But it’s Okay.
October 13, 2019
One of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century is that our brains are subject to change. For centuries we believed we were stuck with what we got. Meaning if we didn’t have our acts together by the time we were five-years-old, we would go through life with limitations that we needed to either hide from others or ourselves.
Research into neuroplasticity tells us we can stop hiding.
Everyone has neurological deficits! We all have areas where we don’t perform up to the standard of the established norm of the moment. The questions we’re finally beginning to ask and answer more wisely are, “What does that mean?” Or, even better, “So what?”
It used to mean that something was wrong with us. But as we’ve become more familiar with the brain, we’re better understanding and accepting the reality of our limitations. There is no such thing as perfect and no such thing as “normal.” That doesn’t mean we can’t improve.
I have a neurological glitch. I was lucky. It didn’t gravely impact my school or work performance, but in certain areas, I have to try harder than some others to get the outcomes I want.
My limitation is related to the parietal lobe part of the brain, which is responsible for spacial relationships. I can lose my bearings and get lost in the blink of an eye. For everybody’s safety, I don’t talk while driving. I have a hard time putting together packing boxes, even with instructions, without someone giving me a hands-on demonstration. Six months later, they may need to show me again. I struggle with algebraic and geometric equations. I suspect I passed High School algebra because the instructor felt sorry for me.
At the same time, I have neurological strengths. I have a strong drive to get to the heart of things, to find answers and solutions to problems, and my mind seems to do that relatively efficiently and quickly. I’m comfortable swimming in abstract concepts, seeing patterns, and big pictures, so I can usually avoid doing things that will cause problems down the road. I’m driven to learn and come up with workable and responsible solutions. These strengths are frontal lobe functions, the part of the brain critical for planning and problem-solving.
Some folks with profound learning disabilities in one area show up with brilliant strengths in others. (An engaging resource to learn more about this is The Woman Who Changed Her Brain by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.)
Yes, our limitations challenge us. Some more than others. They become unbearable problems when we think they are. One of the many truths about them is that they offer information about how, when, and where we need support.
If there is a grand scheme, the best part of it has been the idea of community. In our modern, social media world, we forget that we have family, neighbors, and friends who want only the best for us, and who will show up for us in person when we have a need. Most of them are literally waiting for us to ask for their help.
GET AND OFFER THREE KINDS OF SUPPORT
- Information. We have a world of information at our fingertips via the internet. It gives us access to folks who are experts at everything from unplugging our garbage disposal after some idiot crammed it full of potato peels, to off-road wilderness hiking and handling snake bites.
- Reassurance. We need to get better at asking for help. Most of us love when someone reaches out to us for assistance. It makes us feel needed and useful.
- Time. Time has gotten abused and misunderstood In our “I want it, and I want it now” hyper techie world. Giving ourselves time offers us the opportunity to practice patience, one of the most critical characteristics of a healthy adult. An opportunity we don’t have as often as we used to. Do we need to have all our wants, questions, and concerns handled in fifteen seconds or less?
I envision a world that has moved attention away from worshipping strengths and stigmatizing limitations, to a world that is increasingly comfortable with and accepting of our humanness. Imagine a place that welcomes every shape, size, color, and permutation of a human being. Imagine how much more effective we’ll be at managing our lives and less prone to messing up the lives of others.
The research on neuroplasticity shows that each time we face a limitation head-on and do something to improve or modify it, we’re actually in some way changing our brains, increasing our strengths, and reducing the impact of our limitations.
Bring your limitations out of the closet and give your brain the information, reassurance, and time it needs to become an accepted and wisely tended part of your humanness.