REWIRE AN ANXIOUS BRAIN PART III -“Accepting the Liars”
Updated: Feb 5, 2019
by: Lauren Janowiecki | 1/31/2019
Hello all, welcome back. I have been so elated with the outcome of our current mental health series- “Rewire your anxious brain”. We have had hundreds of readers on both of our current articles and are hoping to keep up the momentum with part III! Last week we went over the obvious differences in function between a rational neocortex and an anxious neocortex and what NOT to do to try and rewire your anxious brain. This week, we are going to start preparing our brains for what we should be doing. If you didn’t have the chance to read our other articles yet- this one won't make any sense. Go check them out first: “REWIRE YOUR ANXIOUS BRAIN PART I” & “REWIRE YOUR ANXIOUS BRAIN PART II”.
Before we begin, please believe that I am not discrediting any professional psychologists or mental health specialists- though our opinions may differ. I have found success using the methods in this article, but every brain is different. What works for me may not work for you. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, mental health professional, or doctor. And if you have found success using different methods than the ones I suggest, PLEASE do not stop. Please also note that NOTHING in my article is to replace the help of a licensed professional and/or medication. Mental health is not one to take lightly and I believe we should all do plenty of research before making any drastic changes. Now that we cleared all that up, Without further ado, lets dive in.
I can not even tell you how many “self help” articles I have read in the process of doing research for this series. Seriously- there are so many. They all seem have one goal in common- conquering anxiety. Ironically, they all also seem to use the same approach- that I not so lovingly refer to as the “Forget & Replace” theory- which we touched on last week. There is a TON of this research out there telling us to “replace bad thoughts with good thoughts” - suggesting that your brain can merely ‘forget’ everything it has learned and ‘replace’ those anxious thoughts with happy ones. I struggle so much with reading this theory over and over again. How does anyone claim it works?! Have you learned the secret to eternal life as well?! Like seriously, if you have learned the trick to the “Forget & Replace”, please email me immediately. In fact, call me- I. need. To. know. Because as far as I am concerned, this scientifically can not work.
You were asked last week to play a super easy little brain game- forget your favorite food and replace it with sauerkraut. (I know- sauerkraut is a strange choice… What can I say, I’m Polish) Unfortunately for Vlasic, so far, out of the hundreds of readers, I have had 0 winners. ZERO. So what does this tell us? Well, for me, it confirms that you just can not do it.
“Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and you’ll be cured!” – I don’t ever want to read this phrase again. You can not achieve good thoughts by focusing on eradicating bad thoughts. Just like you can’t turn sauerkraut into your favorite food by eradicating your favorite food from your memory bank. And to be clear- just because you no longer focus on something, doesn’t mean you have forgotten it. It is still stored in your memory bank- you just don’t obsess over it anymore.
Quickly- let me be very clear to avoid any confusion:
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH WANTING TO BE POSITIVE OR THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS!
Like really, don’t we all strive for this? Isn’t one of the ultimate human desires to be happy? Trying to be positive is wonderful… but to demand that your bad thoughts first go away before anything else can be done… that’s never ever going to work as a permanent fix.
“Control your thoughts” -this a complete oxymoron. Shouldn’t we all know at this point that the battle against not thinking a thought is a loosing one? You can not demand that a thought disappear and never return.
SO, if the famous “forget and replace” doesn’t work- what do we do? Well, for starters it’s a WHOLE lot easier than you would think- and as strange as it sounds, i have even name it.
I call the process “Accept the liar.”
Ok, I know most of you probably assume I have a few screws loose at this point- I’m ok with that. But at least hear me out.
What do I mean by “Accept the liar.”? Well, the fact is, sometimes we have anxiety- which I commonly am referring to as “bad thoughts” and as hard as we try, we cannot permanently forget them. We can choose to ignore them or “keep busy” so we don’t have to obsess over them… but they are still there. They didn’t leave. And by thinking good thoughts we aren’t eliminating the bad ones. They both are just as alive and thriving as the other. They co-exist.
So, can we have a bad thought and say to ourselves “nope, go away. I’m not doing this right now.”? Absolutely. But didn’t we still have the bad thought to begin with? Yes. We did.
The bad thought did exist, we just refused to play into it. You never forgot about the bad thought. You heard it, but you slammed your foot down and thought “not today Satan!” (or other choice words lol)
THIS acceptance is the beginning of the rewiring process.
All those bad thoughts- let them live. Don’t fight them or try to forget them. All your doing at that point is letting them take over and win. Instead, accept they exist. They are there. They are going to happen.
BUT- they are LIARS.
Accept the liar- just don’t believe the lie. Pretend your negative thought is an actual liar… like literally it is a human being that only ever lies. They exist, but they can only lie to you- they never tell the truth. Once you start to accept those negative thoughts, or ‘Liars’, but not believing the lies, you are now in control.
So, what does this look like? Let me give you some examples. In order to show you the level of separation I want you to use when dealing with negative thoughts, I have actually named those negative thoughts “Liars.” Full disclosure- don’t be surprised when the negative thoughts rebuttal either- remember your brain uses learned statistics- including those from negative past experiences. You can allow your learned statistics to be your logical friends as well- don’t believe the lie and counter it with learned logic.
Liar: “you know that job interview you have in an hour…. You failed the last one… You are going to fail again.”
You: “I did fail the last one, but I am better prepared for this one. I am going to do a great job.”
Liar: “but… the other candidates are far more qualified than you.”
You: “the other candidates are probably qualified, but so am I. I will do great”
Liar: “but what if they get the job instead of you…”
You: “then I am sure there will be another, even better opportunity come up. Regardless, I am going to do great.”
Liar: “well… maybe you will do fine. But… you look fat in that skirt.”
You: “I look the same as I did when I bought this skirt. I LOVVVED this skirt then, why shouldn’t I love it now?”
BOOM! Mic drop.
Look at your bad self, with all that rock solid logic! Liar will eventually give up and now you’re confidently strutting your skirt into your interview. You ACCEPTED Liar exists- you just didn’t believe him. The thoughts where real- you just told them they were wrong. You didn’t forget liar and replace him, in fact, you didn’t even give him the satisfaction of consuming your thoughts and being in control in the first place. By giving Liar a face and a name, you are therefor able to separate yourself from him. He is not part of you. You are detached therefor he cannot control you. There is a beautiful new space between you allowing you to choose not to believe him. It is so difficult to distrust your own voice in your head- you so badly want to listen and obey because it sounds just like you! BUT, Liar is not you. You are not defined by your thoughts. You are not controlled by them. You can confidently differentiate your choices from your thoughts.
So, Instead of believing liar and curling up on the couch in your sweatpants, feeling sorry for yourself, and making excuses not to go, you just nailed your interview at your dream job. You accepted liar. You stayed in control. And. You. won. Its such a powerful feeling.
Now, I know I made that sound a lot easier than it will be at first. But these are the first steps to your whole new outlook. You are taking steps to rewire the way you process information in order to eliminate anxiety. You are literally rewiring your brain… and it’s a fascinating process. It will always be something you have to do, but it will soon turn into second nature. Your brain will slowly rewire to automatically think that way by itself and eventually this will become instinctive. For the first time, you can allow your learned statistics to protect without hindering and your bad thoughts to live under their own name and definition. In this process, you will be able to relieve yourself of so much unnecessary anxiety and live unhindered.
This is what it feels like to have a healthy normally functioning Neocortex.
Quickly going back to those two major functions of the brain- don’t think I forgot about addressing the other half. The amygdala- or the “emotional brain”- is the part of the brain that controls fight or flight physical response. This almond shaped fear center, as we discussed in article I, is the one you can’t really “control” as it primarily functions to be able to save your life in crisis situations. Jesus wired this bad boy to protect you from harm even before the thinking brain knows what the harm is. It is incredible and extremely vital to keeping all of us alive. The amygdala is the other portion of the brain that deals with anxiety. It too, can be stressed and cause those nasty little panic attacks, cold sweats, and inability to breathe.
So, how do we tame this?
Well- here’s the good news. When you rewire your anxious brain, your amygdala’s natural response automatically suddenly starts backing off. It quickly learns that those previously triggered “alarms” caused by your Neocortex are no longer real threats. Suddenly, when you stop believing Liar, so does your amygdala. It’s still registers as an alarm, only it’s a false one and requires no action or emotional response. Since your amygdala isn’t being triggered, you therefor don’t have to deal with many of the physical symptoms of anxiety. You are able to stay more calm- both on the outside and in your head. Pretty soon, your anxiety will turn into confidence and Liar will simply become a muse you don’t even take seriously anymore.
So, to recap- will your anxiety vanish just like magic? Uh, no. We are not going to “forget & replace” anything. We use no such Voodoo or hypnosis. You are instead “Accepting the Liars”-just not believing what they say. You are allowing learned statistics to be your logical friend as well as your protector. You are Rewiring your anxious brain and allowing yourself to make positive changes. You and your choices are not controlled by Liar and your finally able to just let things go. You can breathe. You can live your life. You can do things that scare you. You can let the past go. You are no longer defined by what was created to protect you. This… this is what it feels like to be anxiety free.
THIS is step one.
This is how you “Rewire your Anxious Brain.” It all starts with not “Forgetting & Replacing” your bad thoughts and instead “Accepting the Liars”.
Thank you again for reading and I hope these insights are helpful for you and easy to understand. We will continue with the healthy recovery portion of our mental health series next week, and of course, tune into our other weekly topics: Easy, healthy, & Cheap family dinners, Community Outreach blogs- including that of our partnership with Living Word Church, our informative Dental blogs, and our newest request on the blog- “Vegan. Vegetarian. Gluten Free.” - Delicious Recipes for every dietary restriction.
Everyone have a safe, warm, and cozy weekend!