I'm very excited, I have had a really lovely weekend. We went to visit relatives; we all bundled into the car, when I say bundled its not just an expression, we have a small car, and there are five of us. It's quite a long way to my mums house, a journey which should take about two and a half hours usually takes us about four! We keep having to stop, swap places, find toilets, breast feed, play games and constantly re-fuel the children. Oh, I hear you say, that sounds quite normal for a family car journey, and I'd be inclined to agree, if it weren't for my family's peculiar set of car habits.
One of my daughters makes it her business to annoy her sister in as many different ways as she can think of. Her sister has a penchant for loosing her temper, with spectacular style and volume, this might not be so bad, if the baby seat could be placed between them as a sort of iron curtain or, if we had a limousine. To make matters worse, my car/parenting habit usually starts to kick in after about thirty miles, I become increasingly agitated at my children's behavior, and eventually I join in. The journey up was not so bad once the main event was over, every body settled down and got on with being with each other and in a small car.
So what's this all about? Two of my children are quite old, they have been behaving like this for as long as they can talk and interact with each other, surely they should have grown out of it by now? I think it might be the case that the opposite is true, each time they do it, they are strengthening their car habit together. What do I mean? My partner and I watched "The Royal Institute Christmas Lectures" on the brain a couple of weeks ago, the way I understand it, as we grow from baby-hood and learn about the world around us, structures called dendrites grow in our brains; they are the pathways that thoughts travel along. So the more frequently the thought is thunk, the more established becomes the pathway.
In my mind I like to imagine that the little used dendrites are like public footpaths for thoughts; they meander gradually into the blue bell woods and the more we use the paths the wider they get, eventually someone decides to ride along them on a horse and soon it becomes muddy, with all the thought traffic the path gets wider still, so we decide to concrete it. All of a sudden its practically an A-road, and yes you know whats coming next; if we think the thought enough it ends up being a motorway!!
This would be fine if we are choosing good feeling thoughts however, in my experince it seems to be bad feeling thoughts that drive fifty metre long road-trains down my motorways of the mind.
DON'T PANIC!! here's the good news, just like real roads if dendrites are no longer used nature reclaims them and they shrivel up and disappear! and even more good news it's really easy to make new ones, all you need to do is choose good feeling thoughts and practice thinking them.
I am currently in the process of creating a whole network of good feeling thought pathways, and just like road building it takes time. Rome was not built in a day as they say.
So what has really been happening in my car? My partner sussed it out this weekend and thanks to him, we had a rather pleasant journey home. Child A, the one who finds herself annoying, and child B who ends up shouting, are triggered by getting into the car.
Their brains take the cue and get into the familiar old dendrite groove, and then my road train joins in. All these unpleasant feeling thoughts and reactions trigger chemical and hormonal substances to be released into our bodies (think fight or flight adrenalin response) apparently we become addicted to our own personal chemical cocktails and this can contribute to the seemingly difficult nature of changing our thought patterns and habits.
On the way home my partner pointed out to child B (the shouting one) that we could skip her inevitable outburst and move straight to the resolution part avoiding the unpleasant feeling chemical dump into her blood stream. Astonishingly child B agreed, and with the help of a chocolate covered ginger-bread we set off with no further ructions. Child A (the annoyer) still attempted to goad Child B into a reaction but to no avail. I am not sure weather or not this interaction would have been so easy to change if the participants had been adults, or if we had not had chocolate covered gingerbread. I guess we will never know?
What has changed for me is that with the help and collusion of my partner, children and friends, is that now, seven weeks into my thought choosing adventure I have actually started to be able to see my own patterns and thought habits and change the way that I respond to my own cues for bad feeling thoughts. I AM WINNING! I am growing new pathways, my grooves for happy feeling thoughts are getting deeper! Give me another seven weeks and I'll practically be surfing down them. you might even want to share a long car journey with me and my family.
Today I am thankful for my family
I am thankful for chocolate covered gingerbread
I am thankful for my beautiful children
I am thankful for metaphors
I am thankful for bluebell woods
I am thankful for laughter
I am thankful for photographs to help me remember my loved ones the way they were today
I am thankful for my magnificent brain
I am thankful for my little car
I am thankful for fantastic feasts with fabulous family