The brain as a computer
Technological advancement is a wonderful thing, it allows for all sorts of useful apps to be available to us and many devices these days come with pre-loaded apps that make life easier, or conversely that just get in the way. In a similar vein, let me introduce to you the notion of thinking and beliefs in an analogous way. We all have pre-loaded apps in our make up or predisposition which will allow for us to determine in our everyday lives how we feel and how we accomplish our day to day living. In fact I am using the analogy here of the brain being like a computer hard drive. These apps might have names like ‘controlling mother’ or ‘parents terrible marriage’ or even ‘hindered by disability’ or ‘world owes me a living’ as examples. Now these predispositions do cause our rationale to sometimes become flawed, much like a computer can have corrupt programmes which cause damage. We then add to this the beliefs and/or bias that we continue to collect as we go along, due to our experiences in life and we begin to see the overall picture.
Tools for dealing with life
We also have an innate set of tools on board that have genetic and environmental aetiology that assist us in dealing with whatever life may throw at us. However sometimes we can’t automatically access the tools that we have, whether innate or learnt because of circumstances or a chemical imbalance, which is sometimes through things like depression. The ability to access our toolkits can also be impaired by either faulty thinking, which is a term I borrow here from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or through past experience. Many of our problems in life, particularly emotional ones, will have to gain purchase for improvement through either utilising or bypassing these pre loads or tools. So as an example, a person who applies for a job that they are more than capable of, and is usurped by someone less capable may default to a pre load that says ‘I’m not good enough’, and this then impacts on their self-esteem and indeed the potential that they may not stick their neck out in future and apply for jobs they really want, meaning that they settle instead for a mundane or lesser role.
This is where the fostering of resilience as a wilful act can make such a difference. Psychological resilience can be described as an ability to adapt to stress and adversity and is what we lean on to bounce back and is a key player in positive psychology. In the given example it may well be that actually the person in the above scenario was not given the job because they were viewed as someone who may challenge the existing structures and thereby rock the boat called status quo, even if for the betterment of the people involved. So if the individual views this as a personal failure, then there is a need to take a step back and wonder if this is actually an accurate assessment. We do this by accessing our views when life pulls us up short and looking at things through a different lens which allows for us to see if we might be viewing the situation through a pre-loaded app that we have. This pre load might be ‘parents told me I was never good enough’ for example. Much like the said less than useful pre-loads that come with technology, we can, with knowledge and effort, remove or bypass thinking which does not serve us well. This allows us to reframe our thoughts and build resilience as an independent app which then overrides the otherwise existing thought patterns. This means that using resilience as a lens to view situations that may set us back can lead to sufficient reframing to allow for healthy growth to occur. This should eventually allow for the ‘hard-drive’ of default thinking to incorporate much more of an innate bounce ability.
About the author: Read more about Caralyn here.