When I think of my mind, I usually think of my thoughts bouncing around, competing for attention, and disappearing just when I need them!
I think of all of the academic work I have done over the years, all of the experiential learning I’ve done, all of the memories I hold of people and events and experiences.
What I didn’t think of until fairly recently, was the complex interplay that goes on in our minds every day.
Or the way in which our brains were capable of growing and shifting and changing the way that we think over time.
And I certainly didn’t think of how much of what happens in my mind is out of my control!
And then I discovered Dr. Daniel J. Siegel (M.D.) who has written a number of books including The Whole-Brain Child, Parenting From the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation and others.
From these books I started to piece together a different view of the brain.
It was a view of the brain that saw the mind as a complex, interconnected system. A system that monitored and controlled everything from the rate of my breathing, to my hormone output; the tightness of my muscles to my likelihood of insomnia; the chances of remembering the right answer when I was taking a test to the reaction of my foot on the break when I saw a car swerve in front of me on the highway.
My brain’s ability to function could be affected by the thickness of the dividing line between the right side and the left side of the brain (called the corpus callosum), by my experiences in childhood or even in utero, and it could even be affected by what foods I ate and how my digestive system processed those foods.
The hormone receptors I had, it turned out, were responsible for large parts of what went on in my brain – the thoughts I had, and the responses I came up with were carried around and shared by these chemicals in my brain, just like a computer carries around memory on metal and shares it through electrical impulses.
It also turns out that our brains, like a computers, have the ability to grow and learn new ways of doing things – which is great for those of us who feel like we’ve gotten stuck in ineffective or even damaging ways of thinking.
(Interested in knowing more about how you can impact your brain? Keep an eye out for Part 2!)