A monster in your brain

I met a girl in December 2018 mid-way on her journey to cycle from Brisbane to Sydney (about 1,000kms). A very tough journey for her and I was pretty sure she had been fighting her monster in her brain along the Pacific Highway to Sydney!

Key takeaways:

  • Negative talks to yourself is a default function of your brain but you don’t want it;
  • Observe the nature’s force of negative talks but use it to help yourself.

The human brain is perhaps the most complex organism that we know on earth. Due to our brains and the power it brings to humans, we rule the planet and stay on top of the food chain. While humans may have evolved for millions of years, some of our brain functions are still at the ‘stone age’. Let’s focus on the ability of our brain to keep us alert.

The way to keep a human alert is by observation (seeing and listening) and by remembering what to mind. So, ‘once bitten and twice shy’ is a default function of human brain so to keep us safe from danger and don’t repeat a mistake twice (and get killed in the wild!). The function to remember bad experience or danger and build association with new observations is a very powerful ability that a human brain naturally has.

Negative talks in a human brain is a ‘default‘ function to keep us alert of danger in the wild. In the modern society, although we don’t get eaten by a lion in the city, we still have negative talks in our brains all the time. These talks remind us of someone we don’t like, something bad we came across before, or expecting something bad that may happen, even with a small chance.

If you are a meditation beginner, then the first challenge you face in meditation is to keep yourself ‘away’ from those thoughts that keep pumping out of your mind, especially negative ones. If you have a meditation coach, then your coach will tell you that the best way to ‘solve’ this is to observe those thoughts, and let it ‘flow’. In other words, just like watching a movie in your brain and don’t react to that movie.

It’s hard to do.

Many people know I am a tri-athlete and I do Ironman races (3.8km swim, 180km ride, then run a full marathon, 42.2km). When people know this for the first time, the first question they ask is usually: ‘what’s the most difficult part of the race?’ My answer is: ‘fighting with my brain!’

There are so many negative talks going on during the whole race in my brain. These talks try to convince me that I couldn’t go on any more, my legs are sore and I should give up. The best way to fight my brain is to stay alert and observe these negative talks. Then I focus on my body and really focus on the moment including the movement of my muscles and my body. By shifting my focus to the moment and enjoying it, I can turn the tide and use the negative talks to boost my focus on my endurance sports.

We all have these negative talks and a monster in our brain. We don’t want it but we have to live with it. The best option is to use the cue from this monster and shift that focus to something positive. One of my coaching clients has been struggling with his monster lately and felt frustrated, very frustrated. I told him: ‘It’s OK to have these thoughts but try to focus on your goal plan and move forward; one step at a time, like Armstrong landing on the Moon. Soon, you can beat the monster in your brain like watching a movie and enjoying it.

Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com

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