You may already by familiar with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s 2008 TED Talk “My Stroke of Insight” – where she, a neuroanatomist, shares her perspective having suffered a stroke and endured a lengthy recovery.
Curious to know more, I was quick to get my hands on her book “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey”. One simple idea from it has stuck with me: you can – and should – talk to your brain.
And by talk, Dr. Taylor literally means use your voice. Talk – out loud – to yourself. Disrupt that inner voice that’s been caught with its hands in the cookie jar of negative chatter.
I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, “I appreciate your ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts or feelings anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up.” Essentially, I am consciously asking my brain to stop hooking into specific thought patterns. Different people do it differently of course. Some folks just use the phrase, “Cancel! Cancel!” or they exclaim to their brain, “Busy! I’m too busy!” Or they say “Enough, enough, enough already! Knock it off!”(151-152)
She goes on to explain that when faced with an especially persistent thought, she will add physical component: a wag of the finger, or hands on her hips.(152)
“Drop. Those. Biscuits.” with a stern shake of the head. That’s right.
Why bother? Dr. Taylor argues 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.”(153) You don’t have to be a prisoner to your bad habits – engage your brain!
Related Topic: Creating Space, Finding Purpose.
Having a phrase at the ready – an affirmation, a mantra, or a prayer – comes in handy when interrupting debilitating thought loops.(169) Here’s the one I keep handy:
I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.
Be kind to yourself, friend. But mostly importantly: talk to your brain!