Friday, March 19, 2010

Turning the Titanic

It would appear that many of the strategies we have developed for how we move through the world have been with us since childhood. This includes how our minds process the world around us. Unfortunately, as time has gone by, some if not all of these strategies and cognitive habits have become dysfunctional.

The brain of a small child has very little ability to accurately process information, particularly when dealing with emotions. There are constant misconceptions about why the adults in the world are behaving the way they are, and often this leads to a child internalizing totally false ideas. When a mother becomes frustrated with some aspect of her life that is totally separate from the child, the child may think something like, "Mommy is angry with me because I am bad."

So we go through life with incorrect data (the old "garbage in/garbage out" model) and we continue to process our thoughts through the filter of this bad information. Trying to modify these cognitions is like trying to turn an ocean liner; it's going to take a lot of time, a hard and steady pull on the wheel, and a lot of space to get it done. But it can be done.

The good news is that the brain is capable of changing for almost as long as we are alive (barring any neurological damage). It takes diligence, practice, and commitment to effect change in this way, however. Moreover, it takes a belief on our part that we can change things. 

I wish I could point you to some magic bullet theory or practice that would take care of these longstanding issues easily and quickly, once and for all. The truth is that this kind of change is usually accomplished through moment-to-moment awareness of our lives as they are being lived, and then disengaging from destructive or ineffective thoughts by returning to the present-moment reality. 

After repeating this practice about 3 billion times, though, you should have the boat safely turned around.


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