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Here’s what your fibromyalgia brain wants to know.
With the insistence of a toddler, your brain is constantly asking, “What do you want me to think about now? What should I focus on now? What can I fix or solve now? What should I look for NOW?”
I realized this morning, that I’ve told my brain (quite inadvertently), to look for elephants on my walk. Technically, just one elephant. And now that I’ve instructed my brain to do so, I can’t NOT see its long, slightly curled trunk every time I walk by.
Of course, spotting African wildlife on my morning trek has nothing to do with my health goals. But it has everything to do with serving as a great illustration of how the brain adapts to focus.
This is what I mean.
Years ago when remodeling my kitchen, I looked through catalog after catalog searching for the perfect knobs and pulls for my new cabinets. I sifted through hundreds (if not thousands of) choices. I remember seeing a door pull that was made to look like an elephant’s trunk. Sorta cute and sorta creepy.
I couldn’t find an image today of what it looked like, exactly, but it was similar to this Pinterest image. (The one from my memory, however, didn’t attach at the bottom)
At the time, I cringed at the thought. Can you imagine tugging on a poor elephant’s trunk each time you wanted to grab something from the pantry?
Because the mind is a supercomputer, the image of the electrical cabinet has taken up residence in my brain for more than a decade. About a year ago, I changed my walking path to go near a major intersection. Each time I came up to that cross street, I found my eye going toward a large electrical cabinet that’s near the traffic light pole.
It was an unconscious behavior.
At one point, I realized that the cabinet handle on that electrical box looked like an elephant. Do you see it, too? I had no memory of the cabinet pulls, but I just noticed the long elephant’s trunk as I walked by. Each time, my eye inadvertently looked for and observed the “elephant.” I didn’t realize it, but each time I walked, I was asking myself, “What does that remind me of? Is it my imagination, or does that look like an elephant?” I noticed the long, slight curl of the trunk. I noticed other features that were elephant-like.
It was just a simple thought pattern that didn’t even reach my full conscious awareness until months later. At some point, I remembered the cabinet pulls. That’s when my conscious mind caught up to what my subconscious mind knew all along.
That’s how the brain works.
We ask questions and the mind looks for answers.
What sort of questions do you ask yourself every day? Consider the thoughts that cross your mind with the most consistency.
Do you ask yourself questions like these?
I wonder why I’m in so much pain?
Why do I see more and more symptoms every day?
What bad thing is gonna happen next?
Or, are your questions more like these?
I wonder why I feel better today?
If I try something new, I wonder how it’ll work?
When is it that I feel my best?
We can make our brain’s supercomputer tendency work for us rather than against us. The brain asks for only two types of instructions. (And, it likes specificity.)
The brain needs to know:
- #1 What we want it to look for.
- #2 And next, what it feels like to take action.
Item #1 on this list is where the focus comes in. What do we want as the object of our focus? What thoughts would we rather have? Do we want improvements, solutions, and resources? Ask specific questions that are framed in the positive and think of them often. For more on using your brain’s focus to make positive change, check out this post.
Item #2 may surprise you. Notice that I didn’t say anything about where to take action, or even how to take action. These are actually not as impactful as the feeling of taking action itself.
The brain loves to get fired up
about following through on our plans.
Have you put your focused brain to work for you? What’s the object of your focus? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
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Sue, this reminds me of a Proverb (23:7)” For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”
Our pain is not alleviated by thoughts of self pity or negativity. Your article is a great encouragement to use these wonderful brains of ours positively. I want my brain to look for happy memories, ways to encourage others, and plans for a healthier tomorrow.
How to feel like taking action? Imagine looking at family photo albums, calling a sick friend, or taking a walk and looking for elephants. : )
Beautifully said, Anne! I’m so glad you’ve shared your thoughts and that lovely verse. We all benefit here!
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