Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Sick" Brain Messages

I kept thinking about the word “sick. My brain’s opinion is that the word “sick” gives a definite message to your brain. We’re not talking about pretending you’re well when you’re not. If I’m really “sick” with the flu or food poisoning or a nauseous reaction to opiate pain meds (that was not pretty!), I’m more than willing to acknowledge that. When you say, “I feel sick,” a representation of what sick means to your brain goes into working memory. Working memory is the center stage part of consciousness, if you will. The brain figures that whatever is in working memory must be important to you because you put it there; and it will do its best to help you make that happen. And then the principle of congruence kicks in. The brain wants everything to match. At the words, “I feel sick,” your brain begins to search your memory banks for all the other times in your life when you felt sick and pretty soon you feel much more sick than when you started this whole process. In my case, step one involves identifying what is happening (my body is giving me some symptoms of nausea—it isn’t happy about something). Step two involves figuring out strategies to make the situation more livable (suck on chipped ice, sip a cold 7-Up, chew some crackers, change pain medications!). That can help to keep your brain’s working memory brainstorming possible solutions instead of collecting and rehearsing all the other “nausea episodes” that may have crossed your path . . .

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