How Mr Spock Helped Me Untrain My Brain
I’ve written before how being in pain trains your brain to get good at creating pain. Here I want to share with you how you can untrain your brain. And how I was first helped by Mr Spock.
About a year and a half ago, I had a wipe-put migraine attack. I woke up with a stabbing pain deep in my left eye, throbbing ache in my temple and fighting waves of nausea.
I start working though my muscles; hunting for the usual trigger point suspects. Trapezius shoulder muscles – nope. SCM neck muscles – nope. Masseter jaw muscles – nope.
At this point, am I treating myself with kindness and compassionate curiosity?
No. Am I basically doing everything I advise my clients not to do? Yes.
(Note to my clients reading this: when I say to you I understand how frustrating a flare-up feels. And that I mess up too. I really do mean it.)
I slowly work around my eyes. In the left corner of my eye, by the bridge of my nose – bam! I find it. Pain intensifies, nausea gut punches me. Horrible. But. This happens too.
I hear a quiet voice go: “Nah. That can’t be right.
That tiny muscle opens and closes my paper thin eyelid. There’s no way it can produce this heap of troublesome symptoms”.
And with that, a small space of quiet appears. I think – “What if what I’m suffering right now isn’t coming from a physical trigger point in my muscles? What if it’s coming from my brain?”
A distant memory from my childhood floats back to me. When I was a kid I used to get crippling belly ache. I was told to drink milk. It didn’t help. Only one thing did. Pretending to be Mr Spock. Yep. Mr Spock of Star Trek fame.
I imagined that I could “Spock” my pain away
Back to the present day. I’m thinking, if I could do that as a kid, why not as a grown up? That is tell me, my brain, that the pain isn’t really real. Hollywood ending would be immediately the hurt melted, clouds parted, birds sang and all was hunky dory. Well. Not quite. And that was OK.
Because, now I had a new avenue to explore.
And I’ve been exploring that avenue ever since.
Reading the science of how even when the physical cause is no longer present, the brain doesn’t always get the memo. So your brain carries on producing a reaction, producing your symptoms. Way to go, brain.
Learning techniques to untrain your brain. Techniques that help you deliver that memo to your brain and so change the outcome. It takes practice. But you can learn how to swap unhelpful patterns by untraining your brain.
One technique involves using something you have with you all the time. Your breath
As you sit there, notice how you feel. Now, keeping your breathing regular, begin to breathe out a little more than you breathe in. Breathe in to the count of seven. Breathe out to the count of eleven. Repeat five times.
What you’ve just done is tap into your rest and digest part of your nervous system. The bit that lets you know you’re OK. That you are safe.
Notice how you feel now. A little more at ease? A little less physical tension?
If not, no worries. It’s most likely means that you need to develop your awareness of how your body feels. You can learn how to do that. It’s something that I teach to my clients.
If you live in Edinburgh or East Lothian and would like to know more, give me a bell on 0755 407 0770.