Monthly Archives: May 2014

Inner Armchair critic


I’ve always been fascinated about the workings of the brain, where thoughts come from and whether how I physically look out at the world through my eyes is the same or different to the people around me.

A person is what he thinks about all day long-  Ralph Waldo Emerson
The most important thing we own are our own thoughts-  
Dr Christine Durham
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t- you’re right- Henry Ford

I love these quotes. They suggest that there is a direct relationship between our thoughts and who we and what version of ourselves we become in the world. They suggest that if we can just learn how our thoughts are created and how to control then we can create the self, the person we want to be. So I’ve been doing LOTS of reading and listening to podcasts about the brain. Here are some interesting ideas to ponder over

1) Many of the books I have read so far suggest that the brain has never evolved from prehistoric times and there is a part of the brain called the amygdala (linked to our fear responses) that still scans all incoming data for potential predators and worst case apocalyptic disaster scenarios.

Much of the research hints that the subconscious brain works to keep you safe and alive which is indirect conflict with the conscious brain that is in search of happiness. Maybe that is why whenever an life desire and aspiration comes into your head, it is immediately followed by a fear thought- “But what if this happens..” The brain is calculating the risks and searching for all the possible ways that the situation could go wrong. If we can somehow sit with the uncomfortable feeling of fear and realise that it is just the brain working hard to keep us alive, then maybe we will act on a dream.

2) Another interesting idea about the brain is that has a tendency to perceive our thoughts, beliefs and feelings as facts. The brain has the difficult job of processing incoming external stimuli from all five senses. To conserve mental energy, the brain is constantly identifying patterns so it can process information more quickly and hopefully then automatically. However, with the brain having expertise in pattern recognition I think comes a number of downsides like
*a quickness to judge and jump to stereotypes
*a repeated behaviour turning into a bad habit (the brain loves routine)
*a repeated thought and feeling turning  into a fixed belief
*a tendency to no longer question whether the brain’s conclusion about a circumstance is a fact or interpretation

Both of these ideas about the hidden workings of the brain have really given me insight into how important it is be protect what I externally let into my mind. What I watch on television, what I read, who I interact with all have an impact on my thoughts and perceptions about the world. I have stopped reading the news and watching commercial television because the majority of what is shown and presented is negative and portrays the world as a scary, fearful place which doesn’t help in anyway to control my amygdala.  I also try to watch what words I say like “I can’t”, “what if”, “I’m too old”, “I’m not brainy enough”, because that is the fear talking again. Lastly, I’ve been questioning myself constantly about my personal values, opinions, beliefs and trying to establish where they have originated from. Are they just old patterns of regurgitated thinking?

I will leave you with some wise words from William Shakespeare and Roald Dahl

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so William Shakespeare
If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it- Roald Dahl in The Twits