Neuroscience-based strategies for encouraging growth mindset, creativity, emotion regulation and resilience.
Season 2 Ep 8 - Shifting the Burden
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When i use the word ‘neuroscience’, i am referring to a collection of knowledge that comes from many different sources and fields, including neurobiology, psychology, learning and behavioral sciences, evolutionary sciences, systems thinking and many more.
Some people are dedicated to studying the brain in a very specialized way - whether it’s at the individual cell level, or examining brain activity through different technologies. My experience with studying the ‘brain’ has been a mix of working at an fMRI lab, and observing scans as they happen, to measuring what’s happening within a person’s experience through different measures, such as heart rate variability, electric conductance of the skin, and micro-movements of facial muscles, as well as using electrodes to measure the amplitude and frequency of brain activity in different areas. My other way of ‘studying the brain’ is to observe patterns in people’s behaviors, language, tone, movement, and how they describe their experiences to me.
In a way, none of that really matters. What matters to me is: can I connect with what a person is experiencing in a way where I will be able to find words to convey to them that I understand.
And then.. Can I, through an integration of my own self-understanding, utter words and express gestures that help that person see themselves in a new light?
Can I find ways to exchange information with others that help them feel more connected to their own strength, resilience, power, intelligence and ability to make new choices, and achieve their desired experiences?
In my decade of doing that work - of helping people shift into a higher level of self-awareness and self-understanding… I have not yet experienced that explaining a specific brain region is what creates the shift.
What I have experienced in helping people see a situation differently or feel relief from their anxiety is when I take my understanding of how our mind-brain-body system develops over time and connect it to what I hear them express about their own experience.
This understanding is a deeply entangled mix of feelings, memories, aha moments, uttering of words, seeing a ‘light’ shine in someone’s eyes, and hearing them say to me something that expresses a new awareness, a feeling of relief, a deeper knowing of who they truly are underneath the fear and the doubt and the negative beliefs they have accumulated over time.
There is no ‘brain region’ that does that. We are too complex to reduce our experience to an area of the brain. It’s great to know about these regions - they all contribute to an overall understanding. And that is important work that I appreciate so many scientists are involved with. But it’s not the work that I dedicate myself to.
We are each like specialized cells of a giant organ.. That ‘organ’ is the collective body of intelligence of the human species and its ability to not only adapt at extremely fast rates to its environment, but its ability to share knowledge and new levels of understanding with each other. That ability to communicate new understandings is what has helped - and will help - all of us to get better and better at creating desirabl...
Season 2 Ep 7 - Normal versus Natural
Normal is based on historical data. It’s based on what has happened the most often in the past. Our past ‘normal’ can make it easy to not question if there is more that’s possible in terms of wellbeing and a deeper sense of meaning for our life. But what we really, truly, deeply need to understand is that the ‘normal mode’ of consuming and doing the same combination of movements day after day without challenging our brain-body to higher and higher levels of creation and exploration is not NATURAL.
We are: COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS. Our NATURE is to adapt to ever-changing, increasingly difficult and complex situations that involve other complex systems so that our adaptive problem-solving faculties become more honed and finely tuned. Many of our behaviors and patterns are blocking us from tapping into our most natural abilities.
Season 2 Episode 6: Why are humans so anxious? and the dark side of mindfulness
When we focus on trying to 'fix' dysregulation without acknowledging how it emerged, we are conveying a message that somehow the anxiety or overreaction just ‘appeared’ because of an imbalance in their brain and that distress, dysregulation and anxiety are an isolated problem about that individual.
Treating the brain in isolation not only sends a disempowering message to the person experiencing challenges, it's also neurologically inaccurate.
The ability to self-soothe is not genetically programmed to just ‘happen’ without the right conditions.
Our ability to self-regulate comes from social feedback systems that help us build our self-regulating circuitry.
Season 2 Ep 5 – Resilience, Stability and Hyper-Coherent Networks
What a person sees “depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conception experience has taught him to see.”
― Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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What we see depends on what we look at.
What we look at depends on our previous experiences.
Our previous experiences create a field of vision.
This field of vision is always limited. Always. There is no possibility that we can be aware of everything. This would overwhelm our system to a point of collapse because it would not be able to process every single quanta of information that enters our senses.
Our field of vision is therefore always incomplete and imperfect. This concept is what Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon calls ‘bounded rationality’.*
Our first experiences with our families create the experience-dependent prediction networks in our brain.
These prediction networks act like a dial that zooms in our attention according to what we already predict or assume.
It then focuses our attention on that and blurs out the rest.
This is what is happening in terms of how we even ‘see’ physical matter. Matter is made up of blinking electron clouds of potential that flash in and out of existence. Yet we can’t ‘see’ this when we look at our hand or a chair.
Our brain has to dull out and blur massive amounts of information to make sense of what we see. This doesn’t mean that the data in the form of waves and particles isn’t there right in front of us. We just can’t see it.
In the same sense, this happens to us as we navigate our social worlds. Our brain prioritizes information in this way:
This is important for us to understand because it means that the focusing mechanism of our ‘beam of awareness’ will be first geared toward figuring out what will hurt us (and when it think it’s ‘found’ the threat, it will blur out all other information).
If our system then does not detect threat, it can look towards what will help it achieve its goals. From a social level this also means that we often see people as either pathways to our goal or obstacles in the way.
Strong emotions become the next target of our focusing mechanism (beam of awareness).
Social media capitalizes on all three of the above.
The algorithms naturally pick up on the highest priority of our nervous system because that’s what we click on and share the most.
This is what I also see happening in many of the human social experiences that are occurring today.
We each believe we are seeing the whole picture.
But we are imperfect humans with imperfect information. Always…. This can’t be disputed from a molecular, neurobiological perspective!
This means that there is always room for more information to flow into our awareness.
There is always another perspective.
The more different that perspective is from what you already think, the better.
Why? Because if you continue to keep your focus on wha...
Season 2 Ep 4 - Tech Addiction and the Social Dilemna
The human species has some pretty spectacular systems built into us to achieve mental, emotional and physiological states that most of us are not even really aware of.
We also have systems and features within us that make us very vulnerable to being influenced and 'programmed' into behavior that is not reflective of our most evolved neural circuitry.
Technology is interfering with and manipulating those systems.
And the more we get to know how technology is interfering with those systems, the more we can get control over our internal state rather than let the tech companies (who do not have the best interests of the human brain and nervous system in mind) hack into our vulnerabilities.
Season 2 Episode 3 Feedback Loops
What do a viral video and a stampede of animals have in common?
It's a mechanism that is also related to 'self-fulfilling prophecies', self-beliefs, anxiety and negative thinking in general.
It has to do with something called 'positive feedback'.
This is not verbal commentary, like 'you're doing a great job!'
Positive feedback is something that enhances or amplifies an effect.
In a stampede of animals, the abrupt movement and running of one animal gets detected by another, and another, and this effect continue to amplify until a stampede occurs.
Something similar can happen to a person in certain cases of anxiety.
In some cases, a person may have hyper-interoceptive awareness.
This means that they are very aware of fluctuations within their body, including their heart rate. their interpretation of these sensations may lead them to think something is wrong, that their body is not 'supposed' to do that.
Having this type of interpretation then creates a feedback loop of anxiety about what is wrong, which can lead to for example, a faster heart beat, which then leads to more anxiety.
Something that can have a balancing or correcting effect on a positive feedback loop is 'negative feedback'.
In the case of someone who may become anxious due to their heart beating fast (as an example), a negative feedback could include introducing thoughts that the body is doing something adaptive or beneficial.
A faster beating heart can also mean we are excited, engaged, alert and feeling alive.
I also talk about this idea of 're-appraising physiological signals' in my Neuroscience of Bravery Video
In this episode, we cover how positive feedback loops might be causing us challenges in our thinking, and what we can do to try to interrupt these feedback loops so we can feel more regulated and resilient.
Oliver Cameron - Visceral Sensory Neuroscience
Donella Meadows - Systems Change
Santa Fe Institute - Complexity Podcast
Laurence Gonzales - Surviving Survival
University of Wisconsin Madison study on negative interpretation of stress
Science + Practical Tips
Stefanie is incredibly knowledgeable In the field of neuroscience, mindset, and applying best practice to teaching methodology. This podcast is a treasure trove of important information essential for learning and teaching. It’s hard not to feel inspired after listening!