By Kris Kile
Understanding the difference between your brain and your mind is foundational to taming the brain.
My favorite source for applied neuroscience and all things related to this is Dr. Daniel Siegel. The definitions I use for the brain and the mind in today’s blog primarily come from him.
The Brain is the part of the body that rests in the skull and is connected to the body’s nervous system and is interconnected with the entire body. It also gives and receives information from the body’s hormonal and immune system. It is the embodied mechanism of the energy and information flow for the body.
The Mind relates to our inner subject experience and the process of being conscious or aware. It regulates the flow of energy and information within our bodies and relationships. It gives rise to mental activities such as emotion, thinking and memory. Subjective experience, awareness, and an embodied and relational process are fundamental and connected facets of the mind.
While this is an imperfect analogy, you could say that your brain is the hardware and your mind is the software of your life. And we all run both similar and different software. There are commonalities and there are differences in how our individual minds work.
Our Brain is Normally on Autopilot
As I said in a previous blog post, the brain itself is biased towards promoting survival. It is a survival machine. It is biased towards assessing threats and initiating action to avoid and overcome threats (real or imagined). It is tireless in this task, ever ready to jump into action. This pattern is our default mode—what we do when we are on autopilot.
When you are on autopilot, you are far more prone to give in to an over-reaction from the emotional part of the brain. And, conversely, when you are on autopilot, you are generally not consciously aware of your emotional state. It will tend to have you instead of you having it.
The process of taming the brain is built upon the realization that you can transform your mind—you can rewrite the software that is currently operating your mind when you see it is not serving your vision in life.
This is a huge topic and we will unpack it further in future blog posts. My main point here is that you can create new neuron pathways in your brain that will support new, more preferred attitudes and behaviors (neuroplasticity). This, in turn, is strengthened through reinventing your thought life and emotional life in the areas they are not in alignment with your vision in life. More on these topics later.
The Triangle of Well Being
The ability to transform your mind from being completely dominated by survival instincts to healthy cooperation between your thinking brain and your emotional brain is sometimes referred to by neuroscientists as The Triangle of Well Being.
The first two elements of the Triangle of Well Being are the Brain and the Mind. The third critical element is Relationships. The ability to create balance, integration and harmony in your life requires all three legs of this triangle to be intentionally engaged.
In my view, the third element, relationships, is the key element in pulling off this feat of transforming your mind from being dominated by survival instincts to balance and peace.
We will look at this relational dynamic in our next blog post. But, for today, please simply reflect upon and consider the distinctions between your mind and your brain. Think of them in terms of how things play out in your life, on a day-to-day basis.
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