“As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”
― James Allen
At this very moment, there are over 2 million pieces of sensory data in your environment, clamoring for your attention. Yet, your brain is managing to drown out this excessive stimuli. I know this because you are currently able to focus on reading this sentence. A sophisticated mechanism at the lower back of your brain, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), is largely to thank for your ability to concentrate so well.
Essentially a network of neurons that work like an automated filter, the RAS blocks out what is deemed to be irrelevant information and lets through the information that’s important. This is why you can pick up someone calling your name in a noisy room, or a mother can distinguish her child’s voice from other children on a crowded playground. The information is personally significant. Without it, we would be waddling in constant distraction and over stimulation, unable to tell what is vital from what is not.
Helping us focus and feeding personally significant information to the conscious mind is great, but the flip side is that this mechanism can also function as a powerful inhibitor. The RAS is equally capable of blocking out positive information about our circumstances because of self-imposed limiting beliefs. For example, if I have a deeply held negative belief like ‘I am not worthy’ or ‘I’ll never earn a decent salary’, the RAS will block out any evidence to the contrary. In other words, even though you are capable of earning a good income or being confident, your brain will physically withhold that information from you!
In our day to day interactions, we can begin to question the quality of information we’re receiving in relation to what we now know about the RAS. By acknowledging to ourselves that everything we’ve come to believe about the world may not necessarily be true, we can actively take a more humble approach to our sensory input and start to open ourselves up to receiving information that may be contradictory to stale perceptions. Through reflective listening we may come to understand that what we hear someone say, and what they are actually saying may be two completely different things. What it comes down to is the humbling realization that we, as humans, do not see all there is to see.
For more information on the power of the mind, join us at our next interactive workshop!