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Have you ever changed your mind about anything?

If so, why?

Chances are that in the course of even thinking about these two questions, your mind has experienced something of a change without your either realizing it or resisting it. Here’s what I mean.

The first question was rather simple. And I suppose your answer was most likely a simple “yes” without a whole lot of time ticking off any clocks in the room while waiting. Simple question. Simple answer.

We like those kinds of questions because there is a portion of our brains, our limbic system, that specializes in giving simple answers. This portion of our brains leaves the womb well developed and ready to roll in matters of simple life vs. death choices. Problems may arise, however, when we are presented with more complex life vs. death choices. Those that require another portion of the brain not yet developed.

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. True of our bodies when it comes to moving about the world by crawling instead of walking. Walking instead of jogging. Jogging instead of sprinting.

Our bodies naturally prefer easy rather than hard.

The same is true of our minds. Our brains, if you will, prefer "easy does it."

I notice that upon growing older my brain reaches a point later in the day, or shall I say earlier in the evening with my passing years, where easy is as far as I like to go. For example, I play Sudoku the old fashioned way…..pen to paper. I buy the cheap books like they sell at Dollar Tree, and my favorite part of the book is the beginning 10 or so pages when no real thought is required. I can knock off two or three puzzle pages in short order. But eventually in every book, no matter how cheap the cost, I have to change my mindset and do something my tired old brain doesn’t like to do at night: think! Reason! Work hard!

In other words, I have to change my mind.

Earlier I asked two questions, the first of which was the proverbial no brainer. Ever change your mind before? Simple question. Simple enough answer.

Then came the harder question of “why?”

Like going from easy Sudoku I to hard Sudoku IV, we have to change our mind and use an entirely different portion of our brain, the pre-frontal cortex, in order to work up some kind of a reasonable answer (other than “yes” or “no”). Our brain’s limbic system has to pass on answering life’s complex questions because it lacks the capacity to reason and to differentiate beyond choices of “yes” or “no.” Our brain neurotransmitters signal another portion that handles complex questions of “why” and “how” or even “who, what, where, and when,” although some of those answers come from behind and not in front of the limbic system within our brain's anatomy.

Anytime we change our mind from a simple “yes” or “no” to a more complex “maybe” we have used more than one portion of the brain. We have extended ourselves from the easy black or white to the more difficult areas of gray. We have passed the easy section in the puzzle book and are forced to do some harder thinking about other questions and other possibilities.

Well, okay. But so what?

Why bring up such a strange topic for such a time as this?

I wonder how many people gather for Thanksgiving meals here in America hoping to keep every conversation as simple as possible. Can you pass me the gravy? Did you have any traffic on the way over today? Were any stores open that you noticed along the way?

Keep it simple. There’s something to be said for making family life easy and making sure we never have to change our minds upon such occasions as the Thanksgiving meal. Especially at the dinner table. Save our quarrels for the TV room when it’s more like folks to either love or hate the Dallas Cowboys …………usually another simple “yes” or “no” with the rare “maybe” coming forth.

But just so we know, families are also complex organisms. Truth be told, families that function best do so on the heels of a lot of open-ended questions for discussion that allow for our more sophisticated brain power to come shining through. “Why were you attracted to that particular class or job or house or, for that matter, recipe for turkey-dressing?” Or “how did you know to avoid that other class or other job or other house or other recipe?” Such questions as these have a way of not so much changing and expanding minds but also revealing our greater family genius.

In my own practice of family therapy over the course of these last four decades, I’ve come to realize that the greatest secrets kept in most families are not their collective weakness (they all know they are dysfunctional to some extent) but rather their personal strengths and their collective genius. Families that fear any conversational movement beyond the simple “yes” or “no” of “are you ready for Santa Claus?” are keeping secret the greater minds that carry an assortment of expertise around the table. Most families I have met with over the years had little clue how very smart they all were in some specialty area. Or how complex their skill set really is if viewed as an entire system of expertise. They have not because they ask not.

I am thankful today for our human, God-given, ability to change and expand our minds; to function on the basis of complex truth instead of remaining stuck in the simple lie (more often than we might realize) where “yes” really means “no” and where the gray of “maybe” is simply left off the table. I am thankful for families that function both in the simple ways but also the complex. The families that dare ask each person at least some kind of “why?” question.

Because that is why I have changed my mind over the years in ways I am truly thankful for.

see also...........,perseverance%20is%20the%20prefrontal%20cortex.

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