Did you know that everyone has hundreds and hundreds of large and small negative programs built into our mindset? Today we will talk about how these programs came to existence, how they affect our lives and how can you get rid of them.
In the last article How to manage your life better: Insider truth, we talked about what it looks like if you let your mind run on autopilot.
Unfortunately, about 95% of people, if not more, run on autopilot every today. Nowhere does anyone teach us how to control our minds and only a few people learn on their own.
Danger called autopilot
Autopilot is great for survival. But if we want something more in life than just surviving, for example, to achieve certain dreams and goals, or to live a life of happiness and satisfaction, the autopilot is more likely to hinder us.
In autopilot, we do not consciously perceive or work with our thoughts. We just let the brain function somehow spontaneously, without our control or intervention. As a result, the brain generates thoughts that evoke feelings within us, which then determine the quality of our lives.
As you may know, it is not so much about the situations that we experience in our lives. But how the brain evaluates and interprets these situations.
If the brain evaluates situations with thoughts that bring us mostly good feelings, then our life is happy. Conversely, if the brain evaluates the situation in such a way that it brings us uncomfortable feelings, it will have adverse effects on the quality of our lives. We will experience unpleasant emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, jealousy, stress, even though none of us want that.
Remember, all the emotions you experience are just the result of the thoughts that preceded those feelings.
You come to the office in the morning and your colleague is being disagreeable to you. He doesn’t talk to you, and when you ask him something, he just cuts you off.
If our brain goes on autopilot, which means at this point, we will not consciously regulate our thoughts, it depends on the brain how it evaluates this situation.
Someone’s brain evaluates the situation with the idea of ”he is being disagreeable, I do not deserve this from him“. In response to the idea of ”I do not deserve this from him”, we will experience unpleasant emotions – sadness, anger, etc.
Another brain evaluates the situation as “poor him, he is probably having a bad day.” And we feel compassion, want to help him or give him his own space.
The situation can also be evaluated by the brain as “he is mean to me”, “he’s acting like a jerk” and hundreds of other ways.
But every thought brings a corresponding emotion.
Such a process happens in us countless times every day and we do not realize it at all. The only thing we can perceive is the end of the whole process are our feelings and emotions about the situation or stimulus.
Which one of our thoughts our brain chooses depends on one thing – the brain has its own built-in associations. As we discussed in the last article, the amygdala associates everything in our life with the things and events we already know.
All in all, when the brain evaluates the situation in a way that evokes pleasant feelings, we call it a positive program. Positive programs are thoughts with an association of pleasant feelings.
On the contrary, thoughts that create unpleasant feelings in us are called negative programs.
How do negative programs in mindset develop?
No thought in itself is necessarily positive or negative. The idea of ”he doesn’t like me” has for some a negative meaning and brings negative emotions. Then it’s a negative program in the mindset. But there are also people who perceive the idea of ” he doesn’t like me ” as neutral. Then it doesn’t create unpleasant feelings.
Whether the idea is pleasant, neutral or unpleasant for us is decided by the associations. What the amygdala associated with the thought. If no associations are recorded for that thought, the thought will be neutral for us.
So the essential question is how are associations formed?
Associations in our mind are formed during the first 15-20 years of life. They have their origin mainly in childhood and some in adolescence.
This would be a good example from life:
When you are six years old, your dad returns home from work in the afternoon. He looks annoyed, he won’t even say hi to you, even though you’ve been looking forward to him.
You want him to play with you, but he’ll just tell you to go away. At this point, as a child, you will probably feel deeply hurt. You’ll have thoughts like “he’s bad at me“. “He doesn’t want to play with me“. “He doesn’t care about me“. “I don’t deserve this“. But it’s also possible that you can understand your dad and say “poor him, he has a lot of work “,” I would like to help him“.
What ideas we think as a child in such a situation certainly depends on the genes, personality, upbringing and overall mindsets that we encounter at home with parents and other role models. As a child, we learn to evaluate such a situation in some way, and then we evaluate it for the rest of our lives the same way.
If we feel uncomfortable, angry, annoyed at the moment, there will be an association between these thoughts and feelings. Now the brain knows that when “someone is mean to me” I feel uncomfortable with it.
But if I feel neutral at the moment, there are no negative programs in my mindset. I may think “he has no time for me“, but if I feel neutral, in the future I will not mind that others do not have time for me.
Programs work for life
If you compare the first and the second situational example, you will notice that this is an almost identical situation. And the thoughts we have at the moment are the same.
The present situation may be 20 years away from the initial one, or even 40 years, it doesn’t matter. But our thought processes and associations remain the same.
If we create an association in our childhood that creates unpleasant feelings, we have created a negative program in our mindset. This negative program is activated every time a similar situation arises in our lives, and we feel uncomfortable.
Variety of programs
Everyone develops different negative programs during childhood and adolescence. Siblings brought up by the same parents each have their own negative programs.
When I talked to my sister about the things that bothered me about our parents in my childhood and adolescence, her reaction often was: “Really? I don’t know about that at all. I was bothered by… ”
Much of our negative programs come from our parents, educators and other people who have been in our lives for the first ten years of life.
However, we cannot blame our parents for the programs we have in our heads. It is clear from the siblings’ examples that it is again not so much what parents did or how they behaved. But how the child (you or me) evaluated it.
The aim is not to find the culprit who “caused me” the negative programs. But to learn to process these negations in our heads and to free them from their influence.
How to remove negative programs from the mindset?
The essence of the negative program is:
Situation – thought – association – unpleasant feeling
So there are two dimensions I can work on with my thoughts:
- with what thought I interpret the situation
- disconnect the unpleasant emotion from the thought
It is only when I stop running the brain on autopilot and switch to a manual mode that I can influence my thoughts. Once I become aware of my thoughts and see what is happening in my thought process, I can also start to change and shape it.
If a colleague is annoyed, the brain tends to evaluate it with the same idea that we evaluated in childhood, when our dad was annoyed.
If I realize this, I can say – that’s how I thought in childhood that he was mean to me. My colleague, however, is not mean to me, he’s just having a bad day. I’ll try to see if I can do anything for him. If he sends me to hell, I’ll give him his own space and I won’t take his behavior personally.
Often, although we try to think differently about the situation, we still feel bad about it. At this point, it is necessary to break the association between the thought and the bad feeling.
How to do this? How to move on in life, get rid of old thought models and create new ones that will serve my benefit? We will talk about this next time.