By now you’ve probably seen have seen the viral video of neurons forming. Lit up on a gray surface the excited neurons wiggle excitedly, and begin to connect with other cells and clusters in the area.
We can begin to see how a stimulus in the environment has a response in the brain. Something happens, we get an idea or new knowledge, a few more things happen to reinforce that idea, perhaps an emotion gets associated with it and voila. There is a little cluster of cells that looks like a random basket but represents something in our lives and influences our behavior. We have formed a connection and learning has happened.
This process is crucial to learning about the world we live in and how to function in it. It’s how we learn to survive and navigate our environment. It is also behind how we form our habits and beliefs. I’m not a scientist and I realize this is an expression of my very rudimentary understanding of how learning happens, but I also know that having even a basic awareness of our brain can be a powerful growth tool.. Of course, this process of learning is a miraculous biological function that we can all be grateful for.
But here’s the thing. The world we live in is constantly changing. People change, technology changes. We are usually pretty deliberate about catching up and adapting to new paradigms but surely there must be some old connections hanging out in our brain responding to the world in an outdated way.
Here is a prime example of how this plays out in my life. In 2007 I bought a new car, it had a CD player instead of a tape deck, so I bought a new CD to celebrate. It was Tegan and Sara, The Con. It became my favorite. I drove around listening to it over and over. My daughters and I knew all of the words and the song order. Then tragically, I lost the CD. I was so bummed. I missed it so much. (Emotional reinforcement of an idea).
I could have just gone out and purchased a new one but I felt silly spending the money. Instead I hoped in vain that it would turn up. It never did. Occasionally I would put the video CD on and listen just so I could hear the songs I loved again and again.
Over time, other music made its way into my car and I eventually forgot about it. I thought about the Tegan and Sara CD from time to time but just moved on knowing I didn’t have it. The other day while I was looking for something on the bookshelf I spotted the Tegan and Sara DVD, that came with the missing disc. “Ooh yay” I thought. “I can listen to my favorite songs again.”
In that moment it occurred to me. I’ve had Spotify for at least 4 years. I could have been listening to that album anytime I wanted! The point is this. I was operating on an outdated and unexamined belief that that the music was inaccessible to me. Somehow the synapse of belief versus reality did not fuse in my brain.
Now this is a relatively inconsequential belief but do you see what I am getting at here? How many of our outdated beliefs are still running the show in our lives? How many things do we believe we can’t do based on some limitation we developed back in elementary school? It is likely that some of these beliefs aren’t even our own, but passed down from our relatives who lived in an entirely different reality.
A girlfriend of mine who tragically lost her husband tells me that sometimes when she is overcome with grief she will pick up the phone on an impulse to call him to talk about it, forgetting that she can’t call him anymore. The painful irony of this haunts her.
A woman I knew with lovely penmanship refused to write in a birthday card because she has terrible writing. When I asked her about it she told me a teacher in the 3rd grade told her her handwriting was despicable. She has believed it ever since.
A frustrated hippy music teacher, after a day of dealing with squirrelly middle schoolers told me in drum circle at the age of 12 that I had no rhythm. I’ve played in bands for 20 years but I still won’t try the drums.
When I work with clients I will often see outdated beliefs come up often as people are trying to reinvent their lives. When this comes up I will ask them, “when did you first learn this about yourself? What happened?” “What is the evidence that supports this? What is the evidence that contradicts this belief you have? Often the contradictory evidence far outweighs the supporting evidence.
So, how about you? What outdated or limiting beliefs might you have hanging out in the wasteland of your subconscious? If you are microdosing you may be in a unique state of growth or neuroplasticity. Even if you aren’t microdosing. It’s a great to give your beliefs a spring cleaning from time to time. What are some things that you often say you can’t do. Things you say you aren’t good at. Perhaps, write some of them down.
“When did I start to believe this?”
“Is this still true?”
“Was this ever true?”
“How does this belief influence my behavior?”
“What evidence in my life supports this?
“What evidence in my life contradicts it?”
Look at your list of contradictory evidence. If you want to change your belief, challenge it. Try something new. Dust it off and test it. Sometimes you were right. I still hate running. I’ve tried it. The belief holds. Other times you may find you were wrong, and a new possibility opens up in your life.
Tegan and Sara
Fetal Neurons Forming
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