GUEST BLOG BY NOGIE KING – LIFE COACH FOR RESET RETREAT, 2015
We have thoughts. Oh, so many thoughts!! If we could simply change our thoughts, we should be able to change our world… “create our reality,” right? Well, not exactly.
Most of us are trying to change our thoughts in the most inefficient ways possible – through will-power, self guilt-tripping, blaming others or shaming ourselves, or even learning new insights that we think should give us the good sense to do things differently.
Because of how we are wired, it generally doesn’t work very well through any of those means. To understand what is really happening when we are ready to shift patterns, we need to take a stroll through a brief science lesson. Because, as it turns out, most of our repetitive thoughts are not even our own to begin with.
Humans are biologically social creatures; literally wired to belong. We come into the world needing the approval of our “tribe” and will do whatever it takes to get it. We depend on early caretakers for our physical and emotional survival. Irrespective of the quality of their care, we are designed to seek their approval for a significantly long time. This is not a matter of choice. It is our nature.
To complicate our journey to our own authenticity, our little brains are not particularly helpful in our early years. The pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain that allows for complex thought, analysis, creativity and executive decision-making functions) doesn’t even begin to fire up until at least 6-7 years old. A neurologist friend of mine, is quick to point out that for many people it is much, much later.
For many years, we cannot distinguish the difference between our own beliefs and those of someone else. We have no capacity to pick what we actually believe. At some level, we just assume that our early cultural teaching is truth. This is not a failure of morals or even bad decision-making – it is simply biology.
As our brains mature and we grow to encounter new tribes that are also important to us (first school, then mating, and eventually stepping into the world of work and responsibility), we begin to realize that we might not actually agree with everything we have been “taught”. We begin to ask, “Who am I? What do I actually believe about myself, the world, and my place in it?”
If we don’t have access to our prefrontal cortex in those early years, how are we learning? We are using an older part of our brain that learns through repetition. Think how often the beliefs of your parents or church or community were repeated throughout your childhood (and probably well into adulthood). Beliefs about how you should dress, behave, or eat; beliefs about how the world is and how people should think; beliefs about “God” or beliefs about other “types” of people – all literally programmed into the part of your brain that is designed to learn through repetitive input.
Put all three of these lessons together and we begin to see why brute force or sheer intelligence or even ah-ha moments don’t create lasting change in our thought patterns. They might all be helpful, but the route to changing belief systems has to be by the same process that it was input in the first place.
To change our patterns of belief (and therefore our actions and results), we need to reprogram the part of our brains where these early thoughts reside. Because of the way this part of the brain learns, we need to do it through repetition. We need to give our brains a new imprint, a new rut.
This means we do it – not through the brilliant insights, but by the repetitive practice of the new insight. We have to back up the ah-ha moments with real life practice, on the ground, in the physicality of our bodies. Being present, asking questions, letting go, setting new directions, showing up, practicing awareness. In the moment. Over and over and over again!
Until suddenly one day we realize that we are living our own lives, in our own bodies, powered by our own authentic beliefs that truly, deeply do belong to us!
About Nogie King
Nogie founded Sympatico Coaching in 1996 and is an author and speaker. She is the creator of Camp Camelot – a weekend summer camp getaway for Not-So-Grown-Ups, and managed the popular “Reimagining Ourselves: A Transformational Retreat for Women” at a holistic retreat center. Get to know Nogie on her website and Facebook.