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Getting to Know Your Three Brains: Part 5 Challenges to Becoming Aware

Since the foremost evolutionary goal of humans is to survive, our brains naturally attend to the external world -- looking out for danger. As a result, looking inside takes willingness and mental energy (just like working out at the gym.) When we look inside our mind and body to become aware of what our three brains are doing, we unlock a potential to feel and function better. Yet, many of us are afraid, uncomfortable, or reluctant to know our internal world. Here are some of the reasons:

  • It takes too much work.

  • You choose not to know yourself deeply.

  • You don't believe it will help.

  • You need the encouragement from another.

  • You can't get out of your head and into your body.

  • What you find is too painful.

  • What you find you judge as a personal flaw.

  • What you find conflicts with your beliefs or morality.

  • What you find scares you.

  • What you find you cannot assimilate, validate, or work with.

  • What you find causes awful sensations to be felt (i.e., the floor falling out from beneath you or you feel like you will evaporate or disappear).

  • What you find you think others can't accept.

  • Add your own reason here: __________________________________

Self-awareness is good for the brain, mind, and body. And because self-awareness gives us power over our reactions, it gives us an advantage in life. On the flip side, self-awareness challenges us to deal with what we find in our inner world. What a conflict! I want to leave you with the idea that it is absolutely possible to increase awareness of the three brains in a way that feels manageable, so you can reap the benefits I touched on in this series. The more we learn about our emotions, thoughts, and sensations, the less scary they are when we encounter them because we know what to expect. For example, if I have panic attack and understand that panic attacks are caused by a release of adrenaline that will cause certain changes in my breathing, that will be over in minutes, and won't kill me, I am less afraid than if I don't understand what is happening to me. My education and training in the three brains and the Change Triangle gave me a language to understand myself and my suffering. As I result, I feel better about myself and more in control. Every person deserves to have this knowledge so we all have tools to mitigate the affect that life's challenges have on our wellbeing.

To achieve even more self-awareness, we benefit from learning how the brain and mind heal and recover from anxiety, depression, addictions and trauma. I recommend books such as Getting Through The Day by Nancy Napier, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Psychology of Shame, by Gershon Kaufman, Mindsight, by Dan Siegel, and It's Not Always Depression, by me.

For more support than a self-help book can offer, meeting with a therapist is a great thing to do to increase self-awareness. Contrary to what some ignorant people say, getting help is smart and courageous. It doesn't mean you are "sick" or "weak" or "mentally ill." And, no one deserves to suffer in silence. Because humans are wired for connection, it's natural to want company when exploring new aspects of our inner world. Therapists trained in AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), Affect Phobia Therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing), IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy), Somatic Experiencing, and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, are just some of the methods that actively work with the three brains. Think of your internal world as an ocean. Oceans can seem ominous and scary, or beautiful and fascinating. Fear, judgment and physical constriction will make your three brains seem like dangerous territory, like getting caught in the ocean's undertow. But if we can shift from fear and judgment, to curiosity, relaxation, and self-compassion, we can embrace and work with what we discover. With practice over a life time, we become more comfortable allowing thoughts, emotions, and sensations to flow through us, as we notice them, and listen to the important information they contain. When we can do that, we have great power to heal from the past and deal effectively with life's present challenges.

A+ for trying!


Part 1 Getting to Know Your Three Brains

Part 2 The Self

Part 3 Having an Experience

Part 4 Triggers

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