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You are nearing maximum levels of activation.
myShrink Counseling Book Store
Dr. Susan LaCombe, January 31, 2007.
Updated January 31, 2016
The Counseling Book Store contains some of my favourite books, as well as those recommended by my clients and colleagues.
Do you buy books but never read them?
I've had a love for reading since I was a child but this passion waned in my early years as a young adult. And, it was only after I went back to therapy that I got it back. The reason wasn't due to a lack of will or disinterest. Read below and tell me if you can relate to this.
First, let me ask you a few questions:
Are you the type of person who loves books, buys them regularly but never seems to find the time to read them?
Or maybe you've noticed that you can't seem to read a book all the way through? Does life keep distracting you from your favourite pastime?
Or, maybe books have failed to keep your interest? You just can't seem to find a book that you enjoy like your used to?
There are reasons for this state of affairs and you may find this hard to believe, but the problem isn't in the books you're buying nor is the problem in having a busy life. Read the following article and see if this explanation fits for you.
High Activation and Reading
You might have read elsewhere on the site about activation, that body felt sense feeling of being alive. Activation is a term we use to describe the physical aspects of our nervous system that tells us it's working.
Let me elaborate.
Everyone is different because everyone has a different nervous system. When I my activation is high, there's a "rushed" feeling in my body, I feel restless and keyed up. When my activation is low, I feel grounded in my body. I'm clear headed and I feel I have enough time to do what I want to do.
It's important to understand that these feelings are often apart from what is happening in my life. That is, when I have high activation, I could feel overwhelmed with getting dinner on the table for two. Yet, I could still feel relaxed when I have to make dinner for eight, when I have low activation.
Your left brain is hijacked
Activation arises from our reptilian brain. High activation translates into the fact that the nervous system is on alert, in "survival mode". Less essential tasks like reading are relegated a low priority.
What's important to understand is that high activation essentially means that our left brain gets hijacked by the right brain. In other words high activation in the nervous system means we will be compromised our ability to think clearly. This means a good chunk of your brain will be fighting you on your desire to read.
Our thinking skills (i.e. our cognitions) suffer when the more primitive, reptilian brain is dominant which is when our activation is running too high. In fact, some people with chronic high activation just stop reading altogether!
They probably didn't note their activation or their waning lack of interest; losing the fun of reading is a slow process that usually happens over a long period of time.
Most people--if they pause to think about it--attribute their flagging interest in reading as the result of having other priorities. Some will attribute it to getting older.
Even a love of books cannot overcome their resistance. I know...because this is exactly how it was for me.
I've had a love for books and ideas since I was a young child. But as I grew older my activation level increased, and while I continued to buy books I never got around to reading them. It wasn't something I gave much thought to. I just assumed I was too busy to sit down and read a book. At least, that's what I told myself.
I'd buy a book I just couldn't wait to read. I'd bring it home intending to get to it soon, but "soon" just seemed to slip away. And there they'd sit, all my great buys from months back piled nicely in the corner waiting for just the right moment.
Of course, that moment rarely came.
I attribute my counseling to turning this around, in particular doing body psychotherapy. As my nervous system began to settle down an amazing thing happened - I started to read again!
In hindsight, I realized that my chronically over-activated nervous system made it difficult for me to concentrate. I'd get restless if I sat still too long.
At the time it felt like it was more important to get other things done. A sense of urgency was always present for me--despite what was happening in my life--and I gradually drifted away from reading altogether.
At other times I felt bored (i.e. I understand now that my nervous system had gone into overdrive, numbing me out). Unless the book was extremely interesting I'd never get into it; I rarely finished reading any book.
What I've learned since then is that some activities help us to settle down inside, to diminish over-activation. Looking at picture books is a good example.
Why picture books?
When we have high activation, the brain can process images more easily than words. Here it's important to understand that the right brain is the primary location for processing images. The right brain is also where our ability to manage stress is located. Uhm...interesting eh!
"Surround yourself with resources."
People who are successful in life have a lot of resources. They know that getting lots of support helps them achieve their goals.
I have 'The Meaning of LIfe' and the 'Soul Support Books' in my waiting room. I chose them specifically because they contain lots of images and short, inspiring content. If my clients arrive early for their appointment, they can take a moment of reflection before they begin.
I chose these books because they are good resources. When our ability to focus is weakened, books like these--when they are within easy reach--bring us back into awareness. They help us to pause and take stock of our level of activation.
Given a day filled with moments like these and your life won't seem quite so harried or out of control. At the end of the day, you may also find your life feels more directed by you.
I recommend having quick read picture books at hand in your work or at home. Stop what you're doing from time to time and take a moment to settle your mind. (See Interrupting the Procedure for why this is important.)
Reading a book all the way through
If you truly desire to get through a book and find it hard to do, take it in bite-size chunks. Don't expect yourself to sit down to read for hours. Structure a time in your day for reading (usually end or beginning of the day) and spend 10-20 minutes at a time. For some folks, five minutes will be all they can do. That's fine too. It's in the habitual practice that over time, books will finally be read.
Your nervous system will thank you!
Best wishes on your journey,
Dr. Susan LaCombe
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