When I was a child, I would drive my mother nuts, asking her how we know that other people see the world the way we see it. I was talking about specific things like colours and shapes, but the question nevertheless was there.
We go through life thinking that what we see and perceive is the factual reality. In recent years, neuroscience has confirmed that we all see the world differently, and it all comes down to the beliefs that we have built for ourselves based on our past experiences.
The human brain requires a lot of energy to run. For evolutionary reasons and survival, we need to preserve energy. Our brains have turned into prediction machines. We go into autopilot on things we have learnt—you don’t have to think about brushing your teeth or driving a car.
This concept is easy to understand and accept. What most of us find more difficult to accept, though, is that we use that same prediction on every single thing and because of that, most of our behaviour is unconscious.
Our brains fill in all the gaps based on past experiences and regularities. Because our past experiences vary greatly, our world perceptions can be very different. If this is a topic by which you are fascinated as I am, I recommend “How Emotions are Made” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. (Our Cultivating Emotional Wellbeing Course also explores this in detail!)
This theory is also true to our memories. We all believe that we can accurately recollect events that happened to us, but in reality, our memories are more like reconstructions than replays. Some of our memories possibly even belong to other people, and we have just internalised them. Just think about a simple argument you had with a loved one, and you both remember the events entirely differently.
A 1974 study found that simply altering the wording of a question can change the quality of our recollections. In this study, the researchers discovered that a person was more likely to report having seen shattered glass on the road if the car accident was described as a “smash” rather than a “collision.”
Our psyche sometimes modifies many of our memories to protect us from more troubling ones. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, called the phenomenon “screen memories.”
But if both perception and memory can’t be trusted, how much confidence can we have in our decisions? The answer is very little. No wonder we often feel lost and overwhelmed, full of questions but hardly any answers.
We can become more conscious of our behaviour by bringing awareness to our actions. The frenetic activity level and the constant rushing that characterises modern life are not helping in this pursuit. However, mindfulness, meditation, embodied practices, and psychotherapy can be great tools to cultivate awareness.
As humans, we have very human needs and questions: we need to talk, to be understood, to have a sense and understanding of self, to have insights, to feel safe, be loved, to satisfy biological needs, to resolve inner conflicts, to be accepted and to find meaning.
None of the above can be found through quick fixes, ” “5 top tips,” or even “3 coaching tools.” Instead, getting our needs met requires time, introspection, commitment, and the willingness to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come up as we dig in.
If you find all of the above a bit overwhelming, I understand—it is a lot to take in! I generally write about smaller, more digestible topics related to my personal experiences. These kinds of topics can feel abstract and not at all related to your everyday life. However, becoming aware how we are biologically wired to go into autopilot helped me to gain perspective and compassion for my unconscious patterns. I hope that it will have a similar effect on you.
Although we don’t believe in quick fixes here at Centrd Life, we are here to help you on this journey.
Our self-study courses are designed with you in mind. Each course is broken into easy steps so that you can take time to integrate your discoveries as you complete the course. Our free workshops are also a great way to become part of our community and help you discover other topics that may help you gain awareness.
In May 2022, you can also join one of our first group coaching programmes, where we help you develop emotional maturity. This will be a great place to connect with like-minded people on a similar path to you.
As always, reach out to us if you have any questions or comments, we would be happy to connect with you.