How Can You Use Your Mind to Transform Your Brain to Make Yourself Happier?
Your default programming—the automatic choices all of us make in life without even noticing—can sabotage you, but you can learn to interrupt your self-defeating behavior and make better choices. Steven J. Fogel shares what scientists have discovered about your ability to “rewire” your brain to act in ways that will make you happier and offers sage advice about how to resolve long-term dysfunctional relationships that are causing you stress, frustration, and pain. Put the past where it belongs—in the past. Be mindful, live in the present, and lead a fulfilling life full of possibilities!
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Steven J. Fogel has been described as a “Renaissance man for the new millennium.” He is a cofounder of Westwood Financial Corp., one of the leading private commercial real estate owners in the country. For decades he has been an active participant in the human potential movement, inspiring others to seek their true selves. Steve is an accomplished artist and the author of The Yes-I-Can Guide to Mastering Real Estate (Random House) and My Mind Is Not My Friend (Fresh River Press). His broad experience in business and the arts led him to serve as chairman of the California Arts Council. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
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YOUR MIND IS WHAT YOUR BRAIN DOES FOR A LIVING
Learn How to Make It Work for You
By STEVEN JAY FOGEL, MARK BRUCE ROSIN
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2014 Steven Fogel
All rights reserved.
THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD—AND WHY IT'S SO OFTEN WRONG
* * *
Enlightenment can come only when we can transcend and silence the voice in our head. For most of us, that voice is talking to us all the time, making judgments and telling us how to act.
The first step to enlightenment occurs when you recognize that the voice in your head is not you; it's only a part of you. It's also not your boss, and it's not necessarily accurate; what it says may be accurate, but often it is wrong and just has the appearance of being "the way it is."
The voice in your head never intentionally lies to you, but what it tells you is its interpretation of the truth. All of its interpretations are viewed through the filter of your mind's programming. Once you learn how your mind is programmed, you'll see why the voice in your head is frequently wrong in what it tells you about a given situation—and you'll see how what it tells you may be very bad advice that actually prevents you from getting what you want.
Understanding the Way Your Mind Works
The story of Adam and Eve is a great metaphor to help us understand how our minds work. When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden they lived in a state of pure beingness, experiencing complete harmony, without worry, fear, or the need to protect themselves or strategize for their survival. They were always in the now, the present, connected to each other, to Source, to Higher Power. No value judgments or interpretations interfered with their bliss. They would have remained in that state for eternity were it not for the serpent tempting them to disobey God.
As a result of eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were thrust out of Eden and became the first mortals, and with that came the need to survive. All at once the world contained threats, and they needed a mind capable of preemptive, defensive thinking, a mind able to anticipate, to identify, and to judge everything they encountered in the outside world. This became the voice in their head as they emerged from Eden.
Adam and Eve's fearless days lounging around the pool in the Garden of Eden without a worry or care were replaced by experiencing their lives with the commentary of the often-critical voice in their head as it attempted to help them with their constant struggle for survival. From that point forward, humanity rarely experienced harmony.
As Adam and Eve's descendants, we have inherited the same kind of judging mind that scans every situation, evaluating everyone and everything as it looks for threats and tells us what to think and to feel about ourselves and the world outside us. The mind has become our central command center. When the mind is on automatic pilot, preoccupied with scanning and evaluating, I refer to it as our machinery, which speaks to us through the voice in our head. It's like having a constant GPS voice just like the device in our cars, except instead of telling us, "Turn left in a quarter of a mile and you will arrive at your destination," it tells us what to think and how to act and feel. The machinery that triggers the voice is still programmed to attempt to ensure your survival at any cost, whether it's telling you how you should flirt with someone you're attracted to or how to talk a traffic officer out of giving you a ticket when he just pulled you over for a rolling stop.
Generations after Adam and Eve, our cave-dwelling ancestors were hunter-gatherers living in tribes in the era of woolly mammoths. Back then, humans needed to live in tribes to survive, and they knew that being shunned by the tribe was a probable death sentence. As a result, the human mind became programmed with techniques designed to keep one's place in the tribe. Many, many millennia have passed since then, but our machinery is still programmed the same way. We can still experience the possibility of being rejected or disapproved of by others as a matter of life and death, and often we continue to react to those perceived threats in unnecessary ways that are inappropriate and unproductive, creating a lot of collateral damage to our relationships.
The most important words in the previous sentence are "experience ... as a matter of life and death"; what our minds—fixated as they are on survival—may perceive momentarily as a life-and-death matter is often nothing of the sort. In the next section, I'll show you what accounts for this curious condition.
Why Being on Automatic Pilot Is Dysfunctional
To understand this common phenomenon of the mind's being so off base, remember that everything it tells you is based on its interpretation. The mind's interpretation of current events is based on experiences you had long ago, starting in childhood, and the way it tells you to act is based on what it believes worked in a similar situation in the past. This is how your default programming, which becomes the machinery's software, was created, and if you let it operate on automatic pilot, it will work the same way 24/7.
Automatic pilot is the opposite of being mindfully aware. When we are mindfully aware, we are making our decisions with thoughtful intention in the present; we are navigating our life with intention rather than simply reacting with our default programming. When we're mindfully aware, we're not being run by the voice in our head but by our being free from the judgments contained in our programming, free from allowing our machinery to control our life based on its interpretations, which may be self-defeating.
In many areas, the machinery runs things properly most of the time. For example, when your senses perceive an oncoming car, your machinery can cause you to take action that will likely save your life. But it can also mistakenly turn a simple nonissue into huge drama. For example, someone gives you what you interpret as a dirty look, and you're off to the races, ready to attack or to run away (the "fight or flight" behaviors we inherited from our cave-dwelling forebears), and the unnecessary drama takes on a life of its own.
We tend to believe that everything our machinery tells us is a fact when it isn't necessarily reporting facts. That's why it's vital to evaluate what your mind is telling you and to make a mindfully aware choice instead of listening to a false interpretation that ultimately won't serve you.
All kinds of pointless issues get blown out of proportion when you let your mind run you instead of you running your mind, and that is the source of self-defeating behavior. The reason I like the term machinery to describe the workings of the mind on autopilot is that it emphasizes that what's happening is mechanical—rote—as opposed to you making mindfully aware choices.
The difference between allowing your machinery to run you and you taking charge of making mindfully aware choices is so critical, I want to give you a few more examples to drive home its importance.
Say a friend calls to invite you to dinner. You don't really feel like going, but without even thinking you say yes. Why? Because your machinery made a snap (automatic) judgment based on "staying in the tribe" (a good tribe member would never be rude and decline a dinner invitation) instead of being mindful and looking more deeply into your feelings to see what you really feel.
Or perhaps this next example has happened to you. A friend recently said to me, "You seem angry." In the past, my old way of reacting would have been to be on automatic pilot, with no idea why she said that or whether or not I was, in fact, angry. My machinery would have interpreted the comment as unnecessary criticism and then have morphed into the interpretation that my friend was shaming and rejecting me. I would probably have gotten upset and acted defensively, denying her perception of me and attacking her.
Because today I am more present and mindfully aware, however, I recognize that being angry isn't a crime—in fact, it's sometimes a justifiable response—and that the other person's comment doesn't mean our relationship is about to end. My friend is just voicing her perception of what I was communicating at that moment. By being mindful, I can look inside to see if I am angry, and if I am, I can acknowledge it and see where the conversation goes from there.
All of us have seen that at times we have behaved inappropriately on automatic pilot. Your actions may have been inappropriate because they didn't authentically represent what you truly felt about something (as in the example of accepting an invitation when you really would rather have said no) or because your machinery misinterprets what is happening as if it's a threat (as in the example of my machinery misinterpreting a friend's comment "you seem angry" to mean that she is criticizing, shaming, and rejecting me). Today, when I act on automatic pilot in situations in which my machinery's misinterpretation leads me to behave in hurtful ways and I later reflect on my behavior, I see—and say—"It was my machinery."
I don't do this to absolve myself of responsibility—my actions are always my responsibility. I do this to make it clear to myself and to other people with whom I've interacted that I reacted mechanically; that I heard what I expected to hear or saw what I expected to see as a result of my mind's interpretations; that I reacted with a default response instead of reflecting on whether I heard or saw correctly so that I could respond with a mindfully aware choice.
How to Interrupt Your Machinery
To make choices with mindful awareness—a key concept to self-transformation that we will explore in this book—you have to be present in the moment, which means you have to interrupt your machinery. In other words, to just be in whatever situation you're in, letting go of whatever judgments and interpretations come to mind, including those about what is "good," what is "bad," what the situation "should be" (compared to what it is), and how you "should be" (compared to how you are).
Letting go of these judgments and interpretations—a major component of mindful awareness—allows you to see the facts of that situation exactly as they are and feel your own feelings exactly as they are, without judgment, without interpretation. Only then can you respond to the facts and to your actual feelings and make a mindfully aware choice about how to act.
This is why the first step toward enlightenment is recognizing that the voice in your head isn't you and that what it's telling you isn't always the truth. This recognition gives you the ability to question the voice in your head. It makes you realize that your mind's programming—with its multitude of beliefs and interpretations—should be questioned, that some of your most basic beliefs could be false. These include possible beliefs about yourself—for example, that you're unworthy and undeserving; about others—for example, that no one will give you what you want, so it's pointless to ask for it; and about the world—for example, that nothing ever goes your way, so why bother to strive to achieve your goals.
It may seem like a radical idea that your beliefs, which are so embedded in your programming that you've probably never questioned them, are not facts and that many may actually be wrong. In order to understand why this is so, we will look at how we unconsciously created our own programming. Before we focus on the creation of our programming, however, I want to briefly introduce you to the crucial subject of the interrelationship between your mind and your brain, which I'll discuss fully in Part II.
Your Mind and Your Brain
I once heard it said that "the mind is what the brain does for a living." I've also heard it said that "the mind's job is survival."
The meaning of "the mind's job is survival" is clear from our discussion of the way the mind scans, judges, and evaluates everything we encounter and gives us instructions to help us survive what it interprets as threats and potential threats. I've learned that "your mind is what your brain does for a living" is more than just a funny line; it's an accurate description of the way the mind and the brain interrelate, and it's why understanding how our brains work helps us understand how our minds work.
We've looked at how, because of your programming, the mind can react to something you encounter as a threat or a potential threat when in reality it's not, and we've seen that reacting as if it is can be very dysfunctional. Now let's look at how Samuel Wang, associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton and faculty member of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, explains how the brain functions to make dysfunctional choices.
"Popular belief has it that the brain is like a computer," Wang says. "The brain processes information, but beyond that, the analogy does not hold up well. Everyday experiences reveal ways in which your brain operates in a most uncomputer-like fashion. Examples include visual illusions, the emotional basis of decision making, irrational approaches to problem-solving, and the unreliability of human memory. These phenomena reflect the evolutionary history of the brain, which has been optimized by natural selection to help you live to fight another day and to reproduce."
We can see in Wang's explanation that "visual illusions, the emotional basis of decision making, irrational approaches to problem-solving, and the unreliability of memory" are not just functions of our minds, they are functions of our brains. Although we may think of it as happening in our mind, neuroscientists have discovered that what we see, what we feel, how we decide, what we remember actually happens because of what happens in our brain, or, more properly, as you'll see in Part II, the interrelationship between the mind and the brain.
Digital technology has enabled us to see as never before the brain as we human beings use it, and the recent gains we've made in understanding our brains and the insight this gives us into ourselves is astounding. Congress declared the 1990s as "The Decade of the Brain." And in 2013, President Obama announced the "BRAIN" (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a plan for federal investment in brain research. These are just two signs that there's been an explosion of new, often startling information about the brain as humanity approached and entered the twenty-first century. Neuroscience is the new frontier.
Discoveries about the brain are happening every day; here are just a few of them.
For years we believed that we only use 10 percent of our brain; now neuroscientists have discovered that we use all of our brain, but that at any given time certain parts of it show more activity than other parts, which doesn't mean that we aren't using them.
We also used to believe that babies are born with blank slates and develop judgments only as a result of their experiences, but recent research has revealed that three-month-old babies have a sense of right and wrong. This was demonstrated in a study in which hundreds of babies were tested and showed a distinct preference for a puppet that was helpful to another puppet and a strong dislike of a puppet that hindered another puppet.
Furthermore, dispelling the misconception that our brains are fully developed by late adolescence, scientists have learned that our brain isn't fully developed until we're around age twenty-five, and the last parts to mature and fully develop are those that have to do with responsible decision making and impulse control. No wonder young adults often make poor decisions and engage in irresponsible behavior!
Research has also revealed that certain habits, which are formed over time and governed by the part of the brain known as the basal ganglia, are so powerful that even an individual who has suffered extreme brain damage can continue to perform tasks he's done many times before. For example, a brain-damaged man with little or no short-term memory can nevertheless take a walk in his neighborhood, indicating familiarity with it, even though he's unable to consciously recognize his own house or draw a map of the streets. Likewise, this man can go to the kitchen to make meals even though he can't consciously draw a floor plan of his house and indicate where the kitchen is. This is the power of habit.
Excerpted from YOUR MIND IS WHAT YOUR BRAIN DOES FOR A LIVING by STEVEN JAY FOGEL, MARK BRUCE ROSIN. Copyright © 2014 Steven Fogel. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
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Table of Contents
Part I The Past: An Illuminating Place to Visit, But You Don't Want to Live There
Ch. 1 The Voice in Your Head-and Why It'S So Often Wrong 11
Ch. 2 How Programming Formed in Childhood Can Control You When You're an Adult 27
Ch. 3 Your Conscious and Unconscious Beliefs 39
Ch. 4 How Childhood Traumas Influence Your Programming 49
Part II The Mind and the Brain: Why Your Machinery Works the Way It Does and How Your Brain Allows You to Change
Ch. 5 What You Need to Know about Your Brain and How It Influences the Way You Act 61
Ch. 6 Using Your Mind to Change Your Brain and Your Behavior 79
Ch. 7 Mindful Awareness: The Key to Disengaging from Your Dysfunctional Programming 89
Ch. 8 Learning to Recognize and Let Go of Self-Defeating Beliefs 105
Ch. 9 What Brain Science Teaches about How to Change Your Wiring to Improve Your Life 125
Ch. 10 Parenting Yourself through Practicing Mindfulness 139
Ch. 11 Formulating Guiding Principles to Help You Act Mindfully 157
Part III Frog in Hot Water: Long-Term Patterns That Create Frustration and Suffering and How to Break Them
Ch. 12 How Do You Become a Frog in Hot Water? 169
Ch. 13 Recognizing Your Resistance to Change-and What You Can Do about It 177
Ch. 14 A First Step toward Choosing a Door: Analyzing the Bind That Keeps You a Frog in Hot Water 187
Ch. 15 Other Ways That You Can Keep Yourself Stuck 193
Ch. 16 Choosing a Door 201
Ch. 17 Seven Lessons I Learned from Being a Frog in Hot Water and Finally Choosing a Door 207
Part IV Tools and Techniques for a Happier, Healthier Life
Ch. 18 Decreasing Anxiety, Increasing Gratitude, Mindfulness, Loving-Kindness, and Well-Being 227
Ch. 19 Creating Your Wisdom Pages 239
Conclusion My Shorthand Messages for You to Live a Life of Authenticity and Aliveness 247
About The Authors 273
Los Angeles, CA