Whether you are suffering from a debilitating psychological disorder such as OCD, or you just feel that you are prevented from living your life freely, and as yourself – not because of external impediments, but because of unhealthy habits, addictions, or anxiety – you are likely to find the work of Dr. Amy Johnson extremely relevant and helpful.
Dr Amy Johnson is an american psychologist, life coach, and author of “The Little Book Of Big Change”, which I will talk about in this 3 part series. She is also the creator of “The Little School Of Big Change” – an online rehabilitation program, which guides people back to a life of freedom, and being themselves again.
One of the main aspects of Dr Johnson’s work that stands out for me is her holistic approach. I strongly believe that since all aspects of our being – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – are interconnected and affect each other, we should treat any individual issue within ourselves, as part of the whole. In her book, Dr Johnson focuses on giving us crucial insights into how these different aspects of ourselves work, so that we can reconnect with our true selves, and get in touch with the freedom which we had all along.
So join me in the 1st article of this 3 part series, as I outline some of my key takeaways from Dr Johnson’s book, The Little Book Of Big Change.
The universal mind
This is one of the names for the underlying force which creates, powers, and connects everything in existence. It is also called Source, Creative Force, God and so on. With such grand names, we mistakenly expect it to manifest through miraculous, out of the ordinary events. But more often than not, we find it expressed through what we see as ordinary, day to day life occurrences, which we overlook or take for granted.
One of these manifestations is our inner wisdom, or what we usually refer to as our common sense, which we all have access to. Have you ever considered where your common sense or inner wisdom comes from? You don’t deliberately create it. It is an innate, intelligent knowing, which is already there, ready for you to make use of.
Most of us look outside of ourselves for help, while overlooking or disconsidering this essential resource, which otherwise provides us with so much support and guidance. Take notice of your common sense, when it speaks to you. Look at it, hear it. Be aware of its wisdom, be conscious of what it’s saying.
Our essential nature
What does all this have to do with habits, addictions, anxiety, or anything else we see as a problem? A byproduct of genuinely being in touch with our inner wisdom, is that we become aware of a deeper truth about ourselves. A truth which goes beyond all the labels we’ve misidentified with. A truth which we were naturally in touch with, as young children, but which society and our own thinking, have eventually caused us to forget.
When we get in touch with our inner wisdom, we also get to reconnect with our essential nature, and thus remember who we really are, beyond all the problems we’ve mistakenly labelled ourselves as. We discover that we are not our habits, anxieties, or addictions.
The way we express ourselves through language has a big impact on this misidentification. We say we are anxious, we have an addictive personality, we are obsessed. Whereas in actuality, we are none of these things. And they are not ours either. We were just given, or gave ourselves, those labels, which we’ve come to identify with. They, are only our temporary experience of life’s ever changing flow, which we’ve then turned into ideas about ourselves. They, do not represent our essential, deeper nature.
The never changing blue sky, and the ever changing weather
An analogy for the difference between our true selves, and all the problems we experience in life, is the sunny blue sky and the passing clouds. The blue sky is our fundamental nature, never changing. Our fundamental nature, our spiritual essence, is clarity, peace, happiness, connection, freedom, and love. These are the stable qualities underlying everything that we experience. On the other hand, the passing clouds – our life experiences – are in constant motion, ever changing. The passing clouds are our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, behaviour.
Sometimes the clouds are harmless, small and white, other times they are dark, and combine to obstruct the whole sky, causing a storm, with thunder, lighting bolts, and heavy rain, which might appear to drown us sometimes. But it never really does. It can not. The real us, our spiritual essence, is never drowned. As it is not the weather. Above the heaviest of storms, above deluges, and even hurricanes and tornadoes, there is always a clear, sunny, blue sky. We, our essential nature, are that clear sky – always there, beyond all of our ever changing experiences.
Our spiritual essence, the true self, the sunny blue sky, cannot disappear. It can only be obscured by weather – our temporary, constantly flowing, life experience.
The malleable brain and insight
Until fairly recently, we used to believe that our brains are unchangeable. That the neurological processes which we develop during our life times are set. But this is no longer the case, as the latest neuroscience presents us with a completely different story. Studies and clinical trials have confirmed that the brains’ neurological wiring changes, when we change the way we relate to our thoughts and urges.
Every time we react to an urge, by performing our habit, we strengthen the neurological pathway that our habit is made of, and essentially tell our brain to produce more urges next time. Most people give in to their urges, because it is the only way they know of dealing with the deep discomfort and unbearable tension that urges are usually associated with.
But all this changes, once we gain insight into the actual nature of our urges – which is that of fleeting messages, which say nothing about ourselves. They are not personal, and do not define who we actually are. They arise within us, but they are not us. We don’t have to do anything about our compulsive thoughts, drives, and urges. For if we leave them alone, they will naturally be carried away by the ever changing flux of our life experience.
We are also not choiceless, in whether we obey the urges we experience to perform our habit, or not. And I will explain why in the following.
Where our urges originate
Our brain is made up of two main parts: the lower brain, and the higher brain. The lower brain, also called the reptilian brain, is primitive, and is based on emotion. It’s prime function is survival. Therefore it will create survival impulses and drives, whenever faced with something it perceives as dangerous.
When we see thoughts as something meaningful, personal, and dangerous, we essentially ignite our lower brain, which is then doing its best to save us. So long as we don’t change the way we relate to what we think and feel, our lower brain will keep carrying out its duties. And as we react to the urges it emits, the lower brain will get louder and we will experience its messages more often.
The higher brain, on the other hand, is based on logic, reason, and is where our motor functions originate. The great news is that our ability to do anything lies solely within the higher brain. Therefore no matter what drives, impulses and urges our lower brain creates, it ultimately cannot make us act. The choice to act or not, is always available to us, thanks to the higher brain.
When we choose to act upon the bothering thoughts, and uncomfortable feelings that we experience, we act based on what we know and understand about them at that time. When we insightfully see the harmless nature of thought, and emotion, we become aware of the freedom (we always had) to dismiss them.
We had the tools of choice and decision making all along. It is the way we thought about our habit, that led us to act on the lower brain’s urges, not knowing any better. The lower brain is powerless in controlling us. It can only broadcast messages, via thought and feeling. And once we learn to recognise its messages for what they are, and insightfully see our lower brain’s role in keeping our habits going, we naturally begin to dismiss our compulsive thoughts and urges.
The implication of this is that we can safely unplug from the lower brains apparent control, which it never truly had anyway. Each time we experience an urge, and dismiss it, we weaken the neurological wiring of that habit, until it is broken. Thus, rather than worrying, when an urge comes up, we can get excited, and view it as an opportunity to free ourselves from a habit.
Join me soon in Part 2 of this series, to gain even more insight from the tremendous resource for healing and regaining our true selves, that I believe Dr. Johnson’s approach, is.
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