How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

I am lost and need a sense of true North. A focal point, a direction, a ‘something’ to aid my progress out of the fog. 

Mental Illness is one of the worst fog generating experiences you can have.

Your brain can play tricks on you.

Your perceptions can change, some times quite dramatically, to being vastly different to everyone else’s.

I well remember someone pointing out to me the ‘Little spacemen in the tree’. Psychosis was fogging his thinking, he was unwell, but in his mind he was perfectly well.

Perhaps though the more subtle and less overt effects of mental illness can be more damaging. The thinking habits nurtured over many years in a watery soup of unawareness.

When the stress becomes too much for the fragile brain, we become disoriented, confused, and truly lost.

The fog has closed in and it’s black.

Mental illness often fog’s out a true perception of life. The perspective you have gets fogged by the interpretations you have made about events.

Event + Response = Outcome (E+R=O).

When the Response is effected by an illness then the Outcome can be disastrous.

When the stress loading becomes too much it is very easy to lose your way.

What we need is some sort of Thinking Compass. 

Something that we can refer back to time and time again, and that will always point towards true North. Always to healthy thinking and hope.

We don’t need some huge massive compass, too big to carry, too heavy to bear, and too incomprehensible to take in. When you are unwell you don’t want to be overloaded with information and unrealistic expectations.

Even previous learning experiences can hinder your uptake of new information.

It’s not so much that the client is unable to grasp the info, as he or she is easily discouraged, based on a fund of previous negative experiences in school. C. Scott McMillin

Do you have a compass for the brain? 

I have a handy-dandy little notebook (apologies to Blues Clues fans). It is small enough to fit in my back pocket and easy enough to pull out when I need a sense of direction.

I have a little notebook that is my Thinking Compass. I use a physical book, not an electronic recording device. I just think something quite tangible happens in the brain when you put the pen to paper.

Into this compass goes all sorts of material for me to keep training and coaching my brain.

  • Quotes. These maybe quotes I have gleaned out of books, podcasts, social media etc. Short and pithy, powerful and true.
  • Empowering and Challenging questions. Questions that stop you and make you think and consider some tough choices. e.g. Am I truly taking responsibility for my own life, today? In what ways am I going to help someone else today?
  • Scripture verses. The Bible is full of verses that speak truth in the innermost being. Read it and glean goodness.
  • Counselling insights. If you are getting counselling perhaps your counsellor can write down some the keys insights they want you to think and consider.
The criteria for material getting into my Thinking Compass is that there has to have some sort of ‘ah hah’ moment attached to it. There has to be a ‘light bulb turning on experience’ when I read it.
Basically my brain needs some sort of new learning experience for it to make a new pathway.
Making new pathways in our thinking is hard work, much like building a rope bridge over a chasm. Many repeated journeys back and forth in the brain will make a new thinking bridge strong and secure.
Going back to the Thinking Compass time and time again is needed.
The thicker the fog, the more times you will have to refer to the compass.
Question to Consider and leave a Comment.
  • Do you have some favourite verses or quotes that are like a compass to you? Why them and would you like to share them in the comments section?
  • Have you had an experience of a Mental Illness being like a fog around you, disorienting you, affecting your judgements? What helped you? 
  • Can you have too much information? How can you discern what is most helpful and disregard the rest?
Barry Pearman
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