How to Release the “Brakes” on your Brain for Better Performance

Alicia Maher, MD

I’m going to step away from the heavier neuroscience teachings that I became accustomed to doing in my years in academic medicine. I think it can be much more helpful to use a metaphor to illustrate how we are using our brains to make our lives better or worse. This metaphor is to think of the different aspects of your brain as either the gas or brake pedals in your life.

Often, the ways that your brain is acting as a gas pedal will be obvious to you. You are thinking about the life you want to have, the self you would like to be, the partner you would like to attract, the weight that would feel best to you, and you can clearly state the actions you have been taking to get there. This is all good and there are many powerful practices within both Western Psychology, as well as Eastern, mystical and spiritual techniques, to assist one in using their brain as a gas pedal, to drive them to a different way of being.

If the car isn’t moving, however, it’s time to look at whether some part of your brain may be acting as the brakes, at the same time as you are pushing on the gas. There are many different types of ‘brakes’ including such things as maladaptive thought patterns, subconscious fears, even neurochemical or anatomical issues .

How do you stop using your brain as a brake? The various brakes relate to the neuronal pathways that are currently present in your brain. These pathways are how the neurons communicate with one another, leading to actions. How, for example, seeing a snake could lead to one jumping, seemingly without any thought. In order to have new experiences as a matter of course in your life, and thereby create real, lasting, change, creating new neuronal pathways will be necessary. If maladaptive thought patterns are the issue, you will want to identify the thoughts and beliefs that are working against you. Thought transformation can then change these into ones that serve you towards the life you want to live.

Dream interpretation and meditation techniques can help you to uncover and work through your unconscious fears. In some people, genetics, long periods of stress hormone release and other factors can cause the brain’s natural balance of neurochemistry to become dysregulated so that creating new pathways can feel virtually impossible. One reason for this is that, when our neurochemistry is not optimized, we have less of a substance called ‘brain derived neurotropic factor’. This substance acts as a fertilizer for the brain’s neurons, promoting the growth of new branches and connections in order to create new neuronal pathways and life change. If your neurochemistry is no longer balanced, medication and/ or supplements can be a useful adjunct to remove the brakes and support you in using your brain as a gas pedal.

I love watching my clients grow and change. It is so exciting to experience the power of the brain as one learns to harness and guide it and the relief one experiences as the brakes are removed. If this resonated with you and I can be of service in helping you to guide your brain towards the life you desire or uncover and release the brakes, I would be honored to assist you on your journey.