04 February 2009


Changing my mind is more difficult than I thought. Or am I just telling myself that?

Brain plasticity continues well into adulthood and perhaps, to some extent, throughout our entire lives. This wonderful capacity of the cerebrum is not just for kids. So what is it that makes it feel so difficult to alter our own personality traits and establish new and clearer channels of thinking? Simply telling your brain to change doesn't seem to do the trick and we can find ourselves 'spinning' on our favourite hangups day after day.

Part of the problem may be that we don't know what the 'tools' or 'controls' are to effect the change. We learn throughout our lives that certain results require certain processes but nobody ever explains to us how to self-program. For others, with a more critical mindset, new-age positive thinking and meditation-based 'toolboxes' can appear clumsy and ineffective.

My brother makes musical instruments. I once asked him how he undertook some of the intricate wood planing tasks required to make a guitar fretboard and he explained that he had to make the tiny planing tools before he could make the fretboard. I realise that this analogy is also clumsy but it gets the point across. The only convincing and effective tools for reshaping our own minds must be made by ourselves.

So how to do this? Realising that it can be done is a start. Accepting that it's all physical and that, therefore, the tools are real will also help. We all know the kind of words and situations that make us cringe, so don't use those. Our left hemispheres can be overly clamorous and dominating, so find some space and time to open up to the right. Stop your 'spinning' thoughts in their tracks as often as possible - you can because they are yours.

It's tempting to think that your brain is working at it's best when neuronally 'lit up' like a Christmas tree but that's not the case. Focus is required and that means a certain stillness but does not require psychobabble.

These are the things that I am attempting but all our brains are different. Finding focus and stillness is hard, because that is the story I have told myself throughout my life and therefore that story has become part of my cortical wiring.

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