For as long as I’ve been writing my weekly messages and my book Brain Drain, readers have asked me whether I have read so and so’s work or watched a particular TV show that they felt related to my work. Naturally, those inquiries would fire up my automatic brain (AB) with thoughts like, “What are you wasting your time for—other people are doing the same things you are doing!” Someone asked me if I had seen the Charlie Rose special on PBS about the brain—a reasonable question, given that my book is called Brain Drain. He explained that the PBS series explored the brain’s workings and included some top experts in neurological science. That reminded me of the story of when Einstein came to Princeton and the math department chairman was eager to impress the great man. The chairman invited Einstein into his classroom and began frantically scribbling on the board an intricate proof he’d been working on. After a while, Einstein said in a quiet, deferential voice, “Could you please slow down? I was never very good in math.”

When I was told about the TV series on the brain, my reply was, “You know how I find out how the brain works? I look into my own brain. I try to figure out why I get the thoughts I get, and why I behave the way I behave.” That’s how I came across the idea of the AB and began to understand the difference between it and the mind. Einstein’s brilliance came from his ability to observe phenomena with his own eyes. (Please don’t assume that I’m comparing myself to Einstein. The only similarity is that my curiosity has turned inward, in a quest to understand how my brain and mind work, so that I might begin to understand some of the mysteries of life.)

Perhaps the most powerful barrier to belief in our ability is the symptoms our triggered AB produces. Imagined or real, any danger, threat, or vulnerability triggers fight-or-flight thoughts and behavior. This primitive and universal response uses the same hormones and electrical stimuli in your nervous system as it did 50,000 years ago.

My AB is as robust as anyone else’s. Whenever I examine my life, I realize that there are three major triggers to my AB—money, relationships, and health. If money and relationships are fine, then some health concern takes center stage (yes, even doctors have health concerns!). If relationships and health are fine, then money worries pop up. When all three are issues, the overwhelming flurry of AB activity can nearly shut me down—all of this, of course, in an effort to keep me safe!
What these triggers have in common is that they cause very similar real symptoms, which can be extremely uncomfortable. Just try getting to sleep once you’ve been triggered. Do you feel your heart beating out of your chest—and worry that it could be a heart attack? Do you feel your stomach turning squeamish? Do thoughts repeatedly jar you awake just as you fall asleep? Does your head ache from your attempts to suppress negative thoughts? Does the fear that you can’t fall asleep—and therefore won’t be at your best tomorrow—keep firing the trigger? Before you can gain self-confidence, happiness, and the spirituality of the mind, you must find a way to subdue those AB-induced physical symptoms. Results are what foster this confidence and allow you to build on your belief in yourself and the power of your mind.

A patient I’ll call John came to see me recently with a long list of worries. His business was not doing well, and he felt great anxiety that everything—his business (money), his family (relationships), and being physically fit (health)—could collapse. He was not in imminent danger of any of those things, but his AB projected wildly into the future and had him homeless in a few years! (That kind of wild and illogical speculation is one of the AB’s dirtiest tricks.) He pointed to the slow economy as the reason his business was not doing as well (nothing illogical about that, of course). His anxiety and the physical symptoms from his AB were interfering with his sleep and draining his energy and optimism.
Meanwhile, for the past couple of years John had been working on an idea for a business that capitalized on his strengths in communication and creativity. This new business could compliment his existing business and solve his financial concerns. However, John’s AB continued to fire and block him from pursing anything new (too risky, need to get a real job, need a steady paycheck, etc...).
Before I could help John, he needed to be honest with himself. At one point, he told me that maybe the only thing that could save him was a singing career. The problem is that John can’t carry a tune! So he needed to work on identifying his strengths…and weaknesses. This process is the initial step in beginning to solve problems. Solving problems and beginning to see results tames the AB and its symptoms—physical and mental.

The AB and all its automatic, instantaneous symptoms are always there. Moving past them requires not believing in them and thus feeding them. When I say not believing in them, I mean not wondering if they are trying to urge you to retreat. Don’t confuse these as gut feelings—they are not. Just knowing where these symptoms come from—your primitive brain—is a big step toward moving forward.
I asked John what his gut feeling was about his ability to succeed in his new business (the real one, not the singing idea). Without hesitation he said his gut told him he was on the right track and to keep doing what he is doing. “That, my friend,” I said, “is your mind talking!”

I suggested the following anti-AB measures to John: 1) Do not watch TV news and avoid newspaper stories that focus on personal tragedies or the economy; 2) Listen to upbeat music and watch comedy as much as possible; 3) Walk around with a smile and similarly greet people with a smile, even if you don’t feel like it; 4) No matter how busy your current job, perform one task daily that relates to the new business; 5) When the physical symptoms of anxiety show up, breathe slowly, in through the mouth and out slowly through the mouth or nose, always with a smile; 6) Affirm daily: I believe in my life, I believe in my journey, I am safe.
This is a start for John. I am confident he will succeed, because he is being true to himself and is pursuing a course consistent with his abilities. It’s a constant challenge for all of us to keep the excitement and wonder in our lives. The discomfort our AB generates often stands in the way of this. We overcome the AB with self-honesty, introspection, and not trusting the physical symptoms. As we start to get results that are right for us, it reinforces the belief in a power, an energy that is much greater than our physicality (our AB) and allows the natural flow of potential that comes from our mind.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Glassman began distributing a weekly motivational email message to patients and friends in January 2007. By May 2008, his distribution list had grown so much—as people on the list told others about it—
and interest in his messages had become so high—Dr. Glassman decided to turn his philosophy and advice into a book. That’s how Brain Drain came about. Starting in May 2008, his weekly messages—now distributed to an even larger audience—formed the basis for chapters of this book.
To date, Brain Drain has won in the Spiritual category at the 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival and received honorable mention at the 2009 New England Book Festival. Brain Drain has also been awarded the 2010 Pinnacle Achievement Award for best Self-Help book by NABE and is an Eric Hoffer Award winner.

Through his book, private practice, public appearances, continued weekly messages,and Coach MD (medical coaching practice) Dr. Glassman has helped thousands realize a healthier, successful, and more abundant life.

He lives in Rockland County, NY with his wife and their four children (and dog, Ginger).