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You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taki ng Control of Your Life Hardcover – June 9, 2011
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A leading neuroplasticity researcher and the coauthor of the groundbreaking books Brain Lock and The Mind and the Brain, Jeffrey M. Schwartz has spent his career studying the structure and neuronal firing patterns of the human brain. He pioneered the first mindfulness-based treatment program for people suffering from OCD, teaching patients how to achieve long-term relief from their compulsions.
For the past six years, Schwartz has worked with psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding to refine a program that successfully explains how the brain works and why we often feel besieged by bad brain wiring. Just like with the compulsions of OCD patients, they discovered that bad habits, social anxieties, self-deprecating thoughts, and compulsive overindulgence are all rooted in overactive brain circuits. The key to making life changes that you want-to make your brain work for you-is to consciously choose to "starve" these circuits of focused attention, thereby decreasing their influence and strength.
As evidenced by the huge success of Schwartz's previous books, as well as Daniel Amen's Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, and Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself, there is a large audience interested in harnessing the brain's untapped potential, yearning for a step-by-step, scientifically grounded and clinically proven approach. In fact, readers of Brain Lock wrote to the authors in record numbers asking for such a book. In You Are Not Your Brain, Schwartz and Gladding carefully outline their program, showing readers how to identify negative brain impulses, channel them through the power of focused attention, and ultimately lead more fulfilling and empowered lives.
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The understandings from this book have enabled me to rapidly see when my brain is sending messages that simply are not true in terms of my objective reality, and makes it much easier for me to redirect my attention to something that calms me down. I'm a long term meditator so do have a baseline level of mindfulness that folks new to the practice wouldn't have, but this book has taken my practice to a whole new level as I'm far less likely to be sucked into the unhelpful messages from my brain now that I really understand what's going on in there. It is so liberating to be able, for example, to be exposed to smells that in the past resulted in my brain going ballistic, without no more than the slightest hint of fear now. It is also incredibly liberating to be able to rapidly let my brain know that there is nothing to fear in situations that in the past I was seriously hijacked by the messages coming from my brain, and fear escalated rapidly to the point of me actually losing sight of the fact that my objective reality was totally safe in the moment.
Another benefit I've had from working with this book is that I am much less likely to be tipped out of my grounding when working with methods such as Wholebody Focusing to heal trauma. Where in the past I would have struggled to stay with intense emotions arising when working on my own because my brain was sending "there is something wrong" messages at a huge rate of knots, I can now rapidly tap into the understandings from this book and know that my "Uh Oh Centre" is sending false messages and I can bring my "Assessment Centre" (as the authors helpfully label different areas of the brain) online to calm things down, enabling me to stay with what is arising, which in turn enables my brain to process unresolved emotions from the past. This is powerful stuff.
The authors really made it clear that neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to change) is happening all the time, no matter what choices we are making. Each time we repeat an unskilful behaviour we thicken the associated neural networks. So the key is self-directed neuroplasticity, and that's what I've been seeing in abundance in my life since starting to work with this book. The authors stress that it's hard work to keep doing their four step process over and over but well worth it. I've found that the process can be expedited much more rapidly in many cases by combining the author's understanding with a self-help method known as EFT or Tapping (which in my opinion is one of the most powerful tools out there these days for tapping into self-directed neuroplasticity). I've seen rapid change in issues that have been stuck for a long time in my life through combining the learnings from this wonderful book with the EFT method.
I very much appreciate the authors having put this information into such a readable and useable format. This has been a life changing book for me and this review is being posted with a lot of appreciation for the powerful information it contains.
Update: While I learnt lots from this book, there has been a book published since which goes much more into the PTSD side and explains more about what this author calls "defective brain messages". I highly recommend the newer book "Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment" instead of this book now, for anyone with PTSD. It goes much further into the neuroscience behind PTSD, and explaining why we react the way we do; and has a much wider range of interventions than this book.
Schwartz has done an excellent job at proving his point.
You get what you think about--and what you think you are--you are...and what you think--effects how you feel--and how you feel--is what you focus on...and so negative loops are created within the brain.
Essentially our brains are hard wired for pain or pleasure. Our brains are designed to find patterns in our thinking and uses our perceptions as its basis for data.
If when I am stressed, I reach for a cigarette--and thus feel less stress...and some pleasure associated with the release of feeling stressed out--then my brain associates smoking cigarettes (which is unhealthy) with pleasure.
In the future--when I am stressed--my brain will send impulses out that will make me crave a cigarette--because my brain is seeking to help me avoid pain (stress) and move towards pleasure.
The brain does not have the ability to judge what behaviors we choose to help us relieve our stressors.
This book does a fabulous job at proving this point over and over.
If you are serious about changing your life--you must understand you first have to change your brain...It is far less emotional than we realize...it truly is a matter of science, and applying that science to our daily and often times, emotional lives.
If you are ready to change...this book is for you..
The author lays out a simple 4 steep process for rewiring the brain so it wont default to your child coping strategy.
i have been using the techniques for just a few weeks and I`ve noticed a slight reduction in the annoying repetitive worrying thoughts and maybe less cravings.
i read and enjoy mindfulness exercises but I also felt that my inner struggle didnt relent, This method bridges that gap of working on the self and being mindful.
Time will tell how effective the strategy will be but my initial thoughts are hopeful.