You are either rewiring, or you are coasting along.
It's either adaptation, or it is maintenance.
What will you do today?
Chances are since you are actively reading this is that you are at least somewhat interested. Somewhere in your brain there is stimulation and growth happening. Associations are being made and either verified and strengthened, or dismissed and diminished. Or maybe you are learning something entirely new and a whole bunch of new associations are being created. In all of those cases, you are actively changing, becoming a different person. Not so different that friends would no longer recognize you. It's a gradual change. But it is a change none-the-less. Because that is what the brain does. It changes.
At other times, when something is very familiar for example, then the brain isn't stimulated to the same degree and there is little if any new adaptation and those times simply become maintenance activity for the brain. It's routine, it's boring, and you may even check out completely to the point that you don't even recall doing whatever you were doing. Only if you can no longer perform the activity due to illness or age does the brain once again have to work to adapt. This is the dull boring mental space that we exist in most of the time. A rather mindless space and a relatively calm and peaceful one. Think gazelles grazing on the savanna. It's an easy life. Just keep following the herd.
But life isn't always just easy grazing. There are challenges to be overcome, danger to deal with. And the brain can handle this too. It can come up with solutions and ideas to try. And then it adapts to what has occurred and tries its best to define things in a way that works optimally for your continued existence. See, this is where the issues start. It's one thing to actively respond to a problem. We have amazing brains that can imagine all sorts of wonderful solutions in the moment. And if, when that moment had passed, we continued on unaffected then there would be no problem (setting aside the fact that we wouldn't learn from mistakes). We could just go about our day without that particular problem. No, the problem is that we are designed to learn from our mistakes. Or more accurately the problem is that we don't really know when our solution is actually a mistake. A future problem in disguise. We don't know how a particular solution to a childhood problem will be magnified into a full-blown adult issue over the years.
So why did we evolve with a fatal flaw such as this? Well, we didn't. We evolved with a great system that is no longer functioning the way it was designed to. Let me explain; let's say a child discovers fire. It's hot, it burns, brain stimulation spikes, new associations are made and the child very quickly backs off. The parent comforts the child and the child's system is calmed. A new association has been formed, that fire is painful, but also that one can recover and feel safe again. The feeling is the key. It's not what happens, but how we feel about it. The predominant feeling stored here is ultimately one of calm and safety. A healthy respect of fire is instilled and the child might cautiously learn more about fire, until as an adult he can make fire himself.
But take the same scenario and miss out the emotional connection and comforting by the parent and you might be left with a child whose fear is not calmed and who learns that not only is fire dangerous, but without that calming guidance, perhaps also that the environment is not safe. Vigilance and anxiety is raised in the child as an adaptation to a potentially dangerous world and this continues into adulthood. The feeling here is of anxiety and fear. And it doesn't need to be just a fear of fire. That feeling can transfer on to any number of other events or objects. What has been learned is that life is not safe and caution must be used at all times. Such an adult might not only not want to light a fire in the fireplace, but after years to reinforcing this and other such fears, maybe even leaving the house is a daunting prospect. Really, any number of seemingly odd behaviors can arise from years of repeated layering of reinforcing experiences and associations. The evolution of a mental health issue is much like the evolution of species. The start is much the same, but after repeated adaptation to subtle differences magnified over time, and the end result is amazingly varied.
Now of course life gives us lots of chances to learn and calm ourselves, but it is not unusual to get to adulthood with more than one issue caused by an adaption that no longer applies, or just went plain wrong. And luckily for most of us we have various therapies that can help us identify those maladaptions and set them back on the right path again. Hypnotherapy in particular is very effective at getting to the root memories that set us off and it is also wonderful at providing the necessary calming and relaxing feelings that were needed way back when. But if you can't access a good hypnotherapist or counselor then the next best thing is self-awareness. Being aware that your mind is always trying to find that balance, that safety, and to start using that natural adaptation to your advantage. Looking towards the positive instead of negative. Training your mind to focus on the things in life that will bring you the most personal benefit in your daily life. Recognize that what the mass media tends to put in front of you, on the news, in the newsstands, or even just the gossip at the water cooler, is fed by fear for the most part. And engaging in that, will only reinforce your associations with feelings of fear, danger and anxiety. Take control of your mind and rewire your brain to focus on healthy safety and kindness that surrounds us.
I've heard people say, well aren't just I fooling myself into thinking the world is a wonderful safe place, and people a nice and trustworthy when it's really dangerous? Won't I set myself up to be attacked by being naive? No. What you are doing is avoiding the chronic low level stress and anxiety that comes from watching today's fear-focused media, or from allowing your mind to run amok midst irrational fears. Remind yourself that there is far more love in the world than hate. Far more kindness than violence. The vast majority of people you will meet in your daily lives will have good intentions towards you. Focus on them. Focus on the positives of you day at least once per day.
The world most of us live in is generally a safe place. Yes, there are exceptions, of course and in those cases you can put your trust in your adaptive brain handling it as best it can. Worrying about it isn't going to change much. The truth is that you are more likely to die of natural causes than anything you might try to prepare for or avoid. In the US you are more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than you are being killed in a terrorist attack. You are safe. Relax. Put your amazing brain to work and allow yourself to focus on the positive around you. And if the bookshelf starts getting aggressive, you have an adaptive brain and access to hammer and nails. You'll figure it out.
Written by Stephen King
Stephen King is a practicing Hypnotherapist and Certified Health Coach
Find out more at https://kinghealthassoc.com/stephen-king-cht-chc
Copyright (c) Stephen King. All rights reserved.