FireCat! The Legend of Amazon Sage©

Sage is a quirky girl who always loved wild animals, funny people, adventure and indigenous music. She still does.

What no one knows is that every night in her dreams, Sage

transforms into a woman of power and wisdom, called

Amazon Sage.

Unlimited by the confines of newtonian physics, she is fierce and full of compassion, traveling where ever she is needed to help relieve suffering in the world.

Only problem is,

Amazon Sage© only lives while Sage is dreaming.

Once Sage awakens, Amazon Sage © disappears. These blogs are written by Sage, telling what happens in this most secret life...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

“Change your personal world”

Good morning, friends. Last night, Amazon Sage dream travelled to the center of our brain... But first, let me tell you how it started. It began when I saw an incredible video of a mother otter teaching her young pup how to swim*.  She did so firmly yet with genuine caring for the safety of the pup. When the pup tried to cut the lesson short by climbing out of the pool, the mom insisted they continue and hugged her pup when her instructions were followed. There was no punishing, yelling, or violence. Amazing!
What if all of us took a lesson from the mother otter on how to most effectively change, or encourage our loved ones to change. She did not cave in or back off because the pup felt uncomfortable. Learning a new skill is always uncomfortable until we learn it and there’s a biological reason. Freshly back from the brain, Amazon Sage explains.
In our bodies and brains, we have about three billion nerve cells, called neurons. When we decide to do something new, certain neurons are activated to make it happen by turning on electrical impulses that shoot through each neuron. Until then, each neuron has the potential to act (eg. the action potential), but must await the brain’s instruction before starting. When the brain gives the signal, each neuron is activated, and likewise activates the next neuron and so on. Each neuron continues its action until the the behavior goal is accomplished, aborted, or rerouted.
To make this easier to understand, imagine your house. In danger of being flooded, you’ve asked all of your friends to come over to help. You have a pile of sandbags next to the street but everyone has different ideas of how best to use them.  After a (brain) storm, you decide to line up your friends, from the street to your house. The person nearest the sandbags starts by passing one sand bag to the person next to her. As soon as the first sand bag leaves her hands, she picks up another one, ready to pass it as soon as the person next to her is ready. The person she just passed a bag to, likewise passes on each sandbag to the person next to him so that he is ready for the next one too. Each person receives one bag at a time and quickly passes it on to await the next one... until all of the sandbags reach the house. 
This is similar to what happens with neurons. The information (or sandbag) that is passed from one neuron to another may get a rough start because one of the neurons cannot carry the load (or insists on doing things a different way). If so, then another neuron must pick up the sandbag in order to continue the action in the most efficient way. If the plan is followed, regardless of occasional blips, the motion eventually smoothes out. Then  the next time that the friends are called on to help, the people/neurons will be able to accomplish the task much more efficiently.
That’s how it is with a new behavior. At first it may seem uncomfortable since the necessary neurons have not lined up and created a smooth pathway to follow. This is when we mess up. However, once the neurons learn to line up with each other and get it done enough times, the action proceeds in a smooth, efficient way. It helps if there is motivation. In terms of the sandbags, protecting one’s house from flood waters, is a great motivation. Stopping a friend from using drugs is a bit more complicated since the drug saturates the neurons with unhealthy impulses and distorts the brain's ability to think clearly. Now, back to the mother otter...
Like a person on drugs, the pup does not know that swimming will allow him or her to survive and thrive as an otter. So the motivation must come from the loved one. The mom knows that if she lets her pup climb out of the pool because this new activity of swimming feels awkward or uncomfortable, she teaches him to fail and helps him feel inadequate. When a person truly cares about another, he or she does what must be done to help the pup change (not to avoid change). This is what eventually leads to success in life. 

Whew! Clearly, it’s not always easy to be a good mother, or father, or friend, is it? ...especially, when the person you love is engaging in destructive behaviors, like drugs, unprotected sex, or even over-eating. 
So how do you help? As I said, we can take a lesson from the mother otter and refuse to nag, yell, use violence, or shame. Instead, set your own boundaries and stick with them, whether it's with yourself or with a loved one. Each time they/you mess up, get back in the water, even if they try to crawl out of the pool. They still haven't learned to swim. After all, if they’re going to swim with you, they must learn how to do it in a way that you do not always fear they will drown. Use positive reenforcement ("good job", hugs) for even the smallest steps, just don't overdo it. Never give positives for doing nothing; neither do you need to insult them or yourself. 

In the case of an otter, the mother’s role is straight forward. In the case of a friend or loved one, your role may be trickier; like learning to say no to being in a relationship  unless and until they go through what they must in order to reroute those pesky neuronal pathways (aka, change their behavior). Something to think about, one neuron at a time...