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Creating Brain Pathways, an Analogy

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Disclaimer: I am not a brain or brain rewiring expert. I am simply sharing my personal journey and my personal understanding as it makes sense to me.

Making a Wrong Turn

Have you ever made a wrong turn and then made the same wrong turn the next time you needed to go to that particular location? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve come to a stop sign and wondered if my instinct to turn a right (or left) was because it was correct or simply because it was the direction I went last time. An initial direction creates a brain pathway whether that direction was correct or not. For me, anyway. Not everyone is as directionally challenged as I am, but this makes for a great example.

As a family support educator I used to go on many home visits. I’d get my route on Mapquest – yes, the old fashioned way – and then head out. I eventually recognized the occasional homes that would cause snags for me. Do I turn left here or do I turn right? And I soon recognized, there were certain initial incorrect directions that I’d continue to choose incorrectly over and over – and over again.

The pathway that was created in my brain from that first drive would sometimes require practice to change. 

Our Brain is a Map

This wasn’t the only time I recognized repeating the same incorrect turn. My husband and I have done this on road trips to areas we’d only occasionally go. I remember laughing, saying, “Didn’t we make this same wrong turn last time?”

What if we see our brain as one big map? Pathways that go this way and that, making automatic turns because those are the pathways that have been created.

We watch as a child learns to walk, or feed himself, or button, or throw a ball. Repeated practice until a pathway is formed and a skill is learned. 

Experience creates these pathways in the brain. Directions become automatic. We don’t think about speaking in a particular dialect, for example. Those are some pretty solid neural pathways. We don’t think about the way we pronounce words any more than we think about breathing. They are simply automatic responses. To speak with what would be considered an accent to us, however, requires thought and practice — often a LOT of practice.

Roadways and Pathways

The tangible is always easier to comprehend. The road is a pathway we can see and feel and touch. The turns we make at intersections are ones we literally take ourselves down. We can see this. We can feel it. And being in the driver’s seat, we feel the control in our actions, even if our brain misguides that direction.

In regards to our brain’s mapping system, the neural pathways that develop create automatic responses. 

In regards to my fragrance sensitivity, a maladapted stress response created some pretty strong mis-firing in my brain. My brain became very good at recognizing chemicals and then creating an automatic physiological response to them–no matter how unwanted it was. It is taking continued practice through a brain rewiring program in order to change this automatic response.

*(As I say often–this does not diminish the fact that we need to diminish the use of products that contain fragrance chemicals. My effort at awareness for the need to choose safer products will always continue. I have no desire to ever use air fresheners, scented candles, or fragranced products again. My aim is to simply be able to live in this world without the negative physiological response my brain has created.)  

Practice, Practice, Practice

It would often take me several repeated trips, going the correct direction, before no longer having to hesitate and think about which direction to take — and this has been after only one (initial) incorrect turn. 

But practice can — and does — change those neural pathways. It is practice to diminish and eventually disconnect those connections we don’t want or no longer need. (Use it or lose it.) And it takes practice to create new connections that serve us better. (“Neurons that fire together wire together.” Donald Hebb, 1949)

As we watch a baby learn to walk we can see that he quickly learns that he can walk upright by holding onto furniture as he cruises around a room. He automatically seeks, reaches for, and grasps the nearest support. Eventually, however, he learns to let go and step out on his own. Those pathways that told him that he needed to hold onto something while on his feet gradually diminish and fade away as the new pathway of stepping out on his own is created. 

An Example That Led to This Post

I have been meeting with a lovely group of women bimonthly for over a year now. I remember our very first Zoom meet. I had been looking forward to it all day. All week, actually. Being in different time zones, I calculated my time zone incorrectly and missed that meeting. I was an hour off. 

We have a meeting tonight. And all these months later, I still have to think about it, “Is that 5:00 my time, or is that 6:00?” Of course, it doesn’t help that it took a while to create a solid time that worked, so it probably hasn’t always been at 6:00.

As I am typing, I recognize how easy it would be to change the fact that I need to think this out every.single.time.  I can write it down on my calendar. I can put a sign up on my refrigerator or mirror or anywhere else my eyes would connect with. ‘Zoom Meeting at 6:00.’

It wouldn’t take long before my brain would no longer have to wonder, Is the meeting at 5:00 or 6:00? And it wouldn’t be long before I wouldn’t require that physical reminder. Actually, simply typing it here will probably be enough to do what was needed.

Altering Brain Pathways is Absolutely Possible

Feel it. See it. Practice it. Be it. 

The program I’ve been using for brain rewiring is DNRS. They offer a Free Trial of the first segments of the program in order to help you better understand what it is all about. I’m not an affiliate. I’m not promoting the program. I honestly don’t know how it compares to other programs as this is the only one I’ve done. But its a good place to start if you want to learn more before investing into something financially. 

*That free trial was available at the time this post was created. This may or may not still be available at the time of your reading.