Have you ever had someone say its all in your head? Do you agree with that? How about the “neuro programming” idea that if you say something enough your brain will create a neural pathway and you will believe it?
At the suggestion of a friend, I picked up a book written by an acting coach. I had seen him speak and was intrigued. I won’t share his name or the name of the book because I saw that he seemed totally incongruent. He wasn’t following his own advice. He might have been a good acting teacher or coach, but he didn’t display the congruence of a master.
That goes back to my be careful who you listen too speech.
In his book he talks at length about the benefits of building positive neural pathways, all the while the undertones say that he has been a failure doing it himself. He admits he is still frustrated in relationships and whiney among other things.
Here is why I think that is, and why so many people can’t make NRP or Neural programming work.
They are missing a step.
Lets say he is right, and the more I say to myself I am skinny and look great, the more my brain will create a path until I believe it. I will only compare myself to people larger than me and find selective truths to make what I say to myself feel good. If all goes well a neural pathway is built and I am happy.
But wait, there is more!
The problem is there is an existing neural pathway in my brain that says “holy crap dude, you are fat”. Now I have two pathways in disagreement. One says I am fine, the other says I am fat. This creates guilt, confusion and frustration. It sounds like a free ride to schizophrenia to me.
So how do you fix it?
A deeper school of thought says I have to go backwards down the neural pathway until I hit the end. This can be a scary place. In my fat example, it was a short trip. The first stop was looking down and seeing a scale with a number north of 200 on the display. I was clearly fat that day, and the easy thing to do would have been to stop there and say that was the cause point, but somehow I knew it wasn’t that easy.
Getting to this point in my mental history books wasn’t the end of the path that allowed me to get fat. It went farther back. During my time in Military Police, I was a machine. Running up to 30 miles a week with a full compliment of gear in combat boots and riding up to 80 miles a week on my bike. I stepped on the scale at 140 soaking wet.
When I arrived at Air Force pilot training, my heart rate was so low, that I was given a pass from PT, and told to sit on the couch and drink beer and eat chips. I needed to gain weight and increase my blood pressure.
My first trip home after pilot training, a good friend who was a few years my senior and someone whom I respected like a parent said “Damn, about time you got some fat and look normal like us.”
My journey into my mind to undo my weight gain had found where the path started and where it became a habit.
I was able to see the very beginning was the Doc at pilot training telling me to gain weight, but the pathway was built by my friends comment. Only by returning to that point in my mind could I redirect the original pathway to be congruent with the new pathway about the thinner more athletic me while still maintaing a safe heart rate and blood pressure for flying.
Finding Lessons From Masters.
The real question I had to keep asking was “Why is 200 a problem?” The doc said gain weight, no doc really was saying lose weight, but in my mind there was a conflict. It turns out at an even younger age my dad and grandfather told me that if I wanted to live a long healthy life I needed to stay in good shape and stay active. They also said there is one diet that always works, push away from the table.
My grandfather nearly hit 100 when he past away of a minor heart attack in his sleep. He was still living at his own place, playing 9 holes of golf and getting around. He was a master at the art of growing old gracefully. There was the root and creation of that positive neural path, and the cause of the conflict with the fat neural path.
Now that I have got back in shape, running 20-25 miles a week and surfing two or three days a week, my new doctor says I have created my own monster. I have twice as many neural pathways motivating me to pass on the fried food, turn off the tv, pick up the protein shake and go running, swimming, surfing or hitting the fitness path.
This method works for everything negative in our lives. The problem is we sometimes don’t go far enough back to find the true cause. If I had only gone back to the scale reading north of 200, I wouldn’t have been able to redirect the pathway that says “being fat is OK”. My mind would have stayed in a state of frustrated conflict.
The Difference Between The Teacher and The Master.
During class, the author of the acting book showed us how difficult it was, and clearly was still fighting all of his negative and false images from childhood. It sounded like he was only working on new pathways instead of finding the origination of the old pathways and changing the programming there.
The teacher knows some of the truth, maybe even all of the truth. The master knows the whole truth and lives it.
So How Did All That Crap Get In There?
Everything we believe is true that is negative or false, no matter how small, starts somewhere. Usually our friends or parents who don’t know an answer make one up, and we buy it. Sometimes we read and article or see a TV show that has an explanation the author or host is so convinced by that we believe it too.
That acceptance creates a new neural pathway that will remain until it goes dead, or disease takes over or you go backwards down that mental path until you reach the real end and turn around to reset the neural path to a true path. You can only do that by finding that very first thought that started the chain, and knowing without a doubt it is wrong.
My mom had so many I call them “momisms”. For example, at a very young age I wanted to move to a house with french doors. She wanted a different house, and her only reason to me as a young child was “French Doors cost more to insure and are easier to break into.”
It took five houses for me to finally get a French door, and it was only after waking up to the realization of why I didn’t want French doors and calling my insurance company to find out the truth. The truth is I like French doors more that sliding doors, and they don’t cost any more to insure.
Eventually I decided to dig deeper to understand why I liked French doors. Eventually, I remembered my dad telling a neighbor how much he loved the french doors on his home office. There was the pathway that created a positive feeling about french doors. You didn’t think I had an original thought did you? I liked the image and decided that I would keep the positive pathway of French doors, and eliminate the negative (and false) path created by my mother.
Clean Out Your Mental House.
Our minds are littered with these neural pathways of half truths, false truths and outright false beliefs. They come from everywhere, friends, family, and even the media. The problem is until you explore them to the bitter end, they are all truths to you. Simply trying to add new neural pathways that disagree with the pathways we already have is a clear effort at failing.
I know most people probably don’t want to explore that deep into their memories.
If you do, be prepared for a journey of repressed memories you won’t be able to forget, if you don’t at least you can save the money on those books and classes because you know why that self affirmation stuff is so hard to make work and why so many people go nuts trying.
Scott Bourquin is a Pilot-Actor-Writer living in Southern California and Northern Nevada. His blog is www.scottbourquin.com