Imagine a big man entering the gym. He’s 5 foot 8 inches and 18 stone. He has no kit and has an anxious expression on his face. He approaches one of the personal trainers and says ‘Hi – I want you to completely change the way I am.’ The spry young thing replies “Of course. How much would you like to change?” To which our portly hero responds – “I’d like it all to happen by tomorrow. Before lunch”
Who on earth would approach a gym in this fashion? It’s an unreasonable request and would be met with at best a stifled guffaw but people seem to think that the brain’s operation can be changed quickly and efficiently with little or no effort.
It hard to know who to blame for this – the ‘self-as-a-project’ theme that underscores consumer culture might be a good place to start. Change happens quickly in tv-time and people perhaps imagine that quick fixes are possible for them too.
At the risk of bursting another therapy-bubble anyone promising a quick fix in this way may well have the whiff of the charlatan around them.
Real change is possible. Neuro-science has helped us to understand that the brain is far more malleable than we used to think. We now know that areas of the brain that appeared to be shut down or dormant can be made active again. Skills that were once considered lost can be recaptured. But to do this we need tools.
Of course we do.
All human evolution has depended on us using tools and dealing with the brain is no different. What is crucial here are how we use the tools and the gentle certainty about what it is we are trying to do.
Meditative work can help you develop fresh perspectives that lay the ground work for dealing with your brain in a mindful fashion. A range of tools and techniques can be applied which will separate out your thoughts from your emotional reactions.
But it is work and you have to keep at it. Any worthwhile therapy will gently insist that you continue using these tools and techniques in between sessions and make notes on any changes you observe. The product will be a more mindful you able to be in the moment rather than chasing he unknowable future.
Now about that gym….