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July 5, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

You Are Not Your Brain

I usually don’t spend too much time wishing for a different past.

Obviously, it is futile to do so, but I also recognize that so much of my past, the good, the bad, and the ugly has made me who I am today in many good ways.

I am sure, that had I not believed myself to be unworthy and flawed in my youth, I would not have dedicated myself to personal growth, and there are many things that I could not say about myself today if that had been the case.

But… I do find myself wishing that someone had given me a copy of You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life 20 years ago.

I say all of this with a smile of course, as the book had not been written then, and much of the research that lead to it was undiscovered.

I have read more self-help books in my life than I can even remember. Some have been helpful, and all have been interesting but part of me decided some time ago that it was time to stop dwelling on my so-called short-comings and focus on my strengths. I decided to work to grow as a person, but to accept myself the way I am today.

Still, I jumped at the chance to read You Are Not Your Brain when I was asked by TLC Book Tours to review the book, as I jump at anything that gives me an opportunity to learn more about the workings of the human brain.

Written by Jeffrey Schwartz M.D. and Rebecca Gladding M.D. the book looks at our thinking and habits from the perspective of how habitual patterns, (habits) stem from deceptive brain messages, and how those messages and the way we react to them become wired together over time, making them very hard to change.

Many years ago, I engaged in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, to treat my anxiety, depression and to learn how to cope with my ADHD. That therapy saved my life.

However, having reached a point of relative stability and healthy self-esteem does not mean that there isn’t more to work on. I succeeded in over-coming serious illness, but I still engage in destructive thinking from time to time, and have more than a few habits in my life that I would like to change.

The good news is that I am still far from perfect and there is plenty to work on. The other good news is that I will never be perfect and there will always be plenty to work on…

You are not your brain thrilled me, by broadening what I already practised, giving me greater opportunity to utilize the skills I learned years ago while adding plenty more that I am looking forward to learning and incorporating into my life..

Some of the things I learned were:

  • I am not my brain: I had not realized until reading this book, that those habitual thoughts that lead to certain behaviours are not me. I do not create them nor the emotions that they generate, and I should not endeavour to stop them. What I can do, is control the actions that I take to deal with them.I know from my own past experience, that creating new responses over time will help me to lessen and even eliminate them. But stopping the thoughts is not the place to start.
  • Effort, is a much greater determinant of success that desire.Ok. In writing that, it seems kind of obvious in a “wow, that’s so obvious that I didn’t see it.” way. But, this is the case.Obviously, determination is fickle. It can change and fluctuate driving you from incredible motivation to absolute despair and everything in between. What is required to make changes in ones life,  is the effort. I understood that, but it didn’t occur to me to plan effort, and rely less on desire. This change in perspective was worth reading the whole book for on its own. But the lessons don’t even begin to stop there.
  • Free Won’t:  As opposed to free will. The point is, that since we don’t control the messages that our brains send us, exercising our will, is really an act of Free Won’t. We can decide not to act on these messages. Again, this is a shift in perspective, sometimes the most important step in solving any problem.

There are so many interesting and empowering lessons to learn from this book, but reading a review won’t change your life unless you buy the book and read it for yourself.

In fact, reading the book won’t change your life either, but reading it, and going through each chapter and the included exercises just might.

I haven’t had time to do or prove this yet, but I will be sure to keep you posted.

You Are Not Your Brain is in my opinion, a book that everyone could benefit from. Not only can it help us to understand ourselves better, it really does make it so much easier to understand others.

This is not a book written only for people who have serious problems or need professional help. In fact, it cannot be a replacement for professional help as no book can.

You Are Not Your Brain is a book for anyone who would like to improve the way they live their lives in just about any way. If you want to change, reading, and then working through the book will be invaluable.

Thank you as always TLC Book Tours! 

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5 Comments

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  1. Patricia / Jul 5 2011 10:41 pm

    I found this to be quite a remarkable book to read and review myself. I did this one last week on the TLC tour. I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly.

    I first read it through very fast – and I could not believe how many things kept popping into my head that made sense. I decided to read it again and work on one set of messages that were just arriving about food issues and feeling like a failure in that department – this time through I did all the exercises – Still two weeks later I am amazed at how many old pathways are stuck inside – like belonging to the clean plate club to help children in the developing countries. Intellectually I knew this was bunk, but I was just finding incredible that that programing was still running in my brain.

    I am reading the book for the third time and still think I would advise folks to work with a trained professional for the big items, but I can see how for many of us this would free our thinking and move us forward quickly.

    I think you explained this book better than I did, as a lot of folks in my comments are just happy it was helpful to me! I thought it was powerful for making change in thinking – and actually thinking about things without the old messages just cycling through…like political assertions and assumptions or how we keep ourselves from making lasting changes.

    It was a great book and you did a lovely job of presenting the material. Thank you

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jul 25 2011 8:28 am

      Thank you Patricia!
      I found this book fascinating and will definitely be going through it more slowly in the future.
      I enjoyed your review very much.

  2. Tuner Bonesaw / Jul 6 2011 12:49 am

    OK, I’m hooked. After telling me about The Secret and The Power of Now, I can honestly say that you have never steered me wrong in suggesting reading material. This sounds like a book I could benefit greatly from. I struggle daily, even minute by minute at times, to try to stop thinking things I know are of no use to me. The past is gone. I need to move on. I will be adding this book to my collection!

  3. Heather Johnson / Jul 8 2011 4:47 pm

    You are so right when you say that the book itself won’t change your life but doing what it says to do just might – how true that is! I’m glad you got so much out of this one. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jul 25 2011 8:32 am

      Thank you for having me Heather.
      It was such a joy to participate. I am very grateful!

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