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#400874 - 06/19/12 12:47 PM useful psych quote from great book
DannyT Offline
Member

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 402
Hi Guys,

I'm reading a great neuroscience book, Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. I highly recommend it.

One of many useful quotes:

"When your brain retrieves a memory, it does not do it like a computer does, which calls up a complete record of what's on it's hard drive. Your brain rebuilds memories from their key features, drawing on its simulating capacities to fill in missing details. While this is more work, it's also a more efficient use of neural real estate--this way complete records don't need to be stored. And your brain is so fast that you don't notice the regeneration of each memory.

"This rebuilding process gives you the opportunity, right down in the micro-circuitry of your brain, to gradually shift the emotional shadings of your interior landscape. When a memory is activated, a large-scale assembly of neurons and synapses forms an emergent pattern. If other things are in your mind at the same time--and particularly if they're strongly pleasant or unpleasant--your amygdala and hippocampus will automatically associate them with that neural pattern. Then, when the memory leaves awareness, it will be reconsolidated in storage along with those other associations.

"The next time the memory is activated, it will tend to bring those associations with it. Thus, if you repeatedly bring to mind negative feelings and thoughts while a memory is active, then that memory will be increasingly shaded in a negative direction. For example, recalling an old failure while simultaneously lambasting yourself will make that failure see increasingly awful. On the other hand, if you call up positive emotions and perspectives while memories are active, these wholesome influences will slowly be woven into the fabric of the those memories.

"Every time you do this--every time you sift positive feelings an views into painful, limiting states of mind--you build a little bit of neural structure. Over time, the accumulating impact of this positive material will, literally, synapse by synapse, change your brain."

The book is also full of ways of using this kind of information to practically create a healthy mind. For example, the positive associations mentioned above: they suggest calling to mind powerful and kindly benefactors, people whose memory makes you feel safe, when you're revisiting memories that cause stress. The feeling of safety can then gradually suffuse the painful mindset, rewriting the emotional landscape.

The book is also filled with useful citations.

I hope this is helpful,

Danny


Edited by DannyT (06/19/12 12:49 PM)

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#400885 - 06/19/12 01:51 PM Re: useful psych quote from great book [Re: DannyT]
Magellan Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/31/10
Posts: 1402
Loc: California
This is BRILLIANT! Thank you for posting it. I think I'll get the book as well.

This is right in line with major philosophies and faiths of the world - that with our conscious and deliberate choices, we can change for the better. But we have to be proactive with our thinking and "acting as if". It's difficult work, requiring a lot of patience and lots of dedication, persistence and awareness.

But IT WORKS.

D
_________________________
It's a heroes journey, and you are the hero.

Loving Kindness Meditation will dramatically improve your spirits; give it a try for just 3 days: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM

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#402350 - 07/02/12 10:05 AM Re: useful psych quote from great book [Re: DannyT]
DannyT Offline
Member

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 402
Magellan,
Glad the was useful. I love books like this because they help me see the process that's going on in my mind. Then they provide useful strategies. The more I live with my odd brain, the more fun I have with the process of making a self I enjoy being.

Danny

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#402441 - 07/03/12 03:21 AM Re: useful psych quote from great book [Re: DannyT]
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3388
Loc: somewhere in Africa
Danny - Thanks for this excerpt.

this is a topic i've been looking into and doing some reading on lately. My T suggested a way of "re-wiring" my brain and emotions. i've got a collection of quotes i'm trying to get organized to post - but this is really exciting that someone else is on the same track.

my T told me the quote "neurons that fire together wire together" gives the reason that certain sensory stimuli or memories trigger other emotions and thoughts. one of the most obvious examples is when you hear a certain song and it takes you to another time and place and exactly what you were doing and feeling at the time. the problem is that some triggers keep reinforcing the negative or hurtful stuff and forming stronger associations that are like ruts that are hard to deviate from. so when i hear the word, "father," i have a bad reaction because of my memories. Or when i enter a locker room or communal shower - bad stuff comes to mind because of past events and i panic.

the trick seems to be to form new wiring by forcing the firing neurons to associate with positive and healthy cues, feelings and thoughts. So when i hear "father" and start to react negatively -i can intentionally remind myself that my kids have said that i am a good father. or i can make myself think of lockers and showers in college and adulthood that were safe and nothing happened - not middle school where it was not safe.

It sounds like it takes practice, but it definitely sounds hopeful. T says it requires some conscious self-triggering so that i can learn to control my reactions. I'm not there yet, but it sure sounds like it would work.

Please post more if you can and i will too.

Lee
_________________________
As my life goes on I believe somehow something's changed
Something deep inside...
I've been searchin so long to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning
Now I see myself as I am, feeling very free...
When my tears have come to an end I will understand
What I left behind: a part of me. Chicago


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#402451 - 07/03/12 09:16 AM Re: useful psych quote from great book [Re: DannyT]
DannyT Offline
Member

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 402
Lee,

It's pretty cool, isn't it? The fun to me is in letting myself enjoy the observing. It's almost like the emotions are muscles to be worked. I do some yoga, and there the point is to observe the way the muscles move in order to get a real sense of the body's ways, and then to be able to shape healthier ways by strengthening and loosening, getting a stronger posture, etc.

I think of the mind in the same way, that habits create certain firings in the neurons. Then, if we observe the firings, we get a sense of the pattern. Like you said, there's a pattern: hear the word 'father,' get bathed in bad emotional chemistry. Once you see the pattern, you can start working with it. You hear the word the word father and you try to remember at first to simply add things to the association. So you get the bad feelings but you also surround them with additional information that lessens the blow. For example, you mentioned reminding yourself that your kids love you (you might even add that they support you as you were not supported before). The more you think about the exact right association to really get into the meat of the bad associations and relieve them, the better the results.

It reminds me of something a physical therapist once told me. She said that when working a cramp you feel for the belly of the muscle that's knotted, then push into it gently but firmly, not rocking or kneading, just pushing in the right place, and eventually the muscle gives in to the pressure. If you find the right associations, some of the emotional pain can yield in the same way (at least it seems so from my experience).

When you mix this theory with meditation that trains you in the observation, that makes it work more quickly and efficiently (according to the book anyway). I've done lots of meditation, and it seems right.

Thanks for keeping the conversation going. It's pretty fun to think about.

Danny

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#402522 - 07/04/12 02:14 AM Re: useful psych quote from great book [Re: DannyT]
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3388
Loc: somewhere in Africa
here's another article i found helpful:

How to Train Your Brain to Alleviate Anxiety
By MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S.

Our thoughts affect our brains. More specifically, “… what you pay attention to, what you think and feel and want, and how you work with your reactions to things sculpt your brain in multiple ways,” according to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D, in his newest book Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. In other words, how you use your mind can change your brain.

According to Canadian scientist Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” If your thoughts focus on worrying and self-criticism, you’ll develop neural structures of anxiety and a negative sense of self, says Hanson.

For instance, individuals who are constantly stressed (such as acute or traumatic stress) release cortisol, which in another article Hanson says eats away at the memory-focused hippocampus. People with a history of stress have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of their hippocampus and have more difficulty forming new memories.

The opposite also is true. Engaging in relaxing activities regularly can wire your brain for calm. Research has shown that people who routinely relax have “improved expression of genes that calm down stress reactions, making them more resilient,” Hanson writes.

Also, over time, people who engage in mindfulness meditation develop thicker layers of neurons in the attention-focused parts of the prefrontal cortex and in the insula, an area that’s triggered when we tune into our feelings and bodies.

Other research has shown that being mindful boosts activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which suppresses negative emotions, and minimizes the activation of the amygdala, which Hanson refers to as the “alarm bell of the brain.”

Hanson’s book gives readers a variety of exercises to cultivate calm and self-confidence and to enjoy life. Here are three anxiety-alleviating practices to try.

1. “Notice you’re all right right now.” For many of us sitting still is a joke — as in, it’s impossible. According to Hanson, “To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved an ongoing internal trickle of unease. This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer world for signs of trouble.”

Being on high alert is adaptive. It’s meant to protect us. But this isn’t so helpful when we’re trying to soothe our stress and keep calm. Some of us — me included — even worry that if we relax for a few minutes, something bad will happen. (Of course, this isn’t true.)

Hanson encourages readers to focus on the present and to realize that right now in this moment, you’re probably OK. He says that focusing on the future forces us to worry and focusing on the past leads to regret. Whatever activity you’re engaged in, whether it’s driving, cooking dinner or replying to email, Hanson suggests saying, “I’m all right right now.”

Of course, there will be moments when you won’t be all right. In these times, Hanson suggests that after you ride out the storm, “… as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is okay, like the quiet place fifty feet underwater, beneath a hurricane howling above the sea.”

2. “Feel safer.” “Evolution has given us an anxious brain,” Hanson writes. So, whether there’s a tiger in the bushes doesn’t matter, because staying away in both cases keeps us alive. But, again, this also keeps us hyper-focused on avoiding danger day to day. And depending on our temperaments and life experiences, we might be even more anxious.

Most people overestimate threats. This leads to excessive worrying, anxiety, stress-related aliments, less patience and generosity with others and a shorter fuse, according to Hanson.

Are you more guarded or anxious than you need to be? If so, Hanson suggests the following for feeling safer:

Think of how it feels to be with a person who cares about you and connect to those feelings and sensations.
Remember a time when you felt strong.
List some of the resources at your disposal to cope with life’s curveballs.
Take several long, deep breaths.
Become more in tune with what it feels like to feel safer. “Let those good feelings sink in, so you can remember them in your body and find your way back to them in the future.”

3. “Let go.” Letting go is hard. Even though clinging to clutter, regrets, resentment, unrealistic expectations or unfulfilling relationships is painful, we might be afraid that letting go makes us weak, shows we don’t care or lets someone off the hook. What holds you back in letting go?

Letting go is liberating. Hanson says that letting go might mean releasing pain or damaging thoughts or deeds or yielding instead of breaking. He offers a great analogy:

“When you let go, you’re like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning — rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.”

Here are some of Hanson’s suggestions for letting go:

Be aware of how you let go naturally every day, whether it’s sending an email, taking out the trash, going from one thought or feeling to another or saying goodbye to a friend.
Let go of tension in your body. Take long and slow exhalations, and relax your shoulders, jaw and eyes.
Let go of things you don’t need or use.
Resolve to let go of a certain grudge or resentment. “This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hotplate of staying upset about whatever happened,” Hanson writes. If you still feel hurt, he suggests recognizing your feelings, being kind to yourself and gently releasing them.
Let go of painful emotions. Hanson recommends several books on this topic: Focusing by Eugene Gendlin and What We May Be by Piero Ferrucci. In his book, Hanson summarizes his favorite methods: “relax your body;” “imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water’” express your feelings in a letter that you won’t send or vent aloud; talk to a good friend; and be open to positive feelings and let them replace the negative ones.


http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/09/how-to-train-your-brain-to-alleviate-anxiety/
_________________________
As my life goes on I believe somehow something's changed
Something deep inside...
I've been searchin so long to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning
Now I see myself as I am, feeling very free...
When my tears have come to an end I will understand
What I left behind: a part of me. Chicago


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#402691 - 07/05/12 09:34 PM Re: useful psych quote from great book [Re: DannyT]
DannyT Offline
Member

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 402
Lee,

This was great, thanks. Have you tried the meditative practices he advocates? I've been doing mindfulness meditation for years and find it amazingly useful and beautiful.

Here's a link to a TED talk you might enjoy. It's takes these things in a slightly different but equally useful direction.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

Danny

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