Your Brain at Work

Your Brain at Work is the title of David Rock’s book that presents strategies to overcome distractions, regain focus, and be smarter all day long.

One of the most successful strategies is the reappraisal of anything external that causes distress.

Like the Buddha‘s teaching of the The Second Arrow, the pain caused by the distress is based on our estimate of how bad the situation is, rather than by its actual significance.

By reappraisal of the situation, we are able to respond with skillful means, rather than from our habit energy.


“As you learn more about your brain, it becomes possible to stay calm in just about any situation, including the overwhelming limbic system arousal driven by uncertainty about the future. It’s reappraisal that gives you this capacity.

Consider what Kevin Ochsner said when I asked him about the impact of his reappraisal research on his own thinking. ‘If our emotional responses fundamentally flow out of interpretations, or appraisals, of the world, and we can change those appraisals, then we have to try and do so. And to not do so, at some level, is rather irresponsible.’ …

[James] Gross, with the wonderful understatement of a pure scientist, says, ‘It looks as though reappraisal is a fairly efficient way of cutting down the experience and biological representation of negative emotion.’ He may be too subtle. To me, reappraisal is one of the most important skills needed for success in life, the other being the ability to observe your mental processes. When I asked Gross what he though about reappraisal and its role in education and wider society, he was more effusive: ‘I think this knowledge should be taught early, and often. It should be in the water we drink.’”
David Rock from Your Brain at Work

At the Meditation and the Science of Human Flourishing workshop on June 11, 2016, Richie Davidson talked a lot about resilience, and when I read the above quote, I got the feeling that these two lines of research are addressing the same issues.

As mindfulness meditation provides us with “the ability to observe” our “mental processes,” we can add reappraisal and resilience to our understanding of the second arrow.

I invite you to try this Relieve Stress Guided Meditation with these ideas from neuroscience in mind:

Books by David Rock

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long

David Rock

Meet Emily and Paul: The parents of two young children, Emily is the newly promoted VP of marketing at a large corporation while Paul works from home or from clients’ offices as an independent IT consultant. Their lives, like all of ours, are filled with a bewildering blizzard of emails, phone ca…

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