I love to listen to podcasts when I walk my dog. The other day, I noticed that I missed an entire interview portion when I relistened to a segment. I was surprised I had NO memory of that segment of the conversation. Thinking back, I realized that I must have been crossing the two-lane highway when the podcast host discussed the main topic. Luckily my brain focused more on crossing traffic than on the speaker’s talking point.
Filtering is a survival mechanism.
We think that we are seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling reality. But the massive amount of data that is out there in the world, we cannot possibly absorb everything. Our eyes only see a range of light, our ears a range of tones, our fingers cannot easily distinguish one smooth object from another.
Thus, our brains are not collecting information; instead, we are processing and interpreting. Have you noticed that touching sharp objects will catch our attention faster than soft, fast-moving objects will catch our attention faster than slow, spicy, or sour faster than sweet or umami? This is likely an evolutionary phenomenon.
We like to think that the brain is reporting the news of reality all the time, but actually, all our brain is offering is an opinion.
Your brilliant brain also monitors itself!
Not only does our brain filter sensory information, but it also filters itself. The human brain has, on average, 60,000 thoughts per day. We cannot possibly pay attention to every single one. Most thoughts are unconscious; thankfully, otherwise, it would be a full-time job to do even the simplest things in our day. Interestingly, our childhood experiences, the cultural environment we grew up in, how our parents modeled adulthood, a history of trauma, our support network, etc., all can play a role in how we perceive the world. We cannot change our past, but our brilliant human brains are surprisingly malleable in the present.
Your brain’s negativity thinks it is helping you, but permit yourself to call out your brain’s own BS.
The good news is that if you have a negativity filter, it is possible to change this. It is more complicated than changing your sunglasses from yellow to rose, but certainly doable with a bit of effort.
If you have a negative or anxious tape constantly running in the background of your head, it is not your fault,
here are few steps you can take to change your filter.
The first step is to notice. Your brain holds onto opinions, not facts. Don’t be afraid to see and call your brain out on it.
Second, give yourself grace and forgiveness. If you see a bias and don’t like it, realize that our human brains think they are doing the right thing by interpreting and protecting us. Be willing to be wrong, to grow, and create something new in your head.
Third, when you notice the bias, see where it takes you. If you start from a negative perspective, for instance, assume that the world is out to get you, what type of results do you get in your life from that point of view?
Fourth, permit yourself to play with a new point of view in your head. Start to question everything. Challenge yourself to examine how you will experience future events. For example, if you need to go to the DMV, or dentist, or do taxes, you will notice that your brain will assume that this will be a miserable experience. You likely have proof, and most people would agree with you that the DMV, dental work, or doing taxes is horrible. As an experiment, instead of the “filter” of dread, try on a “filter” of curiosity and playfulness. See how this opens your eyes. Maybe you will be more talkative with folks inline or with the clerk, and although you still need to wait in line or have a drill in your mouth, the filter of how you perceive this moment in your life will change.
If you are interested in applying this to more significant portions of your life, come work with me. Together we can untangle the conscious and subconscious brain, try on a new way of thinking, appreciating, noticing, and wondering about the world around us.