Reprogramming my Brain’s Autodrive — a Holiday (and Life) Survival Technique


I haven’t written in several days.  I figure it’s because of the general holiday madness that seems to zap every spare moment I have.  But also due to my sporadic funk caused by emotions and memories that come rushing in at me during the holidays, like a rising tide that splashes me when I’m not paying attention, just a little at a time.

Just the other day I was reminded of events that brought back some not-so-great memories and feelings. A piece of mail was all it took to break this particular dam of unsettled emotions.  I found myself reliving hurt and anger over past events from many years ago. Until I caught myself and became aware of what was happening.

I’ve been much more zen (as my niece puts it) and more at ease with everything and everyone this past year, so I’m a little disappointed with myself when I let this happen. My logical self knows better than to replay and get riled up over events that are over and done with.  And move forward. Because, as I always say, life is short …  right?

Fortunately I was able to catch myself and become aware of what I was allowing to happen.  At that point I remembered an interview I heard on the radio in my car just an hour or so before. It was an interview with Deepak Chopra about his new book that he wrote with Rudolph E. Tanzi, an expert on the causes of Alzheimer’s.  It’s called Super Brain, Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness and Spiritual Well Being.   (I just bought it for myself as an early Christmas present to read on my Ipad.)

In the interview Chopra discussed how, in contrast to the “baseline brain” that fulfills the tasks of everyday life, the brain can be taught, through a person’s increased self-awareness and conscious intention, to reach far beyond its present limitations.  He explained how we don’t have to expect to react to situations  in the same ways we always have (the interview was relating this to holiday stressors like family visits).  Because, as he explained, nothing can inevitably make us feel a certain way.  We often decide how to react based on our brain’s “autodrive”  which has been programmed with patterns and expectations.

The book discusses how we can easily reshape and reprogram our brain to better awareness, health and well-being.  How a better mind-body connection, combined with a lifestyle for a healthy brain, can actually diminish effects of aging and memory loss, anxiety and even obesity and more.  Their work debunks several myths about how we understand the brain and aging, explaining how we can actually increase brain cells as we age, rewire our brain to stay young, and prevent memory loss. I still need to read the book, but connecting feelings with memories seems to be a common thread of their discussions.

Chopra explained a particularly memorable technique called STOP to use when faced with any challenge or unwelcome feeling:

S – Stop what you are doing

T- Take a deep breath

O- Observe what is happening in your body

P – Proceed with kindness, joy and love.

And this is what I will continue to try to practice — which is also the basis of what therapists, philosophers and yogis have been trying to teach us for years.  To step back — become more  present and aware — and proceed with the manual setting fully switched to the ‘on’ position.

What feelings have you become more aware of – and in better control of –  over the years?

I’m grateful for these reminders and insights, and the ability to further take charge of my fate. Thanks for reading…

10 thoughts on “Reprogramming my Brain’s Autodrive — a Holiday (and Life) Survival Technique

  1. Last week I took an editing job on a manuscript titled “Four Gates to Health: Eastern Ideas and Techniques for Vital Living.” I felt like the comos was telling me to sloooow down and paaaay attention (and not just for errant commas….).

  2. I so wish I had read this earlier. I fear I had a bad “reaction” to something this evening. I am allergic to bullshit (thus the “reaction”). I had a choice— to be the bigger better person or to the smaller icky person. I chose the latter and regret it. I apologized, but still… that STOP thing may have come in handy.

  3. This sounds fantastic. I think I saw Chopra on the tv the other night talking about working with people who suffered post traumatic stress disorder (and who ‘loop’ events over and over in their heads). It was very interesting!

  4. I have learned: Don’t believe everything you think! Whatever you have thought forever is in a repeating loop in your brain, but you do have the power to change that loop with constant awareness. There is no past, no future, there is only this moment! This is all you have now, so don’t waste it!

  5. I agree…to a point. Many of our negative responses whether they are anger or sadness are connected to an unsettled hurt buried in the heart. While I absolutely believe the way we think changes how we feel which will ultimately change how we act, healing for’triggers’ that rear their ugly head is different than simply thinking differently in the moment. It sounds like a great a tool to ‘stop’ in the moment and not add fuel to the fire but I’m not sure it helps with getting to the root emotions that perpetuate out responses. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be that sort of resource. Our painful memories are real and the emotional responses to them are valid. However, it is our responsibility to personally deal with them when we are not in the heat of the moment. I think some things need to be taken out and looked at long and hard and honestly when we are not in the moment when the triggers are active (from a place of desiring resolution and forgiveness and resolution). Behaving properly may help avert further conflict or adding insult to injury but it will not heal the reason we respond. I know too many people who are masters of faking it. They live in a bondage of pretend never free to be move past how they really feel. Who has time to stop and face those emotions in all their raw “glory” in the midst of their already busy life? It’s difficult and uncomfortable work (and an ongoing process since new potentials to be hurt come like arrows all the time). Only the person who cares enough to desires a fuller, more genuine life.

    • I completely agree. I am still getting into this book but I believe that STOP technique is explained as stop-gap measure to slow down and simply become aware. Without understanding the triggers, they are sure to repeat. Introspection and reflection (scary and exhausting as they can be to me sometimes) are the only way to true self knowing. I now understand so many of my own triggers and patterns and this has improved my relationships with others – and myself – tremendously. I am ever so grateful for this.

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