Wisdom Magazine's Monthly Webzine Skip Navigation Links
Wisdom Magazine is also one of the country's largest free holistic publications with 150,000 copies printed bi-monthly in three regional print editions. Wisdom is dedicated to opening people's hearts and minds to the philosophies, products and services of the new millennium.
Home  About  This Month's Articles  Calendar of Events  Classified Listings  Holistic Resource Directory
 Educational Programs  Sacred Journeys & Retreats  Yoga Teacher Training
 Article Archives  What's New in Books, CD's & DVD's  Wisdom Marketplace
 Where to Find Wisdom Near You  Subscriptions  Web Partner Links
 Advertising Information  Contact Us
Denali Institute of Northern Traditions
Miriam Smith
Margaret Ann Lembo
Maureen St Germain
Business Opportunity
Laura Norman Reflexology
Vibes Up
Light Healing
Sacred Journeys Retreats
Alternatives For Healing

Excerpt from "The Gift of Adversity"

Chapter Five: Know Your Brain

by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.


Know thyself.

—ANCI ENT GR E E K A PHOR I SM

If I wasn’t dyslexic, I probably wouldn’t have won the Games.

—BRUCE J ENNER

The ancient admonition to “know thyself” has been around for at least twenty-five hundred years, and it has been attributed to at least eleven Greek philosophers. Any statement with that much staying power must surely contain a great deal of wisdom. Of course, it’s easier said than done. Getting to know yourself is a challenge. One part of the brain that is certainly worth knowing is your emotional brain. There are many ways to find out what you are feeling.

One surprisingly effective way is to ask someone else. Research suggests that other people can often tell what we are feeling better than we can, probably because humans are so good at fooling ourselves. For example, a husband whose wife has just accused him of being angry might turn red in the face and shout at her, “Me, angry! I can’t believe you think I’m angry!” Even a passing stranger, unable to hear what the husband saying, would probably know he was angry, just from his body language.

In recent years, we have become increasingly aware of the importance of “emotional intelligence,” a concept that, like pornography, is harder to define than it is to recognize when you see it. In general, emotional intelligence involves not only being aware of what you are feeling, but also understanding other people’s feelings and empathizing with them. Regulating one’s own feelings and expressing them appropriately are also part of emotional intelligence. People with low levels of these skills are bound to encounter social hardships, as others find them strange or disconnected, while those with high levels of emotional intelligence often exceed expectations that were based on their other skills. Group therapy may help both children and adults who lack emotional skills to beef up their abilities in this important area. Such groups may provide a safe forum for giving to, and receiving from, one another useful feedback.

Although knowing one’s brain is important for just about anyone, it is especially important for psychiatrists, who are dealing with other people’s thoughts and feelings all the time. When I first entered my psychiatric residency at Columbia, I had a supervisor with whom I met each week. When he asked how I was doing in the program, I complained that everybody else seemed so competitive. “I wonder if you have some difficulties with your own competitive feelings,” he speculated gently. “What, me? Competitive?” was my first reaction. Well, I soon realized that of course I was competitive. I had been programmed all my life to compete, and for many years it had served me well. On the other hand, my supervisor had hit the nail on the head: Obviously I had some discomfort about those feelings. Over the years since then, I still enjoy competing, but have also seen that life holds riches that have nothing to do with winning. I could not have reached this balance, however, without owning up to my competitiveness and developing a certain comfort with it.

An important part of “knowing thyself” is coming to terms with the darker traits that we all have. One of my teachers at Columbia (I’ll call him Ashley), for example, shared an important personal story that has been of great value to me. Ashley told me how as a student and young psychiatrist, he often felt as though others were achieving more than he was. This realization filled him with painful feelings of envy. In order to ward off this pain, Ashley worked day and night, “to fill my plate as full as their plates were so that I didn’t have to envy them.” But eventually life became so exhausting for him that the status quo was unsustainable.

It was just too much.

“So, what did you end up doing?” I asked him, on the edge of my seat with suspense.

The reply was as simple as it was unexpected: “I decided it was easier to envy them.” He felt the feeling, named the feeling, accepted the feeling, and voilà! He felt better.

You might be surprised at how often this sequence works. Try it the next time you have a painful feeling. There are many routes to self-knowledge and acceptance, but the first step is always the same—simply realizing what is there. There is a great value to simply observing experiences, such as your physical feelings, emotions, or thoughts—without judging them. Then you can begin to know your particular brain—how best to use and enhance it; how to celebrate its beauty and brilliance; and how to understand, accept, and work around its deficiencies. I am reminded of the words of an old love song: “Let’s take a lifetime to say, ‘I knew you well.’ ” That’s how it is with your brain! So get ready for the adventure of learning about your own brain —and the best time to start is now.

Your brain is unique. The better you understand it’s special

qualities—both good and not so good—the more rewarding.

In The Gift of Adversity by Dr. Normal Rosenthal, the noted research psychiatrist explores how life's disappointments and difficulties provide us with the lessons we need to become better, bigger, and more resilient human beings. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

The New York Times-bestselling author of Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation, Winter Blues and How to Beat Jet Lag, Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., attended the University of the Witwatersrand in his native South Africa. He moved to the United States and was resident and chief resident at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the New York Psychiatric Institute. He has conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health for over twenty years. It was there that he first described and diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dr. Rosenthal is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School and has maintained a private practice in the Washington, DC metropolitan area for the past thirty years. Rosenthal is the author or co-author of over 200 professional articles and several popular books, including Winter Blues, the classic work on SAD. He currently serves as medical director and CEO of Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland, where he directs clinical trials in both pharmaceuticals and complementary and alternative medicine.


Add Comment

Article Archives  This Month's Articles  Click Here for more articles by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.
Business Opportunity
Business Opportunity
Light Healing
Miriam Smith
Kiros Book
Alternatives For Healing
Business Opportunity
Laura Norman Reflexology
Denali Institute
Margaret Ann Lembo

Call Us Toll Free: 888-577-8091 or  |  Email Us  | About Us  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map  | © 2016 Wisdom Magazine