Wednesday Challenge: “Need” versus “Want”…

Sigh, so much new material in my head…….I went to a conference last week and heard some amazing presenters. Regardless of who spoke, the message was repeated over and over and over. Different speakers, all voicing the same message, regardless of their training, professional function or theoretical philosophy: OUR BRAINS CAN CHANGE AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL THROUGH OUR ACTIONS, PRACTICES AND HABITS.

And, if that isn’t enough to make you stand and think, consider this: NEW CONNECTIONS CAN BE MADE AND THE ACTIVITY OF THE BRAIN CAN BE ALTERED THROUGH PRACTICING NEW BEHAVIORS AND ATTITUDES. We know that even two minutes of paced, slowed focused breathing can change blood pressure, brain activity and pulse. It changes the biochemistry in the brain, and moves the individual from the flight-fight-fear-freeze mode, to being calmer, more focused, alert and aware. YOU my friend are capable of it, but you have to be willing to tolerate going against your inclination to stay the course and repeat over and over the behavior that keeps the brain (and you) stuck.

Here is what we don’t want as a status quo:

Here is what we want to create as a new status quo:

These dramatic changes can occur at a cellular level, when we change our thoughts, practices and attitudes. Joyce Hawkes is someone who has researched extensively in this area, and practices healing through changing the brain, through practice of meditation, breathwork and movement. Dr. Hawkes discusses brain changes that can occur as a result of practicing meditation and relaxation as part of daily life, habit and practice. I know, the stuff we struggle to implement. Sorry, but this kind of true change can not generally occur through one trial learning for us, but through repeated practice and incorporation into our lives. Hey, you can’t protect your teeth from cavities by brusing just once, it is a more than one time practice DAILY, across the years that creates health in that area right?
(See also Joyce Hawkes, Ph.D. just amazing stuff on Cellular Resonance

Ok, to reiterate:

The last significant point, related to our brain chemistry, is this (BIG BREATH!): we often are driven by our brain (urges) to pursue what is not good for us, BECAUSE IT “FEELS” GOOD. The other pattern we can easily get stuck in is AVOIDANCE of things we consider too painful or risky. So we have this system that is primed (PRIMED!!!!) to seek more of what FEELS GOOD, and when we attempt to change course, the brains wiring wants more of what “FEELS GOOD” regardless of the consequences, regardless of conscious thought – UNTIL WE CHANGE THE WIRING TO OVERWRITE THAT PUSHES US TO FEED THE DESIRE OF WANT TO NEED,WE WILL BE COMPELLED TO REPEAT THE ACTIONS REGARDLESS OF THE CONSEQUENCES. PERMANENT BRAIN CHANGE CAN ONLY OCCUR THROUGH REPEATED PRACTICE, ATTITUDE CHANGE, AND MORE PRACTICE! See points 1 & 2 above.

The speaker in this case, Joel Robertson, PharmD, discussed how we as humans tend to fall into two categories (I’m going to spare you all the talk on dopamine, and all its buddiesserotonin and all those brain things), where the brain is “GAS ON” or “BREAK ON” in its general make up, and how it constantly sends messages to keep on this course of full speed ahead or shut down. It does what, in essence, “FEELS GOOD” when in fact, it isn’t “GOOD” for us AT ALL!!! And it does this automatically when we lose focus of our NEEDS, our goals, and our conscious choices.

So what is the take away here for you readers and experiencers of “GAS ON” or “BREAK ON”? Here it is, in order to create a different course of action, you must be willing (my words, not his) to:
1. Recognize that what “FEELS GOOD” is actually a cue to pay attention to data, and think your way through through the urge to clarify and keep focused on WHAT YOU NEED.
2. Know what it is you are trying to create for yourself, center your mind on it, know what it is you are doing and be willing to tolerate the difficulty you will face in that battle of WANT VERSUS NEED.
3. Have a plan for what MANAGING your urges will look like. In the way we’ve talked in other posts, the metaphor is to know how you will SIT THROUGH THE SUCK, and stay focused on safety and focused on creating peace, health and hope in your life.
4. Know that what you are doing is CREATING something you not only need, but want. Or, want and absolutely need. Know that it is worthwhile and important.

When you know your focus, you can move in that direction. When you are taking in data that is not emotion based, you can change course and correct minor slips off course. What these amazing speakers where addressing what that behavioral change, which we all know sucks and is tough, over time and time and time, repeatedly practiced actually changes brain waves and creates new connections. Healing at the cellular level, changing the brain, the body, the emotional center of the brain, so that the pain is lessened, healing is occuring. And, the brain chemistry is altered. Seriously, the brain can rewire itself through your conscious efforts and actions. How great to have a different experience, creating a new present?

If you’ve read these posts you’ve probably noticed the repeated encouragement of changing behavior, being aware of the present (so as not to merge the past and present), and being aware of your thinking and action patterns. Ok, nagging is a fair word too! But, the point I’ve been trying to help you become aware of is that YOU can change your experience, your thinking, and your choices, which ultimately, over time, practice and diligent practice CHANGES YOUR BRAIN WIRING.
You heal yourself, building new connections in the brain!

Therapy can guide you to change your perspective, offer you insights to change your thinking, monitor your behaviors, help hold yourself accountable for your choices and behaviors. It can help offer you new experiences and perspectives. BUT IT IS ALL YOURS. You and you alone change your perceptions, which changes your reality. It also offers you an opportunity to CHANGE YOUR BIOLOGY!!!

OKAY. Does that make some sense? Deep breathe, because this week I’m offering you a foundation of change to consider, but you must be willing to practice this throughout the WEEK. If you struggle, that is okay, because it might be new. If you forget, that is okay, do it when you remember. If you mess up, that is ok, you are human, start again once you refocus. It is your life, your choice, your course, your path to be walked. Be present in the moment, breathe deep and start again. Create peace, stop the judgmental, harsh and punative war you wage with your mind and body in the moment.

As one of the wisest sages in the world offer us in terms of our words and wisdom as a focus:
Be the change you want to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

A ‘NO’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘YES’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble. Mahatma Gandhi

Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning. Mahatma Gandhi

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances. Mahatma Gandhi

ON A DAILY BASIS for the next week, AT LEAST 2X-4X a day:
1. Breathe deeply, evenly and gently, 4 counts in, imaging a cool wave gently washing over you,
2. Be present in your body, hold the full breathe for a moment
3. Exhale, 4 counts out, imaging the wave, now warm, gently rolling back, taking whatever stress (or tension, or pain, or anger…..) with it. Let it go, and hold empty, just floating gently
4. As you breathe in, Breathe deeply, evenly and gently, 4 counts in, imaging a cool wave gently washing over you, filling you with calmness and peace, and the resources you need
5. Be present in your body, hold the full breathe for a moment
6. Exhale, 4 counts out, imaging the wave, now warm, gently rolling back, taking whatever stress (or tension, or pain, or anger…..) with it. Let it go, and hold empty, just floating gently
7. As you breathe in, Breathe deeply, evenly and gently, 4 counts in, imaging a cool wave gently washing over you, filling you with calmness and peace, and the resources you need
8. Be present in your body, hold the full breathe for a moment
9. Exhale, 4 counts out, imaging the wave, now warm, gently rolling back, taking whatever stress (or tension, or pain, or anger…..) with it. Let it go, and hold empty, just floating gently
10. As you breathe in, Breathe deeply, evenly and gently, 4 counts in, imaging a cool wave gently washing over you, filling you with calmness and peace, and the resources you need

You can do this with your eyes closed, laying in your bed at night, upon wakening, in the shower, in line at a store, in a meeting……anywhere you may be. Focus, breathe, move the energy around your body. Change your breathing patterns, watch your thoughts, feed and nourish your body and soul. Create peace. Over time your brain activity will alter to this change in your patterns.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Mahatma Gandhi

So in closing, here is a thought:
I offer you peace. I offer you love.
I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need.
I feel your feelings.
My wisdom flows from the Highest Source.
I salute that Source in you.
Let us work together for unity and love.
Mahatma Gandhi

Create focus and peace. Be willing to change your patterns, it is all within your hands (and your brain!) to create the life you want. k


35 responses to “Wednesday Challenge: “Need” versus “Want”…

  1. Excellent thread and discussion. let me add my two cents if I may.

    My experience with mindfulness/Meditation has taken me to a zen center for four years and through many authors of Buddhism. Shaila Catherine has spent over seven to eight years accumulated in silent retreat. Her book Focused and Fearless taught me to observe emotions from a distance.

    I started with unpleasant and went to places and situations that made me uncomfortable. Then as I closed my eyes and followed my breath, uncomfortable would change. My ego let go and an emotion of mine existed without me owning it. Incredible moment for me.

    So if uncomfortable did not define me then anger, guilt, shame or fear would not either. Emotions were just a mechanism, not me.

    Then it became obvious that we humans all have a full set of emotions.

    emotions do not single any of us out they are shared equally with other humans.

    As Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, said, our right hemisphere of our brains are electrically related to the human race. We are all brothers and sisters on this planet on the right side anyway.

  2. I think they’re helpful in a therapist’s office but probably not at home… Yes, so complicated..

    • You’re probably right. Now to conquer that fear.

      • I don’t know if one ever conquers fear, but I know many people who are the most courageous people I know.

        Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. Ambrose Redmoon

        God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
        Reinhold Niebuhr

        Courage does not always roar, sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day saying … ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ Lara Adio

        You have already survived so much, you are probably underestimating how capable you are because you are using FEELING based logic (or dislogic actually), and not looking at the facts of how capable you are really.

        Feelings CAN’T HURT YOU, only the choices you make about them can hurt you.
        Feelings have a beginning, middle and an end. The middle sucks sometimes, but it survivable.
        Feelings are data that tell us something important might be going on, and we need to be grounded and connected so we can check out the reality of our reactions.

        Be courageous. Create peace – k

      • FEAR…..


        Words I find myself to live by….

  3. What i wonder though is if those thoughts have a time or a place… To let them out, or if that wouldn’t be helpful. Not even sure they’re thoughts… more feelings… LOL, this is so complicated. Thanks for the input.

    • MER –
      The thoughts and feelings, they are all yours. While they may FEEL like separate entities, they are yours in reality. Feelings are data that tell us something important is going on. The thoughts, well, use them to help you orient to the present and do reality checking in the present to see if they are attached to your present life, or if they are some of the ghosts left from past unresolved memories, events or reactions.

      They can be like water in a tea pot set to boil. Often people fear that letting them out will consume them, and then they will be left with nothing. The reality is the feelings and thoughts are present. Like the water in the pot, they serve a purpose, and when critical mass & the right conditions occur, the pots contents boil, steam escapes. It does that because if it didn’t, the pot would explode. Interesting, when we make a cup of tea, we take out just what we need, as we need it, when we need it. Feelings and memories can be the same way – but you are the keeper of the pot. Please don’t fear your feelings, respect, honor, and validate your feelings. Treat yourself with compassion, dignity, kindess, and respect.

      You will create your answers (yes answers) as you go along. Make your mind up FOR THAT MOMENT. Each moment is a new opportunity to try something new. Your life, your feelings, your choice…..YOURS. Evaluate the data, decide, whatever, but it is your choice in that moment.

      Create peace, k
      Create peace – k

  4. Mer, do your best to keep it away even if it’s for just a few seconds.. All that chatter will always try to creep up when you’re trying something new but keep going. When I first started I would begin with realxing my arm and lastly go to my head because if you’re able to concentrate and speak to yourself about relaxing and stay focused it’s hard for other things to creep in. It’s so worth it…


    • Stacey,
      Thank you for the reminder to start with one area of focus if the process feels too big or too uncomfortable. You are absolutely on target when you indicate that the one moment, a few seconds focused on one thing (or area) is a great start.

      When we let go of the noise and distraction, it is amazing what you can put in its place.

      Thank you for your wisdom! k

  5. our ego constantly brings thoughts forward, it wants us to be onnauto-pilot, so it directs our being.

    It takes practice to direct your attention to this moment. Practice everyday and during tje day. See if you can focus on your breath in public, at work, waiting at a traffic light,cooking, showering,etc.

    I have made a model that helps you focus and thoughts fade easier.

  6. kammy, I hae over 50 posts from Buddhas Brain which is a practical neuroscience of happiness love and wisdom. It is a book from Rick Hanson which describes your post. Hanson is a neuropsycholgist and a meditator.

    some of his sayings are what fires together wires together.

    here is one

    I have a category section on the right linked to Hanson.

    • Great! Thanks! I will check it out. Sounds like a great addition to my skills base!

      • So, kammie, here’s my question for you. First, the fact you really are encouraging us to do the best with what you’ve got… hard to explain, but it’s helpful. (So when i last, oh, 15 seconds, it feels better than nothing…) i’m trying. So, what do you propose doing with all that chatter that’s waiting in line? it keeps trying to sneak into my attempting to be quieted mind.

      • If you are into visualization, I’d encourage you to pair your breathing and visualize yourself letting go of the noise.
        Breathe in, slowly, evenly, gently, exhale slowly, evenly gently, LET GO OF THAT WHICH YOU DO NOT NEED.
        Repeat at least 4-6 times.
        Breathe in, slowly, evenly, gently, exhale slowly, evenly gently, LET GO OF THAT WHICH YOU DO NOT NEED.

        You can also talk to yourself, kindly. For example, (as you are breathing in and out) I can let this go right now, I don’t need to focus on it. As you exhale, let go.

        I even will encourage people to use their arms and move slightly. There are some examples on the biology page.
        Sit or stand comfortably. As you breathe in, slowly, evenly, move your arms slowly up gently until they are up over your head, reach for the stars, and try to stretch up and back, OPEN UP – BRING IN NEW ENERGY, then exhale slowly, evenly gently, releasing your hands, moving your arms back down, LET GO OF THAT WHICH YOU DO NOT NEED.

        Some people image that their arms moving up, like a wave covering their body, then when they exhale, the wave moves back, taking all the worry, angst, unrest and noise with it. Try this 4-6 times.

        I think the most direct answer is to catch yourself when the noise starts. Gently, kindly, remind yourself that it isn’t necessary for you to be caught up in it. Remind yourself, kindly, respectfully, that you will manage whatever comes your way, you have the skills. Breathe slowly, evenly, gently. When you act, do so with compassion, focused energy, and purpose. The noise will settle when you give yourself permission to be adequate, purposeful, able and capable. Act when you need to, let go of the noise and distractions in the moment.

        Good luck! Create peace (and quiet!) – Kammie

  7. I disagree, it’s not quite simple at first.. However, it does get easier with practice.. Any type of deep breathing you follow is difficult regardless of your issue.

    • I disagree a little, it doesn’t FEEL simple, and getting the coordination can be difficult. If you’ve been holding on tight all your life, it feels difficult, unnatural and maybe even frightening. The act of breathing is not that difficult, and it is the emotional and mental components that we carry that make it complicated. Breathing itself is a simple natural act, but many times we develop responses that interfere with this practice because of trauma, ED, pain and loss.

  8. The breathing track is just a model that simplifies and give a specific, concrete form to mindfulness. It is connects the inhales and exhales with curved transitions so we do not get lost in thought,as much.

    Quite simple in fact, that some of my blog viewers are using it daily to improve. Here is a link, if anyone is interested. Rick Hansin says that what fires together wires together,so where we direct our attention has enormous impact on us. The mind craves something specific, concrete to follow the breath. The breathing track also bring symmetry, balance and a flow to the breath. It helps us not get lost in thought.
    here is a link if anyone is interested.

  9. great model Marty!

  10. Here is my model for healing from PTSD but resembles your post very much!

    Failure is impossible.  We are responsible for one thing, our total effort.  Results are far beyond our control and miles above our pay grade.  We have plenty to stop worrying about without adding thoughts about past things.

    From Rick Hanson in his game changing book Buddhas Brain, proves we construct the ego out of random past memories, woven into a believable narrative.  The question of “Who am I” has no subject.  We make the person so we have identity, not to serve him/her.  The ego is not who we are.  The ego in comparison to the mind is similar to a golf ball floating in a swimming pool.  We are perfect without anyones approval or disapproval.  Words, thoughts or ideas, even actions do not change this fact.  Our self worth is untouchable, we are perfect all of us.

    The power of our organism is the true self.  Thoughts do not have any power.  The adrenal stress response or the fight or flight mechanism supplies the drugs that we feel exploding.  The large jolt that rocks our world from time to time is cortisol mixed with adrenaline a pain killer and increased respiratory, BP heart rate escalations of defense or offenses.  No defenses for us, we avoid and dissociate not attack.

    So know that the, feeling that the thoughts have this massive fear power is delusion.  My thoughts are still here, my triggers also visit me.  No cortisol is activated now, in fact good food desires make me more anxious than my childhood.

    Okay, here we go.  First, let us correct our self talk.  I did not realize the power this has.  Alex, would have this small little snide put down of himself, when he would leave.  Finally, he agreed to drop that negative hit on himself.  It was immediate, the next day, something had shifted.  For the first time, the whole mind body had all the oars in the water, as a complete unit.  He stopped going sideways and his practice blossomed from there.  Hand and hand with the terminating of negative self talk or entertaining any negative idea or dreams, we add affirmations.

    Daily short recitals of positive supportive affirmations felt strange, uncomfortable for me.  I did not believe these glowing things about myself.  I felt like an ass doing this, but healing was a million times the desire for me, so I recorded mine.  Was easier to play them back.  In time, I somehow started to believe some of those damn things.  I was amazed.  That computer left brain could be programmed, maybe it feels awkward but undeniable it had worked.

    Next we roll out our air craft carrier of defense.  The Breathing Track will develop focus which we will apply where trauma is the most powerful and the most vulnerable.  Exactly when we have feared the most and tried to get away the quickest, it is this space that we now practice to go towards, not avoid or away from.

    I get an image of the firemen in the twin towers on 9/11 going up the stairs as people like you and me fled in terror for our life.  We do not have to be like this however we must go towards our triggers, so we can observe them and see they are delusions.
    The breathing track will accommodate us on our journey to our inner world.  We will spike our self worth with the soothing nature, a steady mind has to offer.  We are not overcoming anything, we are letting go.  The breathing Track will make this possible, trust me.  If you want to heal, practice this with all your might daily.

    Make some time and sit for 10 minutes twice a day at first.  Then practice briefly during the day.  When thoughts are around try to ride the breathing track

  11. What an excellent post. I can personally vouch that these methods work. It is scary, painful, and even humiliating to open up, look deep inside and work on changing yourself, but it absolutely can be done! I am on my way to becoming who I want to be, and I have no doubt my brain has been rewired or formed new connections over the past few years. I have completely transformed my reality and watched as my own transformation also affects those lives I touch.

    • Roots2blossom,
      Whatever you find deep inside of you is human, it has every range of possible human experience and reaction. Tolerate it, own it, respect it, HONOR yourself. It is all you, deservant of kindness, dignity, respect, compassion, and understanding. In this moment, you are more able and capable than you know. Let go of those judgments that aren’t helpful, and open yourself to the possibility that maybe you are actually imperfectly human, wonderfully imperfectly human. Alfred Adler believes that it takes great courage to be imperfect. If nothing else, are you courageous? Live today becoming you, being you, imperfections and all. Adler also believes that it isn’t what you have, it is what you do with what you have that is important.

      Your posts and blogs suggest you are moving into your future by living in your present, exploring every avenue to growth and possibility. If you have the courage to sit with yourself, to look deep inside, the frightening thing that you may actually find is that you have amazing potential and beauty and courage, your transformation is actually real to your present core.

      Create peace in your soul, continue on your journey, and thank you for walking with us. k

  12. So, am i the only person in the world that’s scared of deep breathing? The best way i can explain it is that quieting the non stop noise really lets the crap come up… and up and up. Not that the non stop noise isn’t crap, it’s mean, but it’s not scary… second round, scary. Overwhelming. Can’t let myself go there in therapy or out, and can’t seem to get past it. Sad. i’m trying to tolerate it in small amounts but end up beating myself up horribly for “overreacting”. The spin is literally debilitating in therapy… trying to counter it bit by bit.

    • No actually MER, many people are afraid of what it brings.

      Remember, you’ve been so practiced at the tightness, that when the physiology shifts, your insides register TILT!!!, or if you are a child of the 60’s you may remember Lost in Space, where the robot would announce “DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER!”. In your case, when things get quiet, your brain may begin to process all those things it has in the waiting line for their turn to be processed. SO, it might be that when these things begin to be processed, you register them as dangerous or provocative, when in fact it is “DIFFERENT.”

      It might help to work with your therapist on an image where you take the noise and contain it, and pair your breathing with an image of containing the noise, and breathing while you set free that which you no longer need. Your body knows what to do, it knows that breathing and focusing is healthy and necessary. It is your brain that has registered a meaning to it that is inaccurate.

      It takes a while to reprogram your brain. Be kind, give yourself credit for whatever work you are doing, even for 30 seconds. If you can breathe in once, hold, breathe out, hold – just one round, for heaven’s sake child, CELEBRATE!!! If you can do one, then you can add two, master that for a while, then 3, then…………when you are ready. Give yourself a moment of grace, maybe more, heck, give yourself all the grace you need.

      Practice kindness, patience, compassion. It is a long road, of course you will get tired, of course you will struggle occassionally. Welcome to the human race, you aren’t alone.

      Bit by bit, compassion, grace, patience. Practice peace, k

  13. Apparently purple pineapple is my twin. 🙂 i’m the same way.. But slowly getting better, very slowly… inch by inch. Will return to post later. 🙂

  14. I get very anxious in therapy. Not sure why exactly, but I do, and now I understand why she has me doing the “deep belly breathing” thing every once in a while throughout the session (which I’m so not good at). I practice at home (the breathing thing), but home is diferent; I’m not generally anxious there. I’d like to see the day when I can just be uninhibited in therapy, mostly because I think it’s important to not censor your feelings/thoughts in order to address them, but hey, I guess it’s a work in progress. 🙂

    • PP –
      Hello! You are an amazing work in progress. If you can do this work at home, you possess the skills, and can do them any and everywhere you want. Remember your mindset position, if you choose to allow your therapists’ office to be a safe place, you can make it one in your mind. Allow your therapist to walk with you as you continue to work on your skills.

      Peace, k