Find Mediators Near You:

There’s a great future in [neuroplasticity]. Think about it. Will you think about it?*

From Stephanie Allen West’s blog on Neuroscience and conflict resolution .

“We commonly live with a self reduced to its bare minimum; most of our faculties lie dormant, relying on habit; and habit knows how to manage without them.”
-Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

In this short sentence, Proust has described one of the most important differences between accidental brains and brains on purpose. When we are only relying on habit, we are reduced to our “bare minimum” — and we are not in charge of our own brain.

As we will often mention here, our brains are constantly changing, rewiring, making new connections between synapses. These changes are a result of the brain’s neuroplasticity, its impressive ability to reorganize.

As these brain remodels take place, we have two choices. We can let them happen with our “self reduced to its bare minimum.” Or we can awaken “our faculties,” direct the changes, and turn neuroplasticity into self-directed neuroplasticity (a phrase coined by Jeff). When our brains are engaging in neuroplasticity without our knowledge, direction, or awareness, our brains are changing accidentally. When we are employing self-directed neuroplasticity, we are changing our brains on purpose. Accidental and on purpose are two very different ways of being in the world, and only one allows for autonomy and  maximum performance.

The people adept at sculpting and rewiring their brains on purpose are better at facilitating dispute resolution. They may have greater levels of resilience, spontaneity, creativity, concentration, observation, and other traits and skills instrumental in moving towards agreement. They can use their higher faculties and are not a slave to habit. They are on purpose.

In future posts we will be discussing

  • methods for employing and increasing self-directed neuroplasticity (you can read about some methods in advance in our three articles linked to at Stephanie’s page or Jeff’s page)
  • ways to increase the chances that your clients will use self-directed neuroplasticity and why you would want to
  • another meaning of Brains on Purpose™ in addition to the one described above.

*Said by Walter Brooke in The Graduate (slightly modified)


Stephanie West Allen

Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive… MORE >

Featured Members

View all

Read these next


Mediation and Co-Parenting: Why It Works

Divorce Done Differently by Denise FrenchAs difficult as a divorce can be for a married couple, it can be just as upsetting and confusing for the children of the relationship....

By Denise French, MAFF, CVA, CDFA, CRPC

Listening, Empathizing, and Building Negotiation Rapport to Handle Crisis

Buying time is one of the most essential tasks of a crisis negotiator. "In a crisis situation-where there is homicide, hostage taking or suicide-the suspect is generally not thinking rationally,"...

By Jeff Thompson

Using a Transformative Approach in an Elementary School Peer Mediation Program

Peer mediation programs are credited with promoting empowerment, self-control, responsibility, self-confidence, and academic achievement (Johnson, Johnson, Dudley, & Acikgoz, 1994; Wilson Gillespie & Chick, 2001). As students learn ways to...

By Lisa Hershman