Summary: Your brain is wired for change

Prov. 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life

Your brain is wired to produce change, a constant in the brain, as it is in life.

Change involves learning, and all learning generates change in the brain. When you seek to replace a behavior, such as a toxic thinking pattern, your actions produce neurochemical and molecular changes in cells known as neurons.

This vast and complex network manages the flow of information that, quite literally, shapes your behaviors and in many ways your life. These electrical impulses, you may say, consist of molecules of emotion that are designed to “control” the overall direction of your life,

Thoughts spark emotion-driven action.

Your thoughts create inner standards or rules that spark neurochemical dynamic processes, which selectively govern your choices and actions with precision.

It takes a thought to spark an emotion, or drive a decision to take an action or to take no action at all. And emotions give meaning to thoughts; they are the spark.

Toxic thinking is self-perpetuating. It not only stimulates the body’s reward or learning centers with pseudo feel-good feelings, it also activates the body’s fear response, which further increases the likelihood that the defensive behaviors it triggers will be repeated.

In other words, if you do not have the life and relationships that you want, you likely do not have the thinking patterns you need to create the optimal emotional states, and thus actions, that would sustain your momentum in the overall direction of your aspirations.

Some of its most useful action signals (you’re probably not going to like this…) are in the form of painful emotions, however.

Most often than not, human beings only change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. (It doesn’t have to be this way, however!)

Toxic thinking causes unhealthy levels of anxiety. Based on anxious thoughts (which are mostly a misinterpretation of what poses a threat or danger to you),

Toxic beliefs, in one way or another, cause you to hate, run away from or demean the part of you (or others) that feels emotions of vulnerability. This produces reactive behaviors designed to avoid, numb or eliminate painful emotions.

Naturally, this won’t work.

You are wired to struggle with your fears and vulnerabilities. It’s how you grow your courage, which you need in order to stretch to love yourself and life, and others, with your whole heart.

•The brain has incredible plasticity from what the latest findings tell us, capable of changing and healing, restructuring and reorganizing faster than ever imagined

•The brain not only generates experience, every experience changes the structure of your brain. Thus, your day-to-day life experience wires and re-wires your brain.

healthy relationship patterns are potentially healing in nature, literally, ones that allow the brain to rewire itself for more flexibility, permitting new associations of neural networks, the growth of new neurons, the expansion of existing ones, changes in existing connections, and so on.

Empathy the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties

Prov. 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Every one of us must seek to answer the all-important and practical question, “How do I renew my mind?”

Let’s use a hilltop as an illustration. When rain falls on a hill, the water drains off. How does it drain off? In rivulets or grooves in the ground. Initially, they are just small rivulets, but each time rain falls, the rivulets/grooves cut deeper and deeper. They can become deep chasms.

Now let’s compare these rivulets/grooves with thought patterns in our minds. The longer we think along any given line, the stronger that thought pattern becomes. Every time we react in a certain way, we reinforce that thought pattern. This is how habits are formed.

If we want to get rid of rivulets on a hill, we could take a bulldozer and cover them up. We could also build a little dam where the rivulet/groove begins so that the next time it rains the rivulets will change some. While we can’t cover up our thoughts with mental bulldozers, we can build a dam in our minds when certain thoughts begin. We can refuse to think them. We can say, “I will not allow myself to think that.”

Building a dam in the mind, however, is not enough. That is, saying “no” is not sufficient by itself. We also need to provide a new course for our thinking. We should not just suppress thoughts! We should redirect them. We should change negative thought patterns into positive thought patterns.

We find a good illustration of this in Paul’s words, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). How does a thief stop being a thief? Is it just by not stealing anymore? Not quite. Certainly that is part of it. That’s saying “no” to a negative, destructive habit. It’s building the “dam.” But it’s not enough. In order to change, the thief is told to get a job and earn money honestly. Then he is to give to others in need so that perhaps they won’t be tempted to steal. Now the process is complete. The negative habit has been dealt with by an act of the will which chooses to stop it. But the will must also choose to replace that with the corresponding constructive action in order that the change in thought patterns may be completed.

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