Retrain the brain

In the first three articles in the Misconnection series, we explored misconnections that are created because of the illusion of a connection, because our survival instincts kick in, and because information is judged by our unique perspective. In this final installment of Misconnection, we discuss retraining the brain to make more accurate connections.

 

Recognizing Misconnections

 

The first step in retraining the brain to eliminate misconnections is to recognize that misconnections occur. For some people, realizing that their assumptions (i.e. connections) they have made about other people, situations, and events might not be accurate is a shock. These people trust the assumptions that their mind makes without giving them a second thought. Often, they don’t even consider that their mind has made a judgment.

 

Yet, everyone – even those who are conscious of misconnections – makes misconnections.

 

No Assumptions

 

It has been suggested by some that the solution to part of the issue is to simply stop making these connections. Those people believe that survival instincts, in particular, are out dated and no longer needed. However, this is not accurate.

 

Today, people need survival instincts as much as they ever did. It is just that what constitutes danger is always changing. In what would become the United States, people had to be highly aware of wild animals and unknown individuals. Encounters with either could be deadly.

 

Although dangers associated with animals and other human beings still exist, the dangers have transformed. Similarly, new dangers have been created, such as, dangers to our livelihood and identity, which didn’t exist 400 years ago.

 

Analysis

 

Often our instincts and other factors that influence connections don’t adapt fast enough to the ever-changing dangers. Thus, it is important for people to analyze the connections they make for accuracy. This applies to things identified as safe, as well as those identified as dangerous.

 

For each connection analyzed, the person should note the accuracy. When encountering something they deemed dangerous that was actually safe, the person should consider what made them believe the person or situation presented danger.

 

Likewise, when encountering someone that they felt was safe only to find out that they were not, the person should consider what made them feel the person was safe. Then, they should consider if there were flags that they missed.

 

Bias

 

This analysis should include independent research about the person or situation. The more knowledgeable a person becomes about a topic; the more likely they are to understand if they have made a good connection in their judgment of that person or situation.

 

However, it is critical to check the information for accuracy and bias. Reading biased information just leads to more bias. Thus, it is critical to utilize different sources with different points of view. If a person simply finds a point of view that supports their original perspective, they will not accurately analyze the person or situation. Instead, they will use the point of view to reinforce their original perspectives.

 

A simple example is a person applies for a job. They have an immediate negative reaction to interviewer. They just didn’t like her for some reason. And, they apply that negative reaction to the job itself. Now, if they leave and go talk to a friend who supports their opinion without any knowledge or they talk to someone who was fired from that business, they are only gaining support for their opinion.

 

If, however, they ask themselves why they had a negative reaction to the job and they are honest with themselves, they may realize that it was the interviewer. Then they can consider why they reacted to the interviewer. They can also seek a balanced set of input from people who have worked there to make a better assessment of the job.

 

It would be awful to turn down a job if the source of the issue was that the interviewer looked similar to the girl that stole your boyfriend in high school. That is exactly what can happen with misconnections.

 

Retraining The Brain

 

The first two steps in retraining the brain are to recognize the misconnection and to analyze it. Once that is complete, the next step in retraining the brain to make better connections is to have a keen awareness to when similar judgments are being made. The next step is for the person to take to retrain the brain is to immediately stop and ask, “Why do I feel this way?” They can follow that question with “Is my assessment really true?” An honest assessment of these questions is a move toward changing the judgments themselves.

 

Once a person does this for several things, they will find that questioning becomes habit. Thus, they will pay attention to the automatic connection, but they will also automatically assess if that connection is accurate. This will lead to a better judgment of that situation and will help retrain the brain for future situations.

 

Unique Perspective

In the first two articles in the Misconnection series, we explored misconnections that are created because of the illusion of a connection and as a result of our survival instincts. In this segment, we will discuss how our culture, experiences, beliefs, and values that make up each person’s unique perspective add to each person’s connections and misconnections.

 

Unique Perspective

 

Each person has a unique perspective that belongs to them and only them. The person’s  environment and culture in which they live combined with their experiences, underlying beliefs, and values create this perspective. All of these things come together and create a filter through which every piece of information they receive flows.

 

Thus, people never evaluate unfiltered information. By the time they consider the information, their filter has already tainted the information. Thus, people can have different perspectives on something as simple as a rock in the middle of a sidewalk.

 

A person who has had kids playing in their rocks repeatedly may assume a kid put the rock in the middle of the sidewalk because they had been playing there. Someone else may be angry because they assume someone put it there so that someone would trip on it. A person with a different experience, may assume it was kicked up off the street by a car. Meanwhile, the facts may be that someone accidentally kicked it there and didn’t realize it.

 

World Situation

 

People’s filters are very obvious in their perspectives on the current world situation. Some people believe that everyone should do as the authorities tell us. Meanwhile, other people feel that authorities have overstepped their bounds and have no right to tell people not to open their business, go to church, or hike in their favorite park. Yet, other people may feel frustrated because theybelieve the entire situation is overblown.  In their mind,  the measures are being taken are without merit.

 

In all these cases, each unique perspective arises from the person’s current experience, previous experiences, beliefs, values, and culture. For instance, a person who lives in an area where no cases of COVID-19 have been reported will not likely see the virus as a big threat.  However, a person who lives in New York City, where their have been many cases, likely feels more threatened by the virus.

 

Likewise, someone who has grown up working hard for every dollar and still finding it difficult to get ahead will have a different opinion that someone who was born rich. And, different factors influence the opinion of retirees.

 

The number of factors that go into a person’s filters that drive their perspective of a situation are endless. It would be impossible to explore all of them. So, let’s take a look at a subset of the factors relating to whether a person should wear a mask.

 

To Mask

 

People hold a variety of  perspectives on whether people should wear a mask when in public. Some people simply believe everyone should follow the rules. In their opinion, since the authorities stated that masks are necessary, they are necessary. This belief may come from their local culture, family values, or religious upbringing.

 

Other people have different reasons for  believing that people should wear masks. Perhaps they are particularly nervous about themselves or a loved one getting sick. Others may have lost a loved one to COVID-19 or a similar disease. Still, others may have anxiety that has heightened due to the virus.

 

Or Not To Mask

 

Like people who feel a mask is necessary, those that desire not to wear a mask do so for many reasons. Often these people do not personally know anyone who has gotten COVID-19. Alternately, they have known many people with mild cases. They also may see getting the virus as unavoidable and wish to get it over with sooner rather than later.

 

The decision not to mask may also relate to cultural norms. Some cultures may frown upon face coverings. Alternately, people may believe face coverings  have a particular meaning. For instance, a person might hesitate to wear a face covering if they grew up being told that was an indication of criminal behavior.

 

There are other very different reasons that people don’t wear masks. The person may have PTSD, claustrophobia, or have a breathing disorder. The person may also have impaired hearing making it difficult to communicate when other people are wearing masks. All of these may present in a person without it being obvious to other people.

 

Misconnections

 

Misconnections arise when people believe everyone should make the same decision they made. I know people who have been on the receiving end of a tirade because they were wearing a mask. One might ask, “Why do you care?” Well, it is hard to determine why they care without a direct conversation. However, it is likely that the person is judging the other person based on their filters.

 

On the flip side, it is common to observe people yelling at a person for not wearing a mask. You might argue that the person has a right to be upset and that they have the good of themselves and others in mind. However, it is important to remember that they don’t know the other person’s situation, history, or experiences.

 

In both cases, the person doing the yelling is judging the other person based on their own rules. Thus, it is very possible that they are creating misconnections about the other person. They may believe the other person is uneducated, uncaring, or out of touch. However, both may be educated and caring. They just have different filters they apply in processing the information they receive.

 

Up next, our concluding article in the Misconnection series. . . We will discuss retraining the brain to make more good connections and less misconnections.

 

Survival Instincts

Welcome to the second installment of Misconnections. In the previous article, we discussed Connection Illusions – connections where none really exists. In this article, we continue to look as incorrect connections the mind makes.  This time we focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the connections our survival instincts make.

 

Survival Instincts

 

Most dictionaries define survival instincts as knowing what to do in a dangerous situation.  In our definition, survival instincts are the ability to quickly identify and react to dangerous situations. The survival equation often leaves out the identification of danger.  Some people mention it and refer to it as danger intuition.  However, often discussion of survival instincts focuses on fight or flight after fear is felt.

 

Danger

 

The reality is that identification of danger is the first step in ensuring survival. Some of the things that present danger are learned. Parents tell you not to touch the fire, to stay away from cliffs, and not to approach wild animals. Yet, presented with a new situation, humans instantaneously decide if the situation is dangerous or not.

 

Humans make these decisions based on past experiences during the person’s life and on things that kick in instinctively. Looking back in time, if a person had eaten strawberries previously and they caused them no harm, they assumed strawberries were safe when they encounter them again. Likewise, if they knew a person was of their village, they felt safe as they approached.

 

On the flip side, if a person knew some berries had made themselves or others sick, they would react with caution when the saw similar berries. Likewise, they would run back to their home village if they encountered someone unfamiliar.  That person might be a friend or a foe. Survival instincts told them to flee because waiting to find out if the person friendly could be deadly.

 

Perceived Danger

 

Over time, people became very efficient at looking for things that were out of place, were different, or were associated with previously identified threats. Thus, snap decisions were made about whether a food, place, or person was safe.

 

The mind, however, does not know the difference between a real danger and something that is simply meets the criteria of potential danger. Thus, it assumes that anything that meets the criteria for possibly being dangerous is dangerous.

 

The Danger Connection

 

This results in a connection in the mind between this new thing and danger even if it is not in fact a danger. Thus, a tasty non-poisonous berry may become identified as a danger in people’s mind. Likewise, a person from outside the neighborhood may be seen as a danger simply because they don’t appear to belong. Most generally, this isn’t the case. However, there remains some validity to the phrase “stranger danger” that we teach children.

 

It would be more accurate if the human mind categorized things in three categories: known to be safe, known to be a danger, and unknown. However, for safety and survival, people with well-developed survival instincts will see things as safe or danger. Their minds define safe things with an abundance of caution.

 

Not all people have the same level of survival instincts or intuition about danger. In some cases, the person’s mind will respond with the assumption of safety over danger. In this case, the person assumes that the berry or the stranger is safe by default.

 

Which is Best?

 

We could debate the value of strong danger intuition and survival instincts as opposed to a mind that believes more strongly that the unknowns are safe. The fact is that both of these perspectives result in misconnections. In one case, connections are made between people, places, and things and danger when that is not always true. Meanwhile, in the other case, the connection is made to the person, place, or thing being safe when there are situations where that is not true.

 

Thus, no matter whether a person has a tendency to assume things that are unknown are danger or a tendency to assume things that are unknown are safe, they will be right in some cases and wrong in others. This leads to misconnections that become a part of the history that the brain uses to analyze new “threats.” Thus, continuing to compound the problem.

 

In the next installment of Misconnected, we will discuss how our beliefs, culture, and environment create misconnections.

connection illusion

Humans initially made connections between people, places, things, and events as a matter of survival. Over time those connections have helped people to not only survive, but also thrive. However, not all connections are accurate.  Once these incorrect connections have been made, they are often difficult to change. In the first article of our series on Misconnections, we will explore The Connection Illusion.

 

The Misconnection

 

Since humans make millions of connections per day, inaccurate associations are inevitable. Those mistaken connections occur for various reasons. Some of them occur because survival instincts kick in. Other times, we make misconnections because of previous misconceptions or instilled beliefs. Meanwhile, other mistakes occur because of the illusions that two or more things are connected when in reality they are not.

 

This series explores each of these types of misconnections. It also explores how these misconnections are reinforced. The series will conclude with a look at how we can retrain our brain to make better, more accurate connections.

 

The Illusion

 

We are all familiar with illusions that a magician performs on stage. Magicians use techniques to distract the the audience. While the audience is paying attention to one thing, the magician performs tthe movement necessary to complete the trick.

 

Connection illusions work in a similar way. Emotion or physical reaction distracts the mind and suddenly a new connection is made where none actually exists.

 

No More Cake

 

A connection illusion sometimes occurs when a person catches a stomach bug. Often when this occurs, the last things the person ate before becoming ill no longer appeals to the person. So, if the person ate carrot cake before coming down with the virus, they may no longer desire to it eat. Even if carrot cake was previously their favorite, they may turn up their nose at it for weeks, months, or even years.

 

The carrot cake did not make the person sick. Perhaps the whole family got sick.  And, no one else ate carrot cake. The person’s logical mind knows the cake is not at fault. However, they made a connection between cake and feeling unwell. Once made, the person may need to put in a good deal of time and effort to break this connection.

 

London No More

 

Some connections based on illusions are even more indirect. In these cases, a person’s mind creates a connection between two events that happen concurrently although there is no direct relationship between the events.

 

For instance, if a person is on a trip to London when their grandmother dies. That person may associate sadness with London and not desire to go there again. Some might even have a belief that if they go there someone will die. Others can covert this to a connection that travel has negative consequences. This may sound ridiculous and for some people, they would not make this connection. However, they may make misconnections in a different circumstance.

 

Don’t Mess With My Ritual

 

Misconnections can drive people to have rituals and beliefs that have no scientific foundation or logical basis. For instance, athletes are known for their pre-competition rituals. Many athletes must eat particular things at particular times, listen to particular music, wear a certain pair of socks, etc. Although some foods or the right mindset can enhance performance, often these rituals seem absurd to the outsider.

 

The TV show Reba demonstrated this phenomenon in an episode where she held the team dinner at her house. There was an entire set of rules of how the dinner was to be held, including the specific brand of potato salad to purchase. Inadvertently, the wrong brand was purchased and everything was fine until the team found out. The team then became convinced that they would lose. Reba arrives at half-time and saves the day by bringing the right brand of potato salad or so the team believes. In actuality she simply changed the label on the container to make them believe it was the “winning” brand.

 

Although this episode of Reba is a comic dramatization of the importance of rituals on the mind, a person can definitely believe consciously and unconsciously that they are doomed to lose if their ritual is not followed.

 

Results of Connection Illusions

 

Connection illusions can result in many rituals, phobias, and biases. In situations where there is some level of connection, the illusion is often of a much greater connection than actually exists.

 

Up next: Survival Instincts and Misconnections

 

the choice is yours

I don’t believe for a moment that six months ago any of you were just hoping that a virus would spread around the world creating a pandemic. Yet, here we are. You can respond with calmness and kindness or anger and fear – the choice is yours to make.

 

Beyond Our Control

 

Although our current world situation may be one of the most significant events of our lifetime, many things happen during our lifetime where we have little or no control over the event. If you think back over the years, you can probably identify countless times you encountered things in life where you didn’t control what was happening.

 

A simple example of events we can’t control is traffic. Perhaps you checked traffic before you left for a meeting and the maps showed “green” along your path. After you venture out, an accident occurs ahead of you on the highway and suddenly all the traffic stops. Now, you are in a situation where you are likely going to be late for your meeting. Still, you have a choice in how you react.

 

Within Our Control

 

In this situation, you can choose to calmly wait while trying to move to the right lane so that you can exit the highway. Then when in a safe location you can find another route and alert the party you are meeting that you will be late due to traffic. On the other hand, you can choose to get angry, yell at other drivers, honk, and attempt to move ahead. The first case is a rational response and gets you to your meeting with less stress. The second reaction only adds more stress.

 

Initial Reaction

 

Sometimes something happens so quickly and catches us in a vulnerable state. In these cases, most people simply react with emotion as they attempt to process the situation. However, after the initial reaction, they still have the opportunity to step back and respond to the situation in a calm manner.

 

The amount of time between the initial reaction and a more calm response normally ranges from a few second to days depending on the severity of the situation. For instance, if you learn that you didn’t get the promotion that you were sure was coming your way, it would be natural if you were upset, angry, or frustrated. However, if you are still angry about the loss of the promotion a year later, you are choosing to continue your reaction.

 

Choice

 

In this example, once you get over the initial shock of the thing that has disrupted your life or your plans, you get to choose your next steps. You can choose to be angry for an eternity or you can take actions that may help you in getting a promotion the next time.

 

Again, the latter results in less stress and getting you where you want to be while continuing to react keeps you stuck.

 

Action

 

Sometimes yelling at someone and expressing your emotion will get you what you want in life. However, that is generally not the case. And, it always comes with additional stress and drain on your mental and physical health. Remember . . . the choice is yours!

 

If you or someone you know struggles with long-term emotional reactions, life coaching or other energy work may assist in you in responding in a more productive manner.

 

 

Words Matter

People often view their words as harmless. In their mind, stories they tell about themselves and others are simply truths, fun, or humor. The issue is that words matter because the stories a person tells contributes to creating the future.

 

Self-Talk

 

The stories that people tell about themselves sets expectations, at least subconsciously, for the future. If you talk about your marriage failing, you are setting yourself on a path to divorce. Likewise, if you talk about losing your job, you are energizing the prospect of getting laid off or fired.

 

Thus, it is very important to avoid negative self-talk. If a person sees himself or herself as successful, they are likely with hard work to be successful. However, if the person sees himself or herself as failing, the person will have little chance of success. Since the person is expressing a negative outcome, it will impact the actions they take, their interactions with people, and the opportunities the universe brings them.

 

Other People

 

When this talk extends to other people, the person making the statement is putting their expectations and beliefs on the other person. That person may react with rebellion and fight back against those beliefs. However, they also may take on those beliefs as their own. When those beliefs include positive actions and outcomes, taking those beliefs on isn’t such a bad thing. However, when those beliefs and statements are limiting, it can be very bad.

 

Children

 

Negative statements are especially difficult on children. They hear these statements and they can be significantly impacted psychologically and emotionally. The same is true for adults. Yet, children are more vulnerable. If the statements are made by a parent, teacher, or other trusted person, the words can have a greater impact possibly scarring a child for life.

 

One of the recent trends is memes about the awful home schooling experience.  Multiple memes focus on the idea that because kids are now doing remote school work, the parents finally understand it is their children that are the root of the problem and not the teachers. Meanwhile, others indicate the parents need to start drinking early in the morning or can’t handle their children. When I pointed out to someone that I felt these memes could have negative consequences, they said, “Oh, it is just for fun.”

 

Is It Really Humor?

 

Of course, it begs the question, “Is it really humor?” If a parent or teacher feels compelled to post or like a meme about home schooling being awful, they should look inside and explore their motivation. What about it do they see as humorous. It says more about the adult than the child.

 

The fact of the matter is that whether it is for fun or not, it is still creating a reality. Consciously, the person may think it is fun, but their subconscious can’t  separate just for fun from it being actually true. In addition, consider if the person’s child sees the meme. If that child is in a vulnerable state, they may assume the parent and the teachers find them difficult or do not like them even if that was not the intent. To a child words matter more than adults can understand.

 

Power of Positive Talk

 

Whether a person talks to himself or herself, talks to or about someone else, or simply posts words in jest, the words matter. Thus, it seems logical to choose positive words that would bring good things into everyone’s lives. If we focus on positive words and images, we give those things energy. Thus, they can grow and blossom.

 

How We Can Help

 

If you struggle with negative self-talk or the effects of statements made to you throughout your life, consider some coaching or other energetic mind and body healing.