Rebooting Old Assumptions
This week’s Core Concept is Upgrading, the process of replacing false beliefs and integrating new information. Rebooting old assumptions and rigid ideas can weaken addictive triggers and behaviors.
I’ve used hundreds of short videos with TNM groups over the past 10 years. Their content is diverse, ranging from human development and empathy to science, to social justice and big ideas, all intended to inspire conversations and creative writing. One of my favorites is a compilation of colorblind people who are given glasses that allow them to see color as the rest of us do. To a person, the moment they look through those glasses, they start to cry. What thrills me is getting to witness the rarity of someone having a revelation and changing in an instant. You can almost see their brains expand and shift to take in and integrate the updated information.
So how do you consciously upgrade an obsolete way of thinking or automatic habit? Just like your dog who likes to pee on the same tree, the more you repeat the same behavior – good or bad – the more your brain wants to cruise into that same neuropathway. To break the pattern, you have to dismantle the kneejerk pattern. When patterns are not serving another psychological need, you may be able to use your awareness to redirect the impulse. But we communicate with ourselves in a shorthand of ‘intra-self-messages’ that are not always words and concepts but are more like puzzles, flashing images and vague feelings speeding past like in a dream, too fast to fully grasp, much less decipher.
Regardless of how difficult the challenge may be, appreciating that you are not going in circles because you’re lazy or a liar, but rather that you’ve been wounded, can help you become more tolerant when you inevitably stumble. For more deep-rooted trauma or complexity, you may need a professional to help you unwind and understand what remains an enigma to your conscious mind.
Try to calculate how many times you’ve been discouraged from pursuing something you’d like to do. “Who are you to think you can write?” Add to that how often you have rerun and thus reinforced those tapes in your head. A disappointment is followed with the thought, “I really am wasting my time trying to write. I’m just not good enough.” But when you have enough positive experiences of writing – not just the words but the process – the doubt gets quieter and quieter. Attend to your development with positive self-talk that corrects the obsolete belief: “I do like writing and the more I do it, the more comfortable I get with the process.”
If you’re doubting your capacity to change, consider how quickly you adapted to COVID. You may not have liked it, but in one month you changed your entire life. You worked differently, shopped differently, ate differently and stayed inside with no social life. This adaptation was not only a series of conscious choices. Your brain worked 24/7 to help you establish a new homeostasis.
Unlike a computer that cannot expand its capacities without being reset or having new software installed, your brain’s circuitry changes with each new perception, thought and action. But few changes occur immediately or without reinforcing and appreciating where you have been and how far you have come so far. It may be hard to keep your chin up at the thought of going back to the drawing board again. But really, what else do you have to do besides getting better at your life and your impact?