It really does matter how you look at things — and yes, you can choose

Your brain is more powerful than you think!

So, after posting about working on my perspective, I took a quick look at my Twitter feed, and I found a mention of a new study that’s been published:

Neurophysiological correlates of various mental perspectives.

From the Abstract:
A common view of consciousness is that our mind presents emotions, experiences, and images in an internal mental (re-)presentation space which in a state of wakefulness is triggered by the world outside. Consciousness can be defined as the observation of this inner mental space. We propose a new model, in which the state of the conscious observer is defined by the observer’s mental position and focus of attention. The mental position of the observer can either be within the mental self (intrapersonal space), in the mental outer world (extrapersonal space) or in an empathic connection, i.e., within the intrapersonal space of another person (perspective taking). The focus of attention can be directed toward the self or toward the outside world. This mental space model can help us to understand the patterns of relationships and interactions with other persons as they occur in social life. To investigate the neurophysiological correlates and discriminability of the different mental states, we conducted an EEG experiment measuring the brain activity of 16 subjects via 64 electrodes while they engaged in different mental positions (intrapersonal, extrapersonal, perspective taking) with different attentional foci (self, object). Compared to external mental locations, internal ones showed significantly increased alpha2 power, especially when the observer was focusing on an object. Alpha2 and beta2 were increased in the empathic condition compared to the extrapersonal perspective. Delta power was significantly higher when the attentional focus was directed toward an object in comparison to the participant’s own self. This exploratory study demonstrates highly significant differences between various mental locations and foci, suggesting that the proposed categories of mental location and intra- and interpersonal attentional foci are not only helpful theoretical concepts but are also physiologically relevant and therefore may relate to basic brain processing mechanisms.

I downloaded the paper – you can get it here – but I haven’t had a chance to read it, yet. There are some pictures with color, which are probably going to be cool to look at, once I get my head on straight today. I’m still a bit foggy from this past week. But I’ll have some free time this afternoon to chill and relax and rest, and hopefully read this paper.

Basically, it sounds like they’re saying that your state – your experiences, emotions, and images in life – can be determined by internal focus, rather than external circumstances. That focus can be on others, or on yourself. But the important part is — it’s your focus, it’s your choice. And different parts of the brain “light up”, depending which choices you make about what to focus on.

Where you put your focus determines how your brain "lights up"
Where you put your focus determines how your brain “lights up” – downloaded the paper here

Or, more simply put – we don’t have to be victims of circumstance and pushed around at the mercy of the rest of the world. We can choose how we want to feel and think and experience our lives, regardless of external circumstances.

Of course, this is assuming that you have the energy to focus your attention on what you want to think and feel. If you’re in poor health and you feel like crap and you have no energy, it can be pretty tough to keep a positive outlook.

But it can be done.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

5 thoughts on “It really does matter how you look at things — and yes, you can choose”

  1. Very interesting, and actually easy to understand.

    The difficulty I see these days is how much information passes before us in one waking day.

    And it seems, to me, to be getting more difficult to stay positive, stay focused on what is important to me, and not be dragged down by all the negativity surrounding me.

    But then again, after my TBI, it is so good to be alive, to be doing as well as I am, and to be able to sort through all this information and separate out what matters and what is just BS.

    As you say, ONWARD!!!!


  2. Absolutely. And developing immunity to others’ negativity can be a real challenge. But it keeps things interesting, for sure.

    I have found that people often are looking for ways and reasons to be positive, and having just one person be positive (hopefully me) gives them motivation to do the same.

    And spending less time on social media and not watching so much network television is a help, as well. I really have to carefully guard what goes into my mind, that’s for sure.


  3. As the brain heals itself, I feel more frustration. Being grateful and trying to focus on all the goodness is very important. It’s very important not to try and to convince anyone about what it’s like to have a brain injury and PTSD and have other diagnosis. My youngest brother feel off a bridge onto train tracks and had to have a major brain surgery to remove blockages. He seems very skeptical that a few days in semi-conscious state/ coma state could leave an individual with the kind of subjective experience that I went through in the 90’s. The worst is when I hear, “well, you screwed up your middle life, but have a chance to straighten your act out now in my fifties.” Once I believed everything the doctor said like this following the last TBI that left me looking more autistic than ever. A girlfriend used to tell me that’s your autism acting up and don’t worry, these people don’t matter who are judge you so harshly because they don’t know you. She wanted to make a website for me explaining that I say things that I don’t mean at times. I didn’t realize how much she cared and knew my predicament, the same kind that had me starting each day as if the prior one did not exist for many years. This “but you’re so smart” thing makes it so hard to get anybody to take my story seriously. I have no choice but to be quiet now and be calm and be humble. I felt that I had these things in my character before; maybe I was wrong considering people’s treatment of me as I begin to recover. It’s so slow and I live grief-stricken and confused. Finally, this thing has taken its toll on my appearance. I look like a patient now. Maybe that is a good thing. Hard to care anymore. JP


  4. JP, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I go through times of intense grief, as well. I alternately struggle and battle through, then get worn out and tired, and then I withdraw to my cave where I nurse my wounds from dealing with the world. I have found it best to not talk to anyone about my situation, try to convince them, etc. I have to admit, I don’t have a lot to do with a lot of people — they just depress me. This blog is the most social thing I do. I have a job that I go to each day, and that is my social interaction. I am more solitary, and that suits me. I don’t know how social people do it, with TBI. Maybe my TBIs made me less social. All I know is, I am much happier when I do not need to deal with anyone in an unstructured situation. In structured situations with set roles, I am find. In unstructured ones, where people are “hanging out”, I become much too agitated. I have too much energy — I need to direct it. Hanging out is painful for me. And it seems to be about the worst waste of time a person can commit.

    Anyway, don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m sure you will find yourself — just remember, we are changeable beings, who alter in one way or another, each and every day. You may want to check out the book “Psychocybernetics”, which is about how we can use adversity to correct our course in life, and how we can make peace with all the mistakes we make each day. It helped me a lot. Probably more than most people or other books.

    Grief for me is a daily part of life. It’s just there. Nobody understands what it’s like to lose yourself and only want to have your old self back… but not be able to remember exactly who that old self was… so I’m cut loose and drifting, just doing what’s in front of me, each day, and glad for what happiness I find as I travel.

    None of this is easy. Much of it sucks. But we all have to mine our gold — it doesn’t just pop out of the ground into our hands. For me, finding satisfaction in the work of it all, is my comfort. Because if I think too much about it…

    So, I try not to. I keep busy.

    Be well.


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