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My first experience with brain freeze was on my first test in college. It was a chemistry test, the first test in my life that I had any doubt about. I wrote my name on the answer sheet, looked at the questions, didn't have a clue, and froze. My brain would not work, and there was nothing I could do. This was the first of many college tests on which I did not do well. I don't recall any more brain freezes in college, so the next one, in medical school, caught me by surprise. The junior medicine exam was the most important exam of the four years. I was doing well in medical school. I had learned how to study. It wasn't over my head and I was enjoying it. So I don't know why I had this problem. I got the exam, wrote my name on the answer sheet, looked over the questions, and did not know a single thing about any of them. I went into brain freeze. Fortunately I was able to get up and go drink a Coke. When I came back, my brain had cleared and the test wasn't actually so hard. I made the second highest grade in the class. Brain freeze is, of course, simply caused by anxiety. Control perfectionists try to control other people's actions or circumstances. In fact, they place a demand on themselves that they achieve such control. Control perfectionists are not power brokers who seek to wield power or control for its own sake.

They do not have an intrinsic interest in dominating others or controlling their lives; rather, they are generally well-meaning folks concerned with protecting others or themselves from harm. Unfortunately, control perfectionism tends to create considerable emotional stress for the control perfectionist as well as others with whom they live or work. Now, let's look at the profiles of some typical control perfectionists. Your physical filters are collapsing and you are experiencing a sense of panic. You can't complete sentences. You find it difficult to think. The physical symptoms described above are increasing. You may experience symptoms similar to a heart attack. Some people feel like they go from a 1 to a 10 in no time. Despite what it feels like, this is never true. In most cases, this means that the person is at a constant 7, and he has been at a 7 for so long, he mistakes his temperature for a 4 or 5. Because he is always just below the point of nervous agitation, the minute an unusual stressor or an unusual number of stressors hit at once, his temperature increases quickly to the point that he feels overwhelmed and out of control. The key is learning to keep one's emotional temperature at a 6 or lower at all times. This does not necessarily mean eliminating stressors from your life, especially if that is not practical and/or doing so would cause you to feel like you are giving up on important people or situations in your life. "My parents used to fight whenever they got drunk. They would yell and scream and throw things. I would crawl into bed with my sister and hide under the covers. You know, I never told any of my friends about my parents, and I don't want anyone to think bad thoughts about Roger." Refusal to acknowledge what is true creates an environment that is riddled with inconsistencies, massive confusion, and uncertainty about what is real. Denial of root problems leads to denial of ancillary issues, and then to suppression of all feelings related to the issues. The strategy is a blanket cover-up, and the more feelings are suppressed, the more distorted, dishonest, unreal, and bizarre the situation becomes.

In addition, you are supported in denying your perceptions, thoughts, and wants. Each person has a specific role in the family, a role that exists to keep the family system in balance. Each person gives up his true self in exchange for a role that will keep the family intact. Each member of the codependent system has relinquished his or her true feelings and lives in reaction to the system's spastic movements. The closed system reinforces itself through the perpetuation of the myth, the lies, and the contrived scenario that is being perpetrated on all involved. Positive, self-motivated evolution is perhaps one of the most important endeavors worth spending our most precious resource--our time--on, as it may ultimately be our only road to happiness and a meaningful life. The first imperative: We need to become self-aware. The second imperative: Live as if your time and your life span were the same thing. The third imperative: Learn a daily regime that heals and empowers you, and practice it one hour a day. I saw the headline of a magazine article that read, "Could the Net become self-aware?" A more relevant question for us is, "Can we humans become self-aware?" That is the question of our time.If their predictions are true, then it will be humankind's greatest irony that we create a machine that becomes self-aware before we do, not to mention more intelligent. I will leave the predictions of both the benefits and the unintended consequences of this outcome to the futurists who are currently spending night and day exploring the many possibilities of this potential scenario. But whether this occurs or does not occur exactly this way, we humans must seriously consider no longer distracting ourselves as a way of life and, instead, focus on the most exciting and empowering prospect of all--a meaningful life and a deeper level of happiness that will also have a healing impact on society and the planet. One of the most beautiful life principles is that when you develop a meaningful life, you add more meaning to the lives of others. Ralph, my patient, has some learning disabilities. He also has an advanced degree. He gets brain freeze anytime you say the word "computer". I don't think he has ADD but I'm not sure; we have some other things to deal with for the time being. He has tried to learn how to use a computer, but he freezes at the thought. He has tried to get help, but people try to teach him several things at once, which is too much. They also try to explain to him how it works and why, when all he needs to know is how to do it.

He freezes. He has tried to take notes, but his brain is frozen and I doubt if he takes very good notes. Then he doesn't find the notes very useful and guess what? When he tries to use them, his brain freezes. Nonetheless, he has persisted and has gradually caught on. He can now use e-mail and Google. He can navigate web sites. And yet, if you say "computer" to him, his brain still freezes. This married, fifty-two-year-old mother of two adult children loved her children deeply, and the thought of anything bad happening to them often filled her with dread. Driven by intense, persistent fear, she attempted to head off any potential dangers she perceived might befall them. She spent much of her life involving herself with their personal decisions. She called them up regularly for updates on their lives, and they called her frequently to ask her advice. The result was codependency: the children became overly dependent on their faithful mom, and Mom became much too involved in their private matters. "I don't think you should go out with that boy again. He comes from a divorced home. He's likely to divorce you too if you should get serious and marry him." The children resented her intrusive advice but nonetheless persisted in asking for it. It was not until this doting mom began to work on overcoming her demand to control her children that the family began to progress toward overcoming the codependency. These are everyday examples of people holding false beliefs about themselves. The society around them is aware of aspects of their personality and behavior that they themselves are not. We all have varying degrees of fragmentary self-awareness.

When it comes to ourselves, we all have a blind side. This fragmentary self-awareness is one of the central causes of unhappiness, because most of us do not know what drives us to behave in the way we do or make the choices we make. In fact, many of the most renowned philosophers and sages through time believed or believe that it is the central cause of unhappiness. We don't need the Internet or our laptop to become self-aware; we can predict right now what a self-aware, hyperintelligent computer would say to us after carefully examining human history and the daily news. It would say, "What humanity needs at the macro level and individual level is to become self-aware. Until you achieve this, history will repeat itself, corruption and crime will continue, personal suffering will continue." There are two essential aspects to learning to keep your emotional temperature at 6 or lower. The first is learning to check your baseline stress temperature throughout the day, make small adjustments in the way you pace yourself, take small breaks, reach out for help, anticipate problems, and gather resources in advance of those problems. The second is learning to anticipate and manage situations that tend to cause spikes in your temperature. Again, many people who struggle with anxiety live at an emotional 7, and they have been there so long they believe it is normal. If this describes how you feel, you will need to learn to more effectively manage your baseline temperature. Use your notebook to complete the following exercise at the following points in your day. Transportation, communication, and technology have turned the modern world upside down. With high expectations, accelerated pace, intensified pressures, and constant change have dramatically changed our lives from being stable, consistent, and predictable to being fraught with confusion, disillusionment, and disconnection. The rhythm of the future brings increasing changes, dramatic transitions, and traumatizing uncertainty. We are living in a turbulent, chaotic, and perplexing era. Never before in the history of mankind have there been so many options, with so few tools with which to cope What Is Stress? Stress is a product of our times. It is something that we live with every day. The way stress affects our lives is a new phenomenon. Think back to early rural America.