One of my dogs, Kobe, has epilepsy. It’s very well controlled with--of all things--Chinese herbs, but when there’s a major stressor, Kobe may be wracked with seizures. In his world, mercifully, there are few major stressors, but one of them is--thunder.
We had a major storm in California last month, with a thunderclap in the middle of one afternoon that sounded literally like the sky was falling (no Chicken Little version, this!), crashing down on our very heads.
I rushed over to Kobe and held him, which is about all I can do when he seizes, as my poor puppy trembled all over.
My mind immediately started whirring: “What if he has a major seizure? What if this doesn’t stop at trembles and shakes, what if it’s a big one, and he’s collapsed on the floor, bucking and heaving? He’s 15 now, he hasn’t had a major seizure in years, what if his heart can’t handle it?” And on and on, until I was in almost as bad shape as Kobe.
Then I thought: “What are you doing?” My dog was still trembling and shivering, nothing more, yet I was readying for disaster.
Which is exactly what we do. We rehearse for disaster. We take an event, and rather than address what’s actually going on, we let our thoughts tornado through our mind, dragging us into the land of crisis or despair.
And the worst of it is, that repetition of thought is what determines how your brain changes and grows. Science these days is teaching us all about “neuroplasticity,” which simply stated, is how the very structure of your brain changes with what you repeatedly think. That how your brain functions then also changes depending on what you think habitually.
If you stay in disaster mode, in “problem” mode, then your brain gets better and better at thinking in that mode, when what we really need, is to be getting better and better at the “solution” mode.
Your thoughts are like the reps you perform to keep your muscles in shape: whatever reps you do, that’s what muscles will grow.
I stopped my disaster thinking. I shifted into “solution” mode. I reminded myself that Kobe hadn’t had a major seizure in years, that he was a healthy dog despite his age. I reminded myself that I know good vets, that treatments are constantly evolving, that I would always see to it that my beloved pet would get the care he needed. I held him reminding myself that there was nothing more I could do for him in that moment, other than let him feel safe, supported and loved.
It was enough. The trembling eased, all was well. Not just with Kobe, but with myself, as I deliberately reached to grow my brain the way I want it to grow--solution and optimism oriented.
Don’t let your thoughts mindlessly drag you where you don’t want to go. Practice the thoughts that will take you where you do want to go. Choose your thought reps wisely!