A new way of looking at ourselves

Other people’s words about … plasticity

I’ve been reading the wonderful book The Brain that Changes Itself,
by Norman Doidge.

I know I’m late to the table when it comes to embracing the concept
of the plastic brain — but it’s better late than never, right?
I find the idea that it is possible to change the way one’s brain works
encouraging, uplifting and humbling.

Here’s what Doidge has to say about body image, for example (emphasis in the original):

Pain and body image are closely related. We always experience pain as projected into the body. When you throw your back out, you say, ‘My back is killing me!’ and not, ‘My pain system is killing me.’ But as [amputees who experience pain in their amputated limbs] show, we don’t need a body part or even pain receptors to feel pain. We need only a body image, produced by our [brains]. People with actual limbs don’t usually realise this, because the body images of our limbs are perfectly projected onto our actual limbs, making it impossible to distinguish our body image from our body …

Distorted body images are common and demonstrate that there is a difference between the body image and the body itself. Anorexics experience their bodies as fat when they are on the edge of starvation; people with distorted body images, a condition called ‘body dysmorphic disorder’, can experience a part of the body that is perfectly within the norm as defective. They think their ears, nose, lips, breasts … or thighs are too large or too small, or just ‘wrong’, and they feel tremendous shame. Marilyn Monroe experienced herself as having many bodily defects. Such people often seek plastic surgery but still feel misshapen after their operations. What they need instead is ‘neuroplastic surgery’ to change their body image.

I like the idea of neuroplastic surgery —
especially when it’s something we can perform on ourselves.
That’s the kind of surgery I’m all for!


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