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What's inside your head

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

Do you know how to control your brain?

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures this year were all about the brain and how we process information and how our reality is not always what it seems.

Everything that we are is a product of our brain and how we think. Each brain is unique and yet the same in the way that it functions.

All human beings have a brain, and yet how many of us actually know how it works and how to make it work for us? In Using your Brain for a Change, Dr Richard Bandler asks “Who’s driving the bus?” Most of us let our brains run wild and spend a lot of time having experiences we don’t want to have. Wouldn’t it be marvellous to be able to control those thought patterns, to learn how to drive your own brain?

The brain is an electrical system with around 100 billion neurons sending electrical signals; which can be disrupted by electromagnetic pulses. This years lecturer, Professor Bruce Hood, demonstrated how, by stimulating certain areas of the brain with an electromagnetic pulse, you could disrupt thought patterns. With his first demonstration his demo subject was unable to speak, to repeat a simple nursery rhyme, another demonstration showed how the ability to perform a simple task like clapping was suddenly impossible as he fired off the pulse.

When we are born, we have all our neurons although not all of them are connected. In fact, as a new born baby very few neurons are connected, these connections take place as we grow and begin to experience the world around us. If we never experience events the connections never occur, and the brain begins to prune neurons that are unused. If we don’t use our brain, our neural connections, we really do loose them.

The early connections we make can stay with us all our lives with certain things triggering specific responses. In NLP speak anchors are created from the very beginning as the brain learns from associating, creating different patterns/responses. For example listening to Brenda Lee singing Rocking Around the Christmas Tree immediately takes me back to being a child at the family Christmas Party. I begin to feel good inside and smile at all those wonderful memories.

Our brains are adaptive and we all have the potential to learn. At the first stage of learning, we store information in our short-term memory. Our mind can be easily distracted and its easier to remember something with structure, something that creates a pattern. That’s why memory aids like mind maps and mnemonics are so effective. Without any structure people tend to remember information from the beginning and the end of a presentation much easier; and anything novel that grabs our attention.

Learning takes place whenever we recall experiences from the past, this creates electrical activity in the neurons and you begin to recognise patterns. With each repetition your brain becomes familiar with the information and you begin to expect it. For example, when you learn to drive, initially having so much to consciously think about, steering the car, gears, clutch (if in a manual vehicle), checking the mirrors, watching the road ahead; and then at some point all this became automatic. So much so that you can now drive without much conscious thought to what you are doing at all.

The brain is an archival system and to change the way that we think about, respond to certain situations you need to teach your brain to go in a new direction – here instead of there.

Our memories are fluid, and each time you remember something you have to reconstruct the representation you created in your brain. Each memory having various elements to it, you may remember the way that something looked and you have an image come to mind; or maybe you are remembering what was said and replay a conversation in your mind imagining who said what and how.

Our brain represents our experiences visually, auditorily, kinaesthetically, through tastes and smells, creating patterns inside our memory banks, our brains are continually interpreting experiences looking within its data base to find a connection, a pattern that it understands and sometimes it makes the wrong connections.

Try this experiment, mouth the words “Elephant Juice” to someone they will probably lip read this as I love you.

We are aware of what we pay attention to. People who are anxious or fearful are only conscious of their anxiety or fear and the more they pay attention to this, the more fearful/anxious they are. Representing their world in a particular way. Taking something perfectly ordinary and safe and turning it into something completely different in their imagination.

Whereas people who are successful set high goals and are motivated to complete them; they have a different focus of attention expecting happiness, fulfilment, success, joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Our minds are bombarded with information all the time, so much information that it is impossible for us to focus on everything and so the brain has to decide what information to block out. And so we delete somethings; this means that at times we can miss something that is happening right in front of us as our focus of attention is elsewhere.

Apart from the deleting, as we review the world through our eyes there is yet more distortion and what we see is not necessarily what is there. We only ever process the central part of our vision as the edges are very blurred. Yet we see clearly, to enable us to do this we move our eyes around 4/5 times per second; this is how we create a clear picture of what is around us. If we were aware of these eye movements our vision would be very strange indeed, so our brain stops any visual input each time we move our eyes.

As an experiment look into a mirror to see if you are aware of this, ask someone else to watch for your eye movements too. You will find that you are unaware of the movement whilst you brain stops the visual signals whilst the person with you will be able to see your eyes moving.

With all that deleting and distorting going on its surprising that we know what reality really is.

When I first began to study NLP I was amazed that I had found a way to control my brain; I had found the handbook for the mind and it was easily understood and very simple to use. NLP enables you to take control of your thoughts, you internal pictures, voices and feelings and manipulate them.

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