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Move With Deb the Podcast

Aug 9, 2021

I'm back at the gym lifting weights and discussing how talking to our brains are like or unlike the Star Trek spaceship viewscreens. I discuss Frequency illusion, also known as the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon, which is a cognitive bias in which, after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often, leading someone to believe that it has a high frequency (a form of selection bias). This is why it's really helpful to learn how to talk to your brain and fill up your viewscreen.


Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.

[00:00:50] Hello, and welcome to Move With Deb, this is episode number 26. And it's late, but better, late than never. Right? So today I want to talk about attention, talking to our brain. So one of the keys to healing is to direct our brain rather than just accept our experience. I once explain this to a client using a star Trek analogy. 

[00:01:18]It's like if we only accepted what was in the view screen, and then that was all there was, and we decided there was nothing else happening around the ship. So in star Trek, we know that the ship has long and short range sensors. And they're scanning for what's a danger to the ship, or they're looking for particles for fuel, and they're going to scoop them up with the Bussard scoop or they're looking for a neutrino wave. So there's stuff being scanned and monitored all the time, but only a limited amount of elements will set off a red alert. 

[00:01:55]Our bodies are the same. We have sensors detecting data all the time. And over time we decide what is red alert material and what is not.  And we have what our nervous system determines is a threat. And we automatically put that up on the view screen. So we can see it. Understand it. Keep an eye on it. Decide what to do about it. Pain is a protection. It is asking the body or the being to do something.  What we learned to do with mind, body healing is to decide on a course of action that's about choosing to put the life we want to be living in the viewscreen. And not organizing ourselves based around what we want to avoid. Because we've created these conditioned responses and this habit, this sensitive, threat detection system. That every time we feel a threat we put it up on the viewscreen, we're feeling it in the body. And then we take ourselves down this body, pathologizing, medicalized road. But what we understand about mind body is that we've tripped some kind of sensor. 

[00:03:10]Maybe that sensor is unwanted emotion. An emotion that we're not allowing ourselves to feel. Or maybe it's some kind of subconscious association. So understanding how the brain works will help you both turn down the alarm and also assess threats more accurately. 

[00:03:31]So there's two features assessing the threat, which is turning off the red alert. So imagine being on the Enterprise and every time it detected a particle in space, the klaxons would go off.  (Star Trek sounds)

[00:03:49] That would be super annoying. 

[00:03:51]Editing out viewscreen sensory data we don't need processed. We can't possibly know every single thing, every bit of sensory data that our brain and nervous system are evaluating. So we want to focus our viewscreens on what we want the brain and body to be experiencing. 

[00:04:10] Here's an example. I had this experience living in New York city when I was younger. There's a million clothing boutiques in Manhattan but they didn't carry my size. Especially back in the eighties and nineties. Because at that time plus size clothing was only sold in specialty stores. And there was no internet. 

[00:04:32]So these stores that I passed walking through Soho had no importance to me. I could look in the window and I could see items that I thought were cute, then inevitably I would remember that they didn't have my size. Or I was relegated to shopping for accessories, which after a while, it was just super boring and annoying. And I didn't like that feeling. So I just learn to ignore them. And then my brain did such a magnificent job of ignoring, these stores actually disappeared for me. I wouldn't see them at all, unless something peaked my attention. And probably this is because in New York city, there is so much to hold your attention that you cannot have it everywhere. But I'll tell you I could spot a pizza place. A place that had a clean bathroom, a bookstore, or a record store with ease.  The other thing I could spot with these was another queer person or another fat person who didn't look like they hated themselves. They also caught my attention. So those were part of my scan settings and my brain offered them to me readily and easily. I didn't need these clothing stores and so I didn't see them. People would try to use them as landmarks when giving me directions. And I was like, Nope, I have no idea what you're talking about. I successfully filtered it out. That included like very fancy well-known designer brands that literally, I was just like, I do not care about fashion. Which of course the irony is then I did end up working in fashion later and end up opening my own clothing store. That's another story for another day. 

[00:06:24]Here's another idea or concept that's similar, but the opposite.  It's like when you buy a car, you start seeing it everywhere. Where you learn a piece of new information, you start seeing it with more frequency.  That's called the Baader Meinhof phenomenon.  It's not that these things are happening more often. It's just that you were noticing it more. Your brain is making connections. You're teaching your brain that this information matters and that it should be paying attention. So I'm going to read you a quote from this article on  a website called damninteresting.Com.

[00:06:59] " So the reason for this is our brains prejudice towards patterns. Our brains are fantastic pattern recognition engines. A characteristic, which is highly useful for learning. But it does cause the brain to lend excessive importance to unremarkable events. Considering how many words, names, ideas a person is exposed to on any given day it is unsurprising that we sometimes encounter the same information again, within a short time. 

[00:07:29] When that occasional intersection occurs, the brain promotes the information because the two instances make up the beginnings of a sequence. The brain's reward center actually stimulates us for successfully detecting patterns hence they're inflated value. In short patterns are habit forming. What we fail to notice is the hundreds or thousands of pieces of information, which aren't repeated because they do not conform to an interesting pattern. The tendency to ignore the uninteresting data is an example of selective attention." 

[00:08:10] So that's what I was doing with these clothing stores. They were uninteresting data to me. I use my powers of selective attention to ignore them. That was very beneficial for me. The key to healing is to choose the uninteresting data over the interesting data. Knowing that negativity bias is a real thing we need to bring our brains attention to neutral and positive sensations and let that fill up or viewscreens. 

[00:08:41] Whether it's a good piece of pizza, a place to pee, a bookstore, the feeling of sun on my face, the way the clouds look in the sky, the sound of birds or your favorite song, the sensation of a breeze, the smile of a loved one. We want to keep our attention and focus away from the fear alarm bells ringing and pay attention to the things we desire or we are relaxed about. Feeling fear doesn't even have to be a problem. It's our reactivity to it. So starting to rewire our reactivity to any feeling or a sensation is also a part of this viewscreen filling practice. 

[00:09:26]I did this recently as I'm going back to the gym to start lifting weights after two years away. I know that my nervous system is sensitive to perceived threat and danger. I'm doing more telling my brain than scanning. I'm giving my brain messages like I do know how to care for myself. And I'm not checking in to see if I'm too sore. I'm just trusting that all is well. Giving myself soothing and kindness. Not anxiousness, fear and checking. And I'm practicing thoughts that I can believe to make that safety be felt and true in my system. 

[00:10:05]My first workout with this new attitude was amazing. I had burning wobbly jelly legs and it felt like bliss. After my first time lifting in maybe two years and my body drank it all up like water in the desert. My body remembered all the form foundations. My brain got that relaxed buzzy hum that it gets when I lift heavy things repeatedly.  I had told my awesome trainer and friend Kelly that I had been having some special intensity after working out, that I thought that my nervous system was in a threat mode and I wanted to keep it easy. 

[00:10:44]I'm not usually easy. I am a go with stuff with intensity. Even pain healing. And Alan Gordon once told me that I was very high stakes. And he nailed it. I learn ALL the tools. I do ALL the things. I want to help ALL the people. And all of this ALL y'all is not giving my body mind, messages of safety. 

[00:11:11] I love this gym for so many reasons, but now they have a system called RPE, rate of perceived exertion, which is like the experience of checking our emotions for lifting weights. To me RPE is about self friendship. It's about increasing our neuroception and self-efficacy without shame or force. It validates the reality that we have different bodies on different days, and there's no need to adhere to a linear trajectory. 

[00:11:43] I love that I get to bring with me this deep understanding that my job, while lifting is to tell my nervous system that we are safe. This is why my legs can feel like jello and I'm smiling. Because this is my joy body. I feel relaxed, low steaks, interested in engaging, putting my body through an increased load demand, which is of benefit to my meaty parts. I've learned from my stairs experiment, not to be all or nothing. The cellular and muscle growth that I want to benefit from. Comes during rest. So the post workout experience is where the cellular and muscle growth come from. So resting, feeding myself well, and having a relaxed mind and attitude, also both during lifting and after lifting. 

[00:12:39]That's what I think I was missing before. I was a little too much too soon. I love that I can learn and I can love myself through learning things that might feel challenging. So can you let it be easy? Or meet yourself with ease when you're doing something new?

[00:12:57]With increasing movement, it can be helpful to talk to ourselves and tell ourselves we are safe, but also to prove to ourselves that is true by operating with the heart of self-kindness. We can feel afraid and do something anyway. Think of the last time you've taken brave action because on the other side was something you really wanted or enjoyed? When I coached  my client to take a walk down the block, which was what he desired to do. We made a whole graded exposure plan like we were going to go one house over and back, then two houses over and back, and three houses over and back. So that was our plan. But then he was willing to experiment with this brain training information. He actually ended up choosing an outcome independence approach. Looking for stray cats on his walk, the whole length of the block, he just did it in one go, with ease and without pain. So he made this up by himself, which I thought was fabulous. Um, because it's not an assignment, right. He's just like, this is what I wanted to do. And I decided that like, I'm just going to go for a walk, see how it goes. I'm going to look for cats because he loves cats. I'm going to look for these stray cats that I know, in the neighborhood, along the way. 

[00:14:16]So he gave his brain/viewscreen  something more desired and delightful to focus on. And whenever fear arose, he was willing to feel whatever came up. He was like, let's get curious. And see what's happening. He is not telling himself that he couldn't feel or deal with what was arising. His body and nervous system followed his attention. And that's a practice that takes repetition. Repetition is a very important function of brain training. 

[00:14:49]So are you willing to talk to your brain more than listen to it? We are used to doing all kinds of evaluating and assessing. We don't know how we feel and then we step on the scale in the morning and then we let that determine our day. We look in the mirror and evaluate our appearance as being okay or not okay, and we let that determine how our day will go and the actions we take. Try telling yourself what you want your day to be like, or your experience of yourself, before you look in the mirror. Try saying whatever happens today, I'm amazing. Then look in the mirror or open your email. Or test your blood sugar, or go for the walk. It's true if you believe it. I believe I'm awesome. I don't believe it 24/7. But I don't make not feeling it mean that it's not true. It just means that I'm a human being with a human brain. But my physiological experience is not just something that happens to me, but something that I shape with my attention and my level of intensity or threat detection. 

[00:15:59] I hope some of this lands for you. And I want you to start experimenting with this idea of talking to your brain, rather than just accepting kind of any of its sensory evaluation that it delivers to you. And always, if you want to know how to work with me, please visit my website at I'm currently offering my eight week pain recovery program. Where we explore your embodied map, we learn how to apply these tools of awareness, somatic tracking, building new neural pathways, exploring graded exposure and outcome independence. And we create goal setting around movement and life, because this is about the life that you want to live. Of your choosing. 

[00:16:47]We get to figure that out together.  I hope you have an amazing day. Thank you for listening and I'll talk to you next week.