Changes in my brain
The other day I learned about neuroplasticity. Basically, the brain’s ability to change and produced new connections throughout its life. This concept is both amazing and terrifying for me at the same time. On the one hand it floods me with a sense of relief. I don’t have to feel this way for the rest of my life! This isn’t just my “normal.” I don’t have to continually have the same reactions and replay the same scenarios in my life, over and over again. I can change my behavioral patterns, I can create new and beneficial, positive reactions to stressors in my life. I don’t have to continually have this flight or fight response to minor disturbances in my day-to-day routines. The final message my brain sends out to these stressors does not have to be “And then I die.” That part is amazing. That part makes me fall to my knees in thanksgiving, allows me to breath easy. It doesn’t have to continue this way, it can be different. I can relax, exist, be without having a constant irrational fear of death looming over me.This should be it, the pinnacle of relief. Next step, get down to work and start forming these new connections, start setting up these new patterns and start living my life in a new way. A huge task, yes, but not an insurmountable one by any means. A part of me is ready for this, ready to get to work, ready to embrace fully my life. And yet, somewhere in my core there is a piece of me which trembles in fear at the prospect of this change.
It seems counter-intuitive, but at times like these when I’ve hit on something that could make me feel better, change my quality of life and the quality of life of those around me this is when the fear kicks in. This is when the panic rises up in my throat. If I leave this behavior behind, if I change my way of being, who will I be? What will replace it? Will I know myself?
Intellectually these statements make little sense to me. Of course I will know myself! I am me, after all. Who else would I be? On a deeper level, for lack of a better word, I understand this fear and these questions. There is comfort in the known, even when the known is destructive. I know what to expect. I know the pain, the guilt, the shame. They have been close companions of mine for quite some time. I don’t “like” them, but I do know them. I know their patterns, their behaviors, the emotions that come with them. They are predictable. What I am being offered with this new knowledge is unknown and therefore, unpredictable. Logically, I would argue that what I’m being offered is peace, joy, tranquility, but my current brain does not process this information logically. What it really says is “Holy Sh*t!! Something new!! A new, UNKNOWN pattern, well this could mean ANYTHING! Sure it could mean joy and peace, but what if it doesn’t??!!! What if instead it means chaos and destruction??!!! What then?! Let’s just keep things the way they are, we know what to do with that. Sure it feels pretty crappy, but hey it’s our crappy and we know it, dammit! F*ck change!”
It’s at this point that one of two things happens. I either give in, remain static and wallow in the comfort of my known, negative behaviors, or I take a deep breath, desperately try to ignore the immobilizing fear and take that step forward towards the unknown, hoping to rise once again out of the ashes.