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How Well Do You Know Your Brain?

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A stressed brain is not a happy brain.

We’re not like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, who went searching for a brain. But, in truth, most of us have no idea whether our brain is functioning optimally or not.

For example, are we off to work each day, interacting with family members, studying for a master’s degree, struggling with either mental or physical health problems—and more—with retained primitive reflexes, incomplete pons and midbrain development, and poor sensory processing?

If so, our brain is working way harder than was ever intended.  That’s because during the first year of life, we were supposed to lay down the neural networks that create what could be considered the ground floor of brain organization.

But what if that didn’t happen—which these days is very common since we have inadvertently messed with natural brain organization over the past 50 years. Then, we were left to build the higher centers of the brain on a foundation that is more like quicksand than cement.

That’s why I’m proposing to make 2013 the Year of the Lower Brain, where everyone now decides to know, with certainty, whether their ground floor of brain organization is solid or not.

But how do we do that?  Well, here are some simple ways to get started.

Adults can complete the Adult Brain Organization Checklist to get a sense of their lower brain development. Note that a score of 10 or higher suggests the cortex is working way too hard to compensate for missing automatic lower brain functions. The higher the number is past 10, the greater probability of incomplete lower brain development.

To assess kids, parents can do this online screening.  Again, a score of 10 or more suggests that the lower centers of the brain are significantly underdeveloped.

But what if we want more conclusive proof than a subjective score? In such case, we may decide to take a nine-week online screening course that teaches us how to facilitate a hands-on lower brain assessment, as well as how to use those results to improve daily life.

What if we’re wondering whether incomplete lower brain development might be connected to a myriad of diagnoses (e.g. autism, Attention Deficient Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, etc)? Then, we may be interested in reading “A Lower Brain Connection?”  to learn more.

Note that the hum and buzz in my proposed Year of the Lower Brain is different. For example, chit chat around the water cooler now includes talk about who’s developing their pons and midbrain or who’s improving their neural networks, much in the same way that coworkers might be causally talking about working out in the gym last night.

In other words, 50 years ago we thought that just people who were overweight or out of shape might need to exercise. But today, our fitness consciousness has shifted to where we “get” that everyone—including the athlete who is already in incredible shape—benefits from exercising.

So in the Year of the Lower Brain, I’m hoping that we also shift our consciousness to understand that each of us can maximize our brain efficiency. Brain organization now becomes “cool”—not something that we hide from others or think is only for those who are blatantly struggling.

In the Year of the Lower Brain, we now also challenge stress as something we should expect in our lives.  For example, it used to be that when people were asked how they were doing, they at least faked, “Good,” as their answer. But these days, ask someone, “How are you?” and more times than not, the person responds, “I’m so stressed” –as though being drained has now become the acceptable default state of mind.

But stress doesn’t dominate a well-organized brain.

So, get to know your brain.  Discover if it’s working harder than intended. That’s really a small investment of time for information that may ultimately transform your life.

Why Interrupting Isn’t Rude

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Interrupting is often linked to a disorganized brain.

Interrupting actually makes sense when we understand what goes on in a person’s brain if he or she has incomplete lower brain development.

Namely, such people’s cortex is already preoccupied with seeking ways to compensate for automatic brain functions that we’d ordinarily acquire if that development were complete.  But it’s not, so such people end up with what we call a disorganized brain, where some parts aren’t doing their job while other parts are trying to pick up the slack.

With all that chaos going on, working memory is going to be impaired—which then specifically explains why someone with incomplete lower brain development may be prone to interrupting.

That’s because working memory is an active part of our memory system. It helps us keep information in mind while engaged in something else—and that requires a little memory juggling.  But recall, a person with incomplete lower brain development is already juggling a lot as a result of having a disorganized brain.

And whether or not a person realizes he or she has incomplete lower brain development (and therefore has less working memory “bandwidth”), he or she knows, via experience, thoughts are often lost if not shared immediately. That knowledge is then compounded by an on-going angst that’s also common among those with incomplete lower brain development.  In other words, not only do they know such thoughts will be gone, but they also start to feel anxious if they have to wait to speak.

So what’s the quickest way for such people to keep a thought and forego the angst? Interrupt!  Yet, that’s not really a great plan since such action ultimately ends up irritating and annoying others.

But instead of getting upset with people we view as chronic interrupters, maybe we alter what we do, rather than hope they’ll just suddenly change. With that mindset, here are some ideas.

  1. We don’t give speeches or tell long stories or give lengthy directions.  Instead, we say no more than a sentence or two, and then we pause.  In other words, we create openings for those who have difficulty keeping thoughts in working memory so they can now jump in without interrupting.
  1. We establish when someone can and cannot interrupt us. For example, when interacting with kids, we create a list (laced with humor) to underscore that only extreme emergencies warrant an interruption during specific times.  Such a list may be: You can interrupt me if your pants are on fire, if there is a boa constrictor in the room, or aliens are about to abduct you.  For everything else, you must wait.
  1. We might additionally help such kids by adding a visual or tactile cue that reminds them when they cannot interrupt. For example, we may wear an outrageous hat that signifies no one can approach us so long as we have that hat on. Something like that works well when teachers are interacting with a group of students in one part of the room and do not want to be interrupted by those working at their seat. Or, we can establish that someone only speaks if he or she is holding a special stone when people are offering ideas during a discussion.
  1. We teach people simple proprioceptive movements they might do while waiting to speak since such stimuli is calming (and, therefore, reduces any potential angst that may surface when waiting to speak). Such actions may include squeezing hands, crossing arms and pressing the hands on thighs, and interlacing fingers and pushing them down on top of the head.
  1. We can teach people to write (or draw a picture of) the thought they’re holding. That not only helps them remember what they wanted to say, but it also gives them something to do while waiting.

With the above in mind, here’s something to ponder. If the dictionary defines rude as “showing no respect or consideration,” maybe—just maybe—we’re the ones being rude if we don’t initiate simple actions that clearly help people with a disorganized brain.

 

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