Rewire your mind by reprogramming your body
Neuroscience has proven that learning is not just a mental process. We use our whole body to learn.
Our cerebral activities have physiological counterpoints. Our posture, energy and stamina reflect our mental states. It’s no coincidence that the nervous system, manager of our unconscious bodily functions like breath and digestion, offers the greatest insight on our conscious thoughts and mental status.
Our histories shape us. But what served us as children, holds us back as adults.
—Andrea L. Bordenca, Leadership Coach
The thing is, coping skills aren’t crutches or a cast. There are no objective criteria to indicate when they’ve served their purpose. All too often, coping skills that saved us outstay their purpose and block subsequent growth.
Coping skills are hard-wired thoughts. Programmed patterns with situational triggers. And our bodies share our learned experiences with our minds. Even if it were possible, brute force removal would fry the system.
Our neural networks are no different from those of the machine models we build in their image. Every OS needs routine system scans and updates to stay functional. With each update, methods and resources are adapted, deprecated and/or replaced.
In Buddha’s Brain, Dr. Rick Hanson observes that negative thoughts are much stickier than their positive counterparts. Dr. Hanson explains that our brains were ‘built more for avoiding than approaching… because it’s the negative experiences that have generally had the most impact on survival.’
Our brains are hard-wired to ‘approach pleasant carrots, avoid unpleasant sticks, and move on from anything else’. Yet, we focus on avoiding sticks. Why?
Because, millions of years ago, 'sticks' were fatal, whereas new carrots sprouted all the time. Focusing on avoiding sticks made you far more likely to live long enough to pass that knowledge and genetic disposition along. The priorities and habits that once ensured our survival are no longer the difference between life and death.
So how do you keep the poisonous berry update but ditch the inner Debbie Downer droning on about the anaphylactic ‘blueberry’ pancake debacle every time you eye the skillet?
‘We’re not born Eeyore. You choose that. But you can choose something else. You can find something that better serves you.’
—Andrea L. Bordenca, Leadership Coach
Sound great. But how?
To get started, Andrea suggests that you pay attention to your internal narrative; to your thoughts, but also to the mental and physical feelings that accompany them.
When you bring your attention there, you’ll realize that your internal narrative is a continuous stream. And all too often, much of our mental chatter is negative.
Real talk. How many of us would ever speak to a friend the same way we talk to ourselves? Negative mental chatter is isolating because of the anxiety and depression it triggers. That isolation is then compounded by the fact that we each think we’re the only person in the room saying such nasty things to ourselves.
Andrea’s workshop starts by showing us how acknowledging our vulnerability, our negative mental chatter and our inner jerk, neutralizes the threat. You’re. Not. Alone.
Talking about it dissolves the isolation by normalizing the situation. We all do it to certain extent because that what got our gene pool this far. Beating yourself up about beating yourself up helps nothing. And pretending that it’s not happening only maintains the space needed to continue the vicious cycle.
You have to acknowledge that a behavior or feeling no longer serves you before you can let it go and grow forward.
Speaking your voice is the result of clearing out mental clutter that no longer serves you and giving pride of place to your wisdom. Your wisdom stems from your learned experience. And learning is a pattern-recognition process that plays out in the body as well as the mind.
Want to learn more about how understanding your mind-body connection can help you clear out the mental clutter and speak your voice?
Join #WESTorg for Andrea Bordenca's workshop on How to Speak Your Voice on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019.