The myth about the brain is that, it controls the mind. Also people that the mind is the activity of the brain. However, both statements are untrue. I believe that there is a relationship between the brain and the mind forming a triangle of well- being for an individual. In my opinion, the brain is the passive path of existence because every information from the external environment produce a response either internally or externally without analysis. The brain transfers these information into our consciousness, but the active mind which analyzes the information and pays attention to both the benefits and disadvantages of the information before making choices about whether to listen or not. The brain cannot be defined without involving its functions. Therefore, I believe the brain is a physical organ of the body that is composed of neurons firing together, which represents communication between the neurons in the form of electrical signals. The communication between the neurons occur when an environmental stimuli is detected by our senses such as touching a hot place, leading to an involuntary behavioural response such as removing your hand immediately and voluntary response to stay away from hot objects because the experience is painful or harmful. This is because your skin receptors send nerve impulses to the brain through the sensory neurons that get stimulated from touching the hot stove. While the mind is a nonmaterial entity that represents who you are, beliefs, values and thoughts and an insight into the values and thoughts of others through personal experiences and observing the experiences of other people. It is the seat of human awareness. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that the mind is the same as consciousness but consciousness is part of the mind. Personally, consciousness is not a thing but a collection of several processes such as thinking, emotions, everyday activities and also the subjective experience of awareness. Furthermore, I believe that a person is not equally conscious at all stages of life. For example, a newborn baby is not going to be conscious the same way a healthy older child or adult is.
What is a habit? A habit is the repetition of a learned behaviour that becomes automatic after a period of time. It is a learned behaviour because it is not innate, it is created as a result of our experiences or the experiences of other people. Often habits are formed as a result of a particular stimulus that elicits a behavioural response. Habits are usually established because the particular behavioural response produce some kind of pleasure which could act as a coping mechanism for the individual. These responses are usually ingrained in us and become automatic long after their benefits have disappeared. The brain plays an active role in the development of habits which is a result of trying to cope with a stressful situation. The reward system of the brain which are the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens are the most crucial areas in the learning of these behaviours. Dopamine is released in these areas of the brain thereby producing pleasurable experiences. Furthermore, the amygdala helps an individual establish associations between environmental cues and whether or not that particular experience is rewarding or aversive. The amygdala and the hippocampus create memories for the particular experiences so the person is able to remember the behaviour when faced with the stressful circumstances. As a result, the behaviours are automatically learned. For this reason, bad habits such as drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and food addiction are hard to break because these behaviours are wired deep into the brain. People with these problems are tricked by the brain to believe that they have found a solution to their problem, because of the short term pleasurable episodes (feel relaxed and happy from binge eating), but after the benefits have disappeared, long term negative side effects such as (obesity and diabetes from food addiction, psychosis from drug addiction) follows. This demonstrates that the knowledge about these habits, are uncertain and refutable because the theory is supposed to eliminate the aversive feelings but instead problems are added.
In addition, the development of habits are as a result of overactive brain circuits in the error detection area of the brain. The overactive brain circuits are as a result of different neurons firing together nonstop, this neurons firing are the information wired into the brain. From childhood, most of this information have been fixed into our brain which are based on family dynamics, cultural experiences, societal and religious beliefs. I believe, most of this information are deceptive messages which prevent us from tackling the real problem and reaching our goals and intentions. Deceptive messages are false beliefs, distractions, impulses and urges that take us away from our goals which is our true self. For example, a child may notice that his or her parent are always very stressed and anxious most of the day, but after drinking a glass of wine they feel relaxed and are able to reason effectively. Therefore, the child establishes an association between alcohol and relaxation by forming a new memory for a coping mechanism for stress. As the child grows, he/she turns to alcohol when faced with a stressful situation without be aware of where the behaviour emerged from but the memory created as child from observing their parent carry out this behaviour influences the child’s action. This deceptive brain messages are background noise behind the true message. The true message is the main problem and trying to either find a positive solution to the problem or an efficient method for dealing with the problem without causing harm to oneself. But the question is, how are people able to divert attention away from the strong signals of deceptive messages? As mentioned earlier I think there is a relationship between the brain and the mind, and since the deceptive messages predominantly come from the brain, the mind is able to focus our attention on the true message.
According to the theory of Quantum Zeno effect for neuroscience, the brain is what we focus on and how we focus such as the issue of direction, quality, depth and other choices we make. Nonetheless, the mind can choose what to focus its attention and help change bad habits. This can happen through the process of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is the ability of the mind to recognize cognitive distortions. To me this means being able to recognize that we live simultaneously in two different worlds which are the inner and outer world. The inner world are our innermost true beliefs, thoughts and the outer world are the environmental cues that generates a reaction to the inner beliefs and thoughts which are sometimes influenced by the deceptive brain messages. The all or nothing error, whereby we believe we must be perfect at all times or we are nothing. As a result, we place high standards on ourselves and are never satisfied. This is an example of cognitive distortion. We believe our ideal theory is perfection, so we try to do everything to be perfect but after failing severally we realize that our theory is refutable and we are back to the drawing board to either try to create a new theory or dwell on the old theory.
Cognitive therapy involves a part of the attentive mind which I regard as the wise advocate. This aspect of the attentive mind knows your true thoughts and separates them from the distractive messages. The wise advocate values your true self and wants the best for you. It helps you make rational decisions instead of trying to thrive for something unobtainable at the moment. The wise advocate is able to break bad habits and get rid of the negative thoughts by labelling them for what they are (distracting impulses, urges). As a result, the person gives the mind all the power to recognize these false messages and direct its attention to the real problem or positive thoughts. In addition, we have to learn to focus our attention on positive and productive mechanisms in dealing with our problems. This leads to the rewiring of the brain connections resulting in the prefrontal cortex making better decisions instead of just paying attention to the reward pathways. Finally, we have to learn to value our inner experiences and not just take messages at face value.
In conclusion, I believe that relabelling, refocusing and revaluing the deceptive brain messages is a positive step in breaking negative habits. Also, realizing that we are not our brain, and we do not always have to adhere to its demands is another mechanism for eliminating negative thoughts and bad habits.
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