We tend to believe what our brains tell us. After all, our brain’s prime directive is to serve us so we should be able to trust it. Or should we?
Our amazing brains are hard-wired to warn us of danger, find solutions to daily problems, and produce the evidence to support what we believe.
But there’s the catch.
There are occasions when you may want to question what your brain is telling you.
Why you can’t always trust your brain.
Our brains constantly make connections between thoughts, ideas, words, actions, and consequences, whether such connections are valid and appropriate, or not.
Such connections form the basis of the irrational thoughts and beliefs that we make up and unknowingly reinforce over time till they become automatic patterns of thinking.
It’s not that your brain purposely lies to you, it’s just that it may have received some faulty or non-helpful programming over time.
Such patterns are also generally subtle, making them difficult to recognize. That’s why they can be so damaging yet so puzzling at the same time.
It’s not easy to change what you don’t recognize, so paying attention to the impact and consequences of your words and actions can be very enlightening and useful.
This tendency to make brain-wiring connections where there is no true relationship is the basis of conflict and problems when it comes to interpreting experiences and our feelings about them.
And it becomes especially problematic in our daily interactions with others.
Here are 3 common ways your brain lies to you.
1. Climbing the Ladder of Conclusions
This thinking pattern can show up different ways, most commonly as the art of Mind Reading. Someone looks at you in a strange way and you assume they’re thinking something negative about you.
You’re having a conversation and someone makes an off-hand remark, and you jump to the conclusion they don’t like you or are criticising you.
Assumptions and conclusions can also take the form of Fortune Telling. You believe you can confidently predict future outcomes or behaviours based on what happened in the past, but this doesn’t allow for possible changes in timing, people, or circumstances.
2. Amygdala Hijacks
This may be one of the most surprising ways our brain lies to us. It is also the most frequent and seductive, and one of the most important to identify and address.
The impacts of this lie can be seen everywhere – in our personal lives, our business interactions, and our global culture of war and destruction.
When your amygdala in the limbic brain detects a possible threat, a flood of chemicals is instantly downloaded into your body. Your immediate reaction – an automatic thought pattern – to that threat will determine your next response.
We all know this process as the Flight, Fight, Freeze or Appease mechanism.
What you may not know is that the instant your amygdala detects a potential threat it has the power to hijack you from your smart brain, the prefrontal cortex where you were happily in the driver’s seat and intelligently directing your words and actions, and plonk you squarely into a whirlpool of convincing emotions.
Don’t get me wrong, feelings and emotions are important and useful. They are another inbuilt alert system designed to provide instant feedback – on your thinking.
It’s what you do with this chemistry that determines whether your next response will be beneficial or not.
Emotional chemistry can be exhilarating, exciting and energising, motivating us to participate and collaborate with others, or engage our own ‘impossible’ and achieve extraordinary results.
But they can also back us into corners, prompting limited thinking and defensive behaviours. In extreme cases they can even plunge us into the depths of despair.
The lie here is the ability of the brain to get us to believe our emotion is evidence of a fact. We are conned into trusting what we feel is ‘the truth’.
As long as we remain hostage to our primitive brain and its unrefined emotions, we can’t access the rational, logical reasoning of the prefrontal cortex, our smart brain.
3. Addiction to Being Right
Try suggesting an alternative view and they’ll argue until you’re beaten into submission. Heck, you may have even done this yourself!
While you may not be entirely convinced your suggestion was without merit, their dogmatic, dismissive or over-riding ways will leave you second-guessing your own thinking.
Sadly, this lie is commonly accepted by people in positions of authority. There’s something about being given a title, a uniform or a formal role (even as parents!) that can trigger a shift to a faulty pattern of thinking.
Fortunately, although common and potentially damaging, these lies are not something to which we must resign ourselves.
There are simple and effective tools to identify, challenge, and change them. If you’d like to know more about these tools, contact me and let’s explore ways to implement them in your personal or professional life.