DAY 6: Name It To Tame It

Life is full of suffering, but it is also full of overcoming it
— Helen Keller

Day 6 Self Reflection:

Fill out Day 6 on your workbook. The hope with today’s exercise is to remind yourself that you have already overcame a lot in your life and the next battle can be won as well.


Day 6 Micro-Science: Placebo Effect

The brain is an incredible organ and one of its most fascinating abilities is to trick itself in countless ways. To understand why this is possible its important to realize that the majority of us tend to think of the brain as one entity that is always aware of what its different parts are up to, similar to the way a basketball team has individual players but works in coordination with their teammate to make things happen. The brain doesn’t quite work like that, its more useful to think of the brain as a large city with so many moving parts that it would be impossible for every part to know what the other part is up to. Because the brain is so complex it makes it sense that communication between different parts isn’t always seamless. This is one reason that explains why the brain is so suggestible and can convince itself of just about anything given the right circumstances. The placebo effect is one of those instances where the brain convinces itself that the medication, therapy, or even surgery one is getting will be helpful and then it becomes helpful, even if the treatment is a total sham.

Its as if one area of the brain is yelling for pain relief and just wants you to do “something.” Then another area of the brain receives information that your doing “something” about it and then the pain goes day. The “something” you did, however, may have just been to take a sugar pill with no active ingredients, but the part of the brain that had the original pain doesn’t really care, its just happy that its done its job and becomes calm again. This is often why just picking up the phone to call your doctor often results in a dramatic drop in symptoms.

The power of your thoughts to heal yourself is undeniable. There are thousands of studies to show that the placebo effect works. The main point I’m trying to make is “DO SOMETHING” about your problems: talk to a therapist, phone a friend, take a walk and believe that its going to help you! Your brain can heal itself but it needs some indication that your taking control and taking action.

  • FACT: People can know something is a placebo and still have their symptoms disappear shortly after taking the placebo.

  • TAKEAWAY: The brain wants you to address the problem in some way and even if the brain knows its a sham it doesn’t care.

Day 6 Meditation: Trauma Resilience

So often when we face a challenging stressor we forget all the hard times we have already been through and overcame. Those prior challenges, whether we acknowledge it or not, gave us trauma resilience that will help us overcome the next challenge. However, in the heat of the moment we never stop to think about what could go “right”, but our brains are quite adept at contemplating what “will” go “wrong.” To counteract this human tendency its always helpful to remind ourselves that we have “been here before” so therefore can “do it again.”

  • FACT: Two sets of baby monkeys were studied. One set never left their mothers side for six months. The other set were periodically released into a cage with monkeys they didn’t know and then brought back to the mothers. At six months both sets were released into the the cage with monkeys that were unfamiliar. The set of baby monkeys that had “gotten through” the stressful situation before adjusted well. The baby monkeys that had never gone through anything hard failed miserably at adjusting, some of them even ended up dying.

  • TAKEAWAY: Adversity makes us stronger and all the people in the world who have had “easy” lives are actually at a disadvantage and can be quite fragile when any real stressor hits.

Day 6 Meditation: Set the timer for five minutes and in your own head run through a timeline of your life and try to pick out all the tough times you have overcome and what it took to overcome those challenges. But most of all, regardless of the outcome of those challenges, remind yourself that you’re still here to tell the story.

Your current situation. Is not your final destination
— Anonymous

Day 6 Movement Task: Learned Helplessness

Check out the video (above) to find out more about “Learned Helplessness.”

There were some amazing (and pretty unethical) studies done in the seventies looking at what a dog will do if he is stuck in a locked pen with a electrified floor. Eventually they found the dog will just give up trying to escape and lie down, accepting there is no way out. The fascinating part, however, is that even after the fenced barricade that is holding him in is taken down, he still doesn't try to escape because he has fully given up on his chances. This is what researchers call "learned helplessness." This is pretty crappy thing to do to a dog and its a really crappy thing to do to a human. Obviously we don't trap people in an electrified space but we do tell others they are "stupid" or incapable in some way. This has the same effect on humans, as it did on the dog, if you repeat the same message enough times. Learned helplessness than becomes the standard operating procedure of their brain and they don't even try to complete a task they have been told they are no good at.

Day 6 Movement Task: Today’s task is to pick something that you have been told your “not good at” pick something you have convinced yourself that your “not good at” and do that thing. For instance, if you gave up on being a good cook because your first four pies sucked, go and try to make a pie.

Day 6 Bonus Material:

#1) Ted Talk: Wby We all Need Emotional First Aid

Check out this Ted Talk by Guy Winch looking at the importance of stepping up your game in the emotional self care category. Mr. Winch is a great presenter and top notch guy speaking from experience.

#2) Ted Talk: Three Steps to Transformation

Check out this Ted Talk about the steps needed to make a big change in your life. Its not easy to step up to the plate and do whats necessary, but this Ted Talk gives us hope that we can all do it when the time comes.

#2) Why Does Therapy Work: Greater Good of Berkeley

Check out this article by Greater Good about the science of what happens in therapy and why it could set you up for success in all areas of your life.