by Julie Genser

Watching a scary movie on T.V.I recently posted a list of 25 Things to Focus On While Brain Retraining, compiled by members of Planet Thrive’s Gupta Support Group, who are actively engaged in the Gupta Amygdala Retraining™ Program, a neural reconditioning therapy being explored by people with limbic impairment conditions such as MCS, CFS, and FMS. Here is their companion list of things to avoid when retraining the brain:

20 Things to Avoid while Brain Retraining

1. Searching the internet for information about symptoms, diseases, the latest treatments, etc.
When one first gets sick and is unable to find adequate assistance from their local healthcare team, it is certainly understandable to want to search online for information, potential treatments, and resources. But at a certain point with chronic illness, it becomes more important for our healing to not be so illness-focused.

2. Following information about and campaigning against pesticides, air fresheners, fabric softeners, chem trails, fracking, and other sources of toxic chemicals.
You’ll have more time and energy for that sort of thing later, when your brain has healed. Focusing on toxics right now is counter-productive to all the work you are doing to retrain your brain.

3. Interacting too much with people who also have deep limbic system impairment.
For those of us involved in relationships with disabled MCS partners, living in an MCS community, or active on MCS discussion groups and online communities, this one can be very challenging. If we must interact with others with limbic system impairment, it may be good to set limits on your conversations – both in length and content.

4. Getting involved in pointless argumentative Facebook threads with haters.
Don’t waste your time endlessly explaining how the Gupta program works, arguing about toxicity, or just about any topic. It’s taking valuable energy away from your own healing.

5. Engaging in arguments from your emotional mind.
Try to face conflict calmly, from your intellectual mind – or avoid the conflict altogether unless you know it will not be an emotional argument. Arguing from an emotional place can be a quick way to bring back symptoms and stress patterns and the fastest way down the “left hand path” to illness.

6. Dwelling on a negative situation.
Practice transforming negatives into positives, lemons into lemonade. Make a list of all the ways the current situation could be viewed as positive or could ultimately result in a positive outcome. Then distract yourself from the situation by doing something you enjoy – play the piano, watch your favorite T.V. show, catch up with an old friend.

7. Reading anything that triggers… feelings of inadequacy, fear of illness/death, nightmares, unsettling sleep, depression, thoughts on your own limitations, etc.

8. Interacting with family members or caregivers, spouses, partners, and parents who you live with who use the illness as a way for them to attack your healing.
These interactions will tell the amygdala that you need “protection & safety,” exactly the opposite of what your brain retraining practice does to rewire the brain.

9. Allowing people to constantly give you well-intentioned but unsolicited advice about what you should be doing with your health and lifestyle.
“Have you ever been diagnosed with ___________?  I bet you have that!” “Have you ever tried a gluten free diet?”

10. Reading newspapers, news websites, watching the news on T.V.
News media is often alarmist, negative, sensationalizing, and downright depressing. Going six months without news in order to retrain the brain can offer a huge stress relief to the amygdala.

11. Politics.
It’s easy to get caught up in heated debates about current political issues, and these dialogues usually come from an emotional place (see #5). Best to avoid these types of discussions while you are focused on retraining your brain.

12. Looking at news updates about the current hurricane or wildfire or tsunami or evacuation weather news.
This is a surefire way to ramp up your amygdala!

13. Rushing, and being around others who are always rushing.
One member explains: “This means avoiding being in a hurry, trying to do too many things at once, pushing for a result. Rushing may mean ‘accomplishing’ to your amygdala. If you accomplish something, then you are lovable/good. Rushing can be evidence of not loving ourselves, not feeling like we’re good enough unless we prove it by our actions.”

14. Movies and T.V. shows that are full of violence and other amygdala-stimulating plots.
I had been watching “I Survived…” which has victims of life threatening crimes and events telling their stories and watching re-enactments of the crimes. I’ve always loved these types of shows and could watch them all day/night long. I knew my amygdala was being stimulated but I watched it anyway. Then after a few episodes, I realized that this is completely counterproductive to my getting well because it was feeding the overactive amygdala with the most succulent dessert it could find. I’m on an anti-candida diet for yeast; so now I need to be on an anti-amygdala-stimulating diet for my brain!

15. Obsessing about your appearance.
One PT member writes, “I actually noticed that I have wired thoughts about my appearance into my amygdala. So I am avoiding spending extra time focusing on my appearance. I seem to have lumped appearance and safety into one wire.”

16. Comparing your current abilities to your past ones.
Another member shares: “I’m guilty of this. Horribly guilty.  But it never goes anywhere good, unless I think of how improved my emotions are. I recently read in a Daniel Amen book that it can be very good for the brain to give thanks each day for five things in your life. I’m trying to start doing that, especially when I get in the mode of thinking ‘I used to be able to…'”

17. Comparing yourself to others.
Avoid comparing your recovery progress to that of others who are also using brain retraining programs, or any other method to try to heal. The old “compare and despair” routine will only lead to unhappiness.

18. Dwelling on situations in which people have judged you based on your current abilities.
See #6. “Dwelling” on anything is a negative thought pattern that can (and should!) be shifted using the amygdala retraining exercise.

19. Parties and get togethers where the focus is on illness-centered talk.
Living in an MCS community or finding a group of local MCS friends can be incredibly validating and supportive. But if you’re brain retraining and your friends are not, you may want to avoid get-togethers during the six month program if party talk tends to center around symptoms and body thoughts. (See #3).

20. Avoidance.
Even the very idea or act of “avoiding” can be amygdala-triggering. “Avoiding” may be interpreted by your amygdala as “I won’t be safe/healthy unless I succeed at avoiding the things I’ve decided I should.” One PT member feels that for people like us who had/have a condition like environmental illness that revolved around avoidance, now on a journey to health, even thinking about a list of things to avoid like this one is, in effect, still focusing on what we need to avoid. She wonders: “Could we heal faster if we focused at least as much on inclusion as we do on avoidance?” For this reason, we recommend also reading this article, right now: 25 things to focus on while retraining the brain.
photo credit: © Petar Neychev | Dreamstime.com

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