Our Brains Determine Our Reality

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Do you know where your ideas, behaviors, and choices come from? Every thought we have comes from our existing neural circuitry, as does everything we do or we’re curious about. What we hear others say is a translation from our existing neural circuitry. Everything we ‘know’, every opinion we believe to be ‘true’ comes from – you guessed it – from existing neural circuitry.

In other words, we live in subjective worlds biased by how our brain stores, translates, and generates our history electrochemically. While this is a known fact in neuroscience, we forget how it restricts our lives. We hear, see, feel, act, think based on our history, limiting new thinking, new ideas, curiosity.

But it’s possible to develop wholly new circuitry to add new choices and behaviors consciously to get beyond the restrictions. In fact, I’ve developed models that do so. They traverse the mind -> brain connection to trigger conscious choice and generate permanent behavior change.

My book describing these models HOW? Generating new neural circuitry for learning, behavior change, and decision making, will be out soon. In the meantime, here are some of the ideas from the book to mull over. Enjoy. And btw I’m seeking readers to read the final draft.

HOW BRAINS EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING

There is no reality. What we notice, think, feel, experience, hear, do are outputs – automatic responses to electrochemical signals our brains interpret to represent our mental models. We live in subjective worlds.

We are at the mercy of how our brain interprets incoming data. Our conscious self is out of control. What we experience is based on what our brain perceives from circuits (i.e. historic, subjective) that hold our history, not what is actually going on.

The world contains no color per se, only light vibrations that get translated into color by the rods and cones in our eyes.

Every minute of every day we construct our ‘reality’, limited by the circuitry, the knowledge, beliefs, experiences, etc. we’ve constructed during our lifetime. This, in addition to the fact that brains don’t differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, explain how difficult it is to do, or think, anything outside our status quo. Our brains are automatic mechanisms that merely do what they’re electrochemically told.

The meaning derived from any situation; what causes us to ‘know’ something or accept something as ‘real’; or ‘hear’ something ‘accurately’; comes from our existing circuits. In other words, what we know and think and hear, what we consider reality, is subjective and biased.

Words are puffs of air, sound vibrations that get turned into electrochemical signals which then get turned into meaning via our existing neural circuitry. We ‘hear’ according to what we’ve heard before and otherwise ‘misunderstand’. (My book What? explains this thoroughly.) What we think we hear is merely a filtered interpretation of what was said – some fraction of what was intended and rarely fully accurate.

We are restricted every moment of our lives by our history, beliefs, and existing circuits that initiate and instruct all that we think and do. Our brains cause us to be stuck in old patterns and behaviors, limiting what we hear to what we’ve heard before, what we do to what we’ve done before. It’s habituated, automated, and normalized, causing us to keep doing what we’ve always done regardless of ‘reality’, discipline, or goals. 

LISTENING

Listening is a physiological, neurological, electrochemical, and mechanical process, devoid of meaning. Words are merely ‘puffs of air’ until they’re translated by existing (subjective, biased) circuits.

What we think we hear is what our existing circuits translate for us, not necessarily what a Speaker intends. Listening is inherently biased and often inaccurate. We can’t understand what our brains don’t have circuits to translate.

What we think we hear is often an inaccurate translation of what remains after our filters delete bits they don’t like, or when incoming signals get sent to existing circuitry regardless of how divergent they are from what was said/intended.

To accurately hear what’s being said without bias or subjectivity we must listen from Observer – meta listening, from Witness or Coach position.

We all ‘hear’ each other when our brain circuits send the sound vibrations from spoken words to ‘similar enough’ circuits that often don’t have the appropriate circuitry to translate incoming, intended messages accurately.

Because of the ways our brain filters and deletes incoming information via electrochemical signals and historic circuitry, we can’t accurately understand what’s been said, regardless of how well we ‘listen’. 

CHANGE

Change is a process of creating wholly new neural circuits by: inputting a precise (new) message; prioritizing beliefs and mental models; executing a learning loop that includes acquiring knowledge, trying and failing, buying-in.

All decisions and change initiatives follow the same 13 steps that include: Where are we? (Problem specifics); assembling the full complement of stakeholders (not just leadership); trying workarounds; understanding the risk of change; managing change/buy-in. Although sometimes iterative, they must be sequential or there’s confusion and lack of buy-in.

Resistance occurs when people are asked to do something outside their beliefs or historic circuits and their brains identify the incoming as risky. It can be avoided if we include people in the solution design.

Information doesn’t teach anyone how to make a decision unless all factors – systems congruence, belief matching, understanding risk – have been managed. And incoming information will always be translated by what’s already been accepted and in existing circuitry (i.e. subjectively).

Our curiosity is limited to what’s already been programmed in our brain. Otherwise we’ve got no way to think it.

No outsider can ever understand someone else’s brain configurations. Leaders, coaches, therapists, sellers, pose biased questions and interpret what’s been said subjectively.

Our opinions have everything to do with our beliefs and nothing to do with reality. Even with strong evidence to the contrary, we will believe nothing that goes against our beliefs.

QUESTIONS

Conventional questions are biased by the needs of the Asker and pull biased, often partial, data from a Responder. The data gathered has some unknown degree of accuracy.

It’s impossible to pose a non-biased standard question since the words, intent, goals are chosen by the Asker. [I invented brain-change directed Facilitative Questions to solve the problem.]

Standard questions 

  • ignore the listener’s underlying personal systems (beliefs, mental models, historic circuitry, etc.) and have a good chance of missing important data stored beyond the parameters of the question. 
  • are problematic when used to gather information as they restrict the scope of the search and bias the outcome.  
  • lead to conscious, automatic, habituated responses from well-worn superhighways that may not offer accurate responses.
  • have a high probability of overlooking the full set of unconscious criteria that created and maintain the problem to be solved.
  • get translated by Responders according to their existing circuitry which may delete, misconstrue, or resist incoming requests as they’re translated uniquely, outside the scope of the Asker’s question.

BEHAVIOR CHANGE

You can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. The main component in behavior change is new neural circuitry.

Because brains operate automatically and are electrochemically organized to choose – in five one-hundredths of a second – the nearest and most-used ‘similar-enough’ pathway to execute an incoming request (regardless of the level of compatibility), behaviors arise from existing circuits. Brand new behaviors don’t occur merely because we want them to.

When learning something new, several activities are required for our brain to create new circuitry to generate it. They include beliefs (check for congruence); stop/fail trials; knowledge acquisition (reading, videos, etc.); and buy-in.

Since our behaviors are the outputs from circuits that received electrochemical signals, wholly new behaviors (i.e. new diets, change) require wholly new signals.

A behavior is a belief in action, an outward manifestation – a representation, a translation, an output – of our systemic world views. They appear after input vibrations/signals (what we hear, what we tell ourselves) have been sent to a specific circuit that translates them into action (a behavior, an understanding).

Regardless of how extensive or important the need to change, NO CHANGE will occur if the system believes it will face major disruption. And NO CHANGE will occur unless the system recognizes an incongruence.

If the cost of change is greater than staying the same, the system will resist.

Change is more complex than merely adding new data: because brains generate action from existing knowledge and circuitry, new content doesn’t cause new action unless there are circuits in place to accept and translate it. 

Because we each have unique brain configurations, an outsider (coach, parent, seller, doctor, etc.) can never understand the full extent what’s going on in the unconscious of another. Yet to facilitate change, the Other must get into their unconscious circuits where their answers are stored.

Making a new decision, creating new habits, or even getting rid of long-held biases has little to do with the rationality, need, or behaviors we seek to change. 

When we try to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior, (i.e. Behavior Modification), we’re hindered by

  • our natural biases and subjectivity,
  • the absence of neural circuitry to translate what we want into action,
  • how our brain instigates behaviors, actions, choices, or thoughts automatically, mechanically, physiologically, neuro-chemically and electrochemically (i.e. outside of conscious awareness).

Permanent change begins by developing wholly new signals that contain beliefs and engage different circuitry. New behaviors emerge automatically.

All change is systemic and must include

  • buy-in from the system
  • acceptance of risk
  • notice of an incongruence
  • norms that match the values of the system (systems congruence).

Systems don’t like incongruence; it’s only when a system fully recognizes it cannot solve a problem by doing what it’s always done and recognizes an incongruence, that there’s a willingness to change. But it will only consider change so long as the change won’t compromise the system. 

One of the problems with change occurs when your system hasn’t recognized the need to change. Change requires noticing an incongruence.

If we try to change in a way that goes outside our beliefs or mental models, our brain will resist as there are no circuits set up to generate the change.

Brains and systems are happy to change, to create new cell assemblies, so long as the proposed change is congruent with the rules of the system. When you try to get different results using the same structure that caused the problem to begin with, you’re actually causing the problem to continue as the underlying system will reject/resist anything new.

Change requires new circuitry, starting with a new path from a new instruction down a different circuit leading to a different choice. When we try to change only the behavior we cause resistance.

Sharon-Drew Morgen
I'm an original thinker. I wrote the NYT Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 8 other books bridging systemic brain change models with business, for sales, leadership, communications, coaching. I invented Buying Facilitation(R) (Buy Side support), How of Change(tm) (creates neural pathways for habit change), and listening without bias. I coach, train, speak, and consult companies and teams who seek Servant Leader models.

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