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The Baskin-Robbins Approach to Diagnosing Kids and Adults

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The DSM guide lists many, many mental health conditions, yet overlooks a common thread that may tie many of those diagnoses together.

I was recently talking with one of our Brain Highways parents, and we were discussing kids who act as though they (rather than the adults) are in charge.  The parent nodded, saying, “Yes, my child definitely has Alpha Dog Syndrome.”

Now here’s the sad part. I actually paused a moment before I realized she was making a joke.

But I also cut myself some slack.  That’s because, right now, there are so many diagnoses for kids and adults that Alpha Dog Syndrome doesn’t really seem like much of a stretch.

For example, guess what’s now included in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—the holy grail guide that doctors refer to in terms of what’s a “true” diagnosis or not? Irritable kids who throw frequent temper tantrums may now be diagnosed as having “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.”

And most recently, a group of Australian scientists say extreme laziness may have a medical basis, describing it as a condition called motivational deficiency disorder—MoDeD.

Seriously. I’m not making any of this up.

Apparently, the trend of creating mental diseases to “fit” a behavior is nothing new. For example, after studying runaway slaves who had been caught and returned to their owners, Louisiana physician Samuel A. Cartwright became convinced he had discovered a new mental disease. So, in 1851, the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal reported that these slaves suffered from drapetomania, a disease that caused them to flee.

Somehow, having a desire for freedom became a medical condition.

But before we shake our heads and judge how such a notion could have ever appeared in a medical journal, we might pause and ponder who (in the future) will do the very same when reviewing all the diagnoses that we now slap on both adults and kids.

Please note: I’m not saying there are no mental health conditions. But the current trend is what I’ve come to think of as the Baskin-Robbins marketing strategy.

When this famous ice cream company first presented to the world that there were now thirty-one flavors of ice cream (who knew?!), consumers readily bought the concept. So many choices!

And yet, it’s not all that different when it comes to diagnosing today’s mental health conditions. So many choices!

Also, keep this in mind: The diagnoses in the DSM guide are often made by pure subjective evaluation, based solely on observed behavior—and nothing more. In other words, these diagnoses do not come about in the same way a doctor may diagnose cancer—where cancer cells truly differ from normal cells when looking at a biopsy.

Regardless, this influential guide is what’s considered the credible source that draws the line between what is normal and what is not. That’s even more concerning when we note the following: According to Ronald Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, more than 46 percent of the U.S. population will meet the criteria for at least one DSM diagnosis during their lifetime.

That means this guide has an awful lot of power that may then greatly affect many people’s lives—from determining whether or not someone qualifies for special education services or disability benefits to whether someone may be prescribed and treated with a variety of drugs.

But what if there’s a different way of viewing those very same behaviors that are presently justifying a diagnosis?

Turns out . . . that’s not just wishful thinking. After 14+ years of working with over 6,000 families in the Brain Highways program, I have long lost count of all the different diagnoses that have come my way. But there was always this common thread: Such kids and adults had not yet completed their lower brain development.

This isn’t really surprising when we note how behaviors associated with such underdevelopment so closely parallel those that are used as the criteria for mental health conditions such as ADHD, bipolar disease, autism, OCD, and more.

Yet, here’s the big difference when we view such behaviors as symptoms of underdeveloped lower centers of the brain as compared to symptoms of a disease.  We can actually do something about the former. That’s because neuroplasticity, the brain’s proven ability to change, makes it possible to go back and finish that development—at any age.

That way of thinking, in itself, is often a great catalyst for change, since research has also documented how our beliefs are so interconnected to how we act and how we expect others to behave.

In other words, a diagnosis almost always comes with restrictions and parameters as to what we may now “expect” from that person—like forever. Yet, none of that limited thinking is even on the radar when the focus is on completing lower brain development. Neuroplasticity is all about hope and curiosity in regards to how life might improve once those highways are in place.

Now, it should be noted that Baskin-Robbins has long surpassed offering just thirty-one flavors, as they continue to add more and more selections. As far as the ice cream world goes, I don’t see that as a problem.

But as a trend that seems to be presenting the newest “flavor” (i.e. disease) of the month, I am worried. So, I am encouraging everyone to pass along what’s been excluded from the DSM guide. Namely, symptoms of incomplete lower brain development may mimic symptoms of many of today’s diagnoses.

Seems like people should (at least) know this possibility exists, especially considering how so many diagnoses come with some pretty serious ramifications.

Expect the Unexpected with Brain Organization

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Heidi Guthrie, mom of Gigi and Dominic, is our guest blogger.

Although the Guthries live in Mexico, they crossed the border (every Sunday enduring long crossing-the-border lines) and then drove yet another 40 miles to get to the San Diego Brain Highways Center—just to attend the local pons program. They did this twice a week, for two months. (Impressive!)

Here, Heidi writes about the unforeseen changes she and her kids have experienced since they began Brain Highways eight weeks ago.

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The Guthries prove that any family member can change his or her brain.

When we started Brain Highways, my husband and I really thought that our daughter was the one who needed the class. But we also enrolled our son because we thought . .  .  well, why not?

So imagine our surprise when our son started making huge changes, and many of the things we thought my daughter needed to improve truly went away just by building into the structure.

Turns out, we all really needed the class, least of all my daughter!

Here are some changes we experienced after finishing the pons course and clocking 24 hours of floor time.

For myself, the improvement in my vision was completely unexpected. After 25 years of continuously worsening vision, my vision in one eye has now improved one complete point (which is a big deal by this measuring assessment).  My left eye now actually sees like it did 10 years ago!

I also have more patience and more awareness of my reactions. This helps me choose to pause and respond from my cortex rather than react from my pons, contributing to a more peaceful home environment. (Not bad for just 24 hours of brain organization.)

My daughter, Gigi, has improved her concentration. She used to resist reading of any kind, but she’ll now read without complaint and even asks to go to the library. Also, the bickering with her brother has vastly improved, and I see her trying to take care of business (a high level cortex way of expression that we learned during the course) when they communicate.

At school, Gigi’s teachers have commented on her improved schoolwork, which is reflected in her grades.  Gigi will now also sleep with the door closed (she previously had a distorted fear that the door had to remain open all night), and she has learned to stop trying to negotiate everything—she just goes with the flow.

My son, Dominic, used to hold a book while looking toward the ceiling and “guessing” at the words. He now asks to read and does so daily without complaint. His teachers have noticed improved school work, especially commenting on how his handwriting has changed (we learned—and have now experienced—that poor handwriting can be directly related to retained primitive reflexes).

Dominic also used to avoid eye contact while talking. But now, not only has his eye contact improved, but his optometrist also says his eye tracking is spot on.

At home, Dominic doesn’t provoke and needle his sister like he used to. He is more forgiving of himself when he makes a mistake, telling himself and others that they’re just “wrapping myelin.” I actually haven’t heard negative self-talk from him in over a month.

In fact, Dominic recently applied some of what he learned about negative self-talk (in the pons course) while at school.  One of his second grade classmates was talking very negatively about himself, while also doing other behaviors that Dominic recognized as being in “his pons.”

Dominic’s teacher shared with me that she overheard him telling his classmate that negative self-talk is a “never-ever” and then showed his classmate how he could just “slip-n-slide” those thoughts away!

Dominic has also taken to heart something else he learned during the pons course. Dominic won’t allow anyone to start a positive sentence and then say “but” and then continue with that thought, without letting everyone know how doing that just erased anything positive that was said in the first part!

Lastly, did I mention . . . no more whining!!!!!

So, what’s next? Well, on to developing our midbrain!  Ironically, that’s actually the class we thought we’d see some changes in when we first began. Little did we know . . .

Are There Hecklers in Your Brain?

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Once we're content with who we are and what we have, we experience a lot more joy.

When families finish their Brain Highways midbrain course, we ask the parents to list all the ways their kids have changed since first starting their brain organization. The list is always long and full of wonderful changes.

But sometimes, the parent ends that list by noting what still hasn’t changed—even though the question doesn’t ask for that information (since everyone knows the brain organization is not complete at that point in time).

So, I often find myself sighing because that last sentence reminds me how we seem to create what I’ve come to think of as a cluster of “scarcity highways” in our brain. I picture this as a group of neural connections that continually perpetuate the illusion that . . . we are never enough, or we never have enough of something. Think how many unproductive thoughts reflect this kind of thinking:

  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I’m not pretty enough.
  • I’m not thin enough.
  • I don’t have enough money.
  • I don’t have enough time for myself.
  • My house isn’t big enough.
  • My boyfriend isn’t nice enough.
  • My essay isn’t good enough.

The list goes on.

Yet, this “not enough” cluster of highways is crazy because we’ve created this fiction. But since the brain has no clue what’s real or not, it just believes whatever we tell it.

For example, we may make $50,000 a year, but if we don’t believe that’s a “good enough” income, we may even quit a job we actually like in search of something more lucrative.

Yet, even if the new job pays more, we’re still going to it with the same scarcity cluster that we had at the old job. So, once again, those neural networks will light up as soon as we think the new job isn’t close enough to home or this boss isn’t organized enough or our office space isn’t big enough—and more.

Of course, something has to trigger this cluster, and I’ve come to imagine two kinds of hecklers as the main culprits. There are the judging hecklers, who keep telling us how we’ve somehow fallen short, and there are the comparison hecklers, who keep pointing out how we’re lacking what someone else already has. Both hecklers constantly pick on us, always pointing out how we are just not good enough.

But, again, we’re the ones who write this fiction. We’re the ones who make up the stories where we believe we truly lack something within ourselves or something we need. Yet if we’re the author, then why not write a whole new story . . . with a happier ending?

If you’re interested in doing just that, here are some simple ways to get started.

1. Bounce the hecklers.

Honestly, if we’d just silence those hecklers (okay, why be polite) . . . if we’d just tell our brain hecklers to “Shut up!” then that cluster would be toast. Simply, a scarcity cluster depends on and thrives on our brain believing what others tell us is the absolute truth.

2. Create a new cluster of “abundance” highways.

So instead of thinking our house isn’t “big enough,” we focus on what we already have. And then . . . wow. Suddenly, we appreciate the roof and walls that keep the rain and wind and snow out of our home, the running hot and cold water that we turn on or off whenever we want, the warm bed we crawl into every night, the lights that go on with a flick of a switch, and more. 

3.  Ignore the negative influencers.

These aren’t just Grandma Mildred (who’s known for her harsh criticism) or our dad (who always reminds us that our sister makes twice the amount of money that we do). Such influencers also masquerade in the media as daily messages on television and the internet that tell us we’re not thin enough, not healthy enough, not savvy enough, not hip enough, and more.  And if that weren’t enough, the 24-hour news cycle continually reminds us of this: Anything bad can happen–at any moment—so we’re never safe enough.

4. Savor joy when you feel it.

When we don’t feel safe enough, we greatly reduce our ability to feel joy. That’s because even when things are going well, we immediately start imagining some impending disaster, just around the corner. Yet, as soon as we do that, bam!  We zap the joy right out of the moment.

So, what do you think? Do people all over the world have scarcity clusters in their brain?

I’m not so sure. Many, many moons ago I lived in the jungles of Mexico and Central America with people who most would deem as truly having very little. Yet, in all my interactions with them, I don’t ever recall anyone saying he or she didn’t have enough of anything.  In fact, these people seemed so grateful for whatever they did have.

I also remember the results of a study that one of my college professors conducted in the shanty towns of Tijuana. The researchers studied how the Tijuana kids—who owned no toys (this was long before electronic devices were available) or sports equipment or board games—“played.” They then compared the Tijuana kids to kids in the United States, who grew up with lots of toys, equipment, and board games.

Hands down, the kids from the Tijuana shanty towns outshined the American kids. Time and time again, they demonstrated incredible creative, imaginative, resourceful, and joyful play that the American kids never even came close to showing.

Of course, we don’t have to live in a jungle or shanty town to understand this bottom line:

We can write any story we want in our brain—and most of all, we don’t need anyone’s approval to edit one that hasn’t been serving us well.

How Yelp Encourages Pons Behavior

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It does seem as though Yelp “feeds” the pons . . .

Yelp and the Pons

Yelp is probably one of the best examples of an internet business that encourages people to react in their pons, as well as an example of a site that promotes distorted views (also a sign of an underdeveloped pons) as though they were shared by the majority.  Here’s why I say that.

First, the name Yelp (versus calling it Help) kinda says it all if the “Y” in Yelp represents “yelling” for help. Or, perhaps, the name was chosen to reflect the literal definition of yelp: to utter a short cry of pain or alarm.

Either way, the Yelp name does not invoke anything positive.

Of course, since the creators of Yelp know that people are more naturally inclined to be negative than positive, they capitalize on that. Note that Yelp posted nearly $138 million in revenue last year.

In short, Yelp needs and wants people to “bellow” what’s wrong, rather than encourage them to take care of business—which would mean they would express their concerns to those directly involved, give people a chance to clarify before acting on (whatever), and explore how to move a situation forward in a positive way.

But nope, Yelp is set up to encourage people to stay in their pons since the format promotes fight and flight reactions (both are red flags of an underdeveloped pons). For example, reviewers can do flight behavior by hiding behind their Yelp post without ever sharing their real, full name or without ever expressing their thoughts directly, in person, to the people targeted in their review.

Yelp additionally encourages fight behavior since people can go on the “attack” whenever they aren’t happy with an outcome. Yelp requires no cooling off period or “statue of limitations.” Instead, Yelp makes it possible for people to post a review at anytime—while in the heat of the moment or months or years later after whatever happened (and the situation has now festered in the reviewer’s mind).

In fact, reviewers can shoot as many poisoned arrows at as many businesses as they want, whenever they feel like it—without ever putting themselves “out there.” It’s like open season on businesses, where Yelp reviewers are always completely “safe” as they remain under cover.

There are also themes among negative posts that further suggest many of these reviewers do have an underdeveloped pons. For example, the review will often focus on being duped or slighted or wronged, personalizing whatever the reviewer perceived happened through a “victim lens.” Yet that, too, is often how people with an underdeveloped pons often view the world—as victims.

Adding to that . . .  people with such underdevelopment don’t always even process what was actually  said—even though they’ll insist that what they “heard” was correct. But, again, since Yelp’s format doesn’t require any verification of the “facts” presented in a review, such people’s version of events is then portrayed as  . . . being accurate.  In other words, Yelp does not ever hold reviewers accountable for writing the truth.

To be clear . . . my problem is not with Yelp reviewers. After all, they’re just doing what’s been presented as possible. And, of course, I’m not saying that every Yelp reviewer has an underdeveloped pons or that people in their cortex never have a negative experience. Hardly.

But my problem is that Yelp takes advantage of and then exploits people with an underdeveloped pons. For example, if Yelp mandated that people had to submit their full name (as required when people send letters to the editor in newspapers), then that would eliminate much of the  “flight” potential that’s present when anyone can say whatever they want and remain anonymous.

What Yelp Doesn’t Tell You

Yelp has a filtering system, where Yelp decides which reviews remain visible and which are filtered—and they do this without ever making this process common knowledge to the public.

So, if you have X-ray vision, you might note some very fine print at the end of the chosen reviews that says “filtered.” And if even if you find this microscopic word—and understand what it means in terms of Yelp–you still have to click on it and jump through a few more hoops before you can finally read those hidden reviews.

Now, I need to write that Yelp claims they use an algorithm that determines which posts remain visible and which are filtered. However that algorithm is “top secret,” and even Yelp admits that it sometimes affects perfectly legitimate reviews and misses some fake ones, too.

However, there has been A LOT of discussion that suggests Yelp’s review selection process is not as random as they claim. For example, many business owners contend that “bad” reviews stay visible while good ones are filtered if the business does not purchase advertisements on Yelp.

Our own Brain Highways experience gives some credence to such concerns. We have been continually asked to pay to advertise on Yelp, but we have not done so. And guess what? We have just three visible Yelp reviews of Brain Highways. Two of those reviews are not positive, while the one that appears . . . is like the shortest review ever.

Now, if those three reviews had truly been all that was ever written about Brain Highways, I would still stand by my conviction that the two negative reviews do not reflect the overwhelming positive feedback we’ve received over the years. But I’d accept those posts as reflections of those people’s experiences. (I would wonder, though, why such comments were never expressed either to staff or as responses to any of our questionnaires during the four months the reviewer was in the program.)

However, Yelp has currently filtered TEN Brain Highways reviews—and nine of those had 5-stars. Hmmmmm . . .

So, that’s not only frustrating to us, but it is also greatly misleading to the public.  For example, if people who are interested in brain organization just read those three unfiltered reviews, they may decide that neuroplasticity is not possible or feasible for the average family. Yet, that conclusion is nowhere in sync with 6,000+ participants who have completed the Brain Highways program and have experienced great changes and improvements in their lives.

How Yelp Entices People in their Pons

I also have concerns when people start to get a distorted sense of power—which is additionally common among people with an underdeveloped pons. That’s because, in my experience, such intoxicating power only escalates. For example, with Yelp’s encouragement, the more a person “yelps,” the higher probability reviews from such people will stay posted, rather than be relegated to the filtered junkyard.

So what does that mean? Well, negative people will continue to get some thrills from seeing their attacking reviews remain in print, while positive people will likely get discouraged (and not continue) to write reviews, especially after seeing what they wrote didn’t make the “cut” by Yelp standards. However, that scenario then actually affects the public the most since they now get a distorted view of a business (and most likely, do not even know that other reviews have been filtered).

As a business owner, my only Yelp options are to ignore the review (but then that could easily be interpreted as the reviewer was “right” since there is no response to say otherwise), comment below the review (but doing that then automatically suggest the review is credible and in need of a response) or contact the reviewer via the secret Yelp way (meaning the reviewer’s identity still remains secret).

But since the Yelp reviewer remains anonymous at all times, responding directly to that person may just be a total waste of time since the reviewer could be a competitor who fabricated the review as a way of sabotage. In such case, no response is going to “rectify” anything.

Viewing Yelp from the Cortex

There’s always a chance to learn something from any situation, right? So what might we glean from Yelp?

Well, I for one no longer give credence to any rating or review (and not just on Yelp)—positive or negative—if the person’s full name is not included.  That seems simple enough, and such a stance could greatly influence exchanges on the internet if that mindset became mainstream.

Yelp might also encourage us to reflect on whether we’ve provided a way for people to express their concerns in a positive, productive manner wherever we are in charge—whether it’s at a business or our home. Note that such an approach is opposite of encouraging people to whine and complain.

At Brain Highways, we’ve created a whole system called “Taking Care of Business” that presents a positive approach for both parents and kids to express whatever they’re thinking. But this way of communicating is based on a desire to first connect with someone and then explore ways to find common ground in order to move forward. However, if someone is not interested in making a sincere connection or finding common ground, well then, I admit . . . the Yelp format is going to be a very appealing alternative.

When thinking about Yelp, a positive, new idea also came to mind. I’d love to see someone create an online Help format that focuses on problem-solving, rather than just encouraging a recap of whatever irritated, annoyed, and aggravated someone.  Such a site might have a simple format that looks something like this:

  • Write your full name.
  • Write the name of the business.
  • Write a few statements that describe your original concern with this business.
  • Write who (in the business) you contacted to address this concern.
  • Write how quickly you contacted that person (from when the concern began).
  • Write how you presented your concern to move the situation forward.
  • Write how the person (from the business) responded.

Now that kind of information might actually be helpful to someone interested in learning about a business. It would also require the person who experienced a problem to take responsibility by first directly contacting the business and by attempting to resolve the situation.

Again, please note that I am not judging anyone who has written a Yelp review. I fully acknowledge that people have the right to post whatever review they want, as well as concede that Yelp has the right to also set up its business as it pleases.

Just can’t help wishing there was a demand for a “Help” site, where the focus was on assisting people to move forward in a positive way and ensuring that the public was given an accurate view of a business.

 

Brain Highways

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At 12 years old, Rebekah is by far our youngest guest blogger.

Rebekah is our guest blogger.  She recently took a risk when she wrote an essay on Brain Highways for a school assignment. Until then, she had not shared with anyone (other than her family) how she had been organizing her brain. 

But In Rebekah’s essay, we get to “experience” a community screening session through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl. She holds nothing back in regards to what she thinks about her first time at the Brain Highways Center.  Yet, at the end of the essay, Rebekah shares incredible insights and reflections about her experience organizing her brain over the past four months. And at that point, it’s hard to believe Rebekah is just 12.

There is a life changing class called Brain Highways. The basic concept of Brain Highways is that when we were babies we crept and crawled, and while we did, our brain got developed because of those movements. If we didn’t do as much creeping and crawling as we should have, because of all the strollers and playpens, our brain isn’t fully developed.

When our brain is being developed, neurons connect and make ‘highways.” So when our highways aren’t complete, we walk around with what’s called a “disorganized brain.”

When kids have a disorganized brain, they may not feel full, get overly anxious, have irrational behavior, get distracted and go off topic really easily, talk a lot or talk too little, and lose their place when reading.

It turns out that almost everyone has an underdeveloped brain. We just learn to live with it. As we get older, it gets more difficult to cope with, so we get overwhelmed. It really stinks to be underdeveloped.

There is still hope! When people go to Brain Highways, they “go back in time” and creep and crawl like a baby would and that connects the neurons we should have connected and we have a completed brain! The cool thing is that it’s never too late to do the class. There are four year olds and people who are eighty who did it!

When my mom heard about Brain Highways, she wanted me to go with her to go check it out. I didn’t want to go. I had seen all the videos on their website (brainhighways.com) and I thought they were funny and interesting, but I didn’t want that extra work in my life. At the moment, the concept was silly; creeping on our bellies and crawling like a dog.

“Mom! I don’t want to go! I’ll look ridiculous!” I would whine. “This is going to be soooo embarrassing! Arggg!”

Then my mom would sigh and say, “Rebekah, have a good attitude about this. Now, I’m going. Are you?

Eventually I agreed to go. It was a long drive from San Diego to Encinitas, and I thought we would never make it. I thought about how ridiculous and stupid this was. When we walked, or in my case, “slouched” into the center, I saw a bunch of kids creeping on the floor. I looked at them with disgust. Why would I want to be with them, making a fool out of myself?

We were taken to a back room with about 6 to 7 other kids. There were mostly boys and all of them were 6 to 10 years old, and being the only 12 year old was awkward. The parents had to stay behind to talk or something. I didn’t want to leave them, but I followed all the other kids in the room.

The room was filled with toys like silly putty, slinkies, squishy things, and building blocks. There were a few pictures of kids playing with toys on the wall. One of the adults came over and invited me to a game with a few other kids. I thought that playing with building blocks was for kids, but I eventually gave in.

While I was playing with those stupidly silly toys, my mom and the other parents were watching a video on Brain Highways and red flags for an underdeveloped pons and that sort of stuff.

Then they took us out of the back room and did a bunch of screenings to see how developed our brains were.

First, they had us creep down a lane and then crawl down a lane. Unfortunately, my shirt kept on sticking to the floor. Then the director, Nancy, took out a pencil with a weird pencil topper on it

“Follow it with just your eyes,” Nancy said to me. I did, and she started talking to me. We talked about school, how annoying English can be, and why we need to learn long division when we have calculators. Or at least she talked. I sort of said a few words, and Nancy said that I did that because my brain was so occupied with following the pencil that I didn’t want to talk. I guess it makes sense, but I probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk even if she wasn’t assessing my eye tracking skills.

Next, she had us stand on one leg while she talked to us. Again, I didn’t want to talk. I passed the “she can balance” assessment, but didn’t pass the balance and “talk at the same time” assessment for the same reason I couldn’t track the pencil and talk at the same time.

After that, Nancy talked a bit more to us kids about Brain Highways. My mom signed me up (against my will) and we went home.

On Sundays and Tuesdays I would go the center and some other kids in my class and I would creep and crawl together. The director could think of some pretty wild games to play while creeping. After that we got assignment sheets on what to do in the week like activities, ideas for games, and statistics on how we were doing as far as our brain development.

I have to admit it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it gets easier and easier.

Everybody thinks I’m crazy for thinking that moving like a baby will help my brain, and I totally get it, but it’s that kind of thing where you have to do it to understand it. Every once in a while some new kids will come in for that first screening session. They see me creeping, and they look at me with the same distain that I once looked at the other kids. I just share a private giggle at how much their life will change.

As I look back and think of what I was and what I am, it doesn’t really matter how ridiculous I might have looked. It doesn’t matter how much time and energy it took. I have seen the change in me and the other kids in the class, and it was totally worth it to have a developed brain and an easier life!

Footnote: Rebekah’s teacher praised her greatly for both her essay and her skill as a writer (noting her incredible, mature  “voice” throughout her work), along with a comment that said: “I’d say creeping and crawling have certainly paid off!”

The Clean Slate Challenge

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could interact with others with a clean slate—and leave the past . . . in the past?

This is one of my favorite stories, and it’s perfect for setting the stage for the Clean Slate Challenge.

Two monks were about to cross a deep river when they came across a young woman who was afraid to do so. When she asked for their help, the younger monk turned his back on her since members of their order were forbidden to touch women.  Leaving her alone on the shore, he crossed the river.  Yet, without saying a word, the older monk lifted the woman and carried her across.

However, once on the other side, the younger monk came after the older monk and began berating him for breaking his vows.  And as the day went on, the younger monk would not let up as he continued to express his disbelief that the older monk had actually touched the woman.

The older monk did not initially choose to respond. But finally, at the end of the day, he turned to the younger one and said, “I only carried the woman across the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her all day.”

So, how many of us “keeping carrying that woman” (i.e. can’t let go of the past) —and how many times does that then magnify an already not-so-great encounter in the present?

Enter the Clean Slate Challenge.  The goal of this game is to view whatever is going on . . . as if it were the only record on the books.  Here are some examples of how that might look:

  • We go to our child’s school conference with no memory of any negative comments other teachers told us.
  • When our spouse forgets to pick up something at the store—yep, that’s the first time this has ever happened.
  • If we’ve chosen to facilitate our child’s brain organization, we’ve erased all prior doomsday predictions and prognoses.
  • If our mother-in-law is late to dinner, we’ve never thought of her as someone who keeps everyone waiting.
  • If our child breaks the vase, he has never had a single accident in his life.

Is that way of thinking easier said than done? Absolutely. That’s why the point system of this challenge takes into account that truth. Here are the three simple rules:

1.  If you get through an entire encounter by truly staying in the present (no time traveling to the past), you give yourself five points.

2. If you catch yourself thinking about something from the past (triggered by whatever happened in the present)–but you don’t say that thought aloud–you give yourself two points.

3.  If you actually say that thought aloud—but you cut yourself off right away and don’t say any more than one sentence—you give yourself one point. (This is still better than going into a full-blown blast to the past.)

Now, if you’re not yet motivated to take on this challenge, then consider this question:  What happens if we do keep bringing the past to the present, when we don’t wipe the slate clean?

Well, in such case, we’d then “carry” all the frustration, disappointment, and angst of past teacher interactions to every conference. We’d be way more irritated when our spouse forgot to do whatever we asked. Our dread (which is really just fear of the future) would escalate as soon as we noted our child couldn’t do something predicted by others.  We’d definitely become more impatient and annoyed as soon as our mother-in-law was even a few minutes late and a whole lot angrier when our child, once again, broke something.

But then, here’s the telling question that may finally inspire us to truly adopt a clean slate mindset. Would any of those intensified negative emotions actually help the present situation—or would they only make everything worse???

I, personally, have been having fun with the Clean Slate Challenge.  For example, I’ve been married for nearly 31 years, but I recently had my “first” dinner with my husband. It was delightful in every way, and I marked myself down for five points.

Didn’t do quite as well when he said we weren’t returning something we just purchased after discovering it wasn’t what we really wanted. Now, if I had only thought, “Great. This is just going to join all the other purchases we have never used, stacked up in the garage,” I still could have given myself two points.

But no, I had to go and say that.  Yet, as soon as I did, I immediately thought, “Darn!  I didn’t hear his comment as the first time we didn’t return something we didn’t need!” But since I stopped myself from saying anything else, I still got my one point. :-)

You might be thinking: What if the other person isn’t interacting with us with a clean slate?

Well, if we’ve truly adopted the clean slate mentality, then we’d now only be “confused” by whatever that person was saying—and confusion would be a lot better than any of the other negative emotions that show up once we’re triggered by something in the past.

So, I really encourage you to take the Clean Slate Challenge. It’s a fun, “tangible” way that truly helps to keep our minds focused on staying in the moment. For example, over the years, I’ve certainly heard how staying in the moment was good, and I was convinced of that.

Yet, doing this challenge seemed to catapult me forward with this desirable mindset.  Simply, it’s a doable that stops old, negative, subconscious tapes from playing or (at the very least) makes us aware of when such tapes are creating more havoc in the present.

And  . . .  let’s face it:  A little healthy competition often helps get the ball rolling, right?  So, here’s what I’m throwing out there. Who do you think will find it easier to keep a clean slate—males or females?

To find out, I challenge everyone to take the Clean Slate Challenge for at least the next 24 hours. Then, post (below where this blog appears on our Brain Highways Facebook page) how many points you racked up–noting that even one point rocks!  We’ll add up the points from both the males and females—and then declare which gender wins. :-)

Game on!

Has Someone Hijacked Your Thoughts?

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Studies prove that simply believing something will help or harm us . . . may be enough to produce that result.

What if some of our thoughts aren’t really ours—yet, we’ve been carrying them around for years, maybe even for decades, as though they originated in our own mind?

Here’s an example of how that might be possible.

Suppose the chronic pain in your knee miraculously disappears after taking a new medicine. But then, you discover you were actually in the clinical group that was given just sugar pills.  In other words, you were given a placebo, not the actual drug that was being tested.

So here’s my first question. Is there a subconscious positive or negative association with the word placebo? When I answered that question myself, I realized that I viewed placebos in a not-so-positive light.

Then I asked that same question to a random group of people. Every person, but one (who said the word was neutral to her), also viewed placebos in a negative way.

When I prodded a bit more to learn what was so negative about placebos, people said they associated the word with “being duped” or “proof that a problem was just in your head” or “to fall for a placebo, you couldn’t be very smart” or some other framing that did not paint a pretty picture of the word.

So, the second question was: Who may have imprinted placebos as negative—and without our awareness? The latter part of the question was interesting because of those I questioned, no one could recall a specific person or situation that actually caused them to think that way.

And yet, we all “got” the same message: Placebos aren’t viewed as something positive.

So then, who put that message out there? Well, I can only guess. For one, pharmaceutical companies can’t be thrilled with scientific studies that prove people can get better  . . . on their own, right?  That fact certainly doesn’t sell drugs.

And doctors who have gone to medical school for more than eight-plus years also aren’t going to be high on the list to imprint the idea that our very own minds might trump all their schooling and experience. And, in truth, we may have been very willing to believe that someone else needs to heal us because handing over all the power to someone smarter and more experienced then absolves us from taking personal responsibility to heal ourselves. (Note: This blog is not to challenge conventional medicine, so stay with me to get to the main point.)

But here’s the important part. I started thinking . . . what if I wiped out prior imprints about placebos from my mind?  In such case, what do I, Nancy Green, really think about placebos?

Well, I was floored.  Turns out that I actually think placebos are AMAZING!  Heck, they’re scientific proof that our very own minds can heal!  To me, that’s a happy dance, ten times over!

In fact, if I’m ever part of a formal study, and I improve with the placebo effect, I’m now going to think that I did even BETTER than those who did well by taking the actual medicine.  After all, that would mean I could get the same results as those taking the drugs, but without ever paying a dime or putting anything foreign into my body that may have potential side effects.  That would be awesome!

Again, the point here is not to forgo all medicine or to never to see a doctor.  I’m just using placebos as an example to encourage people to pause and ponder how many of their thoughts . . . may actually belong to someone else.

In other words, what if it’s someone else’s imprint that we’re not smart enough to (fill in the blank) or we’re not worthy enough to (fill in the blank) or we don’t even realize we’ve been carrying around other people’s fears and judgments?

So, why not take inventory of our thoughts? Which do we truly believe—and which may have been passed onto our subconscious mind?

Here are some common thoughts that we may certainly believe, or . . . did we inherit them from others, and they’re now masquerading as our own?

  • You need to go to college to get a good, respectable job.
  • It is a wise decision to become a home owner.
  • If my child has (fill in the diagnosis), he will never (fill in the blank).

Note that none of the above is a universal truth, meaning that not every person absolutely believes those statements as fact.  But what if we now decide such thoughts (or other thoughts from our inventory) do not truly reflect what we believe (i.e. they were ideas imprinted on our subconscious mind)? How might that then change what we are doing, right now in our life?  After all, it would really be a drag to continue to do this or that because we are acting on someone else’s beliefs.  That’s why becoming aware of other people’s imprints on our own subconscious mind can bring about such powerful changes.

So then, all that got me thinking . . . if positive thinking can improve physical symptoms, then could negative thoughts, in turn, create undesirable physical symptoms?

Well, it turns out the answer is yes. While not as well known as placebos, there is something called nocebos, where a negative imprint on the subconscious mind now has an adverse affect on someone’s health or well-being.

For example, when patients in clinical trials were warned of a drug’s potential side effects, approximately twenty-five percent of those taking just sugar pills actually experienced those noted symptoms!  In other words, the mere suggestion that patients may experience negative reactions to a medication may be a self-fulfilling prophecy—even if they are just taking sugar pills. There are even documented studies where patients were given nothing but saline (although they were told it was chemotherapy) who actually threw up and lost their hair!

Hmmm . . .  so just believing something negative is enough to create an undesirable outcome. So then, how might negative imprints be affecting us in ways we may not even realize?

Suddenly, having more positive than negative people in our lives seems really important. So, if you ranked the people you interact with most often, how many would you give a 10 (on a 1-10 scale), where a 10 score indicates a very positive, optimistic person? And, what ranking would others give you?

The latter answer is important, especially if we’re parents. That’s because our own subconscious minds are communicating with our kids’ subconscious minds almost 95% of the time!

That staggering fact is cause enough to ask ourselves: Each day, do we imprint positive or negative messages on our kids?  For example, do we imprint fear of failure, or do we imprint anything is possible?

Now, if you immediately find yourself thinking, well, not everything is possible– is that really your thought, or has that, too, been imprinted on you? (See, how crazy this can get?)

After all, once upon a time, people probably thought it was IMPOSSIBLE to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, let alone land on the moon. Yet, how many of us still carry the “it’s impossible” imprint, rather than this imprint:  Anything is possible, but we just haven’t yet figured out how to do (whatever).

It comes down to this. No, we can’t change that we have a subconscious mind or that we imprint and receive such messages all the time.  But we can decide whether we make our subconscious our best friend by reducing the overall negativity in our lives. Doing that then increases the probability that more positive than negative imprints enter our mind.

Here’s a short story that illustrates that point.

A bunch of frogs were given the challenge to climb to the top of a summit.  Along the way, onlookers were yelling:

 “You’ll never make it!”  

“That is way too difficult for you!”

“Who do you think you are . . .  to even think you can accomplish that!”  

In the end, only one frog made it all the way to the top.  But later on, the people discovered that this lone frog was actually hearing-impaired, and so  . . .  he never heard the naysayers.

Well, it sure is good to know that we don’t have to be a frog or hearing-impaired . . . to tune out those who do not move us forward.  But we do have to decide that we’re no longer willing to allow others to hijack our thoughts if we want to act in ways that truly reflect what we believe.

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