Updated: Aug 18, 2018
Programming your mind.
We are bombarded with millions of pieces of sensory information each day. From dawn til dusk we are sensory sponges, soaking up meaningful, and relevant pieces of data. But how do we differentiate between what is relevant and what isn’t? How to we sieve through this Tsunami of material. How do we even begin to filter and understand this stuff? And do we have any control over the information we choose to filter in, or sift out of our minds?
In his book, “Flow, the psychology of optimal experience”, Mihaly Ciskszentmihalyi, offers us an explanation about how we interpret this sensory stimuli. He states that the unconscious mind takes on 2 million pieces of information at any one time. To take this on all at once would literally blow your mind. There needs to be some way to manage this down to about 5-7 chunks of information so that the conscious mind can make sense of this
Let me introduce you to the reticular activating system, or the RAS. It is a set of connected nuclei that are located throughout the brain stem and is concerned predominantly with sleep and consciousness. It exerts control over the sensory information that come into our conscious mind.
From an NLP perspective, the RAS is concerned with what you focus on. It looks to filter the appropriate information that is of immediate interest to you. Have you ever been fixated on a thought, and you are given regular reminders of that particular, or persistent thought? I remember I once had a Volkswagen Beetle which I loved. But it spent some time in the garage under repair…..in fact too long. I became frustrated and impatient as I wanted my car returned. Wherever I looked, I saw a reminder of my beautiful beetle. The rasp of a VW in the distance, a rapper with a VW logo on a neck chain on MTV, a Beetle T shirt on a model in a magazine. It couldn’t have been any more obvious on what my mind was focussing! This is a great example of the RAS in action.
Therefore, it is your beliefs and values that tell the RAS what it needs to focus on. Many of our values are programmed by us at an early age. You may have experienced a wonderful, safe, secure childhood full of love and warmth. This being so, you would probably have programmed your RAS to confirm that the world is a safe and warm place, and your RAS would dutifully look for examples of this. Conversely, you may have had some uncomfortable early life experiences which led you to believe that the world is a difficult and dangerous place.
To put it simply, we have written a story about how life should look and feel. We have fed that into the RAS, and the RAS has gone out of its way to look for examples that reinforce this story. If you are not experiencing fun and joy in life, if things appear a bit drab or fearful, it may be useful to explore the internal programmes that you are running.
By the way, the RAS is programmable, and you can change your programme whenever you choose. The good news is that it is easy! NLP offers elegant ways to address this. We can help you to look at your story and your subsequent distortions, deletions and generalisations (these are further filters in the RAS). Once identified, we can go about changing and adapting this script to something far more befitting your current needs. The story you have been running may have served a positive purpose at some time, but you may have outgrown its use. Therefore, it would be useful to think about a more relevant story
Contrary to popular belief, change work does not have to be lengthy, arduous and painful. You do not always have to explore uncomfortable experiences in order to change your perspectives on life. Once you grasp how the RAS works, and how this stuff is filtered, you are able to choose how you would like your future to look, you can re programme your RAS, and you can apply goals and outcomes that are more in line with your current values.
If you want to practice programming your RAS, quite simply, on waking think about your day ahead. Picture yourself at the end of the day in your desired state. Maybe satisfied? Excited? Complete? Flavour it with some sensory stimulus…..feel what you want to feel, see what you want to see, hear what you want to hear. Amplify any sense and colour that you can. Then all you have to do is sit back and let your unconscious mind do the rest, and the RAS will be programmed to filter in any of the sensations you have been looking for……..easy!
In knowing how your RAS works, and more importantly how you can programme it, you are given freedom choose your emotional outlook, your goals and your future