Training our brains to find our minds.

This is what Tibetan monks and Navy SEALs have in common—and how we can use it to our advantage

Abraham Maslow once famously said, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” What he meant was, when it comes to problem-solving, we tend to get locked into using familiar tools in expected ways. The technical term for this is the Law of the Instrument. Give someone a hammer and, indeed, they’ll look for nails to pound. But present them with a problem where they need to repurpose that same hammer as a doorstop, or a pendulum weight, or a tomahawk, and you’ll typically get blank stares.

We may be facing a similar situation when it comes to our minds. At least as far back as the French Enlightenment and Descartes’s cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore, I am), we’ve relied on our rational selves—what psychologists call our “egos”—to run the whole show. It’s a Maslow’s hammer kind of reaction. Every issue we encounter, we try to solve by thinking.

And we know it’s not working. Even a quick glance at today’s dire mental health statistics—the one in four Americans now on psychiatric medicines; the escalating rate of suicide for everyone from ages ten to seventy-eight—shows how critically overtaxed our mental processing is these days. We may have come to the end of our psychological tether. It might be time to rethink all that thinking.

With the recent advancements in neurobiology, we now have options: Embodied cognition teaches us that how we move our bodies affects our brains and minds. AI therapy proves that our subconscious expressions can reflect our inner state more accurately than we do. Precognition demonstrates that we can anticipate how we’re going to feel and think in the future by tracking (and even altering) our biometrics in the present. Neurotheology integrates all of these findings and lets us reverse-engineer a whole host of nonordinary states, just by working backward from our neurophysiology.

Rather than treating our psychology like the unquestioned operating system (or OS) of our entire lives, we can repurpose it to function more like a user interface (or UI)—that easy-to-use dashboard that sits atop all the other, more complex programs. By treating the mind like a dashboard, by treating different states of consciousness like apps to be judiciously deployed, we can bypass a lot of psychological storytelling and get results faster and, often, with less frustration.

Take, for example, one of the most common ailments of the modern world—mild to moderate depression. Instead of moping around, hoping for things to get better on their own, we can scan our UI and choose an alternate program to run. We could get on a treadmill (studies show exercise is effective for depression in all but severe cases), or get some natural sunshine (70 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which has a direct impact on mood), or practice meditation for fifteen minutes (a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found it as effective as SSRI’s and without the side effects). None of these approaches require thinking about our thinking, but each of them can significantly shift our mood.

Choices like these are available not just in our personal lives, but in our professional lives, too. Instead of nervously waiting for a job interview and obsessing about all the things that could go wrong, we can take a page out of Amy Cuddy’s book and stand up, breathe deeply, and power-pose our way to lower cortisol, higher testosterone, and more confidence. Instead of using trendy leadership books and a new mission statement to fire up employees, we can follow ESADE’s lead and use neurofeedback to heighten group coherence and prompt more productive strategy sessions.

But most of us, when challenged, will do none of these things. We’ll think more, talk more, and stress more. We’ll wait until after we feel better to go for that walk in the sun, rather than going for that walk in order to feel better. We’ll wait until after we get that job offer to pump our fists and stand tall, instead of the other way around.

That’s because, at first, reorienting from OS to UI can be downright disorienting. If I can change the “wallpaper of my mind” by deliberately shifting my neurophysiology—my breathing, my posture, my brainwaves, or any number of other interventions—what good are all those stories I’ve been telling myself?

If I am not my thoughts, then who am I, really?

This idea, that our ego isn’t the be-all and end-all, flourished in Asia for centuries before landing in California in the 1960’s. Thoughts were illusions, the swamis and lamas maintained, and nirvana lay on the other side of ego death. But, for modern Americans, all those earnest (and sometimes addled) attempts to transcend the self didn’t turn out to be that practical. To make sense of today’s fast-paced world, we need our egos to navigate our relationships and responsibilities. We just don’t need to use them like Maslow’s hammer, turning everything around us into a psychological problem to beat on.

Instead, we can stay above our storytelling mind and simply monitor the knobs and levers of our neurobiology. And while this may seem far-fetched, top performers are already there. Tibetan monks can shut off their default mode network (or inner mind chatter) almost at will, SEAL snipers tune their brainwaves to the alpha frequency before locking on to targets, extreme athletes smooth out their heart rhythms right before dropping into a mountain or wave. They’re deliberately doing an end run around their conscious minds.
They’re accessing more efficient and effective ways of being, and they’re doing this exactly backward from how most of us have been taught.

Which brings us back to ecstasis. When we step beyond our conventional egos and experience the richness of altered states, it’s essential to upgrade our software. Those monkey-suit personas we thought were us (until we suddenly realize they aren’t) don’t need to confine us or define us.
“To diagnose . . . yourself while in the midst of action requires the ability to achieve some distance from those on-the-ground events,” Harvard Business School professor Ron Heifetz maintains. “‘Getting on the balcony’ . . . [provides] the distanced perspective you need to see what is really happening.”

And this is what moving from OS to UI delivers: a better view from the balcony. When we consistently see more of “what is really happening,” we can liberate ourselves from the limitations of our psychology. We can put our egos to better use, using them to modulate our neurobiology and with it, our experience. We can train our brains to find our minds.

Five Ways Science Says to Handle Difficult Times

Edited by Kira M Newman on Monday February 13th, 2017 Search inside yourself

Navigating Life’s Struggles

A mentor of mine recently passed away, and I was heartbroken — so I tried my best to avoid thinking about it. I didn’t even mention it to my family because I didn’t want those sad feelings to resurface.

In other words, I took the very enlightened approach of pretend it didn’t happen — one that’s about as effective as other common responses, such as get angrypush people awayblame myself, or wallow in the pain.

Even for the relatively self-aware and emotionally adept, struggles can take us by surprise. But learning healthy ways to move through adversity — a collection of skills that researchers call resilience — can help us cope better and recover more quickly, or at least start us heading in that direction.

Here are 12 resilience practices (squeezed into five categories), which can help you confront emotional pain more skillfully.

Wallowing in our pain or bottling our emotions is easy, but it doesn’t help.

  1. Change the Narrative

When something bad happens, we often relive the event over and over in our heads, rehashing the pain. This process is called rumination; it’s like a cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us toward healing and growth.

The practice of expressive writing can move us forward by helping us gain new insights on the challenges in our lives. It involves writing continuously for 20 minutes about a particular issue; exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper, not to create a memoir-like masterpiece.

1988 study found that participants who did expressive writing for four days were healthier six weeks later, and happier up to three months later, compared to people who wrote about superficial topics. In writing, researchers suggest that we’re forced to confront ideas, one by one, and give them structure; which may lead to new perspectives. We’re actually crafting our own life narrative and gaining a sense of control.

Once we’ve explored the dark side of an experience, we might choose to contemplate some of its upsides. A technique called ‘finding silver linings’ invites you to call to mind an upsetting experience and try to list three positive things about it. For example, you might reflect on how fighting with a friend brought some important issues out into the open and allowed you to learn something about their point of view.

Writing about your pains and emotions helps heal them and transform them into wisdom.

In a 2014 study, doing this practice daily for three weeks helped participants afterward become more engaged with life, and it decreased their pessimistic beliefs over time. This wasn’t true for a group whose members just wrote about their daily activities. It was particularly beneficial for staunch pessimists, who also became less depressed. But the effects wore off after two months, suggesting that looking on the bright side is something we have to practice regularly.

  1. Face Your Fears

The practices above are helpful for past struggles; ones that we’ve gained enough distance from to be able to get some perspective. But what about knee-shaking fears that we’re experiencing in the here and now?

The ‘overcoming a fear’ practice is designed to help with everyday fears that get in the way of life, such as the fear of public speaking, heights, or flying. We can’t talk ourselves out of such fears; instead, we have to tackle the emotions directly.

The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the thing that scares you — in small doses. For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge until you’re ready to nail that big speech or TV interview.

Start off small when facing your fears, and gradually, your confidence will build.

In a 2010 study, researchers modeled this process in the lab. They gave participants a little electrical shock every time they saw a blue square, which soon became as scary as a tarantula to an arachnophobe. But then, they showed the blue square to participants without shocking them. Over time, the participants’ Pavlovian fear (measured by the sweat on their skin) gradually disappeared.

In effect, this kind of ‘exposure therapy’ helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus. If we’ve flown 100 times and the plane has never crashed, for example, our brain (and body) start to learn that it’s safe. Though the fear may never be fully extinguished, we’ll likely have more courage to confront it.

  1. Practice Self-Compassion

I’ve never been a good flyer myself, and it was comforting when an acquaintance shared an article he wrote about having the same problem; as well as his favorite tips. Fears and adversity can make us feel alone; we wonder why we’re the only ones feeling this way, and what exactly is wrong with us. In these situations, learning to practice self-compassion — and recognizing that everyone suffers — is a much gentler, and more effective, way to heal.

Self-compassion involves offering compassion to ourselves: confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness; without judgment. In one study, participants in an eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion program reported more mindfulness and life satisfaction, with lower depression, anxiety, and stress afterward, compared to people who didn’t participate — and the benefits lasted up to a year.

Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend.

One practice, the ‘self-compassion break’, is something you can do any time you start to feel overwhelmed by pain or stress. It has three steps, which correspond to the three aspects of self-compassion:

  • Be mindful:Without judgment or analysis, notice what you’re feeling. Say, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts” or “This is stress.”
  • Remember that you’re not alone:Everyone experiences these deep and painful human emotions, although the causes might be different. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life” or “We all feel this way” or “We all struggle at some point in our lives.”
  • Be kind to yourself:Put your hands on your heart and say something like “May I give myself compassion” or “May I accept myself as I am” or “May I be patient.”

If being kind to yourself is a challenge, an exercise called ‘How Would You Treat a Friend?’ could help. Here, compare how you respond to your own struggles — and the tone you use — with the way you would respond to a friend’s. Often, this comparison unearths some surprising differences and valuable reflections: Why am I so harsh on myself, and what would happen if I weren’t?

 

Autobienveillance: bientôt un livre!

Nous n’avons pas vraiment appris à accéder, de manière simple et authentique, à ce qui se passe en nous. Cette capacité s’avère pourtant déterminante.
Nombreuses sont les personnes à être persuadées que leur bonheur dépend entièrement des circonstances extérieures. Pourtant, les recherches en sciences cognitives  ont démontré que notre intériorité a un impact déterminant sur nos existences : nos pensées modèlent notre rapport au monde, nos émotions affectent notre santé, nos croyances écrivent les scénarios de nos vies.

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Pourquoi veiller à rester authentique

L’article ci dessous a été publié sur le blog PNL-INFO

L’inauthenticité génère des sentiments d’immoralité et d’impureté

Be-authenticLes travaux de F. Gono, M. Kouchaki, A. Galinsky publiés dans Psychological Science démontrent que les individus dont les valeurs profondes sont violées, se sentent en détresse et moralement impurs. Être inauthentique pourrait générer un inconfort psychologique aigu apparenté à feindre un intérêt pour les autres, ne pas être inclus dans la communauté humaine. L’étude a également montré comment la perception de l’impureté peut motiver des actions pour tenter de réparer le préjudice moral.
Dr Maryam Kouchaki, l’un des auteurs de l’étude, déclare: « Notre travail montre que le sentiment d’inauthenticité n’est pas un phénomène éphémère ou superficiel – c’est un coup de couteau dans l’essence même de ce que signifie être une personne morale, et donc dans l’estime de soi. »

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Pour que la prise décision cesse d’être une prise de tête

Une rubrique de : Sylvaine Pascual – Publié dans: Objectifs, décisions et solutionsprise de decision

Une prise de décision, ce n’est quand même pas souvent le choix de Sophie. Pourtant, de choix cornélien en dilemme inextricable, il arrive qu’elle ressemble davantage à une prise de tête qu’à un pique-nique au bord de l’eau. Souvent, ne sachant pas trop comment nous y prendre, nous avons vaille que vaille recours au bon vieux avantages/inconvénients, dont l’inutilité n’explique pas la longévité! Heureusement, il y a des alternatives et avant de les explorer, voyons comment nous prenons nos décisions.

Halte à l’obligation de “bonne décision”
Nous vivons une époque formidable dans laquelle les injonctions d’urgence, d’excellence, de performance, d’efficacité nous mettent sur la calebasse une telle pression de prendre les “bonnes décisions” que nous finissons devenir des obsessionnels de la décision et de ses conséquences.Lire la suite

tester son niveau de conscience

« The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come. Through those challenges, an already unconscious person tends to become more deeply unconscious, and a conscious person more intensely conscious. You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep.” Eckhart Tolle