We human beings are in many ways self-programmed…
The way in which you run through and perceive your life depends heavily on the programs you yourself have installed. You already know that your environment and circumstances cause the neurons in your brain to organize in a particular pattern, which results in changes to your emotional state and to the chemical state of your body. What you may not realize is that by rehearsing the memory of that experience, you program yourself to be predisposed to that state.
Stacking the Deck – Will You Stack it FOR or AGAINST Yourself?
Here’s how it works. Emotions help us to remember experiences – we remember how it felt, and we tend particularly to remember things that evoke a strong emotional response. In neurological terms, the brain records our chemical state at that time.
Let’s say that you have a particularly upsetting experience- maybe being fired from a job, maybe a fight with someone close to you. Afterward, you rehearse that experience over and over in your mind. What your mind remembers at that point is not an objective record of what happened, but a mosaic of all of the most powerfully unpleasant stimuli which have been chemically seared into your memory.
You quickly recreate in your body the same emotional-chemical state that the experience itself created. You become saturated with fear and anger. This is nothing more than prolonged stimulation of the fight or flight response. And maybe this incident continues to bother you, and you periodically relive it for years on end. And maybe it feeds into a whole chain of similar incidents you have lined up already, all gnawing at your sense of self-worth, feeding that fight-or-flight response. Talk about shell-shock!
Your body can’t tell the difference between real and remembered experience, so as far as it’s concerned, it is living in the past. If rehearsed long enough, these feelings become so ingrained that you cannot think them away, and even during pleasant experiences, your own chemical ground state is stacked against you. Everything you perceive is then seen through this emotional-chemical haze. You become addicted to the chemicals associated with your current feeling state, and subconsciously resistant to changing them.
Mental Rehearsal – A Key to Setting Things Right
Fortunately, mental rehearsal cuts both ways. If it controls you, you can get into big trouble. But once you wake up to it, it becomes one of the most powerful tools you have for changing your own life. We’ve touched on this before, when I mentioned Tibetan “Highest Yoga Tantra.” Human beings are remarkable for the ability we have to create our own stimulus, to visualize events and states of being more vivid than our surroundings.
That means we don’t have to passively wait for events to change our thinking- we can get started on changing our neural processes and chemical environment right now. It is this, in turn, that allows us to respond effectively when good things do manifest in our lives. The more you refine your “programming” through mental rehearsal, the more you line up all the neurons on your side and the better you will execute the “program” in real-life situations.
The Catch – You Have to BELIEVE
But there’s a catch: you have to believe it, not just as a possibility, but as something that both can and will happen. You see, we believe in the bad stuff. We devote ourselves to accumulating evidence for the bad stuff. It’s easy to believe that we’ll crash and burn. It’s much more difficult to really believe that we’re going to succeed, and to accumulate evidence in our own favour. We tend to self-program to build the case for the prosecution, and it takes willpower and attention to build the case for our own success.
As we rehearse the states and situations that we want for ourselves, we are actually changing not just our brains, but our bodies. Research using brain scans to record these changes is now beginning, and we know that the body can be changed by thinking. In one experiment, a group was told to think about a certain exercise for a given amount of time every day, and another group to actually do the exercise. The group that thought about it actually showed significant muscle development compared with the control group. Your body will begin to feel different, and as you continue to rehearse, the state of being you visualize will slowly move into the realm of nondeclarative memory, that is, the point of unconscious competence. At that point, you will have changed what it is to be you!
Think about the qualities that define your ideal self. Think of a role model whom you would want to emulate, and imagine what it would be like to be them. At this stage, you are imagining what real contentment and happiness with your life feels like, and you are placing yourself in the middle of it. You are practicing being happy, and re-wiring your brain to think about happiness differently. By thinking about being happy, you generate the emotions associated with it, which in turn produce physical and chemical changes. You have gone from thinking about happiness to doing happiness to being happy, and that is an incredible shift!
Next, take some of those qualities you listed. Read about them, about people who exhibited them. Think about some of the difficult situations in your life and how those people would react differently to them. We have to consciously re-program our responses.
Now take one of the emotions associated with a negative event you have memorized. Observe how it feels in your body. Observe where that feeling is, its texture. Observe what it does to your breathing, your posture. Be with it and do not run away from it. Then observe how that feeling causes you to think, what your attitude is, what that feeling does to you. You have now brought it to the level where you can consciously deal with it, and there are a few ways to do that, which we will touch on in later posts.
For now, understand the power that comes with being able to control who you are and what influences you take in. Consciously arresting negative rehearsal and instituting positive rehearsal can be a dramatic first step in creating the new you.
For a more detailed breakdown of how to use mental rehearsal to your advantage, I highly recommend Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. You can watch Dr. Joe give you an introduction right here: