Day 20: Chaos is Opportunity

I survived because the fire within me was brighter than the fire around me
— Joshua Graham

Day 20 Self Reflection:

On Day 20 of your workbook took a look to see what your natural tendency is, Does your mindset leans towards thinking of yourself as a victim or a survivor?


Day 20 Micro-Science: Amygdala

I want to say that the amygdala is the villain of the brain, but in reality its probably the hero. Its the main focus is to keep you alive and that’s a pretty cool thing. However, in trying to do just that it can make your life a living hell. The trick with the amygdala is to not let it rule your world but see if for what it is, a smoke detector. But when the little bugger goes off, remember to peek around the corner and see if there are really any fires. The amygdala runs off the motto “its better safe than sorry,” so if always going off even when its just a bit of burnt popcorn in your life and not an all out blaze. However, when you feel yourself getting worked up its important to look at the evidence in your life and to talk to others to see if the smoke detector is on point or is just turned up way too high.

  • FACT: Two thirds of the neurons in the amygdala (emotion center) of your brain are primed to see negative stimuli

  • TAKEAWAY: If there is a snake or a berry bush in front of you, evolution wants you to pay attention to the snake first. This is bad news for all of us in the modern world as the brain tends to always see the worst case scenario first. Optimism is not the amygdala’s forte.

Day 20 Meditation: Poor Man’s EMDR

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and its the best thing to come out of therapy in a while, especially if you have any unfinished business from your past that needs to be taken care of. The basic concept is that when you activated both sides of your body, whether through eye movements, running, or tactile stimulation both sides of your brain are activated as well. This is good news for you worry warts out there because when this happens the right side of your brain (emotional center) gets a chance to talk to the left side of your brain (rational center) then your worrying tends disappear. This would be analogous of a very worked up friend (right brain) getting a chance to get a second opinion from a calmer more logical friend (left brain). The reason activating both sides of your body simultaneously gets your brain going is because when the right side of your body is activated the left brain lights up and when the left side of your body is activated the right side of your brain lights up, due to cross communication from the body to the brain.

  • FACT: EMDR therapy is the most recommended trauma therapy today, dramatically reducing the emotional content of an incident, so you still remember the trauma but it just doesn’t feel as heavy

  • TAKEAWAY: The brain has a tremendous ability to heal itself, EMDR gives you the tools to be your own therapist by activating the calmer version of yourself.

Day 20 Meditation: For today’s meditation its gonna be pretty simple. Just find a ball or any object for that matter and toss it back and forth from one hand to another for three minutes, set the timer. This simple exercise may be the best thing you do for your mental health all day.

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The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Day 20 Movement Task: Talking to the Emotional Brain

I use to love and hate donuts. Mainly, I loved them before I ate them and then my stomach and mind hated them after the huge hit of sugar crushed me. So I decided to talk myself out of eating them, but whatever I tried didn’t work. My rational mind just couldn’t beat out the emotional mind that said… eat them… eat them now! So I tried a little trick, which is actually kind of disgusting, but it worked. I decided I was talking to the wrong part of my brain, I knew rationally that I would regret my decision but my emotional mind wasn’t convinced. So I tried talking to that part of my brain instead. To do that, I bought a donut from the store and then went into a public restroom and wiped the edge of the donut on the toilet seat,,,over and over again. I then put the donut down on a plate in front of me and stared at it. I immediately felt disgusted and disturbed, I can still feel it now as I write about it. My throat is closing up and I have a nauseous look on my face, but guess what it worked and I haven’t had a donut in over three years. I see one now and it automatically invokes the disgust response in my emotional mind.. Hooray for nauseau… thats all it took for “self-control” to kick in!!! I tell you this story, because trauma kinda works the same way but in reverse. Its hard to tell someone having a trauma response to calm down, that would be talking to their rational brain. The person’s emotional brain is freaking out, so talk to that part of their brain. Show them your listening, hug them if they ok it, take them for a walk and “show” them that they are safe instead of telling them!!

  • FACT: The limbic system (emotional center of brain) was formed millions of years before your neocortex (thinking center) and therefore is the louder of the two voices in your brain.

  • TAKEAWAY: Emotions are stronger than rationality, but logical thought can win out in the long run if you practice with perseverance.

Day 20 MovementTask: For today’s action task take a food that you want to stop eating but are having a hard time controlling yourself around. Maybe pick your third favorite food that is really quite bad for your but your willing to give up, pick pop-tarts but not ice cream. We don’t want to ruin ice cream for you. Once you find that third favorite crappy food, spit on it or rub it on the toilet (players choice) and then look at it for a bit and see if this works to kill your cravings.

Day 20 Bonus Material:

#1) Ted Talk: Emotional Intelligence: Using the Laws of Attraction:

Everyone has heard that what happens to you when your a kid matters, Nadine Burke Harris, explains why that is and why we should take childhood trauma very very seriously.

#2) Ted Ed: The Psychology of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This short video gives great information on how the brain is effected by PTSD. Giving details of why symptoms of trauma show up even long after an event has occurred.

#3) Ted Talk: The Effect of Trauma on the Brain

If you or a loved one has ever experienced trauma this Ted Talk will help you better understand that experience and give insight into what to do about it.