Changing Lanes: Steps to Change your Thoughts

If you look into the neural pathways of a six month old child, there is an amazing work at hand.  First, all these little synapses are being formed, day in and out, moment to moment, making the human brain the most awesome microcomputer in the world.  It’s truly amazing.  By the time six months has passed in a newborns life, that plasticity of the mind begins to slow a little; they do no not stop, contrary to how we feel about our teen age children.  You don’t know it all by the time six months rolls in, nor by the time you’re thirty five it would seem.  Still, research shows that by the time that you’re three, you have either formed the bonding and separation rituals that make you a mentally healthy adult – or you spend you life playing catchup.  Interesting all of this happens before your really confident about using the toilet.  Another interesting factoid: divorce has little correlation to whether or not your development was impacted as a child.  A home with two parents engaged in any type of emotional, physical or social abuse is more likely to produce an individual with psychological issues.  The important factor is that a child feels free to explore their universe, that their parent is a willing and loving protector, and that any form of negative love isn’t used to manipulate reactions in the child.  So what happens to that wonderful brain once you grow up?

By the artist Intano, I love the imagery of "Fading Away." There are days that we can all relate...that you're simply falling to pieces.

Recent studies show that the adult brain, that addled part of  you that you were considering giving up on, it’s forming new connections too.  Where we used to assume that the adult brain had lost it’s plasticity – ability to form new connections – now we find that it’s firing along just like that newborns. Your brain activity as an adult student learning new languages, skills and education can mass up to 30% more connections than your more dormant counterparts.  All of you late life college “kids” have one on the early degree sort – you’re able to learn more, for it’s like that bike.  Practice counts.  Reading really does change you, if you’re learning through critical thinking. So what does all this Geek stuff mean for you?  There is no destiny but what you make, and you can…you can…you can make a difference in your life.

How can learning help you change lanes in a life that is tilting on it’s tracks?  Forming new connections that teach coping and life skills for adult patients of ADD, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression could be significant.  For the mental health patient (and many of we generically overworked stressed folks in the world) life is often about the highs and lows, managing the emotions (or lack thereof) that come with the territory.  You see things in extremes; take things personally; react out of proportion; commit yourself to actions you don’t truly desire; experience intense loneliness/paranoia/anger/regret.  All changeable in the cognitive learning patterns of your brain, given that first you wish to change them.

Changing lanes is a concept that I am employing for myself at that moment, an ad hoc version of behavioral and emotive therapy all rolled into one.

It began with this premise.  I, you ~we~ have today. This part of today, in specific.  I was putting my life on hold, waiting for so many things, creating delayed but building stress.  The book to finish, graduation, all of it.  I had my life on hold for a person, a thought, a dream.I forgot that living now is what matters because no person has that guarantee of tomorrow.

So am I advocating eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may all die?  Well…sort of, but more like care, love and be authentic, for this may be all you have to give and then your life will be measured only by the moments you’ve given into others’ lives.  God doesn’t much care for the “it’s all about me” run in life, but to deny your own life and happiness ranks pretty high on the “don’t do that” scale too.  You may think that you’re helping everyone out by suffering through, but the only life worth living is one engaged.  If  you’re on hold or just surviving, waiting until you can move again….you’re not living.  You’re treading water.  Change lanes.

Desperate for answers, people will follow almost any advice.  Here is my first advice: choose carefully what you let into your head. That includes the inner voices that condemn you, the music that you listen to, the tapes of pastors and psychologists, gurus and “life coaches.”  Depression and anxiety will leave you with tortured thoughts.

You are not required to think every thought that drops in your head.

Hanging at the IMA, great place to cure depression.

Depression is a sneaky way to say “your spirit and mind are double teaming hopelessness.”  Here are some easy ways to spot “depressive statements” that you ought to consider total bunk.  Here are some key places when you want your mind to change lanes from routine to deliberate times of hope and encouragement from you to you.  I mean it: deliberately journal, speak or think good thoughts about yourself and cancel out any of the following.

  • Absolutes are the first indication:
    ‘I can NEVER do anything right.’   “No one will EVER want me.” “I will NEVER stop loving him.”  “I CANNOT survive this.”  Every time a thought involves ‘always’, ‘never’ ‘everyone’, ‘no-one’  or any type of all inclusive word (even positively phrased) it is almost certainly wrong.  One question on a grad level licensing test is T/F and reads “absolute statements are rarely every correct.”  That is answered: True.
  • The voices in your head (self condemnation) belittles you will say bad things about you:
    In my own self bashing, you would have heard me think:  ‘I am an idiot’ or ‘I can’t do anything right.’  Not to be left out, I also routinely battle thoughts of ‘you’re so ugly/fat/old/lost that you’ll never amount to anything.’  None are true. 

  • The voices will paint your reality in very, very hopeless dark colors:
  • “The world is falling apart, and nothing will ever get better.  I am trapped by all my stupid mistakes, in this life that I don’t want.  I regret so much.  I regret not going for the prize years ago and getting married/quitting school/going to school/moving to New Jersey, etc.”  It does not matter where your grass is greener, what matters is that your present reality is losing out to fantasy.  Address reality and find your happiness in what you dream of that is real.

  • If you’re depressed, that voice lies to you and says “things can never get better.”  I am going to mess this up all my life.

What can you do to Change Lanes in your life?

Change lanes:  Detach from what you’re holding onto and let it slip from your grasp.  Nothing has a hold on your that you don’t hold first.  Detachment is a learned process, so you’ll have to work on it. Buy some new magazines, a book, something that interests you.  Keep your mind occupied with healthy thoughts. Physically make yourself refrain from any form of thinking, contact, memory.  Simply let go – so hard to do at first, but you will find your way if you cling to health instead.  A note:  if you attempt to replace something like a lost love with something that “cures” you, you’re asking for trouble.  Go through the real grief process that is part of loss and don’t attempt to blame real life on shadows.  Sometimes, we lose.  That is just part of the circle of life.

Change lanes: physically move, rearrange the furniture, clean your house.  Get up an moving, not in a manic fashion, but one that reinserts you into the life that you want.  If you need to change your life, then start making plans to do that, include good counseling and allow yourself time and grace.

Change lanes: do not try to fit back into yesterday. Change your hair, your style, buy a new lipstick or cologne.  Go to a new place and breathe in the sound of life around you.  If everything “went back to the same as before” you are living in a time bomb.  It’s not the same, you’re not the same.  Unless you want the same results, be unwilling to accept the life that lead to your depression.

Change lanes: join a new team. Loneliness is an illusion.  Once you’ve left school, work, or even a relationship you will feel the ache of being separated from people who you considered close.  Often, they go on without missing you.  It’s’ a harsh reality.  Join a support group, or find a social club that is dedicated to being inclusive.  Most cliques are highly exclusive…and once you’re on the outside, you’re on the outside.

Change lanes.  Engage your brain in a new activity or learning that will interrupt old patterns.  Learn Italian, sew something, plant a flowerbed, go the bookstore and browse and isle that you’ve never been down.

Change lanes: You cannot be isolated and anticipate a good outcome. Make contact with meaningful people who know your struggle.  A life put on hold is just that – on hold.

I hope that these help you can the control and confidence you need to see that you are alone equipped with the ability to make the choices that improve life.

🙂  No fear.

There is no destiny but what you make.

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