You might call the “space” between your ears your brain or your mind, depending if you lean more toward scientific or spiritual explanations, but either way you probably ARGUE with IT sometimes!!
It’s frustrating when you try to control your negative thoughts and can’t or when you start a new, positive habit only to have it sabotaged by whatever it is up there!
The brain is an organ with funny sounding parts like Hippocampus, Amygdala and Pre-Frontal Cortex.
The mind is a bit more difficult to describe. It’s what you think but sometimes it doesn’t feel like you at all!
The ego sounds like an esoteric, philosophical concept, but does it have any basis on your reality? REALLY?
What makes you sabotage yourself? Your brain? Your mind? Or is it Your Ego?
Let’s start with the brain because . . . it’s PHYSICAL. You can see it, touch it, scan it and even have surgery on it. It feels pretty REAL. Simply put, there are 3 parts of the brain that mechanically dictate which behavior becomes habit.
The Prefrontal Cortex – here’s where present, mindful, conscious decisions are made. The PF makes decisions, does calculations, talks through a problem AND helps you stay focused on what you are doing. This part of the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25 or so. That’s why you can’t rent a car until you are that age. (Hmm…side bar…should a pre-mature brain be sent to war, drink alcohol, have a child, DATE or even get married? I’ll leave you to ponder that)
The PF gets its information from the Amygdala, but only when the Amygdala is calm . . . . . . . . . . .
When all is good, the PF receives that calm information and passes anything worth remembering on to the Hippocampus.
The Amygdala – sends or blocks information based on the “state” it’s in. It’s most important job is protection, so if it believes there is any danger, it will block information from the PF so you go back to cave-man like reactions and don’t take time to think. This is the center of fight, flight or freeze. It’s REALLY helpful when a car swerves into your lane on the freeway. The response of your Amygdala has a big impact on emotions and the emotions that you attach to an experience “store” in the hippocampus.
The Hippocampus – creates, stores and processes important facts and memories. These memories can serve up automatic responses based on past (not present) events.
So . . . the short skinny is . . .your habits are driven by the amygdale or hippocampus and NOT by your prefrontal-cortex. If everyone could act from prefrontal-cortex all the time there would likely be no wars, no arguments, no accidents….total nirvana. Well, except for the fact that you wouldn’t move out of the way when a tree was about to fall on your head.
In order to stop eating ice cream when you are trying to lose weight, or stop drinking wine when you want to communicate well with your partner or start getting up early enough in the morning to work out, you need to navigate between the 3 parts of the brain.
The MIND needs to tell the brain what to do. For that to happen:
- the MIND (which can’t be scanned or operated on) needs to give direction to the brain (especially the amygdale) to calm down if it’s not an actual emergency
- the MIND needs to direct the brain and body to BREATHE and think through a decision
- then the PF can tell the Hippocampus to “store” this experience as a positive one and repeat!
THE BIG CATCH?
YOU (Higher Mind) need to lead the mind. To change a habit, YOU (a multi-faceted, only partly human entity) need to practice PAUSING in the moment and directing ALL the parts of your brain.
When you do this, you form a new neural pathway in the brain and the hippocampus helps you make it easier every time you repeat the new positive habit.
SO . . .
Where is the Ego in all of this? The ego is a spiritual concept, but I think it is also a mechanical area of the brain. The Ego seems to dwell in between the Amygdala (feeling fear all the time) and the Hippocampus (reacting based on emotions from a past experience vs being in the present moment).
There are MANY ways to calm your Amygdala and lead your mind to teach your brain.
- Deep breathing
- Walking in Nature
- Write on a Post It note
- Find an accountability partner or coach to remind you
BASICALLY . . . practice!!
[Tweet “Next time your EGO rears it ugly head, remember its only a small part of you & YOU are in charge.”]