The Robot

I never meant to do this stuff. The brain science thing.

It was really an exploration born of wanting to understand my husband after he had brain surgery and then a stroke. Being a sciencey gal from my main gig with cake art I fell easily into the alluring trap of neuroscience.

I kind of love the predictability of if this : then that.

With baing and sugar the formulas are simple and the results are expectable. Heat, agitation, chemistry, physics… when all done in a very specific way, you get a reliable outcome. Cake. And if you’re really good with your knowledge of the limits and strengths of certain foods, you get beautiful food art.

It was almost the same with neuroscience and learning about the brain/s. The wonderful and also frustrating thing about brains, though, is that we still barely know anything at all about how they actually work AND what they are capable of. So while we have lots of knowns, we have many more unknowns. Exciting and wanting all at once.

One of the first things that caught my attention when beginning to dabble in learning about this incredible organ, was that it’s really three different brains in one package. After much learning about how they each behave and what they are each responsible for, I liken them to three toddlers living in your skull. Each one very different in who they are, what they want, what they respond to, and in their unique behaviors.

Each is intriguing and another time I’ll introduce you to the other two, but perhaps by the name of this piece, The Robot, you’ve figured out that the Robot is the brain I’ll be dallying about here.

It’s an odd thing, the Robot. It’s the oldest part of the brain, right around the brainstem, has been with our kind for 250-300 million years. It has no words. It has no emotions. It’s responsible for flight or fight (and some like to mention the other two “f”s it’s responsible for: freeze and fuck). It’s raw. It acts only to protect survival. It makes sure that it maintains the status quo and that things don’t change. The current state of things has kept you alive until this very moment in time, so staying exactly as we are will keep our bodies alive.

While that’s quite a role for the Robot to play, and it’s damn good at it, and while it seems like a pretty sophisticated brain (it is), it’s also the most stubborn. The strongest, and stubborn. What a grand combination to have to deal with in a toddler, right?

And while it’s great at ensuring that we survive, it impedes our ability to THRIVE.

Thriving is more than just maintaining the status quo and existing. Thriving is living more fully, less painfully, more satisfied, with more joy and love and contribution. Many haven’t yet gotten there completely. Steps in that direction, towards thriving? Yes. But thriving is like a horizon line that is always out there but you’ll never actually reach it. The objective is to keep pursuing it.

The fact is humans are meant to grow throughout life, our brains are hardwired for it. But the Robot is really good at getting in the way. It still doesn’t realize that we are not in jeopardy of being eaten by a sabre tooth tiger.

Thriving comes from change – seeing what is out of alignment, what is off purpose within yourself, and figuring out how to rewire that part of ourselves.

Ever try to lose weight for some special occasion? And maybe you did knock off those extra 20 pounds before the highschool reunion, but they came back pretty quickly after the reunion?

Yeah. The Robot had a hand in that. It wasn’t on board with the changes you made to lose the weight and took back the reigns and directed things back to the status quo. Status quo being all the things you were doing and all the ways you were being when you had the 20 pounds on in the first place. And pretty quickly the 20 pounds come back.

I always wondered why, if I was able to make some kind of change even for a short time, it wouldn’t last. Because MAN that sucks when you get results and then POOF! They’re gone.

I only learned the magic behind change, and the reason behind change failure, when I began studying the brain… and specifically the Robot.

The brain that created and executed that change wasn’t the Robot. It was one or both of the other two. And they didn’t consult with the Robot before making these changes. Robot is the strongest, oldest, and most sophisticated. And its where much of our personal identity resides. If the RObot says, “No, we’re not someone who lives only on plants” then becoming an overnight Vegan is gonna be pretty damn tough.

That is unless you have the science that gets Mr. Robot and his two counterparts all on the same page to change stuff at identity level. Seriously, back to the toddler thing, just imagine three toddlers who you’ve given a project to that each has a specific role to play, and if any one of them doesn’t want to do it, the whole thing falls apart. Imagine a tough and stubborn toddler that doesn’t like anything new; a toddler that is over-emotional all the time and usually on the verge of crying; and another toddler that can argue the point of anything and has ideas about exactly how we should do everything.

Feeling tired just thinking about them? I am.

But luckily for us, science shows us how to manage these three toddlers. And not just manage them, but use their unique abilities to get what we want in life.

I never thought I would be teaching, coaching, and blogging about brains and the science around them to impact lifestyle and make money, but here I am. And there’s nothing in the world that intrigues me more than finding cool science and new science that instructs us on how to amplify the use of this built-in supercomputer in our noggins.

But when you have someone you love more anything else on earth, and you desperately want to better your marriage through understanding the other more completely; when you want to help better their experience of life; when finding solutions for another is a labor of love and passion; you go down odd paths. And sometimes those paths are exactly where you were meant to be in the first place.

All paths lead to somewhere.

Where is yours taking you? And how is your Robot helping or getting in the way?

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