Summary: You Are Not Your Brain By Jeffrey M. Schwartz
Summary: You Are Not Your Brain By Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Summary: You Are Not Your Brain By Jeffrey M. Schwartz

You Are Not Your Brain

Your brain sends you false messages all the time throughout your day.

These messages often are destructive and can prevent you from achieving your goals.

Deceptive brain messages are any thoughts, impulses, or desires that take you away from your true goals and intentions in life.

You are not defined by the thoughts in your head.

The mind and the brain are distinct entities.

The Wise Advocate can help you decide how to act and how you perceive/think about things.

The mind chooses how you focus your attention.

You have the ability to define your true self and align your actions with those goals and values on a moment-to-moment basis.

You are not a disorder, disease, or problem.

Biology is not destiny.

Your Wise Advocate encourages you to make decisions that reflect your true self and that benefit you in the long term.



Why These Sensations Feel So Real

Each time a deceptive brain message arises, it triggers uncomfortable sensations (physical and/or emotional) and a strong urge to engage in a habitual response.

Acting in a habitual way in response to a deceptive brain message causes the uncomfortable sensations to subside and generates a sense of relief, but almost always causes worsening problems to develop.

Each time that cycle of deceptive brain message ➙ uncomfortable sensation ➙ habit ➙ momentary relief occurs, the underlying brain circuits are strengthened.

When you are able to see that the uncomfortable sensations are generated by the brain, and not by you, you are empowered to make new choices and refuse to give in to the deceptive brain messages.


A New Sense of Self

The Self-Referencing Center can be helpful or unhelpful, depending on how it is activated.

The Assessment Center works with the Wise Advocate to take in and process all relevant information.

The Assessment Center supports the Wise Advocate and acts as its executive arm.

The Wise Advocate is a guide that helps you see the larger picture. It recruits your Assessment Center so that you can learn to dismiss the deceptive brain messages, not take things too personally, and ignore the false alarm coming from your Uh Oh Center.

Together, the Wise Advocate and the Assessment Center empower you so that you can make decisions that are rational, in your best interest, and aligned with your true self.

The Four Steps are scientifically grounded, rooted in mindfulness, and teach you how to:

  • Accurately identify your deceptive brain messages, sensations, and habits.
  • Reframe the meanings of deceptive brain messages and the alarms coming from the Uh Oh Center.
  • Focus your attention on healthy, constructive behaviors.
  • Strengthen your Wise Advocate.


The Four Steps

Step 1: Relabel—Identify your deceptive brain messages and the uncomfortable sensations; call them what they really are.

Step 2: Reframe—Change your perception of the importance of the deceptive brain messages; say why these thoughts, urges, and impulses keep bothering you: They are false brain messages (It’s not ME, it’s just my BRAIN!).

Step 3: Refocus—Direct your attention toward an activity or mental process that is wholesome and productive—even while the false and deceptive urges, thoughts, impulses, and sensations are still present and bothering you.

Step 4: Revalue—Clearly see the thoughts, urges, and impulses for what they are, simply sensations caused by deceptive brain messages that are not true and that have little to no value (they are something to dismiss, not focus on).


Tips for Beginning Your Journey with the Four Steps

Through their work with the Four Steps, patients made many pivotal insights—ones we think are important to share with you. The first and most critical is that the thoughts and sensations are overwhelming and difficult to confront, especially at the beginning..

hat patients stress over and over is that living with the uncertainty—the doubt of whether following the Four Steps will help you—and refusing to act in your previous ways is scary, but not a reason to quit or give up hope. Here are their tips, insights, and words of encouragement as you start using the Four Steps.



This is probably the hardest thing to do when you start using the Four Steps. When you refuse to give in to the content of your deceptive brain messages by not performing the action your brain is telling you to do, your Uh Oh Center fires even more intensely, which makes you feel extremely uncomfortable. You want to do virtually anything to get rid of those sensations, both physical and emotional, and know that simply following your deceptive brain messages will accomplish that task in the short term. The problem, as we all must learn the hard way over time, is that doing so will only fuel the negative messages and further entrench the maladaptive circuits ever more powerfully into your brain. Said another way, short-term relief rapidly causes more pain and suffering, not less.



A key to success, all of patients agree, is wholesome repetition—literally just continuing to complete the Four Steps over and over while not acting on the deceptive brain messages. Over time, it becomes second nature because the “habit” of turning to the Four Steps to effectively deal with erroneous messages becomes ingrained in your brain. In essence, using the Four Steps to deal with stress or upsetting situations becomes your new, healthy response and replaces the unhealthy habits you have been using.



Write down the successes that you have early on because it encourages you to keep going. It’s not always easy, but over the long haul, it does make a big difference and you will see how much progress you’ve made.

The main point to keep in mind is that you want to focus on the things you have accomplished, no matter how small or inconsequential they seem to you. Do not minimize, ignore, or neglect even the most seemingly minuscule achievement.



It’s way too much pressure if you think you have to change everything at the same time. You have to do it mindfully. If you’re engaging in an unhealthy habit, the least you can do is tell yourself you are doing it and admit to yourself, ‘That’s what I am doing.’



At [the beginning], the deceptive brain messages are very strong and dominate a lot of your attention. It’s very real to you. Be gentle with yourself and not beat yourself up for any thought or desire that runs through your brain.

You have so much shame for having these symptoms. It’s important to be kind toward yourself. It’s about moving forward. It’s about forgiving yourself and knowing that you are a good person despite whatever your brain is throwing at you.



A problem that many patients face is using procrastination as a way to avoid using the Four Steps. For example, their brains come up with reasons not to follow the Four Steps, such as being too busy or too tired. Alternatively, their brains flood them with the distracting thoughts that they aimlessly follow. Similarly, many people’s deceptive brain messages tell them they have to do the Four Steps perfectly or not do them at all. This is a cardinal example of the “perfect” being the enemy, even the assassin, of the good. All you really want is to put forth a serious effort to use the Four Steps every day. You are never trying to achieve perfection; rather, a serious effort not to act on the negative messages truly is good enough.



Another tip all patients agreed on is this: A key to overcoming deceptive brain messages is to use the Four Steps even when you experience considerable doubt and to believe that you will get better the more you use the Four Steps. With this ability to believe in yourself and to persevere when you are feeling overwhelmed, you will be using rational faith: Believing in what you know to be true when doubt enters your mind.

We hope these words of wisdom will help as you start using the Four Steps and that you will come back whenever you are feeling frustrated or defeated.

As patients repeatedly emphasize, there is hope and things do get better.