(#337) Don’t Be Defined By Your Past

Do we need to have a life-altering event to find peace?
How do you find your place of peace? Have you found it?

What if you could start over?   What if you woke up one morning and your world were different—very different? More to the point, what if your view of your world changed? Does it sound like the day after Election Day?  Well, not in this case.

Jill Bolte Taylor’s reality changed the morning she had her stroke.  While her initial reactions included fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, she eventually came to embrace the “new” Jill.  She tells a powerful story of determination and resilience in My Stroke of Insight.  A Harvard-trained brain scientist, she takes the reader on a fascinating journey from the day she had her stroke to the recovery of full physical and cognitive functions eight years later.

Taylor believed she was “fortunate” to have had stroke injury to her brain’s left hemisphere. As she explains it, we need our right and left hemispheres—but one seems to take over. In Taylor’s case, it had been the overly critical, egocentric, analytical, judgmental, and driving force of the left hemisphere. The left side gets credit for focusing on the past and the future.  At times, we find ourselves in “loops” perseverating on what already occurred or what might happen.  Taylor says this “brain chatter” ends up getting in the way of us enjoying—noticing?—the present.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Post-stroke, Taylor found that due to the left-side damage she was more present-centered and focused. She is now more discerning about those never-ending loops of chatter. Her newly heightened awareness allows her to step back from constant self-talk and question assumptions she would have made in her pre-stroke life.

Do you find yourself in these merciless loops of chatter?  Do you commit “assumicide”?  Worry? Anxiety? Narrow framing? Projections?

The takeaway for me (like it was for Taylor) transcended her physiological experiences.  It was more about how she not only “recovered” but also actually evolved into a “new” life.  It took her eight years to recover her physical and cognitive functions completely. But the concept of “recovery” often connotes that one regains what has been lost. In her case, recovery required focus on what she could do and wished to do differently—not what she could not do any longer.

Taylor said that during her recovery, “I needed people to love me—not for the person I had been, but for whom I might now become.”  Her support network became critically significant as she redefined herself. Each day she took new steps toward that new her.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Who belongs to your support system and encourages you when you feel the need to redefine or reinvent yourself?  Do we need to have a life-altering event (like Taylor’s) to find peace? How do you find your place of peace? Have you found it?

Or as Taylor quotes in her book, “Peacefulness should be the place we begin rather than the place we try to achieve.” (149)

Maybe Einstein had a point when he said, “I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.”

Who have you been? Who are you now?  Who do you want to be?

Perhaps the answers will provide you with a personal stroke of insight.

Video recommendation for the week:


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

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My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

About stevepiscitelli

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3 Responses to (#337) Don’t Be Defined By Your Past

  1. Ben Arab says:

    great analysis of the text,. steve I read this book while in Neuro recovery following a massive ischemic stroke2013 – now., I invite any readers to contact me with questions or comments about this type of recovery. or medical emergency in general. I am not a doctor , but have first hand understanding of the process from rescue through physical therapy.
    regarding #337 specifically I will share a quote often heard from Dr Russell Addeo ” A bend in the road is only the end of the road if you fail to make the turn.”


  2. Pingback: (#344) A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2016 In Review | Steve Piscitelli

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