Updated: Sep 26, 2020
As children we are pure sponges. We soak up every piece of information we come across. Our beliefs and ideals are hugely influenced by our environment and the people in it. Up to the age of around seven, we believe most things we’re told. Our unconscious mind is wide open, ingesting any piece of information that comes our way and formulating a set of powerful beliefs and morals. This is known as the imprinting phase
The Buddhists have known about this for many years. Indeed, they have a saying “show me the boy and I will show you the man”, so this is not a new concept. In our early years we are so receptive to external influences that they can have a significant impact on how we model ourselves and our perspectives on the world
At some point in our social and psychological development, we make a decision on how the world is meant to look. We decide on how we are going to deal with life’s complexities. We are then placed in front of the most complicated Computer known to mankind (our brains!) and we set about writing out a programme that will impact on us, us,sometimes for the rest of our lives. The problem is that this computer is being programmed by a seven-year-old!!!
This is not all bad though. In his book “the talent code”, Daniel Coyle undertook an exploratory investigation into the notion of talent and how this develops. He trashed many myths and presented new, enlightening ways of understanding this concept. Of the many, one pertinent to this blog is that of primal cues, which he describes as “a simple, Direct signal that activates our built-in motivational triggers, funnelling our energy and attention toward a goal”. He suggested that some, often unintentional cues, or stories, can have a huge impact on our perceptions, motivations and drives. He gave the example of the athletic sprinting elite. He pondered on what gave them the edge….Physicality? Motivation? Genetics? Yes, to all of the above. But what else? Astonishingly he stumbled across a notion after undertaking a somewhat unscientific study of his friends children….. that the youngest children were often the fastest. He decided to apply this theory to the top athletes and came across the same phenomenon… most of the top sprinters were the younger siblings!
Of course, there are many variables, but within this phenomenon there is one issue of interest to me. What message to we tell ourselves? Coyle suggested that the deeper meaning impacting on these athletes was “you’re behind- keep up!” How many times did those young athletic prospects hear that message, when dragging their heels on a walk, or in rushing to get to school in the morning? How many times to we say these things to our own children? It doesn’t take long before they are plonked in front of their most favourite computer hardware, and are programming the message “I need to be faster”…..and the unconscious mind complies!
In broadening this out, it becomes clear that we are constantly bombarding ourselves with unwitting advice. We need to be aware of the things we are telling ourselves, and the potential impact it has on our emotional and physical well being. I recently worked with someone who had developed a hacking cough, full of phlegm. She had been to the doctors, had chest X rays and anti-biotics to no avail. In discussing this issue with her broadly, she described her anger with her husband who, on retirement had put on the slippers and put his feet up. She wanted to travel the world. He wanted to be looked after. She was enraged with him and had tried many ways of expressing this anger. Still the slippers stayed on. She wanted to tell him of her frustration but found it difficult to get it off her chest and indeed spit it all out. The unconscious mind is a literal beast, and will happily comply to any instruction
So we need to be mindful of our internal dialogue, the stories we tell ourselves, and the repetitive patterns that we enact. They can have a far-reaching effect on our lives. The good news is that you are able to choose the stories you tell yourself. Once you are aware of this, and you are aware of your patterns, you can choose whether you want these to continue running (as they have a positive impact on your life) or you want to change them….and change can be as easy of pressing the “delete” button on your super advanced computer!