Our Trickster Brains

Our brains tell us lies each and every day. 

Over the years I have discovered three main lies that my brain tells me: 

1. I am not good enough.
2. I am going to do something wrong and get in trouble.
3. I am not likeable. 
 
If I am sad, angry, or frustrated I can usually trace whatever I am feeling or how I am behaving back to one of these three trigger points. I can then use logic to identify just how my brain is convincing me to believe things about myself that are not always true. Unfortunately these thoughts, true or not, drive our feelings and behaviours, which is problematic because we may lash out at others or shut ourselves away from the world all on the basis of something our brain convinces us to believe and not always the facts.

So why do our brains lie? Well, think of your brain as a data entry machine that  is constantly taking in information from the environment around you. Perhaps at a pivotal moment in your life someone said something to you that stuck, or you heard something negative about yourself on repeat like you are not smart, attractive, or likeable. Your brain essentially stored this information in a file labelled ‘you.’ Now, even though you have heard many great things about yourself or had instances that promote you these salient memories reign and continually convince you to believe these untruths. Unless, of course we rewrite that file by making a conscious effort to the truth in front of us. Your brain says, “you do not fit in.” Take a minute and check this, are there places you do fit? Is this a leftover belief from years ago? How is it serving you to hang on to it now?

In order to decipher between healthy and unhealthy thinking patterns you first need to identify your triggers. You can do this by filling in the blank, “I am…” those negative and persistent thoughts are what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) calls core beliefs. You can save yourself a lot of stress, sadness, and frustration by writing these down and in challenging times stop and ask yourself which trigger button 
is being pushed. Then, also using CBT strategies, you can look at the evidence that supports that thought and evidence that does not. For example, your brain tells you that you have annoyed someone you care about and they are upset with you because they have not texted you back. Think of all the reasons they might not be texting you back: they are busy, out of town, left their phone at home, are upset, did not see the text. Then think of the evidence that supports your friendship and past experiences, the good times you spend together, the lovely text you received last week, or the way in which this friend supports you in difficult times. 

Another favourite trick comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and it is called thanking the mind. When your brain starts in on the negative thinking about yourself and your abilities, take a breath and say/think, “Thanks brain.” You can thank your brain for the thought and then chose not to follow it down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts. You may have to do this on repeat in order to defuse yourself from these unhelpful thinking patterns. Just like everything else in life the more you practice the better you will get at it.

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