Retrain The Brain

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect 
I'm afraid.

The confidence and assurance to act “as if” is at the base of human optimism.

Nobody knows what the next moment will hold, but if we approach it with a belief that we can handle it, that there will be a good outcome, we are usually able to make that result happen.

My sister’s friend is taking care of her 87 year old father.  He has been in the hospital three times this year, needs full time help at home, and is currently in a physical rehabilitation facility that isn’t meeting his needs for care.

Her confidence that she can handle what comes next is very, very, very thin.

My job, whenever she calls, is re-contextualizing her experience, helping her see the wins more than seeing the losses and the battles still in front of her.  When I took care of my parents, I had to let go of the inevitable outcome and the inevitable losses to try and make sure that they had one more good day.

Sometimes that works and sometimes, well, the past patterns in her brain just kick back in, emotions overwhelming her and dragging her down.

So much of what I do with others is to help shift their habitual thinking, letting them unwire their emotional triggers and retrain their brain to let go of ego, fear and neediness so they can find empowerment, possibility and sometimes even a hint of joy.

Years of struggle taught me how to work this most fundamental basis of healing, breaking the cycle to create new possibilities by the miracle of seeing in a new way.  Change your expectations, change your perceptions, change your choices, change your life.   That’s the basis of all self-improvement.

I say yes, to people, yes there are possibilities beyond the limits of your current vision.   I encourage them to make another choices, have another attitude, to create different outcomes beyond the bleak expectations that they took away from their past.

I can do this because I don’t live in their head, even if I am awfully good at empathically knowing what is in there.   I am not bound up by their tortured experience, not limited by the wounds and scars that they carry.   I bring an outside perspective to fight for starting over again and again (1998), supporting them in moving into new and transformative.

Have you figured out where I am going with this? As a wounded healer, I live inside my own head.  As skilled as I am, hard won lessons from my long solitary journey, I am still bound up in my own tortured experience. My own hurt is written on my skin and is woven deep into my mind.

One reason people come to me is because they have found that sharing often becomes counterproductive as others find their challenges scary and overwhelming.  Their own fears and concerns get roiled up and they end up adding to the burden rather than helping move past it.

I, on the other hand, have done the work of coming out as trans, of burying my parents, of finding a way to be bright and scary.   I can fight the old demons in their mind with wit and authority, opening up new ways to see.

Who do I go to, though, to find someone who can say yes, seeing beyond, encouraging possibilities and doing the work I desperately need to retrain my brain?

The limits of self-support are always clear to me.  Doing my therapy alone has been cheap, high quality and very costly in terms of time.  It’s not fast.  There has been an enormous amount of three steps forward and two steps back, times when I am unable to consolidate and build on desperately won understandings.  Knowledge is one thing, the reward of the close observer, but action is another, demanding the skin involvement of the participant.

I know that the only way out of the place I am in requires retraining my brain, whistling a happy tune and acting as if.  I need to be resilient enough to let the world show me that things can work out differently than they have in the past, that my expectations aren’t totally valid.

And yes, I do know that medications can help soften the brain up, take the edge off and prime it for retraining.  To me, they are useful when part of a program to change behaviour, not as an end in themselves.   Drugs aren’t something I find easy to use or ever have; never even marijuana for me.

I teach that the only way out of hell is through, but for most people, more is never the answer.   They find me so intense when I say I am suppressed that they can’t imagine that more could possibly be better.  Instead of saying yes, they say modulate, calibrate, retard.

Playing small, though, is what got me here.  The habits of attenuation, of scarcity have captured my mind.  The world needs more Callan (1998).   Even as I write that, though, I pull back from it, my mind recoiling with an ache.

Retraining my brain using only my own mind to keep me on track is a mammoth ask and probably, in the end, an impossible one.  Reaching out to find help in that training, though, has not been very successful, although I do admit that may be cyclical; I am impaired and that impairment leaves my search to find assistance in addressing my impairment rather impaired.

I understand the call.  If you don’t get out front, expecting new and better, there is no chance you will ever get it.   Unless you are engaged and open to change, change will never come.

Retraining the brain is key to holding onto hope of better.

Asking the brain to retrain itself, though, is asking for resistance.