Brain Resilience

drawing of brain pointing to purposeful brain resiliency schematicsPurposeful brain resiliency is a thing, I think. When we actively work to reroute our brain processes, that is purposeful resilience. Compared to the regular old resiliency when our brain routes around damaged areas. Those damaged areas may be due to either physical or psychological trauma. That is how I think of resiliency. It is not the scientific definition. I am sure that I am missing some super sciencey bits. I am not a scientist. 

For me, unconscious brain resilience developed due to psychological trauma experienced growing up in an emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive household. All of those different types of abuses affected my brain in different ways. I imagine that my brain is a labyrinth of rerouted pathways to adjust to my brain’s physical changes. I think that a lot of that brain resilience was simply a way for me to survive and get through the darkness.

I think of resilience like driving a car and suddenly coming upon a bridge that is out or something that is blocking your route forward. When that happens, the goal is to get around that area that is impassable. Once you find your way, you will use that same path again to drive that way. And why not? You have already found the way around the section that is impassable.

Purposeful Brain Resilience

I think purposeful brain resilience results in physical changes in our brains. Our brains adjust and adapt to those learning experiences. I haven’t found research that supports my hypothesis. But when you think about it, it makes sense to me that when we decide to change our mindset, the brain would physically change.  We have to teach ourselves that type of resilience.  

Those learning opportunities to develop purposeful brain resilience comes from those moments or times you react to something without thinking. That gut reaction means that reactions hit some visceral pain point for you. That made you feel a certain way you don’t want to feel, so you lash out. Or I lash out. I know I do that, and I do say things that don’t make sense or are hurtful.   

It is essential that I am aware of moments like that so I can think about them later. That is what I do, anyway. I realize that I have reacted to something in a way that others may not think is typical, and I wonder why. Deep thinking is when my introvert superpower comes in handy. I can think and think about something until I have it figured out.

Towards the Resilient Light

Over time those emotionally abusive words and phrases become a standard part of my internal monologue. I am harder on myself than anyone else can be. When people tell me how smart I am or that I have done good work, I don’t believe them. I usually will say that it was effortless, that anyone could accomplish that. 

I would deflect the good things that people say about me because that was not what my mother had told me the entire time that I was growing up. It would be so opposite from what I had internalized all of those years ago. It would cause cognitive dissonance for me because it was so contrary. I knew what I thought about myself was not true, but there is always that whisper in the dark that says it is true. 

There are times that the whisper is much louder. I am not sure that the volume matters as much as that voice is still there, negating all good things. It is that voice that I need to either remove or minimize its effect on me. And that is where my words come into the picture.

Resiliency with Words

The words we use matter. Whether those are the words spoken out loud or internally, I believe in the power of words. And that is where purposeful brain resilience begins with words. What we say and what others say about us becomes internalized within our brains. Those words affect how we feel, view ourselves, and view others. 

When those words are harmful or even angry, then we see ourselves and the world that way. That is why I think I can change that inner monologue of hurtful things into better things. It’s a bit as if we had the power to take a rainy day and turn it into a beautiful sunny day. Who isn’t happier on a sunny day? And once we can change that internal climate, we begin to perceive the world differently, maybe better. 

For me, one of the hardest parts of this process is sitting with that ugliness. Those words that have embedded themselves into my brain telling me that I am no good. It is the most uncomfortable feeling to sit with those things, to look at where they came from and how they make me feel. Who wants to do that? No one. BUT it is necessary. At least I think it is. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go through this process.

Could it be CBT?

I think my idea of purposeful brain resiliency is very similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). I am not a professional, but it does seem very similar based on what I have read. So maybe there is something to what I am trying to do by changing that internal monologue.

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