Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
 
How To Tell If Your Brain Is Changing

How To Tell If Your Brain Is Changing

Last night, I had a disturbing dream. I won’t go into the details, but it was about rejection. In my dream, I allowed myself to let loose and not carefully control everything I did, and I suffered a humiliating and unfair rejection because of it. I then became consumed with destructive rage and frustration.

I’ve been having a lot of vivid dreams for the last few months. It started when I took up doing Wim Hof breathing followed by meditation right before sleep. I usually don’t do it on the weekends. I didn’t do it last night, but I had a vivid dream, anyway. Maybe my subconscious is working extra hard to work some stuff out, or maybe my subconscious is always working extra hard to work some stuff out, and the only difference is that I’m remembering better. I went through a phase of vivid dreaming when I was in graduate school, too.

Neuroplasticity

That could be another reason for the vivid dreams—my brain is changing. I read an article a few weeks ago about neuroplasticity. It said that young children have the most vivid dreams, and, as we age, our dreams become less and less vivid. It went on to speculate that children have vivid dreams because their brains are undergoing so much new development.

It says that the human brain is so plastic that it protects the part that handles visual processing by keeping it turned on while we sleep, and that is why we dream in images. This connection between dreams and neuroplasticity also explains why our dreams become less vivid as we age. Our brains aren’t adapting as much, so the visual center doesn’t need to run full tilt to keep from being overwritten by, say, the taste of mangoes. Our brains are so malleable that blind people can develop the ability to use echolocation.

So, all that to say, my brain might be changing. But, what is it adapting to? I’m barely going anywhere. I am reading a lot, though.

I’m cleaning up my emotional act. When I say that, I mean that I’m taking responsibility for my own boundaries and learning to be more honest with myself. I’m dealing more directly deal with my own shit. I’m meditating more, although, not a ton, but I think it’s helping me adapt faster.

Integrity

I’m still listening to the same Tim Ferris podcast where he interviews Elizabeth Gilbert that I referenced a few days ago (I often listen to these things in 10-15 minute increments). She mentioned what Martha Beck calls “an integrity cleanse,” and yes, it’s about as frightening as it sounds. To do an integity cleanse, you set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, you stop and you ask yourself if you’re lying in any way, then you correct it. You could be lying to yourself, a friend, or a family member. When Martha Beck did it, she lost her entire family, all of her friends, and her marriage, but it allowed her to rebuild a life that was based on her whole truth. She went from dying from a host of auto-immune diseases to saving her own life.

Like Martha Beck, I’m also the kind of person who is literally allergic to inauthenticity, but like everyone else, I was raised to fit into very specific anti-integrity social boxes that ask us to constantly play pretend. I don’t know if I’m ready for an integrity cleanse, but I’m ready to do what I’ve been doing.

Internal Integrity

When I write in my private journal, I’m as 100% honest as I can manage. When I write here, I’m as honest as I can be without indicting others. I don’t lie, but I omit information. As much as I want to be honest, it’s a violation to expose others against their will. Of course, there are times when exposing people is necessary for the public good, but I’m no Woodward or Bernstein. Nothing like that ever happens in my normal life. Sometimes, I get a little persnickety about my petty squabbles, but no one ever does anything to me that warrants gossip or exposure.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that every time I get really honest with myself, I learn something new, and that happens almost every day.

External Integrity

When I first started getting honest with people, I drove away a few assholes, but that’s the point of it. I have to acknowledge my privilege here, though. I don’t have a lot of people vying for my attention or asking me for favors. I don’t have any kids. My family is far away and self-sufficient, anyway. Most people don’t seek my opinion or care if I give one. There is no advantage to getting a favor from me. I have no money. I can’t promote you to a large audience. I can’t give you a good lead on a job or even introduce you to someone who can.

There’s Adam, but he’s one person, and my honesty helps our relationship more than it hurts it (so far). The most demanding creature in my life is my cat, and he is very honest about the fact that he doesn’t give a shit about my boundaries, so I deal with it. I’m not that challenged when it comes to being honest with other people, so I don’t get a lot of practice with it. I think that I will be challenged more when I’m not living such an isolated life, and I hope I can adapt when that happens.

So, anyway, is my brain in plastic overdrive? Or, is all of that nonsense, and I’m just sleeping better?

Well, I Zoomed with my writer’s group yesterday, and they critiqued my story. It was alright. I don’t want to go into details because this entry is already long enough. I thought that my talk about my dream would be a little aside, but it turned into a really long thing.

Anyway, have a good day.

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