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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Neuroscience: how I became convinced my brain is out to destroy me

I am a little hardheaded. Okay, I am very hardheaded. Sometimes I get so caught up heading where I think I ought to go that I entirely miss the turn God wants me to make. Sometimes I know what the right thing to do is, and I decide I don’t want to do it anyway. My way is better. I don’t do that on purpose anymore, that is more a thing of the past. I have wizened up at least a little.

Then there are all those other times. When I want to do the right thing but just don’t seem able to do it. I try again and again and again, but my track record doesn’t improve. I see this most in my life as I have tried to overcome my fear. I have had a lot of fear in my life. Fear of authority, intimacy, acceptance, rejection, shame, success, failure.

I used to be so afraid of churches and anything that looked like spiritual authority that I would occasionally walk blocks out of the way to avoid having to walk past my church’s office. I was terrified I would meet someone who worked there. I don’t know what I thought would happen should I do so, but it seemed easier to just avoid the situation than face my fear.

I really can’t believe I just shared that publicly, but now I walk on the same side of the street as my church’s office on purpose. I figure upping the probability of meeting someone who works there will brighten my day. Yes, I have grown more than a little in the last few years! Am I free of fear now? Oh, absolutely not, but I have come so far!

In my new job, I have had the great pleasure of reading a lot of neuroscience. In spite of all the fear I have experienced, all the bitterness I have engaged in over the last few years and the many decisions I have made which I greatly regret, it took the study of neuroscience to finally convince me that my brain is not working toward my personal success. My brain is out to destroy me.

Now I know the whole renewing the mind thing from Scripture. I am absolutely sure I have been advised at many points in my past that I need to do something about my brain. But remember that thing about being hardheaded? Sometimes I just think I am smart. Much smarter than I actually am. It turns out even secular science seems to believe my brain is out to destroy me. It doesn’t like it when I make good decisions. Take for example, this whole love revolution I have had in my life recently. Do you know that my brain did everything it could to prevent that? Every time I wanted to step forward into healing and do things God’s way, my brain freaked out. That whole flight, fight, freeze or appease thing kicked in, and I was toast. All my best laid plans slipped right through my hands. I repeated my devastating history of avoidance and running and isolation one more time. Because my brain told me that was the “safe” thing to do.

“Don’t trust people who love you; run like the wind to the ones who treat you like you are worthless!” That’s what my brain likes me to do.

One of the most fascinating things I have learned is some of these ridiculous decisions made by my brain take place in parts of my brain which have no capacity for language. What business does a part of my brain that doesn’t even understand English have in ruining my life?

I have known about flight or fight since I was in grade school, but all the neuroscience I have been reading recently has me taking it seriously. I have realized it is time to quit playing games. It is time to quit believing what my ridiculous amygdala would like me to believe and take action.

Sometimes it is hard to do, but I have learned to quiet my amygdala. No, it will not ruin my life. I will do what it takes to win, and do you know what the weird part is? Sometimes it means I eat something hot before I go somewhere I think is scary instead of something cold. I dress in something that will make me feel good. I keep my palms up because it lessons anxiety. I purposefully do what it takes to get my body to produce oxytocin.

And yes, I agree it is a completely ridiculous way to renew my mind, but it helps at least a little. I have also decided to just quit believing my brain and put a lot more credence in God’s Word. My brain is a part of my flesh or “old nature”; I can’t trust it.

I have also started to memorize Scripture. This is what I would think of historically as the way to “renew my mind”. I have absolutely zero proof that teaching God’s truth to the part of my brain that knows English and bits of Spanish does anything to shut up my amygdala, but I would like to think it does.

And let’s face it, I have actually started to have so much fun memorizing Scripture that I get a real “high” from going over my favorite passages. I know it’s weird. I think so too, but I am going to indulge myself and enjoy it. In the meantime I will assume all sorts of oxytocin is being produced so I don’t fight, flee, freeze or appease; but instead embrace love the way God says love works: connection, compassion, confession, confrontation, collaboration, community… I am running out of c’s. :)

Does your brain work for you? Or do you keep finding yourself doing the same thing over and over again while hoping for different results? What can you do to step into God’s truth?

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