How the brain chooses what to pay attention to
When I was in hypnotherapy school the teacher gave us an interesting statistic. Our senses take in millions of items of information at the same time, however we only become aware of just a few such items. The rest are either stored deep in the subconscious or are thrown out as unnecessary. To prove him right, my brain chose to ignore the numbers he quoted but remembered the gist of the story.
What does this mean? It means that out of seemingly infinite data points, our mind selects a few to be important. But which few? And how does it decide?
Some years ago I was listening to a radio show where they were discussing how people choose the candidate to vote for. The guest said that even though we like to think that we first gather information and then make a decision of which policy to support, in actuality it is the other way. First we make an emotional decision based on our belief system and then we look for proof or disproof within each candidate and their policies. His argument was that as much as we fool ourselves by thinking otherwise, in actuality we use our emotions rather than logic to make choices. Furthermore, we choose which things in our environment to notice and which to throw away as unnecessary.
Which brings me to signs. In spiritual community there’s quite a bit of focus, or in my view obsession with synchronicity. Synchronicity is concept, first introduced by Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.
In other words, we like to assign meaning to everything that happens in our life and interpret it into a pattern of sorts. And in a way we are right. We are creatures of habits and patterns. Our brain likes to organize things, and what’s a better way to organize than in a pattern and then create repetitions of this pattern. This is one of the reasons we get stuck in patterns of unhealthy relationships, jobs, habits. Patterns are predictable, they make sense, they are comfortable, even when they destroy us to the core. With patterns, we know what we are doing and which outcome to expect.
On the other hand, we can use our love of patterns to change a pattern. Or rather, we can rewire our brains to stop one pattern and replace it with another.
There are many books written on this subject. Some books teach us that for 21 days, whenever we have a negative thought (I am not deserving) we should immediately replace it with a positive thought (I am worthy). Sometimes this works, but not always. In fact, with positive thinking most of the time what happens is that we end up with two conflicting thoughts happening at the same time (“I am not deserving” and “I worthy”). This creates extra noise in our head actually complicating matters.
How to handle this is a topic for another post, but I’ll quickly mention that the key here is not to overwrite the original thought pattern but to remove it all together and replace with a new one.
But back to coincidences, which is what I want to address in this post. When we are thinking about something or someone, our brain looks for clues to support us in our mission. If we are looking for positive reinforcement, the logical brain will select those bits of information that fit into this specific thought pattern. If we are looking for negative reinforcement, the brain will do the same. In other words, if we fear something, our brain will select those bits of information from our environment that will feed and support fear.
When this happens, I always ask myself, is the fear real or perceived? And what is the worst thing that can happen? I am lucky to live in time of relative peace in a community full of love and support. There are a few things that are truly dangerous. I’ll name some: kissing a big crocodile, petting a venomous snake, going home with a creepy stranger, visiting a war torn country, driving my scooter fast over sand covered turns, getting wasted drunk at some party, playing catch with a loaded gun. Most other fears, especially those that do not have to do with our physical safety, are made up. They are just our brain’s way to keep us within a known pattern.
And our brain loves to look for patterns to support our fears – especially if living in fear is a status quo for us.
So even if we have mustered enough will power to make a change but we are fearful of the future and of what the change will bring, our brain will select those bits of information that will try to revert us to our old, predictable pattern.
For example, let’s say we left an unhealthy relationship, however we still have not healed the part of ourselves that created this relations. In this case our brain will look for signs from the universe to sabotage this decision and revert us to the old habit.
In short, my point is this. Not everything in life is a sign. Not everything has a message or purpose. Not everything has synchronicity. We are the ones who make a choice what to assign a meaning to. And we are the ones who choose what to ignore.
So if you see a sign that is no longer in line with your purpose or chose belief system, ignore it. Chances are it’s just your brain looking for confirmation of an old pattern. Make a conscious choice to stop feeding this beast and go on your merry way.
Ignorance is bliss, as they say and not everything in life has a meaning. In fact, the further we delve into the spirit world the more we realize that nothing in life has a meaning. Because the universe does not function within a human system of logic and pattern. No matter how much we try to make sense of the universe, it’s just too big to fit into this little brain of ours.
Chill, let it go, be in the flow and stop looking for meaning in places where there is none.