You’re Not Just Your Brain’s Activity, No Matter What Neuroscience Says

Recently several people have mentioned to me that they have been reading about new discoveries in neuroscience and mind/ consciousness research. They usually ask me to tell them what I think of these new findings, so I thought I would write a post about this! 

I’ll get right to the point here: I get the impression that this fascination with neuroscience terminology can sometimes separate us from a directly felt intuitive awareness of our inner life of mind and emotions.

Regarding self knowledge and our efforts to change harmful habitual patterns, for example, we often know what actions would be helpful, but find we are unable to do those things. We may say, “I know that intellectually, but it doesn’t do me any good.” 

In the course of over 34 years of counseling work, I have heard this statement many times mainly from people who have done a lot of traditional talk therapy, analyzing their past to fit it into a psychological theory. 

Talk therapy may work for many people. But the people who come to see me all say pretty much the same thing: “I can describe in detail what and why things happened in my family. And I can tell you the details of my psychological diagnosis but knowing this stuff doesn’t do me any good.” Here’s what I tell them:

If “intellectual knowledge” doesn’t give you the power to relieve your suffering, then it may be interesting information, but it is not self knowledge. Actual self knowledge includes a connection to real power and the clarity to take transformative action. “Intellectual knowledge” that doesn’t help is just some more data stored on our brain’s internal hard drive. 

Most of us have not received much education about the nature of our intelligent consciousness. For this reason, we don’t recognize the difference between stored “knowledge” (mere data) and actual self knowledge (the intuitive capacity that drives transformative growth). 

In addition, seeking real self knowledge isn’t easy –– it’s challenging!  “Intellectual knowledge” is so much easier to acquire, and it rarely challenges our favored assumptions. Collecting mere data may not help us change, but it is much less risky to acquire than real self knowledge, which shakes our foundations. Thus, we often settle for the consolation prize of “intellectual knowledge” which is easy to talk about and keep rehashing. That kind of knowledge  doesn’t demand that we make any unpleasant discoveries about ourselves, or insist that we change familiar self-destructive behaviors.

These days I am concerned that some of us are making the same mistake in considering neuroscience research that we’ve historically made regarding psychological theories. We grab onto intellectual knowledge as if it were precious treasure, only to find we’re holding nothing more than a consolation prize.

We give so much prestige to the new scientific data we hear about, that we  often don’t notice how quickly we convert that data into stories filled with limiting beliefs. For example: “Neuroscience says that repeated traumatic experiences caused my nervous system to be locked in over-reactivity. My brain is hard-wired to over-react; I can’t change that.”

It’s true that repeated experience, and repeated activity –– especially if it’s vivid –– create habit patterns such as over-reacting. It’s not true, however, that it can’t be changed. I’ll explain.

When we use scientific data to build beliefs about the nature of our being, they are never accurate. Why? Because these data only study and describe activity –– they don’t reveal or define our potential.

Intellectual knowledge is the basis we use for creating limiting beliefs about what’s possible for us. These limiting beliefs, for example “I can’t change,” keep our attention focused on our ideas about ourselves.

Self knowledge, on the other hand, directs our attention inward, toward our intuitive wisdom and power. That wisdom and power has one purpose: to guide us in the direction of flourishing, of being fully alive. In doing so, that power presses against our blocks in order to transform them.

When someone describes to me the biochemical processes that occur when they are emotionally triggered, they also often say they can’t do anything about that. It’s biochemical, right? Can’t do anything about that, right?

Wrong. 

Describing how endorphins or cortisol or other hormones work in the body during triggered emotional states –– that’s just data. It doesn’t lead to self knowledge. In fact, ruminating on such data is a big distraction from self knowledge. 

Psychological theories and scientific data can lead us to create complex ideas about ourselves. These complexities can then become a tangled mess from which we may feel it is impossible to extract ourselves. 

The good news is, you’re not who you think you are!

Who you think you are is just who you think you are –– a bunch of ideas, and habitual behaviors (acting!). But you’re not an idea nor merely an act, are you? You’re you. You can walk away from those ideas, and from the act, and still be you.

You can feel that you’re you anytime you direct your attention inward, away from all those ideas and from the act.

In my upcoming webinar we’re going to explore how to turn inward in this empowering way! Doing so, you can discover real knowledge that makes it easy and even effortless to make powerfully transformative changes in your relationship with yourself and in your relationships with others.

You can learn more and check out the details here:

The 4 Effortless Ways to Regain Balance and Joy with Jack Elias
[Online Wednesdays June 16-July 7 at 12pm PDT | 8pm BST]

I hope you’ll join us!