Leading projects with the brain in mind: Why You Are Not Your Brain with Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz

Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. shares insights from his latest book “You Are Not Your Brain” on how to understand, identify, and free ourselves from deceptive brain messages.

schwartz_02x_jpg-mcnamaraWhen we are faced with the constant stress of the day to day challenges of our projects, we can get overwhelmed and easily slip into self-doubt, indecision, and negative self-talk. We may respond with anxiety, depression, and unhealthy habits like micromanaging or repeatedly over-checking things like email and text messages. These negative thoughts and responses can become a vicious cycle in which habits become more engrained and automatic.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., one of the world’s leading UCLA psychiatrists, warns that deceptive brain messages – those false, negative thoughts and feelings that are not representative of who we are or what we want to accomplish in life – can get out of control and attempt to take over our lives. In his latest book “You are not Your Brain”, Dr. Schwartz explains why our brains deceive us and how to make the brain work for, rather than against, us.

I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Schwartz about how the 4-Step Method, that he originally developed to help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), can help us harness the power of focused attention to understand, identify, and free ourselves from the deceptive brain messages that hold us back and in the process change our brain in ways that are healthy and beneficial to us.

Dr. Schwartz and his co-author, Rebecca Gladding, M.D., have spent the last few years fine-tuning the four steps to ensure that they apply to all kinds of deceptive brain messages and situations in life, not just OCD.

logoJeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. is Research Psychiatrist at UCLA School of Medicine and a seminal thinker and researcher in the field of self-directed Neuroplasticity. He is the author of over 100 scientific publications in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry, and several popular books including The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (2002), and Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior (1997). Dr. Schwartz has been featured nationally on prominent TV shows, including Oprah, 20/20, Today Show. He was a consultant to Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio on The Aviator.

Dr Schwartz’s primary research interest over the past two decades has been brain imaging and cognitive-behavioral therapy, with a focus on the brain mechanisms and psychological treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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A complete transcript of our interview with Dr. Schwartz is now available. Click here to read more.

Samad: Dr. Schwartz, before we delve into your book, You Are Not Your Brain, I would like to know how your landmark work in self-directed neuroplasticity and breakthroughs in obsessive-compulsive disorder research influenced the ideas that you share in this book.

Dr. Schwartz: Oh, well, it influenced it a huge amount. This new book, You Are Not Your Brain is really just a broadening of the application of the earlier works, so there’s a complete continuity. Basically, the work on obsessive-compulsive disorder came out of the fact that in the mid-seventies, all through the eighties, actually all through the nineties, and into current decades, I was a very, very serious practitioner of the ancient, what I like to call pre-Christian form of Buddhist meditation in the Theravāda school. That is sometimes called the Southern School of Buddhism. I was a very, very serious practitioner of that for thirty years, starting in 1975. And, actually, in the Burmese tradition, and specifically a great Burmese meditation master by the name of Mahatma Simadha. Really, seriously practicing that for about ten years before we started doing the obsessive-compulsive research. I started doing that when I was a medical student and did it all the way through my psychiatry training. The whole notion of using what now has actually become a very well-known term: mindful awareness. It’s actually practically merged into being pop-psychology in the last five to ten years, but back then, it wasn’t. It was a very serious notion of essentially – to put it in very lay-terms – a third-person perspective, or an outside perspective on your first-person inner experience. So, you learn how to have very, very acute, calm, clear-minded self-observation and skill.

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