Transcript: Vicky Ross – Good and Bad Brain Juice (Max#51)


Kevin: Welcome to Maximise Potential the podcast to educate and motivate through a range of original interviews designed to help you maximise your potential.  Brought to you in association with the award winning recruitment group Jenrick.

Welcome back to episode 51 of the Maximise Potential Podcast. I wonder how many times you’ve asked yourself why you always get nervous before certain meetings and when you’re asked to deliver a presentation, or why you shy away from networking events or even opening particular emails.

In summary, why some situations fill you with nervous, tense feelings yet why other situations lift your mood, relax you and bring a smile to your face.

According to John La Valle, who co-founded NLP with Richard Bandler, these feelings are all simply caused by chemical changes in our body, something he refers to as ‘Good and Bad Brain Juice.’

To understand this in more detail we’ve invited Vicky Ross, one of the most experienced NLP Trainers in the UK, to join us on the Podcast.

Vicky has kindly offered to record a two part series where she helps us to firstly understand how we create our ‘Brain Juice’ and then, in part 2, to help us understand how we can change our ‘Brain Juice’ if it’s not benefiting us in a particular situation…

Here’s Vicky to explain more.


Kevin: Vicky Ross welcome to the Maximise Potential Podcast.

Vicky: Thank you Kevin nice to be here.

Kevin: Nice to have you here and this is the second time we’ve tried this isn’t it?

Vicky: This is indeed but you are going to get it right this time.

Kevin: We are indeed we are going to be very honest with everybody we actually tried to record this first time round and what we realised was when we listened back to it that we had so much information on there that it was probably just information overload.

Vicky: A little bit too much in small snippets everything made sense. But when you walked away it was like too much.

Kevin: So today we are going to break it down. We are going to do a two part element to the Podcast and we’re going to get straight on to it today part one is going to be about something that is very close to your heart. Something that forms a central part for all of the training sessions and the courses that you run and that subject is something called ‘Bad Brain Juice.’

Vicky: Absolutely and it is something I teach it to school kids but to individuals when they come to do one to one sessions with me as well as all my training sessions because it is, it’s the fundamental of where I start because I do believe that in order for people to create success, to create change they need to first of all understand what is causing the lack of.

Kevin: So where do we start?

Vicky: Well let’s start at the very beginning so to speak. When we are born we are like a computer system. So we have a hard drive that has got a lot of space but not many programs in it and then of course we have the ram. And as we live and as we grow and as we start to experience things in life we start to put more and more software inside the hard drive that we then use to live our lives by. So if you can think that in the beginning we don’t have many experiences, we don’t have many references we learn how to behave and we learn how to feel about things and how to give meaning to things by what we observe in our surroundings. So in other words by what we see from our parents, our siblings, our peers, our teachers. We learn how to live life. Now what they haven’t looked at is that in the beginning, in the first say five years of our lives we are like sponges we just absorb so much information. There is so much that we don’t know that everything around us inspires us. You watch babies for instance you know they get fascinated by a blade of grass something that we completely take for granted. You can see the act of awe if they see little insects or birds they are totally fascinated so we absorb so much information, so much learning in those five years.

And they have looked into our brains and they have said that in those five years we’ve created so many neurological connections that we are like this overloaded full sort of brain. However what happens between the ages of five and about 14 when we start puberty is that a lot of those connections are starting to become redundant because they are just not needed. Almost things like we don’t need to know how nice the grass looks anymore so therefore it is not as important. All these sort of things start to happen and the brain starts to sort of differentiate and say this is good; this is not so well used. So therefore it lets go. So we don’t have as many connections at 14 as at five which is a bit of a surprise to people because you think the more you grow the more connections and things you have.

Kevin: You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth. That’s exactly what I was just going to say to you. I thought that invariably the older we get the bigger the brain gets to a certain degree but obviously not.

Vicky: In a different way but no because what the brain starts to learn is saying well no I don’t really need this information I’m not using this information and the connections the brain makes neurologically, the stronger the connection is because it gets used a lot. So if something is not being used a lot it starts to become redundant.

Kevin: So we got up to so five to 14.

Vicky: So what happens is we carry on and we start to live a very habitual life because what the brain loves to do is make things as simple and as easy as possible. So the way that we do that it will start to do the same thing over and over. And the way we can see in life where it shows up how we have the typical more, more pattern is that the more somebody does something the more they want to do. If you look at a runner the more that they run the more they enjoy running and the harder it is for them to not go and run. For the same token if you look at somebody who doesn’t do sport the more that they don’t do sport the harder it is for them to engage in any sporting activity and the harder it is for them to break that cycle of sitting on the coach and you know watching TV for instance.

Kevin: Okay so this can either work through engaging in something or actually being passive from something.

Vicky: It is not looking at it whether it is positive/negative, good or bad it is just the more you do anything the more you want to do that something.

Kevin: Oh okay yeah.

Vicky: So even the more you do nothing the more you will want to do nothing.

Kevin: Because it is still doing something.

Vicky: Something yeah so there is no sort of differentiation is it right, is it wrong, is it good, is it bad.

Kevin: Just is.

Vicky: It just is.

Kevin: Right okay yeah, yeah.

Vicky: So by doing that we get into the habitual lifestyle or the habitual living where we go from thinking to doing to being. So by the time we get to about 35 we are in a state of being. And by the time we get to that state we are basically living fairly automatic. In other words we are living unconscious and we are making a lot of reactive life choices because of what habits we’ve got. So we go from thinking first about everything which is when we are very, very young to then doing a lot of things and experimenting and trying out things to then saying okay then this works, this doesn’t work, I’ll carry on doing this, I won’t carry on doing that. So therefore we go into a state of being and this is where you start to see how people are, even I can go to the extent of saying labelled. That person is being anxious or they are being angry or they are being proactive or they are being positive. And it’s an interesting thing you know how do we get to the personality trait. In other words how do we get into that specific state of being in ourselves? And it starts off with having moods and moods are emotions that may last a day or two maybe three or four and those moods if they carry on for longer than just one or two incidence or one of two days if they go for weeks or months they become a personality trait that somebody holds. So you know you’ll say oh that is a typical personality trait of that person you know to get aggressive or to be passive or to be anxious or whatever it may be. And that personality trait becomes the identity of that person which is their state of being. And it normally gets to the age of about 35 that they are at that stage of being.

And what is really happening by understanding that is that people have stopped thinking and doing and are just existing. So they almost get trapped into that mediocrity of themselves and in their lives.

Kevin: It makes it sound very automated.

Vicky: Well it does get automated and this is where what I do fires me up because I see this, I see this so much and you know if you look at humans and human nature we are absolutely amazing. We do this thing called thinking which is different to everything else in the animal kingdom do. Our thinking has to do with how big our frontal lobe is in comparison to the rest of our brain. It gives us the ability to be creative, to be innovative, to problem solve and all of that. And the saddest thing about it all is that we are not taught to think about our thinking. We are taught to get into this automated kind of lifestyle and to just get on with things. So if you think about it, if you could just stop for a minute and step back and start to think about what your thinking is all about because your thinking creates your behaviour. So if you are saying why am I doing this you have to stop and get curious and say what is going on here, what am I doing? So you start to think about what your thinking is creating.

Kevin: Rather than just assuming that the thinking just happens and it is just part of.

Vicky: For most people when I work with them they are totally unaware of what is going on internally with themselves. They don’t know, they are not even aware of the emotions that they are having. They haven’t even got the personal awareness to sort of say I’m feeling this at the moment and I’m feeling it because of these reasons and it’s making me feel a certain way. They haven’t even got that. When you stop and you speak to them that they start to have you know through the questioning. And the questioning is forcing them to think. So one of the things that I start all my trainings with is helping people understand how thoughts become behaviours. It is not just random. We don’t just randomly behave. We are not automatic beings where we just get up and do things. There is a whole process involved that happens and if you can start to understand that process you start to have flexibility and control and choice ultimately about what you want to do with your life. Does that make sense?

Kevin: It does. I’m intrigued now go on carry on.

Vicky: Right so there is some school of thoughts that say that there is about 60 – 80,000 thoughts that we have per day. There are other schools of thoughts that say 100 – 130,000 but I think what is fair and what is important to say is that we have a lot of thoughts. Now Kevin would you agree that you don’t actually pay attention to all of them?

Kevin: Without a doubt I was trying to get my head around the fact that I was probably having 60 – 80,000 thoughts a day which, yeah.

Vicky: So just knowing that you know it is easy for us to understand that we don’t actually act out or act on every single thought that we have. There are thoughts that we have that we just go whatever off it goes you know.

Kevin: So it just goes in goes out yeah.

Vicky: Yeah and nothing happens.

Kevin: Okay.

Vicky: However every now and then we will go oh this thought, this one here, this is really, really important and therefore we make it important. So what happens from a thought? How, you know the minute we have decided it is important what goes on there. And this is what happens is that the brain then creates a chemical that goes into your body like instantly. So the minute we have given a thought importance it turns into a chemical in our brains and that chemical goes immediately into every cell and every organ and passes information about what to feel, what to, how to behave, what to do. Otherwise how does that thought become behaviour. Does that make sense?

Kevin: Yeah it does.

Vicky: In other words if you are having a thought about getting dressed your body has to then get up and go and get dressed. So how does the body do that? How does it execute that behaviour.

Kevin: But what you are saying is there is also an abundance of other thoughts going on at the same time or pretty much at the same time when your mind then takes in the one about right I have to go and get dressed and turns that into a conscious thought.

Vicky: That’s it.

Kevin: But even though I think that that was the only thought I was having.

Vicky: You were having loads of other thoughts that are just.

Kevin: That I just haven’t bothered letting those into.

Vicky: Yeah you are not responding to them. At that moment for whatever reason they are not important and therefore you are not acting out on them.

Kevin: And the same happens when I am working on my PC, writing an article, or delivering a presentation.

Vicky: Everything. It is a fascinating theory you do everything in your life twice. Everything. So you first think it and then you do it. But because the brain can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy it thinks it is doing it twice. So you will think about something and then you will do it. For instance if you look into this room everything that is in this room once upon a time did not exist. Somebody had to think it and they must have had lots of thoughts. Decided this one was important then went out and executed it through behaviour and created it. Does that make sense?

Kevin: Yeah.

Vicky: So everything that we have in our lives comes from a thought. So the question then comes in like so what kind of thoughts are we having? Are we having good thoughts or bad thoughts? And this is where the whole bad brain vs. good brain juice comes in because we are not neuro scientists. What is important to know is that we make chemicals in our brains and that’s the brain juice. Now this is a concept that I’ve learnt from John La Valle who is the Chairman of the Society of NLP and he always talks about brain juice for the simple reason that people understand it. The way that we know whether we are making good or bad brain juice in our body is how it feels. So typically speaking if you were making good brain juice what do you think you would be thinking? What kind of thoughts do you think you would be thinking? Happy thoughts, joyful, loving, excited, you know calm and peaceful. All the good emotions are good brain juice.

Kevin: So when you feel good.

Vicky: You are making good brain juice.

Kevin: That’s because there is a chemical in my body that is making me feel good.

Vicky: That’s right and that comes from a thought about feeling good whatever the thought may be. It could have been a memory of being with someone or about something that makes you feel good or you know. And therefore it comes into the brain, it changes into a chemical and that chemical goes into the body and says to the body this is good brain juice. And we know it’s good because we feel good.

Kevin: Right okay.

Vicky: You know our whole body feels good, it makes us smile. We can hear it in our voices. We feel relaxed in our muscles. So for the same token if we are having a thought that is what I would call the makes bad brain juice and it goes into your body, because it will go into your body to let all your organs and your cells know how to behave, bad brain juice doesn’t feel so good. So some of the bad brain juice emotions are anger, anxiety, stress, depression, guilt, jealousy. All those things without even going too much into it, it’s definitely the bad brain juice because it doesn’t feel good. So the way that I would always teach it to my clients and teach it to my students is to say well what happens physically when we are making bad brain juice? Let’s just take anger for instance. If somebody is getting angry what’s happening to their muscles?

Kevin: Getting tense.

Vicky: Getting tense. That doesn’t feel too good does it? What happens to their breathing?

Kevin: Rapid.

Vicky: Rapid. So by having rapid and shallow breathing you are not really getting enough oxygen into your body. Now if you are doing it for a very, very short space of time.

Kevin: Now you are doing this you are actually making me feel, I am feeling going into this mood right now.

Vicky: Well this is the thing you can actually do this and when your body gets into that physical state your brain starts to think I’m angry. So let’s do fear for instance. With fear again we have tension in our body, sweaty palms, shallow breathing. And then we go into an exam with fear we’re not circulating our blood properly because we are all tensed up, we are not having enough oxygen because we are not breathing well. So what do you think is actually physically happening into the body?

Kevin: It feels like it is shutting down, it is protecting itself.

Vicky: Because the whole purpose of the whole circulation on the body is to give oxygen to all the organs and all the cells and especially the brain. If the brain is not getting enough oxygen do you think the brain is going oh never mind I’ve seen this happen all the time it will pass. The brain is not doing that. The brain is going panic, panic, panic because it is not getting enough oxygen. It’s survival mode and therefore it shuts everything down in your body except the vital organs which is your lungs to carry on breathing, your heart to pumping the blood and of course the brain to keep it going. But everything else it sees as redundant. It is like what do I need this for right now? I don’t have enough oxygen I’ve got to preserve. So therefore it makes you very lethargic so you won’t move because movement means energy. You won’t think because thinking takes energy and therefore you can’t think clearly. And this is why it is so typical when children or adults go and write exams and they are scared and they see a question and they suddenly can’t think of the answer even though they know that they have studied it, they can almost see the page in the book. They get that frustration of I know this but at that moment when they are experiencing fear because of what happens to the physiology they cannot access information because the brain is going this is not important right now.

Kevin: So it is not you just getting a block which everybody always refers to – oh I’ve got a block, I’ve got a mental block.

Vicky: No.

Kevin: It is actually because the physical state of the body has changed you are not getting the blood into the brain, you are not getting the oxygen to the brain so the brain is unable to function as well as it could do.

Vicky: As it should do. Because what is a typical thing exam’s finished we walk out, big sigh oh well that’s over, we relax, muscles relax you kind of give over, you start to breath properly. Because the muscles are relaxed your blood circulation is great again. So what happens after about 15 – 20 minutes?

Kevin: You remember all those answers you couldn’t remember in the.

Vicky: And you say I knew it, I knew I could do it. So that proves the whole thing that it is a physiological thing that is going on. So one of the things that is important for people to know is when they are having what I would put in inverted brackets ‘the bad brain juice’ what is it about because if you know what the bad brain juice is about you’ve got something to work with, to release it. Because in my books there is no good or bad brain juice. Everything just is. However if you don’t deal with it and what it is supposed to be and therefore it becomes suppressed and therefore it becomes bad because it keeps going. So if you think about your emotions like a little two year old that is going ‘mummy, mummy, mummy’ and you are going ‘mummy is busy’. ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy’, ‘not now’. You know a two year old is tenacious they will keep going at you until you give them attention and your emotions are the same. When you are having anger or a fearful or an anxious thought and you are not actually dealing with it because what we have been taught to do is suppress these things like push them away and get over it, chin up, move forward and stop being so this and this. So we are not taught to actually understand what is actually going on inside of us deal with it to get rid of it. So therefore this unconscious message that we are getting which we call emotion keeps coming up because it keeps trying to tell you something that is important but because of the chemical composition that is putting into your body that tenses you up is toxic and that toxic chemical that is in your body is not doing you any favours if anything over a long period of time it will make you sick. So we go back to the state of being, it is a habitual thing to become an anxious person or an angry person or a sad person. You keep making the same chemicals they attack your system and you know what you can be right. You can be right to be angry because somebody hasn’t done something or you can be right to feel fearful because there is a threat but if you don’t deal with it you are the one that suffers it. You are the one that has it a chemical, a toxic chemical in your body that is sitting there attacking your immune system so you have to ask yourself the question if I don’t learn to deal with it. I keep suffering, I keep going through it, is it worth it? Because it is attacking your health, it is attacking your resources, it is attacking your thinking.

Kevin: Yeah I see what you mean. So it doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong the point is forget about all of that because all it is doing is just releasing.

Vicky: Chemicals.

Kevin: Yeah chemicals into your bloodstream which are not good for your body so regardless of whether you are justified to be like that it’s still not doing you any good.

Vicky: No so it’s not worth it. So then the question is well how do I deal with it because you know can I not be angry, can I not be sad and the answer is of course no human being, natural normal human being goes through life without feeling both good and bad brain juice. It’s not about that. It’s about learning to understand what your body and your mind is doing and being the master, being the controller of your life. So by understanding what these chemicals, what these emotions are telling you, you are able to deal with them.

So let’s look at anger for instance. Anger is just an emotion where you have an expectation of something or someone to behave in a certain way and they haven’t. So in other words you may have an important letter that you need to post for whatever reason your day went completely haywire and you didn’t get that chance to post this letter but it’s really, really important. So you give it to your colleague at work and you say ‘can you please post this letter for me I didn’t get the time?’ and off you go thinking it’s done. The next day you come to work and say ‘did you post that letter?’ and what do they say ‘no I forgot I’m sorry the phone didn’t stop ringing and I had a client that came to see me but I’ll go and do it now.’ And what we do is we blow off our tops because he’s like now ‘oh that was really important, that had to go.’ But you know what they didn’t get that memo from you that this is an important letter because you probably didn’t tell them. You had this expectation that they would do it and they let you down and through that expectation not being met you feel disappointed. It’s the same as if you book for a holiday you have an expectation of what that holiday is going to be like and then you get there and the hotel doesn’t look anything like the brochure and the resort doesn’t look anything like the brochure and you feel angry, you feel let down you know. You had an expectation and somebody has broken that. So that is what anger is all about.  And although sometimes you can be absolutely justified in being angry you have to ask yourself the question is it worth it? By asking yourself what am I angry about, what expectation has not been met, was that realistic, was I clear about how important it was to have that letter posted? Did I give them that little memo to say you shouldn’t be doing this or you should be doing that? Because we sometimes have these expectations of other people about how they will behave or dress or what they will do around even things like Christmas or around the office or whatever but we haven’t voiced our expectations, we haven’t let them know.

Kevin: You know what you’ve just hit the nail on the head there. I was just playing through a couple of those in my mind and it made me realise how completely we play through a scenario in our heads because you’ve now emphasised to me that we do everything twice. But then because we’ve already played through it once in full then when we actually do it again and communicate that externally I’m realising that we probably start automatically just missing out sections.

Vicky: Oh we delete so much.

Kevin: Yeah we don’t need those sections because we’ve already done that. And so this is where this gap occurs isn’t it.

Vicky: Yes because we take for granted that the other person is on our page and they have read this internal memo that we haven’t sent out.

Kevin: They have seen this whole movie played out when in actual fact it’s all happened in our mind.

Vicky: Yeah.

Kevin: And all you’ve then done is summarise it in half a dozen words and expect them to see the whole thing.

Vicky: Absolutely. And this is how easy miscommunication can happen and how easy those things can turn into anger. I love it Richard Bandler who is a co-founder of NLP says that disappointment requires adequate planning. So to get disappointed to feel let down, to have that expectation you know not there you have to plan it. You have to sit in your mind and really, really think about things and then when reality does not match fantasy we feel totally disappointed.

Kevin: Okay yeah, yeah.

Vicky: School teachers, parents, they all say oh I’m so disappointed at you because in their minds they thought that you were going to do something different. And when you’ve decided no I’m going to do what I want to do you haven’t read their memo, you are doing your stuff what you like and what you’re passionate about. And this then becomes a disappointment. People also have it if they go and see a movie and they say oh that was very disappointing I thought it was going to be much better, the book was much better. And you are thinking well if you’ve taken so much time to imagine this movie from the book why didn’t you just leave it at that and enjoy your movie. So we build up, it requires adequate planning.

Kevin: So the simple fact is an emotion isn’t just an emotion. It’s a chemical reaction that’s caused by a thought that I’ve had whether I’m aware of that thought or not. The thought causes a chemical change in my body which leads to a feeling and that feeling can either feel good or feel bad.

Vicky: Yeah and you can do something about it. And therefore if it’s a bad like if its anger you can do something about it. You can say to yourself well is this realistic and is it worth it and if not just let it go.

Kevin: But that’s the big most people don’t realise they can do though isn’t it.

Vicky: They keep it and this is how we have like a mood. Like people are in an angry mood like for days. They will be angry with their partners, angry with their bosses, angry with their colleagues for days.

Kevin: And they can change it.

Vicky: Of course they can. Becoming realistic about it and developing a personal awareness of I’m making bad brain juice and even if I’m right it’s not serving me at all, it is not keeping me resourceful or healthy and it’s not going to create, I mean nobody wants to be with an angry person. Nobody wants to communicate with an angry person. So even if you are right it doesn’t serve you. It really doesn’t serve you. So it’s about doing something about it. Maybe you need to put some systems in place so certain things don’t happen again. Maybe you need to talk about something, clear some air. You have got to do something about it but just staying angry creating more and more bad brain juice in your body that’s not going to do anything.

Kevin: Would this be a great opportunity for us to now go and switch to part two and help them understand how they could do something about it?

Vicky: Yes and get curious about this. How can we start you know understanding deeper into the emotions and how do we then go into a place of being neutral so that we can actually be resourceful and do something.

Kevin: Let’s do it.

Vicky: Okay.


Kevin: Well everyone that was part one of our two part series with Vicky Ross.  I found it staggering to think that we have around 100,000 thoughts per day and how just a small percentage of these are dragged from our subconscious mind into our conscious mind. Then to understand that the way we feel about a thought is a result of a chemical reaction in our body which either produces in the words of John La Valle good brain juice or bad brain juice. I will keep this close short for today and I will release part two of this series in a few days time to give everyone a chance to sync their iPods and absorb all the information that Vicky has shared with us today.

In the meantime to enable you to learn more about Vicky I have put a link in the show notes to an article that Vicky recently wrote for our newsletter on the subject of communication and specifically how we all communicate using very different language patterns. And at the article footer you will also find links to take you through to Vicky’s website.

That’s me done for this episode so I will leave you with a brand new track from Xerces music which is titled ‘First ray of light’. Thanks again for listening and please remember to pop back in a few days for part two of this interview series. Bye bye.


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About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!