Many people tend to forget reality when faced with struggles and challenges in life, psyching themselves out by overthinking. Humans as we are, we tend to fall into this mind game as a response to stress. Our problems seem more prominent and the world appears meaner that we feel and behave negatively. Fortunately, there are processes useful in dealing with adverse situations. Learn how these processes help in shaping our values, biases, and beliefs. In the end, what matters is realizing what’s happening now so we can take proactive steps in improving our lives.
Everyday I meet clients who struggle with challenges in their lives because they fail to recognize the reality confronting them. Very commonly they have mental filters and blinkers and emotional triggers that distort what they see, hear and feel.
Some of these processes were useful in a given context. Out of that context it became downright dangerous. They processes include
1) Deletion: Your brain has to make sense out of thousands of stimuli per second. So after awhile it screens out the repeated back ground "details". There are also things you don't want to see or hear because they make you uncomfortable, so you screen that out as well.
As a result you don't pay attention to your loved one when they are struggling with a real problem and get shocked when they get a heart attack and drop dead.
You don't pay attention to how your client is presenting himself/herself and you miss vital clues that could help you close the sale. You kiss a thousand dollars goodbye.
2) Generalisation: You have always done it a certain way. So you conclude that is the only way.
Something happened enough times in your life with enough intensity to create a neural pathway in your brain. So you conclude that, "love hurts" because some people you were close to die or leave. You saw enough examples of unethical behaviour by rich people so you conclude "rich people are bad people"
You do not pay attention to the changes in the environment or people. You fail to recognise major changes in the environment that would invalidate that particular marketing or business approach. If you are "lucky" your business dips only 10% because you missed the trend.
If you are lucky, your wife only smiles at you sweetly (while she quietly curses) because you bought her a gift exactly like what her best friend is wearing. (You did not keep track).
In the long term, these little things wear your business and your relationships down.
3) Distortion: This process is the basis for creativity. It creates great artist and poets you do Creative things with their imagination like Picasso and his Cubist style of painting.
On the other hand, it can also lead to major issues. One person's model of accuracy is another's model of obsessive compulsive attention to detail.
4) Projection: Whatever secret fears and anxieties you have, you deny having them. You ascribe it to the people around you.
You are an anxious person but you cannot accept it. Your cab driver looks at you and asks you if everything is fine and you conclude your cab driver is anxious.
So all these processes deletion, distortion and generalization and to a lesser extent projection will determine what we allow into our world. In that sense they are filters. They end up forming our values, biases and beliefs.
On the other hand, based on those processes we will also design a future where all our biases, beliefs and values are validated. If that is so you cannot appreciably design a future that is very different from the past.
Based on these processes you design on an unconscious basis a story about yourself called the script. After a while this script is so much a part of you and so real to you that you will call it “Your Real Life Story”. The problem is that makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Split-brain experiments reveal a fascinating phenomenon in the left side of your brain - and that phenomenon is affecting your life right now! When the connections between
the two sides of your brain are interrupted their different tendencies come to the surface.
The left side of your brain wants to find a reason for why things happen - even in the face of scant or conflicting information. It’s like an explanation factory where quantity
is more important than quality!
This tendency to form conclusions in the face of scant or conflicting information is especially important when you’re under stress because that’s when you tend most strongly
toward an unthinking, habitual style of thinking, feeling and behaving - and most of us tilt negative.
Problems seem bigger, the world seems meaner, and you have good reasons to justify your conclusions! You need to realize this is happening and then you can take proactive
steps to improve your life.
As a teen, Richard Feyman, Nobel Prize winning physicist, worked one summer for the Metaplast Corporation.
The company was started to metal-plate plastics and they needed a chemist.
This was back around the Great Depression. Plastics and related technologies weren't what they were today.
You could say they sorta, kinda, sometimes knew what they were doing. ;-)
Their biggest problem was getting the metal-plating to actually stay on the plastic.
Often it wouldn't, and they didn't know why.
But their salesperson wasn't bothered by facts. He'd go out and promise all sorts of things that Metaplast would then try to fulfill. With mixed results.
Now, one day some folks at the company decided to run full page ads in Modern Plastics magazine. The ads featured stunning photos of their best work.
What you couldn't see in such a photo, Feynman relates in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, is how long the plating would actually stick.
Anyway, he spent the summer helping them improve their processes. But the entire chemistry lab there was just him: a college student on summer break.
Then Feynman tells this story:
A few years later, I was in Los Alamos, where there was a man named Frederic de Hoffman, who was a sort of scientist...
One day we were eating at the Fuller Lodge, and he told me that he had been working in England before coming to Los Alamos.
"What kind of work were you doing there?" I asked.
"I was working on a process for metal-plating plastics. I was one of the guys in the laboratory."
"How did it go?"
"It was going pretty well, but we had our problems. Just as we were beginning to develop our process, there was a company in New York called Metaplast Corporation. They were developed further than we were."
"How could you tell?"
"They were advertising all the time in Modern Plastics with full page ads showing all the things they could plate, and we realized they were further along that we were."
"Did you have any stuff from them?"
"No, but you could tell from the ads that they were way ahead... it was no use trying to compete with an American process like that."
"How many chemists did you have working in the lab?"
"We had six chemists working."
"How many do you think the Metaplast Corporation had?"
"Oh! They must have had a real chemistry department! ...I would guess they must have had twenty-five or fifty chemists, and a chief research chemist with his own office... guys coming in all the time with research projects they're doing, getting his advice and rushing off to do more research... How the hell could we compete with them?"
Then Feynman revealed:
"You'll be interested and amused to know that you are now talking to the chief research chemist for the Metaplast Corporation, whose staff consisted of one bottle-washer!"
Metaplast wasn't any better than de Hoffman's English company. On the contrary.
They were just louder, so loud their competitors surrendered before the battle even began.
The fact is, we are our own worst enemies - as long as we stay inside our own heads.
How many times have you looked at others and felt "Wow, I'm so far behind, I'll never catch up!"
It's a lie you're telling yourself! You're not seeing the whole picture. ( Oh that Metaplast Corporation? They went out of business after taking on a big job that they really couldn't handle.)
Take a conscious look at your explanatory style - how you make sense of a stressful event. This conscious exploration can affect your resilience to stress, your happiness and
First think about the stressful event.
- Who was involved, and what did they say and do?
- What did you think about the stressful event?
Now consider these questions:
- Can you be sure that your first thought about the stressful situation is true?
- How would you feel if you didn’t have that thought?
- What’s a less stressful (more positive) way to explain the situation?
What are three reasons the more positive perspective might be equally true as your original conclusion
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