Albert Camus, the 20th century philosopher, once wrote: “There is only one serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.” In doing so, he unwittingly gave us a new route to hope.
Nothing exists without it’s opposite. Philosophers living centuries before Camus, at the dawn of western civilization, tipped us off about this. They taught that the left side of a mountain and the right side of a mountain are the same mountain.
So it is with hope and despair. They are two sides of the same emotional mountain, a mountain that is at times intense. Hope fills us with an almost unbearable feeling of joy. Despair, well, despair sucks every ounce of joy out of us.
What causes us to flip from one side of this mountain (hope) to the other side (despair)? This is where new research in neuroscience provides answers that even philosophers can’t supply.
Neuro switches can be turned off – and they can also be turned on.
How are neuro switched turned on? Through emotions. Researchers have discovered that It isn’t the brain that rules the heart, as was previously believed. The heart rules the brain.
Realizing this, neuroscience researchers use these two exercises to show that our brains rewire to automatically look for positives rather than negatives: noting 3 good things a day and writing letters of gratitude. Both exercises produce emotion, positive emotion. They turn on neuro switches.
What turns off neuro switches? Anything that dampens emotions. It can be something as simple as being put down or as dire as given life-threatening news. We know something is being turned off; we can feel it.
Can hope be turned on when it has been turned off?
Of course. That is what suicide counselors do every day. They turn on hope with compassion and understanding.
Faith, too, turns on hope. An encouraging word turns on hope. Appreciation and praise turn on hope.
But now, there is another way, a faster way – a way present in a technique I developed years ago called word sequencing. I didn’t realize the value of it until research in neuroscience came along.
This technique uses a simple dictionary to cause feelings inside of us to become animated. If I had known about research in neuroscience – except that it didn’t exist yet – I would have said my technique turns on neuro switches.
Let’s try a simplified version of it on hope. In a few seconds, you’ll read 3 definitions for the word hope. One definition will mean a lot to you.
1) A feeling of confidence about what will happen next
2) A surge of encouragement created by favorable outcomes
3) A sense of trust in the future
Which definition meant a lot to you? Write it down.
Now, take another look at your definition.
Did you feel a jolt of hope?
If you did, you shifted into hope – but you did it a lot faster and easier than ever before.
Cool new techniques based on my columns can be found at www.neuroscience4us.com
Published in the Black Mountain News, April 16, 2014