Sunday, September 11, 2016

Oh, goodness. A Serious Post on the Heels of Vacation?

A few days into my vacation in Downeast Maine, I knew I wasn't going to do everything I wanted to.  Better than growing my leg muscles, or finishing the books I brought, I decided the best use of my time was exercising my perspective to make IT - my perspective - larger.

Have you ever heard of this acronym?  M.I.R.R.O.R.
It comes from a book I'm listening to for my book group, called

The Brain's Way of Healing:  Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity

by Norman Doidge, M.D. 

If you want to know what I did on my vacation, besides revere and revel in the scenery, this acronym M.I.R.R.O.R. nails it.  M.I.R.R.O.R. is a change agent for the brain.

  • Motivation
  • Intention
  • Relentlessness
  • Reliability
  • Opportunity
  • Restoration

Every time we successfully erase a habit, or tackle a thorny issue head on, or learn a new language, we're creating new brain circuits and eclipsing others.  This method takes this a step further with the final 'R':  Restoration.  I'm only 20% into this book, but Dr. Doidge has told of two diseases - chronic pain and Parkinson's Disease - whose normally intractable symptoms have yielded to the patient's own mental effort.  It takes very particular efforts.  He describes specifically how, yet it's not a 'one size fits all' cure. My understanding thus far, is that pointed mental exercise can replace many or most patients' impairments with beneficial function.  It calls for knowledge, time and effort, not money, and can substantially lessen reliance on medication. 

M.I.R.R.O.R. operates on the notion  of 'Competitive Plasticity', meaning that the circuits we use in our brain crowd out the pathways we don't.   Only so much room in our brains, evidently.  New habits can replace old ones, we've just got to go at it patiently.   And relentlessly.   The first impairment described: chronic (not acute) pain. The brain learns to actually crowd out the pain signals and eventually the brain relents, making pain-free signals second nature.  Though the original physical cause remains, referred pain 'vanishes'.  Some people can get completely off meds.   The second: Parkinson's Disease.   Using conscious deliberate walking and movement that utilizes another part of the brain, the 'second-nature' motor circuits hobbled by Parkinson's Disease are overridden.  But only when conscious effort is employed; the new movement never becomes second nature.   Plus, only some, not all of Parkinson's symptoms can be influenced thusly. 

It's hard.  The trick is accomplishing this herculean brain shift while you're in that brain fog that pain and illness heap on everyone.  

Hah!  Brain fog sound familiar?  I can walk into another room and forget the reason I came in.

M.I.R.R.O.R. is exactly  the method I've been using to shift my ingrained beliefs.  Well, not the only one.   But during this vacation, I altered my perception about a core value: 'JUST DO IT!  Whether you feel like it or not!'   I went from believing that overriding feelings to 'just do it'  was useful, to believing it's no such thing, in social situations, anyway.  In fact, it's more than useless.  It's a brain malfunction.  My brain malfunction to fix.   Although I didn't know to call it the M.I.R.R.O.R. technique until I started reading this book afterwards, that's exactly the technique I used. 

I experimented on a few social occasions.  When I concentrated on putting my feelings first  -  NO anxiety.   It took complete concentration, staying in touch with my feelings.  When I succeeded, my care for others started flowing. 

The difference between using my 'default' impulse and my new 'forced' impulse was stark.  My default made anxiety surface.  Putting my feelings first made my anxiety go away.

What the???  Is my anxiety is telling me I'm off-course with this 'Ignore your feelings and DO IT' ?  I thought all this time that approach was the very definition of social courage.  It's what I was taught...

("Think about it, Flow.  Everyone in your family was either miserable or making you miserable.  So your inherited value makes you miserable, too.  They were wrong!  Instead, use focused sensitivity to tune in to your feelings.  You especially need them in social situations!" )

(I never learned this from anybody!)

("Wail all you want.  You're learning it now and I'm proud of you.")

My trauma counselor asked the other day, when I was exalting in my Maine breakthrough:   "Wonderful!  Yes!  You get it!"

"But I'm still bracing for impact (without this method)..."

"Is there a part of you now that isn't bracing?  Even ONE molecule?"

"ONE molecule. Yes."  I announced.  "An elementary molecule."

"Where is that molecule?"

"In my brain stem.  Instead of being captive to a fight-flight-freeze reaction, ONE molecule is staying here, feeling safe."  ( Hah!  PTSD.  You are toast!)

Doesn't it feel sometimes like we're acting on a wisp of hope and strength?  Well,  ONE safe molecule can open a world of options.

Later..."I feel like a heretic putting my feelings first" I wailed to my friend.

Her response?  It's not only you, who has difficulty putting their own happiness first.  For generations, women have been taught to put others' feelings and happiness above their own.  And men, too!  Our particular western culture has valued rational intellect over irrational feelings for what...centuries?  It's hard to be true to your feelings!


In this afternoon of my life; sensitivity is IN! 


  1. You sure get into some heavy subjects and I won't pretend to understand them all. But I'm glad you seem to be thriving on your path to self-discovery.

    1. I can't remember ever feeling this secure, except with late hubby. Even the RV made me feel secure...

      There was a moment when I heard little feet scrambling inside the RV's walls, and I thought "Oh, no! Have I brought those pesky mice with me to Maine?" But I went outside and peered underneath. A little chipmunk jumped out and scampered away.

      Now back in its carport I have TWO sonic mice deterrents inside. Will let you know if they work.

  2. Finding the feeling of security within, is quite difficult. I've been scared of lots of things all my life. For some reason now, I'm really not at all secure, but I feel so safe and peaceful and calm. Nothing gives me the nervous shakes inside anymore. It took me a long time and started when I truly forgave my Dad. I admit it is a lot easier when that person is dead and you don't have to interact with them. Then a couple of years ago, I decided to truly live the advice I had given others. "Don't worry. Give it to God." When I really "got it", I find that nothing bothers me emotionally. I can't control most of it. I don't get nervous. I say, "God you got this," and go on about my life. It's hard to explain, but I really believe that God will get me through anything and I take it for granted, I guess. That's my way. Now, you are finding your way. What a great solution for most problems--get away, alone, by the ocean and just be quiet and listen. The knowledge comes.

  3. Exactly! You have discovered a way to feel safe, peaceful and calm in the midst of circumstances which aren't secure.

    With all this reflection by the ocean bay, turning inward toward my feelings with acceptance, instead of running away from them, I am watering the mustard seed of my faith. Even if 'only' ONE molecule in me can access trust, it is enough to soothe me. From that, innate sensitivity and kindness flows. No forcing the river.

    I love that you take God's love for granted. Your mustard seed has gotten a lot of water!

    1. It was either that or go crazy and make myself sick every month--as I was in the process of doing. It really is a very freeing feeling.

    2. Taking root in me - this trust. Getting a whiff of the freeing feeling!