Now that you understand what deceptive brain messages are and how much damage they can cause, you likely want to know the solution: constructively focusing your attention with your mind. What do we mean?

We’ve shown you that the brain is capable of sending out false, deceptive messages in an unrelenting fashion and that these unwanted thoughts and destructive urges can overrun your life. They can take you away from your true self (i.e., your true goals and values) and cause you to live a life devoid of direction. And, as long as you remain unaware of what your brain is doing or believe that there is no way to alter how your brain functions, you are essentially powerless to live life on your terms. There’s no place from which to make a change because the very thing that is generating the deceptive brain messages appears to be running the show.

The good news is that you have an ally that can help you sculpt your brain to work for you, rather than against you: the mind. Although there are many different concepts and definitions of the mind out there, ours is straightforward: The mind is involved in helping you constructively focus your attention. Why is this important? When you learn how to focus your attention in positive, beneficial ways, you actually rewire your brain to support those actions and habits. In this way, the mind gives you the power to determine your actions, decide what is important (and what is not), and reassess the value or meaning of situations, people, yourself, and events.

The brain receives inputs and generates the passive side of experience, whereas the mind is active, focusing attention, and making decisions. Another way to think about the difference between the mind and the brain is this: The brain receives information from the environment, including images, verbal communication from others, emotional reactions, bodily sensations, and so on, and then processes that information in an automatic
and rote way. No thought or awareness is involved (at least initially). Once it processes these inputs, the brain presents the information to our conscious awareness.

This is where the mind comes in. At this point, the mind has the ability to determine whether it wants to focus either on that information coming from the brain or on something else. In comparison to the mind, then, the brain is passive—it does not take a long-term, values-based approach to actions. In other words, the brain does not incorporate your true self or Wise Advocate into its processes, but merely reacts to its environment in habitual, automatic ways.

In the case of Kara, her brain was wired to falsely associate bingeing, purging, or excessive dieting with being thinner and loved. As long as she believed in these deceptive brain messages and responded with the same unhealthy behaviors, Kara’s brain was running the show . She would be stuck in unending loops of deceptive thoughts, rising anxiety, and unhealthy actions—and her brain wiring and unhealthy habits would only get stronger and more entrenched. She would not break this cycle until she could begin to engage her Wise Advocate to help her see how destructive those acts were (even though they brought her momentary relief or pleasure). As her Wise Advocate grew stronger, she would actively change how she focused her attention and how she responded to the deceptive brain messages. This would allow her to resist the strong urges to excessively diet, binge, or purge in the future when deceptive brain messages surfaced.

As you can see from Kara’s example, what makes the mind unique is that it has the ability to consider many options and can weigh short-term actions against longer-term goals. In essence, the mind is the agent that ensures you are following the path to achieving your goals as defined by your true self. How does the mind align these goals and actions? By integrating the view of the Wise Advocate and using insight, awareness, morals, and values to guide your responses and empower you to make choices that are in your long-term best interest. The brain, in contrast, tends to act in an automatic way that ensures momentary survival and a sense of safety. Remember Darwin? You can think of the brain as working in the survival-of-the-fittest mode—trying to ensure safety, comfort, or relief in this moment, no matter what the future costs.

Just to be very clear: The brain and the mind work together, as a team. Neither is “better” than the other. We certainly need the brain’s quick actions to survive if we are confronted with a dangerous situation, such as being attacked or about to be hit by a car. That fight-or-flight response is what ensured the survival of our species to this point. In the end, it’s really about balancing the necessary, energy-efficient, and quick actions originating in the brain that ensure momentary survival

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