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SITE: ‘How the Brain Learns‘
NOTE: The following is a simplified explanation of how we mechanically absorb & catalog information, & indicates how we develop Cognitive Distortions (CDs), based on the work of Carl Pacifico, Chemical Engineering & writer.
This biological information does not negate our free will, our individual personality types or the power for change provided by our relationships with healers, friends & HP. But it does show why it takes effort & time to correct our damage.
➼ As you read thru this post, think of each point in relation to your experiences growing up in a dangerous, terrifying, lonely environment. Think about how you were ‘programmed’ by those experienced. Remember the military acronym G.I.G.O. = garbage in, garbage out. Whatever our brain took in as a kid was not our fault – it’s the way humans are built. Change is hard but do-able!
OUR BRAIN – Gathering Information
✶ ACoAs keep asking: Why do I do these things? Why can’t I get It? It’s too late, I’m too damaged….. These are all forms of S-H & are CDs. So these next 4 posts give the mechanical reasons why! If we study & understand all these facts, we’ll have a counter to the negative beliefs:
• Having complete & correct info about something or someone allows us to respond to life appropriately & achieve whatever our objective is
• The opposite is equally true – lack of, or distorted info will make us respond inappropriately, perhaps even fatally. Any missing & incorrect facts become errors that get integrated into our thinking, like bugs in a program.
✶ Even so, the goal of the brain is always to come up with a response to people & experiences that will most likely insure our survival (think of the kinds of things people will do – abused children, battered wives, war combatants…. to cope with terrible situations!)
• When the brain notices a stimulus (anything that triggers a reaction in us – like a hand waving) then it gathers all it’s stored info about:
— the origin of the stimulus ( the person waving)
— a way to deal with it (wave back, ignore it, avoid it quickly…)
• Some sources of distorted info
— Parents, community, school, religious leaders, who may be well-meaning & wanting to be helpful, but are often more damaging than useful
— Experienced manipulators : advertisers, politicians, investment promoters, sales people…
— Popular Culture: books, TV, internet, news media ….
1. FIRST INFO – The brain accepts as correct the first info it gets about any completely new topic, person, situation… without critical evaluation, whether accurate or not. Additional info which fits with the original input is also accepted as true, regardless of validity. Even if we suspect (intellectually) that some info might be wrong, the brain has no ‘warning signal’ to indicate what is or isn’t OK
✓ If a new lover acts charming, intelligent & seductive when we first meet them, the unconscious will label them as safe or acceptable, no matter what the person is really like
2. CONTRADICTIONS – Any new item that disagrees with what’s already in the memory bank is automatically rejected as inaccurate! This is not due to stubbornness, stupidity or a character flaw. Rather, it’s a built-in survival mechanism: we move toward things that seem beneficial & away from things that are seen as a threat.
✓ So if the new lover at some point starts mistreating us or acting weird, we excuse it away/ put up with it / ignore it completely… especially if they remind us (unconsciously) of our parents, who were our very earliest love interest!
• As more experiences are accumulated, the less effect contradictions will have on our thinking, so we stay in the original groove. Our brain has no built-in way of knowing what’s T or F about ‘people, places & things”. It just chugs along on its accumulated input
• Of course, the importance (danger) of bad info is in proportion to how relevant it is to our life. Having the wrong or incomplete info about how tigers mate won’t matter to our well-being, but not having the right info about drugs, severe narcissists, environmental pollutants…. can be devastating or even fatal.
✓ It’s one reason battered wives keep going back. If they &/or their mother got beaten a lot when they were kids, then it’s what they know & expect. Contradictory info: “He’s no good for you, you have to leave…” has little effect (is thrown out as incongruous & therefore not to be acted on)
NEXT: CDs & The Brain (Part 2) Gathering Info, cont.