How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety into CalmnessJun 06, 2021
(hiss) - This program is a UCTV presentation for educational and non-commercial use only. (upbeat music) - It's a pleasure to have Marty here and a pleasure to introduce him, especially to a room full of people interested in learning about mind-body medicine. Marty Rossman has probably done more to get integrative medicine to where he is, especially as it relates to mind-body medicine, than anyone he can introduce or perhaps even shake hands with. Marty was early one of the advocates of medical acupuncture. He was one of the founding board members of Something American. American Board of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, he tells me.
He has been instrumental in developing guided imagery to the robust field it is today. He also works a lot with hypnosis, with many different techniques to help calm us down to help us get to a point of relaxation. Using hypnosis, health hypnosis, biofeedback, bodywork, but especially guided imagery. He is a member of the advisory board for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and I was interested to discover that he is also a member of the advisory board for the Rosenthal Center for Complementary Medicine at Columbia University in New York. I have known Marty for several years.
I have had the privilege of attending several talks that he has given. I know he is a great speaker. - Well thank you very much. That was very nice of you to say. Good afternoon everyone. So how many of you have ever worried about something? (audience laughing) Has anyone here ever worried about anything? Okay, well, that's our topic tonight. And of course, everyone worries sometimes and some people worry all the time. And if you're one of those people who finds
yourself worrying all the time, I think you could get something very useful out of it. I hope you get something very useful out of tonight's talk.
If you only worry intermittently, I hope you get something useful anyway, but you probably don't need it as much. So I'm going to call my topic for tonight Worrying Well, and I'm still looking for a subtitle, but tonight we're going to call it how to use
anxietyand stress and
turnit into more desirable things like calm and confidence. Worry, I think, gets a lot of bad press because we don't use it very well, so when I call it Worrying Well, it's really about what is worry? How do we do it? What is the purpose of this?
Is it possible that worrying has a positive function, and does it? Worry is basically an adaptive function. It's something that allows us to go over and over something in our minds in an attempt to solve a problem or resolve a situation, so I think that's adaptive. Humans are born with powers in our
brains that, as far as we know, do not belong to any other creature on Earth, and that has allowed us to go from being a rather vulnerable prey animal on the African savannah to becoming the dominant creature. on earth. We don't have many tools to survive if you look at a human as an animal.
We are quite vulnerable. We don't run very fast. We don't have big teeth. We don't have big claws. We can swim a little but not very well. We can't fly very well. So out there, without much technology and in the African savannah, we are basically meat. And we have systems built into our system that we inherit from the development of other prey animals that lead to things like the fight and flight response, which are adaptive in some situations and maladaptive in others. But one of the things that we have, that one of the qualities that we have developed is, or one of the abilities and mental functions, is the imagination.
You could really argue that the imagination is one of the key things, and perhaps the key mental faculty that separates the human being from all other forms of life. Imagination allows us to remember things from the past. It allows us to project things into the future and think about what things would be like in the future if you did something this way or that way. And everything that exists on Earth that was not made by God or by nature, choose, or some combination of the two. Everything else that exists, everything that humanity has created began in someone's imagination.
That's where he made his first appearance on Earth, as someone's imagination. "Ooh, we could do that. "We could make it round, it will roll. "We could chip them." They figured out that two rocks splintering each other make fire, and they figured out a way to do it. So imagination, you could argue that it was from God or nature, that the human imagination is the most powerful force on Earth. And it is that very few of us have really been taught how to use it. Most of our education, especially up to higher education, is based on the use of other mental faculties, which have also made us very powerful.
The ability to analyze. The ability to calculate. Linear, logical, rational, and scientific ways of thinking have also made us very powerful because they allow us to take the things we imagine and make them come true in a certain way, but a lot starts in the imagination. Worry is a function of the imagination. If you didn't have imagination, you wouldn't be worried. That's what lobotomies are all about. (audience laughs) And that's what a lot of drugs are about. So we used to joke in our guided imagery academy that if we could find a simple, non-toxic way to do an imaging surgery, we could solve everyone's worry and stress problems.
You just wouldn't be too worried. You wouldn't do much either. You wouldn't be creative, but you wouldn't worry if we could do that. So I think instead of taking out the imagination, what we want to do is learn how to use it better, and a lot of what I'm going to share with you about Worrying Well or Worrying More Effectively has to do with how you use your imagination. imagination. So worry and stress overlap a lot, right? And we often use them interchangeably. I'm going to spend a bit of time differentiating these things a bit, but they do overlap quite a bit.
anxietyalso overlaps with worry and stress. They are all a little different and are very interrelated. They share in many different kinds of ways. The reason this is important is because our awareness and our ability to become self-aware is potentially the best tool we have to improve our lives. And also, if we don't know how to use it, it can be something that makes our lives impossible. So I like this Ashleigh Brilliant quote. "Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am master of my destiny and captain of my soul." So you are. If you want to do something with your anxiety, your stress, the way you think, the way you create your life.
You are the captain whether you like it or not. So we might as well learn to use these capabilities because there's really no going back. I think sometimes unconsciously we try to come back with other ways of coping with anxiety and stress like drinking too much or taking drugs or medicine or eating too much All the millions of ways we have of passing out and trying to bury our head in the sand and maybe it will disappear, which happens frequently. So, it's not that it's not a good short-term strategy, but as a total life plan, it's a bit lacking, okay?
It won't get you where you want to go. So what do worry, stress and anxiety look like? different? So worry is kind of, that's how I think about it, and I can be argued with. It is really true. I'm throwing it out there. I'm writing a book about it. So if I'm wrong, please tell me before the book is written. But it seems to me that worry is a type of thinking, okay? And our friend here Ziggy says, "The products of my imagination are trying to get me." That is the most common use of imagination is to just let your imagination go into the worst case scenarios of the scene, being entranced or hypnotized by your worries and letting your imagination scare you.
Because I think, in a sense, the most common unconscious use of imagination is to drive ourselves crazy or worry ourselves sick. So the bar is pretty low. That's the good news. We can learn to use it more purposefully and do better than that. So worry is a type of thinking. It is a type of repetitive thinking. Sometimes a rumination, usually it is problematic. It often has to do with things that are in the past or in the future, okay? It is the opposite of being here now. It is the opposite of the current center. That doesn't mean it's bad, and that doesn't mean it doesn't have a function.
But we are in our brain, we are thinking about something. We are going over it over and over again. And again, I think it's because of the adaptive function of worry, I always assume that something is an attempt by nature or life to solve a problem or give us an advantage. So if you think, what could be the advantage of being able to go over a problem over and over again in my mind? Well, I think it's like you have a big ball of yarn or yarn tangled up. And you're trying to untangle it and you find a spot that's loose and you pull on it for a while and it loosens a little bit, and then it gets stuck again, so you flip the ball over and you find another loose spot and you break free. a few more things, and you
turnit around again and release a few more things.
And if you keep doing that, turning it over and over again, looking at it from different angles, finding the loose places, finding where things are attached. Sorry, if you stick with it, more often than not, you're going to untangle all of that and then move on to the next mess you find, okay? But it's likely to unravel it, and I think that's the job of worry. It allows us, makes our worries transportable so that you can think about it at any time, and that can be an advantage or a disadvantage. And I think that depends on whether you're using your brain or being driven by it.
That your brain is an incredible organ. Your mind has something to do with it. And at least under certain circumstances, your mind can learn to use your brain in better ways. That's what it's all about. So it's very easy for this adaptive function of solving problems and going over things over and over again to become a habit or to become repetitive and ruminating and just become its own thing. And I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that worry can have some sort of magical function. There is a magical and unconscious function of worry.
A couple of them actually. So one is that most of the things you worry about never happen. Most of the things you worry about never happen, and if so, that's an old rubric we've all heard and found myself wondering, "Well, is that really true?" So I've been teaching this as a six week class, this Worrying Well class. I have taught it several times and have asked people at the beginning of the class to list all the things they find themselves repeatedly worried about. And then some time later, we checked in with the first class, which was about nine months ago, to see how many of those things have happened and not many.
So I don't know if anyone has really studied that before, but you could do it yourself by writing them and then revising them in about six months or a year. Now what's interesting about that, the way the brain works is that at some unconscious level in the brain, the brain might conclude that the thing didn't happen because you cared, right? (audience laughing) That's the show, and there's an old story about a woman who walks by her house. She is an old lady. She is walking around her house every day. Muttering, walking around her house. She walks around her house all day until she makes a groove around her house, and it comes down to the middle of her thighs.
And finally, one of her neighbors can't take it anymore. He walks over and says, "I hope you don't mind if I ask why you walk around your house all day, every day." And she's like, “Well, I'm keeping her safe from tigers. And he's like, “Well, we're in Indiana. There are no tigers here. And she says, "See?" (audience laughter) (laughter) So we may be rewarded for worrying that a lot of those things don't happen, and at some level of unconscious, magical primitive thinking, those two things could possibly be connected. The other thing that has been researched is that sometimes worrying about things distracts us from the things that really bother us.
So worrying about little things and to-do lists and so on, always complaining and always worrying and always having something to complain and worry about actually distracts us from something that could be deeper and more emotional and actually more difficult. . for us to take So, and we know that that's a function. In fact, that has been studied. So that preoccupation prevents deeper, richer, more emotionally charged thinking, which typically comes in images and comes in quiet moments. So if there are a lot of feelings that are hard to process or hard to feel or unprocessed that we've never dealt with, it's helpful in a sense to keep the mind very busy.
Because if you shut up, your emotions will surface. And ultimately, we think that's a good thing. Emotions are natural, they are healthy. They have a wisdom in which mostof us have not been educated. But they can be hard to feel. No one, very few people have a hard time feeling joy. Although many times we cannot feel joy because we cannot or do not want to feel other emotions. When you start to feel an emotion, the others say, "Hey, the door is open." And they may want to come up and be felt. So there are worry functions, and again, some of them are unconscious, magical, maybe not in our best interest over time.
Other adaptives, problem solvers, go over the problem. So it's up to us to learn what we're doing with the worry, and that gives us options in terms of what we're doing with the rest, okay? So worry is a function of thought, whereas anxiety, anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling. It is usually in the chest or upper abdomen. Not always, but it is more often in this area or in this area. It is an uncomfortable feeling of fear, apprehension, or dread. The dread is, it's that feeling, "My God, something bad is going to happen, I know it. Something bad is going to happen." You don't know.
It can be attached to something or it can be free. And anxiety often comes with physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, chest pain, sweating, shortness of breath There is often a feeling of anxiety if the anxiety is very bad, like a panic attack feeling that comes with the attacks panic attacks and the feeling is of impending doom. People with panic attacks feel like they are about to die. And it's common, again, since the symptoms are often in the chest or abdomen, we see these things in medicine all the time. And you could really argue that one of the primary roles of a primary care physician is to see if there is something other than anxiety, because anxiety can cause so many symptoms in so many systems of the body and make us fear a feeling that something something bad is going to happen.
Fed is a function of a part of the brain which is the emotional part of the brain. It's called the limbic system or emotional brain, so worry belongs to the thinking part of the brain. And there is a lot of interaction, but the worry belongs to the thinking part of the brain, the cortex. Anxiety usually comes from the limbic, or emotional, part of the brain, and I'll show you what that looks like. And stress, which is the third leg of our uncomfortable stool here, is actually a physical response to a threat, real or imagined. And in modern life, most threats are perceived or imagined, but not so.
So someone has probably told you the story of the saber tooth tiger and the fight or flight response etc. That this was a response that we believe was designed by nature. So when you came out of the cave and you were met by a big predator like a saber-tooth tiger, part of your nervous system kicks in and you get a big shot of adrenaline and your heart beats faster and your blood clots faster and your blood pressure rises and your muscles overload and you're ready to run, or run the fastest two miles you've ever run in your life or fight the tiger to the death.
And then he charges you super. It's that kind of thing we hear when a mother moves a car to save the baby. What happens is that this response can be triggered by threats that are not predators. That's not it, it can skyrocket in response to stock market movements, economic changes, thinking about aging, thinking about whether you can meet your responsibilities. All kinds of things, and all kinds of things, that unless you know where the off button is on your TV, your radio, or your computer, can literally pump into your brain 24/7 if you stay awake All the bad news of every bad thing that's happened around the world to anyone, or if it's a slow news day, what could happen, okay?
Like the H1N1 flu, because it's not a terrible flu, it doesn't seem like a terribly dangerous flu right now, but it could become really dangerous. And that's what has everyone freaking out and freaking out and lining up. What could happen then. And yes, there is a balance between, again, being able to predict the future and take steps to prevent things from happening that don't have to happen, and freaking out for months over something that probably never will. It's kind of a yin-yang relationship. So stress is, the important thing here is that stress is a physical response.
They are not things that happen to you. It is a physical response that your body has to survive short-term stress. And if you survive that short-term stress like fighting like the saber-tooth tiger, you've either killed it or run away. And run as fast as you can, climb the highest tree you can. You've burned off all these stress chemicals, and when the tiger leaves, you limp back to the cave and breathe a sigh of relief and tell everyone how you killed the tiger or got away from the tiger. And your body rested and compensated and recharged and replaced all the chemicals it used during that intense 20 to 30 minute fight.
Or the tiger has eaten you and you no longer have stress. (audience laughing) But one way or another, it's all over in about 20 or 30 minutes. (audience laughing) Is it okay? So there's none of these years of stress that goes on if you're a good worrier, when you wake up in the morning and the first thing that comes to mind is, "Oh my gosh, what's going to happen to this?" Am I going to be able to do this? "Will I be able to beat that?" And so on and so on. And of course, the really good worriers don't just do it during the day.
You also get up at night because you don't you can sleep, right? And so it's taking away from you, and that takes away your resilience, and it becomes a real negative vicious cycle. So, to review. Worry is a type of repetitive and circular thinking. Anxiety is a feeling uncomfortable feeling of fear or dread. Stress is a physical response that prepares you to face challenges and is therefore interesting to watch. This is a somewhat dated model of the brain. It's called the Triune Brain, but it's good enough for the government work.we can work with this mod hey, okay?
This is it, there is what is called the cortical brain or the neocortex. The big, wrinkled, gray-matter brain we're so proud of that allows us to talk and add and calculate and reason and so on. And imagine, and do all these things that, again, as far as we know, no other creature on Earth does, and that's really the most adaptive thing that has helped us survive and dominate. Lower down, limbic system, midbrain, okay. The basic brain, we call it the reptilian brain. That's the brain we share with lizards, reptiles, and amphibians. That is the oldest part of the brain.
That part of the brain basically related to survival. It basically classifies things into two or three categories. Can I eat this? Can you eat me? "Can I mate with him?" That's basically what it's all about, okay? (audience laughter) Sort all the information you get into those three things, okay? And act like that. Act reflexively and instantly. Just like if you meet a lizard on the way and make a move towards it, it's gone just like that. It doesn't go inside. He doesn't do anything Woody Allen. Should I move? Shouldn't I move? Would it be better for me?
Is this dangerous? "Isn't it dangerous? How dangerous is it?" It doesn't do any of that, it's just gone, okay? If there's any hint that there's a threat, it triggers the stress response and it's gone. thing is, "this thing developed evolutionarily from the bottom up, okay? This was, this part of the brain developed first. And then, as animals developed, the limbic system developed quite a bit in mammals, and other warm, furry creatures, that characteristically have social skills. relations. And for mammals, for most mammals, not all mammals, social relationships like lion packs and wolf packs and families of people and things like that have adaptive value.
We do better when we are connected to groups. We have more strength. We have more ability to solve problems. We have emotional support. We are social creatures, and our social positions mean a lot to us. And all of that emotional processing happens primarily in this limbic system, and furthermore, the big, intelligent, intellectual brain. Each layer added new possibilities and new complexity to our ability to understand and navigate our world. And part of the problem when we look at this whole thing is that the new guy is very fascinated with himself, okay? The thinking brain thinks that nothing was important before he came along.
And I saw it as deliberately. It could be her too, but it's kind of, it's not that there aren't tremendously bright and intellectual women, but it's kind of thinking analysis, logic, that kind of thinking on a yin-yang scale that we typically characterize as a kind of a masculine thought It's not that it doesn't belong to women as well. Whereas the feeling, the intuitive, tends to be a more receptive, softer type. It has its own logic, but it's not the same as the logic of math and science, okay? So this brain is very good, especially in a part of the brain, the part that is suitable for verbal and mathematical skills, which is normally located in the left hemisphere of the brain.
And there's some variation, but it's usually in the left brain, which is called the dominant hemisphere. Speaking ability, math ability, etc. Whereas on the right side of the brain, in the same area, there are areas of the brain that have to do with body image, emotional recognition and facial expressions, tone of voice and those kinds of skills. So everyone has their place. I mean, logical skills have to do with building buildings like this and building MRIs and doing the kind of amazing science that takes place in a university setting like UCSF and looking through electron microscopes and doing analysis. chemicals.
And these are tremendous feats, don't get me wrong. They are completely useless in a relationship, okay? It doesn't matter how many Nobel laureates you have. You may not be able to maintain a marriage. It would be if that's the only kind of intelligence you have, right? And you may not be able to maintain good relationships with people. Whereas someone who emotionally, and in terms of social networking, understanding, compassion, and empathy, may have a different type of intelligence, as well as an intellectual type of intelligence. So my point is that these are different types of intelligences that are useful in different situations.
What has happened since the advent of the age of reason and what it is, and the advent of the discovery of the immense power of our intellectual capacities, I believe has been a devaluation and a ignorance of the previous type of intelligence that has to do with our relationships with each other and with other living beings and with our environment. And I think a lot of the crisis that we're seeing is that we're trying to get back to that and own those relationships while maintaining our ability to be technically creative and help solve those problems in that way.
I think these have been around much longer. This guy is really fascinated with himself and sometimes thinks he's the only game in town. So the reason why we used to say, when we talk about the left and right hemisphere, and I don't want to go too deep tonight, but the reason why the left hemisphere is called the dominant hemisphere… Can anyone guess? ? It's dominant, but the main reason it's called the dominant hemisphere is that it's the one that names things. It is the verbal hemisphere. It's the one that gives people, they think, "I'm the dominant hemisphere," and you're the sub-dominant hemisphere. "I am the major hemisphere, you are the minor hemisphere." And it's kind of a joke, but I think it's also true, and we've appreciated that.
Think about your education. How many hours of emotional education have you received? How many hours of education in the use of your imagination did you get? Or your intuition? So his education, and I'm not saying it was, hopefully, at least when I went to school, it was reading, writing, arithmetic. It was those left brain, analytical and logical skills. Tremendously useful, but not for all of us. And I think we need much more educational experience with this other type of intelligence. You learn to communicate with it, and that's why in a little while I'm going to talk about imagery, which is its coding language in the sense of this more emotional and intuitive brain.
So here's kind of a picture of a real brain cut in half like this. And I don't know how well you can see this, but there's the wrinkled cortex, the neocortex. Go all the way around. And then in the center, this area here more or less is the limbic or emotional brain. And you can see that there is a, and so this would be the reflexive, survival, reptilian brain. And you can see that there are many connections between the two, so that this brain could send messages to this brain and create an emotional reaction, which would send messages to this part of the brain and send them to the body and vice versa.
I like it for this guy. So this guy is having a, he's not havinga good day. He's having an angry reaction, and without going through all these things, just if you want to study this, you can, but something didn't match his expectations, okay? That's where most of the anger comes from. I had an expectation. Something didn't occur to him. She sent some kind of danger or threat message to this emotional brain. It signals your lower brain to prepare for a fight, and this thing sends, through all the cranial nerves and spinal cord and so on, messages to every organ in your body and your physiology changes dramatically.
When you're angry, when you're scared, when you're sad, when you're happy, when you're calm, you're physiologically different from, okay. So there are a lot of connections and this is basically just to show that yes, there is an actual wiring diagram and an actual chemical messaging system. So anxiety, stress and worry are interactive, they are bidirectional. If you have a tendency to be anxious, that emotional brain will pump out more "Beware" messages. You may not know what you are looking for, but you will be more attentive. It is going to raise the, it is going to send more messages to the cortex so that it is on guard against problems.
And then the cortex will be able to figure out all the problems that might be out there, and it will send messages back and they'll be able to go into some kind of real reverberant loop. All of these parts of the brain are chemically sensitive, and of course, in medicine, we normally try to chemically manipulate these things if someone has a real anxiety disorder. We are not talking about anxiety disorders in which the level of anxiety increases despite what is thought here. But we try to manipulate that with medication. Those of us who have studied nutritional medicine know that there are molecules of natural origin.
That there are molecules in our food that can be used as nutraceuticals to modify how active or regulated the nervous system is or how regulated the nervous system is, so we try to do it through more natural molecules, but the other thing that needs to be to know about this is that they are also sensitive to thought. That thoughts that turn into chemicals at a certain level and those chemicals stimulate the physical mechanisms that underlie our reactions, then. And that's going to be our focus tonight, it's all about thinking. For any of you who have any doubt that the mind and body are actually connected and create physiology, just a little bit, this is biofeedback data.
And to keep it simple, this is muscle tension. This is the electrical response in the skin. This is fingertip temperature, which is a sign of stress or relaxation. This beautiful uniform white line here is the breath. So this guy is sitting in a biofeedback therapist's office with a bunch of sensors attached to his muscles and the tips of his fingers to measure how his circulation responds to stress. And he has a belt around his chest, and he's breathing well and around his abdomen, this is actually his abdomen. And he's breathing fine and normal, even. He's just sitting there relaxing.
There's not much going on, so. You won't be able to read all these things. He just watches what happens here. So he is a boy. This is a real patient who has a phobia of driving over bridges and lives here. (audience laughing) Good. Bad combination, right? So he's sitting down, so he goes to the biofeedback therapist. Here he is just sitting relaxing. Then the biofeedback therapist asks him to think, for him to imagine going up to the Golden Gate Bridge. And all this goes in the same direction. There is an immediate fight or flight response. It just comes out of imagining driving across the bridge.
You can see it better here, what happens with his breathing. He just goes to the pod. It is very superficial, very irregular. He stops breathing in his abdomen. His skin temperature is actually reversed. It should be decreasing. His muscle tension rises. He is physiologically prepared to defend his life by imagining that he is going to the bridge. Now if he can learn to control his breathing again and his therapist can guide him to think of other things that are more relaxing. They usually break it down. "Just think about going downstairs" and seeing your car keys. "In a person who has developed a phobia, that would be enough to stimulate a big reaction.
Now if the person can learn to breathe more deeply and induce a response of relaxation, that most people can, while imagining that, return to calm physiology. By the time you get to the place where you can imagine yourself driving across the bridge and staying calm, you'll be able to cross that bridge. That could take months to getting to that. There's a lot of practice here, but it's a good example of a mind-body connection and how much we respond to just thinking about things. So there's a lot, how many have heard the term neuroplasticity? Has that been talked about here? "So it doesn't mean that your brain is made of plastic.
It means that your brain is changeable, and lately there has been a lot of literature on how changeable the adult human brain is. Until very recently, the saying was that you We have an adult brain, which 'lay. Your cells die, but that's it. And you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and all that sort of thing. And now we know, how many of you have read this Norman Doidge book, "The Brain That Changes Itself"? It is an amazing book on the science of the brain. A couple of, one example, now there are researchers who have developed techniques, sending, taking people who have been blind from birth.
By connecting a small video camera to an electrical device that makes a pattern on their backs when pricked. Sort of a thing that puts multiple little touches and gives you an image on the back, and you start to see. It's okay, they can see so they can walk. Now they have it where a little video camera and a glass go to a little wafer on the tongue that sends out little electrical signals. And they start, and they are able to see. Probably not like most of us who can see naturally and normally, but they can see.
They can walk around the room and not bump into objects etc, okay? And what happens over time, what they found was, in these people, to see a device called fMRI, which can show us which parts of the brain are active while people are thinking, which was the part of the brain in the cortex occiput that processes visual information, which took all this data from his back or his tongue and began to put images together. So the brain takes this data and puts the images together because that's what it does. He normally receives the information from his eye, but if we can get the information some other way, he can create new pathways that create these abilities.
Isn't it amazing? So part of Jeffrey Schwartz at UCLA, his research has been with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which has traditionally been a very difficult condition to treat, and he's found very structured repetitive exercises, which fortunately, obsessive-compulsive people are very good at . (Laughter) (audience laughter) By focusing their mind in a certain way, they can literally change, not just their behavior patterns, but their brains change after a decent amount of time. We're talking months of practice so you can put in new hard wires and change your mind. You can change your mind in a nanosecond, but it seems like it takes weeks or months to change your brain.
But when you change your brain, you now have a new default position installed, and you don't have to be the same as you were before. Louann Brizendine, who is a professor of psychiatry here at UCSF, wrote this, how many have read this book, "The Female Brain?" If she's never read another book in her life, and if she's a man or a woman, (audience laughs) she should read this book. This is an amazing book. A truly amazing book about the brain and how it is organized and the different capacities that exist. Both genders have similar capabilities, but it's a bit of a digression, but it was tremendously helpful for me to learn from this book that all fetuses as they grow in the womb are female, they are male at first.
And at eight weeks, yes, they are all female. They are all female. At eight weeks, the fetus with the Y chromosome gets a testosterone flush, and do you know what that testosterone does to the brain? You are going to love this. (audience laughing) It explains a lot. (audience laughter) It kills 80% of the neurons in the male brain that process emotional communication. (audience laughs) This is apparently brain science. And when you have it again when you're 14 or 15, I don't know how many of you remember being 14 or 15, or if you have a 14 or 15-year-old who sits at the table like this and looks like a jerk and spends all the time time in his room and he's barely human, and he was a bright and loving boy.
He has testosterone poisoning, which is again, seriously, (audience laughs) is again, killing neurons in his brain that have to do with emotional communication. And increasing the parts of your brain that have to do with sexuality and aggression, okay? While the female brain still maintains this much, around four to five times more brain area dedicated to emotional communication. Let's talk about detecting emotional nuances. That's why, in general, you ladies are so much better than us and like to talk to each other about all that stuff. You like to talk to us about it. You don't understand why we don't understand.
Well, this would be like, and this is not an offense. I need a better archetype, but this would be like my dog having 20,000 times more olfactory neurons in his nose than I do. This would be like my dog asking me, "Why don't you smell that Jake was here before?" I'm smelling his book. "Why not, I live in a world of smells? Smell surrounds us everywhere. It's a world of smells for the dog, right? I don't smell any of that. I don't hear the high-pitched sounds because his brain is tuned differently, so this has saved my marriage (audience laughing) This discovery -- a little bit, but your guy may not be able to say what he's feeling as easily as you can tell what he's feeling It's a different world Maybe not, he's like, and this is what guys always say to each other, "Why is she mad? (audience laughter) "I don't get it. "Why are you angry? "I invited her to lunch on Tuesday." She got mad at me. "I do not know why".
So a mystery wasn't exactly solved, but brains are arranged differently. It's really fascinating. That is a great read. It's okay, I'm going to move on before they drug me here. The brain changes throughout life and this is the basis of my interest in thinking about how we think. Thinking about how we care. That if the blind can learn to see, then the anxious should be able to learn to relax. I think it's much easier to learn to relax than to see when you've never seen before. I may be wrong, but this is kind of the center of everything.
If our brain is capable of that kind of learning, what should we do to teach it? And this is a great term that comes from Jeffrey Schwartz's self-directed neuroplasticity, which is fascinating because you're using your own mind to change your own brain. Really an interesting concept. As one of my favorite Gary Larson cartoons has to do with this, this is the ultimate self-help technique. And the guys here are reading these books, like "Do It By Instinct" and "Dare To Be Nocturnal." (audience laughing) "Predator-prey relationships." And the best, of course, is "How to Avoid Natural Selection," which is (mumbles). (audience laughs) So this is ultimately, I mean, our biggest self-care tool.
So let's talk about how we can think about this, and that's how I'm thinking about it right now. I am thinking that there are good worries and bad worries. And by that I mean that the good concern is the functional concern. It is the concern that is trying to solve a problem and that has some potential to solve a problem. And that, and if we separate our concerns into good concerns and bad or futile concerns, that's fine, we can treat each of them differently. We can use our brain in a different way. So a good worry is: "I'm worried about this project. "I'm worried about where to go to school. "I'm worried about whether I'll be able to 'afford my child's education.' about it?" Would you say yes or maybe?
As opposed to, when you actually write down the things that concern you, a lot of times you find out, look at things and go, "Well, I can't do much about it, '2012'" "Geez, I'm worried that the world will end in 2012. What are you going to do about it? Okay, is it likely that you can do something about it? You might want to put that on your list of bad worries, okay?" ?And just enjoy the movie like it's a big roller coaster. So good worry anticipates and solves problems. Bad worry, circular, habitual, magical. It doesn't go anywhere.
It doesn't lead to solutions, it scares you. In In a sense, it starts to become a kind of autosuggestion, doesn't it?Because you're thinking about this all the time, you're scaring yourself. You are sending that path of fear and that makes it harder to use your brain when you feel this way. So how many of you are familiar with the Serenity Prayer? How many of you have heard of him before? Okay, now I want to ask how many of you are on 12-step programs? (audience laughing) The 12-step programs adopted the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer probably dates back to Roman times, and then in modern times it was attributed to a theologian in World War II, but 12-step programs have adopted it.
It is a brilliant prayer thought. If you don't like prayer, take away the word of God, okay? But the Serenity Prayer says, "God," or whatever, "give me the serenity" to accept the things I can't change, "the courage to change the things I can change," and the wisdom to know the difference. So if we use the Serenity Prayer as a kind of skeleton of our Worry practice, we want to think about separating the things that worry us about things you can change, things you probably can't change. And then if there's a few left over that you're not sure of, where you need the wisdom to know the difference, I'll at least talk to you about ways you can use imagery to help with all three. those things.
So the first question is if you are not sure about something and you need more wisdom, how can you get more wisdom? Besides living another 30 or 40 years, okay? By which I mean it's not that useful when you have an immediate problem. So there are ways, ordinary ways to access more wisdom. Talk to people you think are wise. If you have wise friends, if you have wise teachers, see if they talk to you and you can share your problem, listen to them, consider what they say. That is a good source of wisdom. This represents what would Jesus, Buddha, Dalai Lama or Yoda do? (audience laughs) So if you don't have access to a wise friend or teacher, this is a type of visualization technique.
Think about what someone you imagine is genuinely wise would say, what would he say in that situation? Remember Hillary Clinton got all kinds of flak from people when she was the First Lady because she said she was in a circumstance where she wasn't sure what to do and she thought a lot about Eleanor Roosevelt and what Eleanor Roosevelt would have done in that situation. , and of course, all the kooks rose up on her. "She's into spiritualism," and so on. She was conjuring up the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt. She was imagining what a wise and ethical role model would do in that situation.
It's perfectly natural and very intelligent. What would someone with class, wisdom, caring and morals do in this situation? And if you go a step further and do a guided imagery where you really relax, go into a meditative or relaxed state, just relaxed, and you daydream that you were walking in the garden with Eleanor Roosevelt, and you told her what you were happening and you imagined that she answered you. That's not creepy. As long as you know it's not really Eleanor Roosevelt, or if it is, that it is, you're not identifying with her. You are not the person in the asylum who thinks it is Jesus, but you can imagine what Jesus would say.
What Jesus would do, if Jesus is important and meaningful to you. Or if what the Dalai Lama would do or what your grandmother would know, or what your grandmother would know if you had a wise grandmother, right? So you start to access, what would it be like if you approached this from a wise place and you take the time to calm down and take the time to go deeper within? And that's what we do with an image that we sometimes call an inner wisdom image or inner counselor, inner guide, inner ally, whatever is within. You can have your higher power, guardian angel.
People have called this by different names throughout history, and some people feel like, "Well, you're calling a spirit." And other people think, "It's just a way to get to the part of my brain that has this wisdom." Because there is a part of all of us that has a lot of wisdom. Do you know when it comes out? it comes out when your friend is in trouble. When your friend asks you for advice because he can't figure it out, right? Have you ever noticed how easy it is to give advice to your friends? Good advice, generally. if it's something serious, you take some time to think about it.
You don't give them a simplistic answer. You take some time and think about it. You get as deep inside yourself as you can and give them that. wise advice. The thing is, it's probably easier for you to come to your wisdom than your friend if your friend is really scared. Because when we are scared, when we are anxious, when we are worried, there is a psychological phenomenon called regression. We tend to go backwards. We tend to feel that we are too small, we are too weak, we don't have the resources, we don't know what to do.
We are wishing that someone bigger, wiser, stronger was there to tell us what to do. And we feel more childish and that blocks our access to our own wisdom. And that's why taking the time to go do a relaxation practice, relax your body, change your mind, imagine going to a place that's beautiful and peaceful and safe, to get out of that fearful loop. You imagine, or invite an image, of someone or something who is wise and loving and cares for you, whether it is someone or something you have known or something you just make up. Just imagine, imagine what he would tell you or show you or do to you, and it's quite remarkable what can come out of a meditation like this.
Does that make sense to people? And then it's easier to do that for your friend because as much as you love your friend, you probably won't be as scared as they are if it's a serious situation. We see this all the time. The most common place I see this in my practice is with people who have just been diagnosed with cancer, and they are shocked and scared like most people. And in the meantime, they're seeing all these different doctors and oncologists, and trying to become an oncologist in two weeks and learning the whole field of oncology and finding their best fit.
Whereas emotionally, they feel like a three-year-old. So, and it's very difficult for them to make decisions that way. These types of techniques, if you start early and help him connect on a deep enough level that the scared child can really make a difference in terms of smart decision making. So sometimes dan, your internal advisor will say something like this. "The secret to living without frustration and worry is to avoid getting personally involved in your own life." This is definitely a good treatment for worries, okay? But usually, and that's not bad advice. works. So if we go through this process of thinking about the concerns, I actually have people in the class write them down and then go through them and break them down.
I mean, it sounds mechanical. It's just using our ordinary intelligence. Separate them into three columns. Things you think you could change if you wanted to, things you think you couldn't change if you wanted to, and things you're not sure about. And people rarely do this, so we carry it around in our heads... Just writing it down is often very helpful for people to figure it out. And then where we want to get to is down here, whether it's something that you can't change, basically what you want to do is get to a place where or get to a place of some kind of acceptance. coming to terms.
Either you make it an intention or a prayer. So, in other words, you are worrying about something. That something is going to happen, but it's not something you can physically do anything about. It's interesting to see what happens if you take it and turn it around and put it in a positive visualization of what you'd rather have happen, okay? So, I'm going to skip the whole argument here about whether or not that has a physical effect and the secret. Whether we just make something happen by changing our intention, and sometimes we seem to and sometimes we don't.
But what happens when people, in other words, a friend is diagnosed with cancer and you're overwhelmed with worry because you're just worried about her dying, okay? Or be sick or go through something horrible because you care about your friend. That is a typically normal reaction. But you find yourself losing sleep and you're thinking and you're obsessing over it and so on. Well, and there's nothing else you can do. You're bringing him food and being a source of support and so on, but you're not personally going to be able to cure that cancer, okay? But now you start to say, "Okay, instead of constantly imagining "what I don't want to happen," I'm going to think about what I'd rather have happen, so I'll start to imagine that she gets a big treatment "and that her cancer to respond" and to get through that treatment "and survive it and come out as" an even stronger and healthier person. "That if it were up, if it were up to me, 'if I were God, that's what would happen.' And I don't know if that's going to make any difference, but that's where I'm going to put my energy, instead of putting my energy here And whether or not it changes the outcome, way beyond me, but what it does is that when people start to focus on that image, they become less anxious.
You become less anxious because you feel like, "I'm doing what I can do and I'm putting my energy into what I want to happen." Does that make sense? And there are a lot of principles of suggestion that are at work there. There are a couple of analogies that I use for people. One is that I'm not a skier. A mountain biker and I ski. I don't know how many of you are, but you can imagine yourself being a skier. So imagine you're on top of a very steep and challenging ski slope. What you want to do when you're up on top before start, before you push, you want to check everything. see, "Hey, there's a big rock over here." I don't want to crash, hit that. "There are big trees around here.
I don't want to hit those." So what you want to do, and any skier will tell you, you want to see what the line is that gets you through those things safely. And once that you start skiing and you go fast or you ride your bike downhill or anything like that, what you want to focus on is where you want to go, not where you don't want to go because if you look at that rock, you're going to crash into her. Because that's how your mind-body comes together. It tends to go where you look. The other example I use for people is if you want to hit the bull's-eye on a dart board, it helps if you look at it, okay?
If you look at it, there's no guarantee you'll hit it, but you're much more likely than if you close your eyes or your attention is all over the place. And if you keep looking at it, even if you keep getting lost, your entire nervous system is wired to recruit resources and control your body to get you close and close. l and that you hit him more and more often. So it's setting goals, it's focusing your intention on what you want to happen. Makes sense? Without doing that, I was talking to a psychiatrist friend of mine about this the other day and he said, "I think you're talking about intention deficit disorder." (audience laughter) Because a lot of it comes down to how much control we can have over where we put our attention.
So we turn our attention in this case to, if you are a praying person, if you are a religious person and you have a way of praying, then you pray for the outcome that you want. If you're not a religious person, if you don't pray, visualize or try. You say, "If it's up to me," I'm worried that my friend will succumb. "I don't want that to happen." "But the way I'm going to put my energy" into her getting better, "in imagining her getting better." And if nothing else, she will help you. She will help you reduce your anxiety level.
Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. So the other thing is, on the other hand, if there's something you can change, there's a couple of processes to do it. One of the questions is that sometimes people don't act on things that they can change because they feel they don't have enough creativity. They have not been able to resolve a problem. They don't have the guts, the courage to act on it. They don't have the assertiveness. They don't have the confidence. So imagery, and I hope to share with you an image that you can experience with yourself, is a fantastic way to access and develop these kinds of personal qualities in yourself so that you can be more effective in making the changes that you want. ok.
And lead to action that can actually solve these problems. So visualization is a type of thinking, people often say it involves your senses. Thoughts that you can see, hear, smell, feel, dreams. It is a language, it is an emotional language. It is a synthetic language, only thought. It is a language of the arts. They are all the visual arts, theater, poetry, painting. Even the music, the dance, the images that they bring, convey a lot of information, but not in the same way that an equation conveys information. It makes sense. It's the difference between listening. I think Einstein once said, "You could break down a Beethoven sonata" into wavelengths and frequencies, "but you wouldn't get the point." So there's that linear, scientific part.
There's that experiential part. We are after that. So images, it's a natural way that we think. is very tiedto emotions. It's natural, if you think of it as a coding language, it's an emotional and intuitive gray coding language. And it is that we have not had much education in its use, and the runaway imagination is probably the main source of modern stress. It's not just what's happening, it's what you think will happen to you and how it will affect you that sends the signals to your body. On the other hand, developing a skillful imagination, which you can use to send messages of calm, confidence, creativity, there are many different ways to use it.
Your most powerful stress relief tool, but you need to learn some skills to use it on purpose. So the images, what the images do is if we're having a problem that we can't solve in that cortex, the images appeal to the limbic brain. It brings emotional and intuitive intelligence to that issue or problem, so it just brings another big area of the brain to deal with any problem. So it doesn't take anything away. Add intelligence to your problem solving. So you can calm your brain with images, just like you can make it anxious. I could show you some pictures, just ask you to imagine the scariest thing you've ever been through.
Don't do that now. If we were to go through it and we really had, "What do you see?" what do you hear "What do you smell? Imagine you are there again." You could develop quite a bit of anxiety. If I asked you to imagine going to a place that is peaceful and beautiful for you and that you would love to be in, we have nothing to do. and it's safe and it's just the right temperature and notice what you see and hear and smell and sink into that sleep your brain will send messages through the limbic system all the way to the lizard brain to say "It looks beautiful and peaceful and safe" "It sounds beautiful, peaceful and safe. "Smells good. "It's peaceful here, it's safe. "Press the All Clear button." And your body will change to it.
So that place is: "Where do I want to focus my attention right now? What train of thought do I want to put my attention on?" And again, few people have really been taught this, so we have... I'll get to the business aspect later but it's one of the reasons I've spent as much time as I have writing books and making audio CDs and downloads to teach people these skills they're very, they're simple skills your imagination is your right from birth. It's built into you. No one really taught you how to do some pretty simple, but potentially profound moves with them that can literally change your life depending on what you're doing.
It can certainly improve your life. So instead of talking more with you, I want to offer you a chance. Let's do, would you like to do some imaging? Some guided imagery instead. We'll rest your left brain. We'll air it out, we'll cool it down. So I want to co I am sharing with you a fairly simple image that we call an evocative image. How many of you have used purposeful guided imagery before? So a fair number. Maybe half or a little more than half. So this is a way of using images to help you access a particular quality that you might want to have more of.
Well, and that could be, it could be courage, it could be confidence, it could be creativity, it could be patience, it could be humor, it could be assertiveness. Any quality you want to think about. And the way that we usually use this, and you might, is to think about the situation that you're going through, that you've been having a hard time resolving or resolving. And you feel like you just haven't been able to figure it out and it seems like something you could potentially figure out or work out. Well, you just don't feel like you have enough fill-in-the-blank space to do this.
You need a little more, again, courage, assertiveness, patience, humor, whatever, okay? If you can't think of one right away, just think of a quality you'd like to experience more of in yourself. Joy, tranquility, again, confidence, self-love. What suits you. Just some quality that you would like to experience more of. And give it a name. Think about what the name of it is, and you might do a couple of qualities. I would not do more than, sometimes it is not clear what you need more of. I feel like I need more, I don't know if it's courage or I need more strength, so you could do both together.
You know what you are looking for. But think of a specific quality or a couple of qualities that you would like to feel more of in yourself, okay? And then allow yourself to be as comfortable as you can be in your seats. You can close your eyes. You do not have to do it. But it's usually easier to pay attention to your imagination and your inner world if you do. And then allow yourself to take a couple more deep breaths into your breath. Let your breath go a little deeper into your abdomen, and- (breathing out) let your exhale be a kind of letting go breath.
Not forcing anything or forcing anything, just again inhaling deeper into your abdomen and belly, letting the exhalation be a kind of breath. Just inviting your body to begin to soften or relax. And just another time or two as you welcome the breath into your body. Just notice that you are literally bringing fresh energy and oxygen into your body. You can invite it to circulate and flow around your body in the bloodstream to every cell in your body. Provides fresh energy. And as you let the air out, if you'd like, let it be an invitation to your body, your mind, even your spirit, to let go of any tension or discomfort that you don't have to contain right now.
And you don't even have to worry about whether you need to hold or what you can drop. It only invites the body to soften. The mind to begin to quiet. And invite your body to continue to soften and relax. Maybe to get a little roomier without worrying about how you do it. Feel free to change or move to be even more comfortable. And if you have not yet allowed yourself to enter a place that is very beautiful to you, allow yourself to daydream of a place that is very beautiful, peaceful, safe. And that could be a place you've really been in your life.
Whether in your outer life or even in your inner life. Or it could be a place that occurs to you right now, an imaginary place, or some combination. It doesn't really matter, as long as it's a beautiful place for you, peaceful and safe. And if more than one place comes to mind, choose the one that appeals to you the most at the moment. And imagine in your own way that you are really there. And take a few moments to look around you and notice what you imagine to see in this beautiful and peaceful place. Notice the colors and the shapes and the things that are there, and don't worry if it's too vivid and clear as your usual sight or if it's a little vague or comes and goes, but just notice what you imagine is there in this place. quiet, beautiful, safe.
And notice what you imagine yourself listening to in that place, or if it's just very quiet. Notice any sounds you imagine hearing. Notice if there is an aroma or a fragrance or an air quality. And notice what time of day or night it seems to be. And I wonder if you can tell what season of the year it is. Just realize, find the place in that place where you feel most comfortable and at ease. And just trusting their instincts, like a dog or a cat, they will go around and find the most comfortable place to be and feel comfortable there.
And then think of a quality that you think you would like to feel more of. The name of a quality, a particular quality or an emotional state that you would like to feel more of. And then go back in your memory to a time when you experienced that you had that quality in yourself. Let your memory go back to a time when you felt that quality in yourself. And some of you may not remember having that quality, so allow yourself to go back to a time when you witnessed someone else expressing that quality or embodying that quality. it could be a real person or a fictional person or a historical person.
And if you found a time when you yourself had this quality, imagine that you are there again now. And notice what you see, what you hear, what you feel as you feel that particular quality within yourself. And if you are imagining someone else embodying that quality, imagine that you bring it inside of you so that you can feel what it feels like to have that quality inside of you. And then notice where you feel that quality most strongly in your body. You may want to gently scan through your body with your attention from head to toe and up, as if your attention were a sonar beam or a radar beam, and see if, where do you feel that particular quality with more strength? your body?
Stronger on your feet or on your legs? your pelvis? Abdomen? Chest? Your neck and shoulders? arms and hands? In his face? Just notice where it seems to be strongest. And let it grow a little bigger. Imagine that you can allow it to grow a little bigger and stronger, just a little. And notice how it feels to feel that quality in yourself. And notice how your posture wants to be as you feel that quality more strongly in yourself. And if you're comfortable with that, imagine turning up the volume of that quality as if you had a control, like a volume control on a radio or television, and turning it up so it radiates from wherever it's focused. all directions.
Radiate and fill your body with that particular quality. And as you feel that on your face, notice how your face feels. And while you feel that quality, see how you imagine your voice would be if you were in touch with that quality when you speak. And if you like the feel of this quality, go ahead and turn it up even higher so that it overflows the space of your body and fills the space around your body by a foot in all directions. And imagine that it radiates into your body and touches every cell in your body with that quality.
From the depths of your bone marrow to your bones. To your connective tissues, your muscles. The organs and your pelvis. In your womb in your chest. Especially in your brain. Your spinal cord and nervous system. As if every cell in your body was struck by lightning of this quality. As if you were a sponge and you bathed in this quality and you could absorb whatever you wanted. And if you want, you can ride it even stronger and bigger, filling the space around your body by several feet in all directions. You can experiment with that. Never turn the volume up so hard that it feels uncomfortable, but if you like the way it feels, imagine turning it up.
That there is an abundant supply of this quality, and you can increase it to fill the space around your body in a 12, 15, 20 foot radius. Fill the room with it. Fill the bay area with it. Fill the world with it. Just experiment, and then allow yourself to turn the volume into whatever is most comfortable for you at the moment. No matter how strong or weak, how big or small, just give yourself permission to let it be like listening to music when you're alone. Whatever volume is most comfortable for you at the moment is exactly the right volume.
And let yourself rest in that for a few more minutes. And just take a moment before you bring your awareness back into the room. Please take a moment to review what happened in this brief imagery experience. What quality were you looking to experience more of. Whether you have or not. How was it. And if there is something in particular that you want to bring back from this experience and remember it when you return to the outside world. And before you head back into the outside world, take a moment. If there is a particular situation that you would like to approach with more of this quality, imagine approaching that situation while in touch with this quality.
And notice what you notice. Notice if it looks the same or different in any way. If bringing more of this quality into the situation seems to change something about it or your relationship with it. And before you return to the outside world, remember that you can remember this quality, access it, feel it, build it stronger in yourself any time you want simply by going through this process again. So when you're ready, just let the images return to where they came from and become aware of the room we're in together. And gently begin to bring your awareness of your inner world back to the outer world.
We in this room here together. And if you want, just very gently stretch your body and feel your fingers and toes and everything else. I want to give you just a few minutes to write or draw anything you want to remember about this experience. This is just for you. I'm going to give you about three or four minutes just to write or draw anything, and I recommend that you do it, no matter what. Even if nothing happened. Let's take three or four minutes and write about the experience, especially anything you want to remember that you thought was important or you thought was interesting about this experience.
Let's have a little discussion. Comments, questions? Did everyone hear that? If you sometimes get into such a stressful and anxious state, it's just. You have had experiences where relaxation and guided imagery have been very helpful. And other times when she's been so stressed and so anxious and upset that she couldn't even get into it, or if she did, she just didn't even touch it. And yes, that can happen. This is not a magic panacea. So sometimes that's a place where you can use another person to help you or to take enough time, or to do some things, like get a massage, take a jacuzzi.
Talk to a friend. This isa place where medicines can enter. I think a double dose of Jack Daniels works great. I wouldn't recommend it as a daily diet, but it certainly helps lower your anxiety level, and you may be able to relieve anxiety enough to pay attention to these things. So there are many other things that we can do, from medication to nutrients and other relaxants to do whatever it takes to get you to that place, where you can focus. One of the qualities of picture thinking is that it can help you connect with the big picture and how things are connected in a kind of bigger picture, so that you can include your faith.
Or you may find, "Well, if that happens, "I don't want that to happen. "But maybe there's a good part of it, "or maybe just deal with it the best I can. So, that's just to broaden the picture and let you know what the consequences might be. Because that's part of really sorting it into things that you could do, something about the things that you can't do something about, is to let go. Does that make sense to you? Yes? So sometimes when people make treatment decisions that are very difficult, I invite them to imagine you're at a crossroads Again, this happens when and if they go down this road, they choose this type of treatment, and imagine yourself walking down that road and imagine going as far as you can and see what you imagine going down this road or going down as far as you can see what you imagine.
Along the way, you're just going to develop the image, and part of that will be able to see, "Is there anything I can do about it? "Isn't there something I can do about it? What do I imagine would be best for me?" And kind of make that choice. What is the difference between imagining going to the beach and being at the beach? So imagining being in a quiet, peaceful and safe place is the closest thing to actually being there. And it has certain advantages in the sense that you can go whenever you want. And it is that you can be there very quickly and it is very cheap.
So you can go, so I'd really like to go to the beach in Hawaii. But I can't go every day because I work and have responsibilities and so on, and I'm lucky if I can go every two years. But, I can, when I decide, "I've had enough, I need a break." I can take a few deep breaths and I can close my eyes and I can be back in a particular, floating in the water just off a beach. And I can dive in, when I dive in and take the time to notice the different sensory qualities.
What we know now from looking at the brains on fMRI is that if I make an effort to notice what I imagine seeing, hearing and feeling in the weightlessness of my body as I float and the waves splash in the surf and smell from the plumerias and the moisture in the air, and I go through all this sensory stuff, that when I realize what I'm seeing, the part of my brain that processes vision is active. When I notice the sounds I hear, the parts of my brain that process sound are active. When I notice sensory details, that part of my brain's sensory cortex is active.
So what you have is more and more parts of your cortex sending messages to those lower, more reflective parts of your brain, saying, "It looks like I'm in Hawaii, it sounds like it's Hawaii." "I feel like I'm in Hawaii. It smells like I'm in Hawaii." And that part of your brain just says, "Okay, all clear." It sends out the All Clear signal, and a lot of things in your body start to function more effectively that they haven't been able to function as well when you constantly react to "Watch out" messages. What's next? "How am I going to do that? "Danger, threat, problem." And so on.
Which is where we spend a lot of our time, and that's why this little lizard brain is sitting there, “Watch out.” Right? And you're constantly preparing the body for that and that's exhausting. So if we spend 98% of our waking time and half of our sleeping time dealing with those kinds of things, we see why we get tired. We connected and tired. We have trouble sleeping. The body begins to signal that it needs something. So finding a way to get to those deeper levels and connecting a couple of those relaxation spots as a basic tool is I think one of the real fundamental benefits of guided imagery, which is a kind of meditation at that level.
And I really appreciate your attention. Thank you very much. I hope you have been helpful. (audience applause) (upbeat music)
If you have any copyright issue, please Contact