A little while ago I learned a rather disturbing fact about the way Google and Facebook work. Did you know that if I search for something – and you search for the same thing from your computer – we’d both get completely different search results?? Just like on Facebook, the adds or ‘suggested posts’ that pop up on my feed will be different to the ones that pop up on yours. Why is this you ask?? Because search engines are designed to remember your preferences. Your history. Where you have been before. They remember your likes and your dislikes. They remember your location, your country and culture. That way they can feed you the information the search engine perceives you want to see. Whether or not the information is positive or negative; healthy or unhealthy – it’s all you’ll see. Interesting eh?
So why am I telling you this? Because our brains work exactly the same way.
From the moment we are born we start learning and growing. (Actually, we are already doing this in-utero too!) We learn straight away if the world is a safe place or not. Do my needs get met when I cry? Do I receive love and attention? We learn about our family, our culture; and what is normal or abnormal. Accepted or unaccepted. Nice or not nice. This information is coming in constantly – but not consciously. With our childish minds we accept everything we perceive and we label it ‘normal.’ We have no concept that someone else from a different family or from a different culture might have a completely different “normal” to us.
This same process happens with our belief systems. As we grow we are very egocentric – this isn’t about being consciously selfish; it’s about getting our needs met. A child is fully dependent on the adults around them to meet their needs (as they largely can’t do this for themselves). They are the centre of their own universe.
All of the above is normal and healthy. Unfortunately, life isn’t always perfect. Our parents or caregivers aren’t perfect and so can’t possibly meet all our needs all the time. This egocentrism works against us here. A child will automatically assume that if something bad is happening it must have something to do with them. “If Mum and Dad are fighting, it must be because of me – something must be wrong with me.” We develop belief systems about ourselves, the world and others that sometimes doubt our ‘goodness’ or ‘ok-ness’ as an individual.
These beliefs contribute heavily to how we perceive the world around us. They are like the ‘preferences’ on our internal search engine. They cause us to view and interpret the world in certain ways. For example, if I have an internal belief that says “I’m dumb,” I would probably believe that others are 'more important' or 'smarter' than me; and the world would quite possibly feel like an unsafe place – big and frightening. “I’m dumb” becomes like the filter through which I view the world. If I fail a test I’ll say “see, I’m dumb.” However if I pass a test, I’ll distort or ignore all information that doesn’t fit my belief. I’ll say “that was a fluke – or that was an easy test.” These beliefs (like the search engine) are very subtle – often we don’t even know they are working away in the background.
In the next couple of posts we’ll discuss this in more depth. But in the mean-time remember this: if there is something happening in your life at the moment; you might have different beliefs and rules that are causing you to interpret whatever is going on in a certain way. These interpretations may have strong emotions attached to them – whatever you are thinking will feel very ‘true.’
BUT! Just like the search engine discounts a whole lot of other information – so does your brain. There might be different perspectives – alternate explanations – other information that you’re not seeing. There is ALWAYS more going on than what we immediately see.
So, whatever the situation is that you’re in – make sure you Pause and Breathe before you act or react. Even if you don’t fully understand the filters through which you view the world; you definitely know that you have filters! The longer the pause the longer you get to consider what else might be going on.
Have a great week everybody!