Re-coding your own neurome
You are the creation of your neurome.
I appreciate this is a controversial comment. It is my philosophy and if you don’t agree I won’t be offended. I think it is a useful way to think about our minds, so if you are curious, read on.
Your neurome is a hyper-complex bio-chemical system; it is created from the many trillions of pulses and communicating molecules, which work within multiple interconnected feedback loops. Its many systems work to create a more or less useable model of the world, and your engagement with it. (What is your neurome? Read my article here). Your neurome is alive and physically part of its sensing machinery, your body.
Thinking is doing, just like walking or breathing
A thought is a physical thing; it arises in the smaller part of your mind that is conscious, as a consequence of the your physical state of mind.
If you accept the physical nature of your mind, then all sorts of possibilities open up for how to change your mind physically; literally to recode your own possibilities with simple and readily available physical tools.
Your neurome is an ambiguous multi-system intelligence. Examining it with a reductionist approach will always be helpful, but it often works as a whole and and there is a lot you can learn about yourself by approaching your neurome with that spirit too.
It is exposed to the world and that world includes your own body.
It uses your body to work with the world, and as it does so its state changes both temporarily and permanently, which you experience as a change of mind. Physical activity also influences your neurome’s long term geometry, represented physically by connections and pathways, which we describe as new capabilities, or more stable or rigid thoughts, like habits and beliefs.
Your own body, which is part of your mind’s emanation of you into the world, is a curiously useful tool to examine the self or selves that seem to arise from your neurome.
The zeitgeist is mindfulness.
Buddhists and martial arts movements of eastern cultures, among others, have understood the value of body work for millennia. Their methods have become known in the modern west and gradually increased in popularity over the last century.
Now, with scientific exploration, mindfulness in particular (meditation) has moved towards the mainstream. Its usefulness in creating better coping strategies is becoming well documented and quite widely used.
However, meditation, wonderful as it is, is only one way to influence our minds with our bodies. Usefully it gives us a clue as to how this can work.
The first shift of mindfulness is to quieten the conscious mind, which facilitates a raising of awareness. You can do this a number of ways, but a common one is to notice your breath.
Another way to put this is that meditation is often started by bringing our awareness onto our physical nature, and and this helps us ignore the normal distractions of thinking about thoughts.
What this does is to resynchronise the conscious with the subconscious. You are doing this by connecting your conscious awareness to a process which is normally homeostatic, but which can be conscious (homeostatic may not be the perfect term for breathing, it refers to things the body naturally does without conscious intervention to keep us alive, like circulation, temperature, digestion etc). We don’t normally think about breathing or heart beat, they are regulated subconsciously as part of our nervous system. But we can think about them, and we can influence them with our thoughts.
Focussing on a physical process like breathing, about which you are not normally aware, reconnects your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (two physical systems) and brings them into closer congruence, which can feel like stability, or like solidity, or like peace.
Things like breathing are an obvious bridge. They are pathways for you to rediscover your connection to your physical self. Most of the time this is wonderfully calming, and facilitates a change of mind you might experience as a renewed perspective.
Note that having strongly emotional thoughts about thoughts (worrying, feeling overwhelmed, feeling unable to stop focussing on a particular negative situation or thought) will be having a strong physical impact on your nervous system, feeding back into the thought spiral.
Because thoughts are part of your physical environment, our neurome will react to alarming thoughts with its physical alarm systems. These can wake us in the night, or create a panic in the day; this is physically caused by pumping enzymes and hormones into the blood to make the body do something about the perceived danger, perhaps triggered by real peril, but most commonly by your own (irrational) thoughts.
Mental health is just health
As an aside, it is time we changed the dreadful social discrimination about mental health. I appreciate that we are all nervous of revealing our inner worlds to others, partly due to our own sensitivities, as well as due to fear of the reaction of others. But mental health is just health; like heart health, or gut health. All these have psychological components and it really is time we changed our attitudes personally and socially about the mind; the neurome in its body.
Our neurome is pre-eminent in our health and needs a positive and open attitude to its care.
I think this is enough for now. I plan to add to this with a series of practical physical tools you can use to re-code your own neurome in a future article.
I hope you find it interesting and accessible, and would be pleased to have questions and comments if you felt able to post them.