing Brain
Power To Change Your Mind
Taking Thoughts Captive
Getting Out Of Negative Loops
Fighting The Darkness

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