Summary of You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding

No matter how content you are with your life, everybody experiences those dark thoughts that can mess with our emotions. As much as we know that these thoughts are just the concerns we have, the fact that our subconscious has them makes us question the truth in them. Although some people have worked to ignore them, the majority still battle with it. 

If you are one of the people who is left crippled with the thought of speaking up because you fear criticism, or if you feel like you are not worthy of love then this book summary is for you. Our brain is filled with false messages which have developed throughout the years and you don’t need to believe them. It is possible to be the person you want to be and not have a voice telling you that you can’t. Let’s find out how. 

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • You are not defined by the messages your brain sends you
  • Why bad habits are hard to break away from
  • Making neuroplasticity work for you
  • The Four steps you should follow 

Key lesson one: You are not defined by the messages your brain sends you

Have you heard of deceptive brain messages? It is the false thoughts that our brain sends that often leads us away from our goals. They also have the potential to deeply affect us causing anxiety and overthinking. 

An example of how crippling these messages can be comes from one of the authors’ clients. He was a talented stage performer but deceptive brain messages left him with horrible stage fright and the fear of rejection. Upon closer investigation, the root of the problem was a single experience he had where he froze in front of a famous Broadway producer. This caused him to stop focusing on the good of his performances and instead on the flaws. The more he paid attention to the messages, the more it affected him. He started shying away from auditions and this only led to further reinforcing the deceptive brain message.

If this behaviour continued, it would have stopped him from ever performing again. Luckily, we have the ability to work past these messages. They do not define us and our brains have the ability to change. You just have to know what to identify and how to work through it.

Key lesson two: Why bad habits are hard to break away from

We all have bad habits. Whether it’s binge-watching an entire TV series when you have work to do or binge drinking, it always feels so hard to break the habit. Our brains are responsible for this because whenever we act on this behaviour we get this sense of relief from whatever is stressing us out. In turn, the brain remembers this feeling of relief and connects it to a temporary high so to speak. This strengthens the habit and also causes us to chase that high since we remember what it felt like. It’s a vicious cycle. 

For example, if someone is stressed, they may have a glass of wine to help relieve this feeling. But since once glass may make them feel relaxed, they could have a few more to prolong that feeling. Thus, every time they felt stressed thereafter, they would crave wine to help them relax. It is only a temporary fix, but the craving can become constant if they were to be in stressful situations. This wiring is unhealthy and the more we give in to the brain’s deceptive messages, the worse we feel. The feelings that these actions can actually influence our health and cause us to act out in concerning manners. 

Bad habits are hard to break because of this but it does mean that it is impossible. 

Key lesson three: Making neuroplasticity work for you

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adopt new functions. Self-directed neuroplasticity is when you take control of this ability by using focused attention on what you wish to change. It is this technique that can help conquer these pesky brain messages which hold us back and cause bad habits to form. 

In order to achieve self-directed neuroplasticity, you have to constructively focus your attention on exposing deceptive brain messages rather than believing them. In this manner, you reprogram your brain to work for you and not against you. The effects of self-directed neuroplasticity had been successfully proven by brain scans which show the rewiring of the brain. 

Key lesson four: The Four steps you should follow 

The Four Steps program is based on self-directed neuroplasticity and is an easy and methodical way to help you with the process of rewiring your brain so that it works for you. The four steps are to relabel, reframe, refocus and revalue the deceptive messages in your brain. You cannot prevent deceptive messages from arising but you can learn how to identify and ignore them. 

The way the four steps work is as a result of Hebb’s law and the quantum Zeno effect. Hebb’s law states that when an area of the brain is repeatedly activated by a particular behaviour, a circuit is formed. Every time we repeat the behaviour, the circuit gets reinforced. The quantum Zeno effect happens when we hold the activated areas of the brain in place for a long time so that rewiring can occur. This is done by focusing your attention. Once you understand how the process works, you can begin going through the steps one by one. 

Step one: Relabel

The first step is pretty straightforward. Identify your deceptive brain messages and relabel them. By doing this you are acknowledging that you are aware of what your brain is doing. It is a sort of mindfulness that you must develop and it will take a bit of practice before you get it right. A good thing to try when you begin this is to find a quiet place that you can use. Then, concentrate on your breathing and take notice when your thoughts begin to drift. Do not attempt to judge these thoughts, just recognize whey they appear. Then, return to your breathing. This will help increase your awareness.

The whole point of this step is to identify the deceptive messages and not to understand what they mean – just that they exist and are present in your mind. Then you relabel them as false. Thus when you start dwelling on them you are aware that you are following a false message and you can reel yourself back or move on from it.

Step two: Reframe

The second step is to use reframing to change the importance of deceptive messages to you. You have already identified and relabeled them, so know you need to tell yourself that they do not define you. They are just thoughts and separate from who you are. Once you achieve this reframing, it will help you stay away from unhealthy behaviours which are normally activated by deceptive messages. 

Reframing also helps you pick up thinking errors like all-or-nothing thinking or catastrophizing. These are common thinking errors that lead us astray. All-or-nothing thinking refers to thinking that something is either perfect or ruined. There is no in-between. Catastrophizing, on the other hand, refers to always thinking that something bad is going to happen. These two errors often lead us to walk away without even trying anything because we believe that it will be a complete failure. When you begin the process of reframing, these thinking errors will become more obvious and you will realise that they are not real, just something that your brain does.

Step three: Refocus

The next step involves refocusing your attention from destructive, unhealthy behaviours to productive activities. You have now identified your deceptive messages and you know the behaviours it leads to if you allow yourself to believe that it is real. However, after reframing, you know that it is not and so you actively begin to refocus your attention.

To achieve this, you must choose the constructive behaviour you want to adopt to maintain your attention away from your deceptive thoughts during the day. You could make a list beforehand to aid the situation if you feel that coming up with them on the spot might be too stressful. You could choose to work out, go for a walk, call a friend or meditate to practice your mindfulness. 

An important thing to remember is that the activity you choose is not to distract you from your deceptive brain message. It is rather to change the way you react to them thereby building a new behaviour. This means that you are actively working to rewire your brain by refocusing your attention. You can’t force yourself to push the messages away, this is just giving it attention and reinforcing how they make you feel and act. However, by choosing a healthier reaction, your mind will begin to refocus naturally. 

Step four: Revalue

The last step of the program is the process of revaluing. Your life thus far has been from a negative and rather narrow perspective due to your deceptive brain messages. Thus you have to begin to look at situations from a wider, healthier perspective. At its essence, revaluing is choosing to see your life with a positive and compassionate mindset. You are changing your beliefs not who you are. Therefore, you need to learn how to look after yourself and not act out of negative emotions. If you stop to revalue your situation, your reaction and your feelings, you will learn how to look at them from a different perspective – one that is bigger and filled with possibility. 

The key takeaway from You Are Not Your Brain is:

Deceptive brain messages are the cause of those negative thoughts and behaviours that sabotage us from moving forward. We begin to believe them and this further reinforces the bad habits we develop because of them. By following the four-step program of relabelling, reframing, refocusing and revaluing you can rewire your brain to break away from deceptive messages and the behaviours they cause. 

How can Implement the lessons learned in You Are Not Your Brain:

Writing down the deceptive messages your brain has and the activities you want to refocus on will help you in your journey of the four-step program. Not only will it allow you to easily identify your deceptive brain messages but it will also allow you to easily pick an activity instead of trying to think of one in the moment.

🤙 Your Next Step… 🤙

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