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Create Emotional Balance, Physical Health, and Spiritual Awareness
By Johnny Oye
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 John P. Oye
All rights reserved.
If we don't consciously select where we want to go, we go where the unconscious wants us to go. Until we make the unconscious, conscious, it will select our lives and we will just call it fate. So in that regard, most of us are on automatic pilot.
~ Carl Jung
You have heard me mention MonkeyBrain earlier, including the title; and now we will explore the meaning. The MonkeyBrain is a state of mind. It is when the brain is compulsively thinking of a past event that caused emotional pain, such as grief, jealousy, resentment, or pain of any kind. This includes worry, doubt, or fear of the future. The MonkeyBrain shows itself in many ways. This includes our daily interactions with others and ourselves. I will define the MonkeyBrain as me or I, or my story. It's the voice in our head that says: That is mine, I am stronger, I am better, I am smarter, I'm not good enough, or you betrayed me, you did me wrong, you hurt my feelings and on and on. The me or I is also known as the ego. The ego is that voice in our head, and that voice is the MonkeyBrain. Oh, that voice! At times, the voices are very loud and arrogant, and other times soft but painful. It is the internal brain chatter that is always creating an inner dialogue of chaos. This voice is the incessant stream of brain chatter, the memories that the brain recalls in the unconscious. Most neuroscientists agree that the brain is in the unconscious up to 80 percent of the time for most of us. This means that we can be unconscious, operating on autopilot, for most of our day.
As was mentioned in Part I, the main part of our mental processing takes place in the unconscious. The brain shifts from conscious to unconscious any time it can. It is the only way for the brain to catch up on all the work that needs to be done. The brain needs plenty of time to consolidate all of the input, and does its work in the unconscious. It is also when the brain chatter, or what I call the MonkeyBrain, comes out full force. The brain loves to shift into the unconscious while we are doing our routine tasks, like brushing our teeth or driving to work. How many times have you pulled into your work parking lot and barely remember the drive. This is partly because your brain was on autopilot or unconscious for part of the drive. You were only forced into full consciousness when your eyes saw a red light, heard a horn, or sensed danger. During this time, when we are operating on autopilot, the MonkeyBrain loves to come out and play. Remember, the MonkeyBrain recalls everything that we experience that is of pain. It includes legitimate and psychological pain and fear (emotional memory). Let me remind you that most stressful thoughts are attached to pain and fear in some way. Emotional memory resides in our thoughts. These thoughts are not really happening, but thinking so can make it feel that way.
You may be asking now, "Is It possible to get rid of this inner voice?" The answer is no. However, we can reduce the brain chatter and change the content. It is also why this voice has been called the pain ego. I first learned of this from the book A New Earth, written by Eckart Tolle. Tolle identifies this voice as the pain ego since it is the inner dialog that loves to relive pain, drama, or trauma of any kind. Tolle's book changed my way of thinking so much. I recommend that you read it. I was unaware that I could choose to change the content of my brain's chatter. After learning this, I was then able to allow the voice to be heard and could make a conscious choice to bring myself back to the moment by shifting to another thought or mood that I wanted to have. This shifting is also known as reframing or reappraisal.
For example, one day, I was reliving an emotional experience in my head that was causing me to feel bad. I call this story MonkeyBrain in the Rain. My brain was reliving an emotional experience that caused me heartache. I felt wronged, and I just wanted to tell the person what I was feeling. In this case, there was no communication and therefore no closure. My thoughts were completely ego driven, and I just wanted the other person to feel the same pain that I was experiencing. Once I became aware that my brain was obsessing, I literally told myself to stop it, to shut up. This glimpse of awareness allowed me to just be in the moment, the present, outside of my thoughts. On this particular day, it was raining very hard, and I put all of my attention on the rain and the sound. For a few minutes, I just listened to the sound and watched the drops fall. I was outside my MonkeyBrain the entire time—no thoughts of the emotional memory. As a matter of fact, I had no thoughts at all, just the sound of the rain. It was just peaceful being in that moment. Unfortunately, as soon as I took my attention away from the rain just for a split second, my MonkeyBrain pulled me back into the drama, and once again, I was reliving that painful experience. It was like a wild monkey swinging from limb to limb, pulling another painful emotion with each swing. But I pulled myself back to the moment again, focused on the rain, and again, I was out of my thinking brain and the emotional pain. Thinking and talking about our problems is our greatest addiction, and that addiction can be just as harmful to our health as any other,
This experience proved to me that we can choose to get out of our emotional pain by being in the present, and that alone stops the brain from thinking about the painful or stressful situation. I learned that I had the control to patrol the inner dialogue in my head, and I slowly began to change the chatter's content. We must first become aware of the thoughts in our head, because then we can patrol what the brain is thinking about. This simple awareness that the brain's chatter was just that, brain chatter based on memory, allowed me to hear the chatter for what it was and to make a conscious choice to change the content. If I were having a thought of something that I didn't want, such as, stress, resentment, or failure, I just began to think of what I did want. For example, if a thought arises of a past event that caused stress, we can choose to direct the next thought to the solution of that stressful event.
Although we cannot change the past event, we can now change the way we think and feel about it. This inner dialogue is much different than being in a situation where the chaos is being caused by another person or an outside source, such as an angry spouse or child or annoying co-worker. This is just letting someone or something suck you into their pain and drama, and it happens all of the time. There are some people who are stuck in their MonkeyBrain, always thinking and sharing negative information or creating and causing more stress for themselves. Some people will try to pull you into their pain, drama, and stress. You can avoid this by just being non-reactive. So long as you do not identify with their pain or engage in the conversation, you can avoid being sucked in. We can be empathetic without identifying with their emotions. You can just listen and not react, and this alone will shrink their MonkeyBrain and yours as well. In some cases, nonreaction to the other could inflame the situation. This is usually due to the other's needs to fuel their addiction to stress. Chapter 4 will provide you with more specifics on stress addiction.
I devoted an entire chapter to stress because I believe that fear and stress create serious chemical imbalances, causing health issues and emotional instability. If the other person is stressed more often than not, their brain is likely to be addicted to the chemicals driven by the stress response, such as adrenaline. Their brain's addiction to stress will look for anything that stimulates adrenalin.
Arguing or disagreements are a sure way to stimulate stress hormones (adrenalin, and cortisol) while depleting the rewarding chemicals that affect our mood and motivation (serotonin and dopamine). In these cases, it's probably best to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
If you pay attention to the way that you feel the next time you have an argument or disagreement, you will feel the adrenalin. The adrenalin is just part of the body's stress response, and it is our warning to back off. The brain actually becomes very addicted to adrenalin. This is precisely why we can fall into patterns of arguments with others that really have nothing to do with the real problem. We are affected by other people's energy and their pain and drama. If we are not totally conscious and aware, we can easily be sucked right into their world.
We all have it, this mind chatter, and we cannot get rid of it; we can only shrink it by being in the present. We cannot be in the MonkeyBrain and the present at the same time. It is not possible. When we are in the now, the present, we are not thinking; we are observing. This includes the negative self-talk in your head. Ignore it; don't give it any fuel and it will slowly but surely shrink. Any time the MonkeyBrain arises, be aware and bring yourself back to the moment. Reframe your next thought and begin to think thoughts of what you do want. That simple awareness will pull you away from the negative thought, and you will avoid the emotion that would have followed. This includes repeat situations that relationships tend to fall into.
For example, your child or significant other constantly leaves their clothes or shoes in the middle of the floor. Your aggravation triggers the angry stress response, which will eventually be the way that you react to that situation every time. Practice non-reaction, and even those repeat situations are changed. It is really just behavior and emotional patterns that are conditioned over time.
Brain patterns are basically brain habits. Stress patterns can also become habits. This includes traffic, disagreements, or worrying. All of these examples stimulate the release of dopamine, adrenalin, and cortisol. If you don't allow yourself to complete the fight-or-flight cycle, you will remain in stress mode. More details will follow in Chapter 4 on the different stages of stress and how it affects our health.
The practice of non-reaction and remaining in the present can become an addiction as well. The brain will become addicted to the positive rewarding chemicals and hormones that are triggered by peace and calm. And there you have it: a positive addiction is formed.
But the most important thing to remember is that the Monkey Brain only lives through negativity and problems. It is fueled by reliving painful, fearful, or traumatic experiences with others or in one's head. If you pay close attention to your conversations with others, you will notice the MonkeyBrain in yourself or in the other person. Remember, the MonkeyBrain loves negative content. This includes complaining, blaming, and judging. Most conversations tend to have some negative content. We love to share our bad day, our terrible story, and our physical pain. It is just because most of us are conditioned from a young age to share our day, especially the bad parts of the day, or what we perceive to be bad.
First, most of us are conditioned wrong to begin with, and then we develop a stress response that forms a pattern and a connection. The brain now slowly becomes addicted to the chemicals driven by the stress response, and the brain seeks that connection again. Once you have relived a stressful or fearful experience in your head just a few times, a behavioral circuit in the brain is formed, and a bad habit of stinking thinking has made its connection. Now the brain begins to crave the chemical and begins to seek out stinking thinking for relief. It is a common problem in today's society. The brain's patterns are very strong, and without mindful, conscious effort, and sometimes even actions, the brain's faulty pattern will win. In other words, the brain is just a machine following instructions that have been conditioned over time and which the mind can override. Remember the analogy: the automobile is the body, the engine is the brain, and the driver of the automobile is the mind. The mind can steer the brain in the right direction.
For example, a habit of negative thinking is a conditioned pattern of the brain. When you are aware of the negative thought and redirect the thought to a positive thought, this is a mindful, conscious effort that replaces the negative pathway into a positive one. Let's say you were dealing with a stressful situation that is out of your control. You dealt with the problem as best you could but you were still feeling a bit stressed. You decide to take a walk or run, or you hit the gym for a workout. This is a mindful, conscious action. The chemicals triggered by this action help reduce the stress hormones, and that will help you think less of the stressful situation. This is precisely why I use physical fitness to shrink the MonkeyBrain. Remember, the MonkeyBrain is stress, fear, pain, and drama. We already know that physical exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so why not use it.
Legitimate stress and psychological stress (emotional memories) are both reduced by the chemicals that are stimulated by physical exercise. Active living is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for emotional survival. In other words, movement of the body triggers the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that help reduce stress hormones, increase chemicals that improve one's mood, and help to regulate the balance. Once you have developed a positive habit of exercise for some time, the brain will slowly but surely get addicted to the rewarding chemicals that are stimulated. Here is how I look at it: we all have some habits that are considered to be bad, and we have habits that are considered to be good. Take a look at how you feel in the good and bad situations. Consider losing some of the bad habits and replacing them with good habits. The best way to trump a bad habit is to override it with three good habits.
All of the things that we do become habits, and eventually the brain will store a pattern and connection for that habit. The same applies to exercise. It stimulates a number of rewarding and feel-good chemicals, and the brain will look for that connection as well. And there you have it: a positive addiction to exercise is formed. The goal is to create as many positive and constructive habits as possible. All habits do count, even the small habits, such as making your bed, thinking optimistically, being compassionate, and drinking water.
Then there are the habits that I consider to be the most important, such as awareness of our ego, the habit of being grateful, the habit of non-judgment, the habit of loving, and the habit of accepting the things that we can't change. We can choose to be addicted to the MonkeyBrain (fear, stress, doubt, anger, resentment, jealousy, impatience, and intolerance), or we can choose to be addicted to being good to ourselves, kind and helpful to others, compassionate, and confident. Use as many positive habits as it takes to shrink the MonkeyBrain. And remember, the fastest way to cage the monkey is to be in the present. It is our choice. Focus your thoughts at the level of the solution instead of thinking at the level of the problem. Think of what you do want instead of what you do not want.
We cannot change the past; we can only change our attitudes, and that will change the future. I'm going to share with you my own personal MonkeyBrain story and how I reframed the thoughts that eventually reduced the stress and fear, and ultimately changed the outcome completely. This is just one example. However, this experience enabled me to utilize a stress reduction technique that I have used with clients in the past. I call this technique intentional shifting, and the process usually begins with some physical movements, such as walking. This time, however, I couldn't use physical activity to make the immediate shift in chemistry; I could only mentally shift my way out of the stress. This story is so profound that if I hadn't written it down, I wouldn't even believe it. But I did, and here it is.
Excerpted from MonkeyBrain by Johnny Oye. Copyright © 2014 John P. Oye. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 - The Brain, 1,
Chapter 1: The MonkeyBrain, 19,
Chapter 2: Brain Chemistry, 35,
Chapter 3: Neurotransmitters and Hormones, 46,
Chapter 4: Stress and Fear, 54,
Chapter 5: Conditioning the Brain, 69,
Part 2 - The Physical Body, 77,
Chapter 6: Assessing your Fitness, 82,
Chapter 7: Conditioning the Physical Body, 101,
Chapter 8: Nutrition, 112,
Chapter 9: Natural Supplements, 127,
Chapter 10: Music, 150,
Part 3 - The Spirit, 153,
Chapter 11: Spiritual Development, 164,
Chapter 12: The Power of Thought, 177,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Johnny Oye does a magnificent job of explaining the interconnectedness of the Brain, Body and Spirit. He references cutting edge science to help us understand brain chemistry and the many ways we can influence our thoughts, moods, and attitudes. The 21-Day Joyefit Fusion workout is a must for anyone wanting to get back on track,and Oye provides the resources to document each aspect of every Fusion Day.