You are not your thoughts

…I’ve always enjoyed the music of Faithless and so it’s a great pleasure to have one of the band’s original members, Jamie Catto, come and open the NOI 2010 Conference in Nottingham and to share his thoughts on pain and music. In correspondence and in 1 Giant Leap Jamie talks about Ekhart Tolle and the notion of You Are Not Your Thoughts. This notion is worth a thought! I must have been the last person on the planet to read Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ and I think there is some really useful stuff in it, some links to modern neuroscience can be made although I admit to skipping over the more metaphysical parts.

Plenty of space for thought

One basic premise of Tolle’s writing is that our thoughts can consume us, make us make lists, keep us awake, focus attention on detail and unresolved issues. Thoughts can basically takes over and commandeer our brains. We have all had this experience, but it must be even more potent for those with unexplained pain or disease, especially with catastrophising. Yet you, the ‘self’, the ‘whatever’, are much more than this thought. Our ever changing brains with around 100 billion neurones, each with potential for 100,000 direct connections and an almost unlimited number of connections via gases and diffused neuromodulators, all tempered by around a trillion glial cells and a million activity gates on each neurone (give or take a few!) are capable of dealing with much much more than a dominating thought.

It might help to explore this idea with somebody in trouble (or tell yourself) that thoughts just take up a small part of your brain. You, the ‘self’ are much bigger than that. Explore with them the majesty of the brain. If you are bigger than your thoughts and can see this, you can probably deal with them. Try it next time a thought has you around the throat.

Hey, that’s me speaking!
Ever given a lecture or been raving on a bit and notice that you can distance yourself from the performance – you can hear yourself speaking and you are able to sit back and analyse yourself? It’s a bit scary and it may mean that you need to get out a bit more, but it’s also an indication that you, the ‘self’ can be dislocated from the thought.

The key conceptual changes
At NOI we are currently reviewing and arguing about what the five ‘big picture’ conceptual changes that a person in chronic pain would have to understand for the best outcome. Some are obvious such as “pain does not necessarily relate to injury or disease”. I am also pushing for “thoughts are real but you are not your thoughts”. More on this next year when we seek your views.

The conference and the art work
Four months until the NOI conference. If you plan to come book quickly as it is filling rapidly. A heavy duty speaker outline has gone up on the website and I have just seen the recent batch of awesome art submitted by pain sufferers for the “Pain and the Brain” art exhibition at the conference. The thoughts exposed by the art graphically reinforces that thoughts are very real and powerful, but somehow the art also suggests that the person who created it, by expressing it and voicing the thoughts, is much more than the thoughts that lead to the artwork.

Have a grrrreat Christmas break. We are really looking forward to seeing many of you next year.

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