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Lean into the discomfort! You hear that in society, read it on the internet, there are even books about it. If you are a client of mine I am going to tell you that you need to get used to being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Here’s the thing, it SUCKS!
When we are trying to make changes in our lives our brain kind of freaks out. There are two main reasons. The first reason is the X and C systems in our brain. Neuroscientists have divided the brain into two systems, the X-system, this is the auto reaction system of the brain, it is concerned with being energy efficient, strives to be automatic, works from old habits and patterns, and is concerned with status quo. The other system is the C-system, this system requires more energy, processes things slowly, and it’s main job is to challenge the habits and beliefs of the X-system. So when I say that you brain works against you when you are trying to make changes, it is because there are literally opposing systems.
The second reason is the triune brain analogy. You may have heard this in different ways but here is a simple version. We have three main parts of the brain. The reptilian brain, the most basic part of the brain that controls the functions in life eating, sleeping and sex. The second part is the limbic brain, it controls emotions, memory and habits. Last is the neo-cortex (new brain) this is our “thinking” brain, it controls, cognition, problem-solving and growth. The first two systems are all about doing what is easy and efficient and the neo-cortex is the part that requires more effort, power, and thought.
So when you put the three layers of the brain and the two systems together, change sucks and it is truly physically uncomfortable to your brain! It requires more energy, it isn’t efficient, it requires the challenging of old beliefs and habits. Our brain will cling to the old ways because they are comfortable and require less energy.
Here is the good news, the brain is ever changing, it is forming new connections, continuously restructuring connections, and pruning connections it doesn’t use. This happens thousands of times EVERY DAY. We have incredible potential for change.
So your first assignment in “Leaning In” is to know you can, it is going to be tough, but your brain is built to do it.
References: Leiberman, M (2007). “Social Cognitive Neuroscience: A Review of Core Processes.” Annual Review of Psychology
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