The Brain Switch

The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When the brain focuses on fear, that fear grows and grows and ends up paralyzing or blocking us.

Fear comes to us through that little voice in our brain asking us… ‘what if… ?’ (What if I fall? What if that spider, mouse, dog… jumps on me? What if I can’t do this? What if I fail? What if… ?) The little voice asks the first “what if” question. The question triggers doubt and uncertainty. A second “what if” question poses even greater insecurity. We answer our brain trying to reassure it… ‘everything is going to be OK, no problem.’ The brain then starts arguing back. ‘It’s certainly not OK, and something bad is going to happen!’ The fear grows. And grows. The voice becomes more convinced and adamant. Its expression is more and more forceful.

Have you ever experienced anything like that?

The conversation in your brain is like the conversation between a mother and a toddler. When the mother refuses to give the child something he wants, his anger escalates to a full-blown tantrum.

Child: I want some chocolate.

Mother: Sorry, honey. You can’t have any chocolate now. We’ll soon have dinner.

Child: But I want some chocolate!

Mother: Not now, my love.

Child: I want chocolate!

Mother: Not now.

Child: Give me some chocolate! Now! I want chocolate! (screaming)

Your brain does that too, if you argue with it.

Brain: Look, a spider. What if it jumps on me?

You: Don’t worry, it won’t.

Brain: oh, yes, it will! That beast is going to jump on me and hurt me!

You: Relax, it’s very small, anyway.

Brain: No way, all spiders are bad! Oh, my! What if it really jumps on me? (Fear is growing)

You: Calm down…

Brain: I don’t want to calm down! Is it moving? Am I too close? Can it jump on me? (fear controlling you)

What can a mother do to avoid that situation? It’s very hard to calm a toddler in the middle of a tantrum. A brain in the grasp of fear is as difficult to calm down.

Imagine the same situation.

Child: I want some chocolate.

Mother: Sorry, honey. You can’t have any chocolate now. We’ll soon have dinner.

Child: But I want some chocolate!

Mother: Look, honey. Did you see the cat?

Child: (looking around and talking in a calmer, more focused way) Which cat?

The mother is turning that brain switch off. She’s distracting the child so he can’t focus on his wish anymore. The anger doesn’t grow. The bad feeling isn’t given a chance to accumulate and conquer the kid. She then has the power to handle the child easily.

Your brain can work the same way. The Brain Switch is nothing but a mental tool to distract your line of thought and avoid being dominated by fear, anger or any other negative feeling. How do you turn it off?

Prepare something beforehand. This step is VERY IMPORTANT. Don’t leave it until that moment or it won’t work. Prepare a poem, a song, a prayer, a text of any kind… something you know by heart that is longer than at least four sentences. The chorus of a song can do, for example. Keep that text ready in your mind. Whenever the first fearful thought comes to mind or you face your fear anew, force your brain to focus on that text. Say the words to the song. Don’t sing the song, that’s too easy, but say the words in a poetic way. That will take your brain away from the fear for a few seconds. Time enough to leave the room or do whatever it is you want to do. By focusing on your text, your brain won’t focus on the fear and the fear won’t grow. That switch will give you the time you need to act.

Action is the antidote to fear. If you’re afraid of something and your fear stops or blocks you, the few seconds you get using the Brain Switch will give you the break you need to act: move away, start talking, call somebody… whatever.

And (also very important) once you manage to control your fear like that for a few seconds, celebrate it. You did it! Fear didn’t control you. You controlled it! Celebrate it and feel the power. Enjoy the good feeling.

If you use the Brain Switch several times, the cause of your fear will gradually lose its power over you.

Remember, though, that the brain is very strong. It will try to go back to its old routine. To prevent that, make sure that the text you prepare is long enough to give you a few seconds and hard enough to really need your focusing on it. If you’re only half focused, the brain will sneak in again. The trick is to turn the switch completely off, giving no room to fear. The Brain Switch will only work when your mind is COMPLETELY focused on the text.

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