My brain is actually my longest term friend I’ve ever had. I’ve literally almost known him forever.
From my earliest childhood, when we were first introduced, he helped me decide what foods I liked and didn’t, the toys I’d play with and people I should avoid. We had a lot of fun together in those days. We would daydream, figure out what we wanted for our birthday, and decide what books to read.
Early on I decided that long term it was just my brain and me.
With most of my early childhood friends, it could go either way on whether we’d stay friends. But with my brain, when I got picked on by other kids or griped at by parents and teachers, it was my brain that always took my side. In my early childhood, I had a lot of interests like volcanos, insects, and chemistry. No matter how different my interests were, my brain was always interested in the same things I was.
When My Brain and I Began to Drift Apart
My brain and I, I have to admit, began to drift apart over the next few years and we didn’t get along the way we used to.
I guess you could say that my brain began to sound a lot like my parents and my teachers. When I was younger and my clothes and toys were all over the floor, my brain would agree with me that it was just fine—it was more important to go out and play. Now my brain was siding by my parents that I ought to pick up after myself and do my homework.
My Brain and I—a Love/Hate Relationship
I’ve grown to have a love/hate relationship with my friend the brain over the years.
Yet there is a lot I’ve grown to admire about my brain. He enabled me to graduate from college, learn Spanish, become a good writer, charm my wife, and maintain a career. I have been a creative innovator, an entrepreneur, and philanthropist and that’s all due to my life-long friend, my brain.
But I’ve also found myself at war against my brain. Sometimes I think the success I’ve experienced is because of my brain—and other times in spite of him.
There is no doubt about it that my brain is in charge of almost everything that happens in me. He runs all the critical parts of me such as heart, lungs, and kidneys—and he doesn’t even bother to tell me how he does it.
The best ideas I’ve ever had just pop up fully developed from my brain.
But my brain is also a powerful force working against me. He barrages me with scathing criticism that would be inappropriate even from my closest relationships.
He tells I’m really not smart enough to be doing what I’m doing and when people around me find out, it’s really going to be embarrassing. He tells me that danger surrounds me, everything from a windstorm that will blow off my pants to an asteroid that will hit the earth and destroy life on the planet. When people are being their nicest and most courteous to me, my brain questions their motives and tells me to be wary. The sun can be shining, and the bank account heathy, but my brain will tell me I’m a step away from disaster.
If my friend, my brain, were on Facebook, I’d defriend him, or at the very least stop following him. As a marriage, I think my relationship with my brain should end in an amicable divorce.
There are, upon further reflection, a great number of reasons why parting with my friend, the brain, would not very practical. Splitting our assets would not only be horrendous, but fatal. The truth is that we both have so many things to offer each other. My friend has great ideas that I can only implement. Without my friend the brain, I literally couldn’t function.
So for the last few years I’ve been working hard to restore my friendship with my friend, the brain. I’ve come up with some concepts that may be helpful to you and your best friend.
- Renew your Friendship with you and your brain. The inner war that many people experience ends with the recognition that self-acceptance is the most important thing that you can accomplish. Give yourself a break. If your head and heart is telling you that you want to grow into a better you and be of service to others, you don’t need self-criticism. Self-loathing isn’t spiritual or helpful—it’s just keeps you from being the best you.
- Understand that Your Friend the Brain is Extremely Over-reactive for a Reason. Check out the danger level in his warnings. He comes from the grand old tradition of fright and flight. In the old days of our ancestors, there probably was a lion lurking in the tall grass ahead of our ancestor. He/she had to be ready to react and run. Today when I momentarily lay down my cell phone or get a high electric bill, my friend the brain tends to see that the danger is as a full blown life-threatening situation. My job is to check what is happening and to put it into perspective.
- Use this Key Insight to Manage Your Mind: You Choose Some Thoughts and Some Thoughts Choose You. You choose your thoughts when you’re thinking with the front of your brain, the Frontal Cortex. It’s the “steering wheel” of your mind. The Frontal Cortex guides what you do intentionally. It’s the free will part of your mind. It enables you to think about your day tomorrow and make a “to-do” list.The Below Conscious (or subconscious) operates the biggest part of your thought processes pushes you thoughts—it chooses those thoughts for you. It’s the “motor of the mind.” It puts thought together in all the ways thoughts come to us automatically—brilliant insights, flashes of brilliance, fears, resentments, nagging worries. Your Frontal Cortex, the “steering wheel,” needs to evaluate and dialogue to see if the thought you’ve just received is helpful.
- Your Brain Really is Your Best Long-term Friend—Learn to Work Together. Learn to embrace every part of your mental processes. All of you is you, and it’s all good. Value your brain as your best, long term friend. With your conscious mind you’re steering your life, although it’s a wild ride sometimes. The other part of your mind, the below conscious part of you, is constantly serving up brilliant ideas, but is also serving up fears, regrets, as well as what might have been. You can influence your friend, the brain, only to a point. He is a very independent part of you. And that’s good! He brings you the best ideas you’ve ever had, and you don’t want that to stop. His hunches, flashes of insights, as well as his dreams and vision of tomorrow, are the most important part of you.
So I’ve become friends again with my brain. I admire his mental processes, and sometimes do battle with his sometimes bizarre ideas. It’s my brain, my best long-term friend, and me forever. We still have a lot of conflict, but we finally love and respect each other.