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SITE: ‘How the Brain Learns‘
The following is a simplified explanation of how the brain mechanically absorbs & catalogs information, leading to Cognitive Distortions (Carl Pacifico, Chemical Engineering & writer.)
Biological information does not negate free will, Personality Type or the power to change. But it does explain why it takes effort & time to correct damage.
➼ Think about each point listed in relation to growing up in a dangerous, terrifying, lonely environment – about how those experiences ‘programmed’ us. 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.
✶ ACoAs ask: “Why do I do these things? Why can’t I get It? It’s too late, I’m too damaged…..”, all forms of S-H, based on CDs.
Learning the mechanical reasons why psychological change is a struggle can be encouraging. Change is hard but do-able!
• Having complete & correct info about something or someone allows us to respond to life appropriately & achieve our objectives
• The opposite is equally true – lack of, or distorted info will make us respond badly, perhaps even fatally. Any missing & incorrect facts get integrated into our thinking, like bugs in a computer program
⚑ Regardless, the brain’s main goal is to generate responses to the environment that will most likely insure our survival, including some terrible things people (abused children, battered wives, war combatants…. ) will do to cope with terrible situations!
OUR BRAIN – Gathering Information
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 that 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
EXP: If a new lover is charming, intelligent & seductive at first, the unconscious will label them as safe or at least acceptable, no matter what they’re really like
• Then, when the brain notices a stimulus (whatever triggers a reaction in us – like a hand waving), it goes thru all it’s stored info about:
— the origin of the stimulus (who’s waving)
— how to deal with it (wave back, ignore it, avoid it quickly…)
2. CONTRADICTIONS – Any new item that disagrees with what’s already in the memory bank is automatically rejected as wrong! This is not due to stubbornness, stupidity or a character flaw.
Rather, it’s a built-in survival mechanism, moving us toward things that seem beneficial & away from things that seem threatening
EXP: 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, contradictions have a less bothersome effect on our thinking, so we stay in the original groove. The brain has no built-in way of knowing what’s T or F about ‘people, places & things’. It just blindly relies on its backlog of stored data
• 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 usually effect our well-being, but bad/ limited info about drugs, severe narcissists, environmental pollutants…. can be devastating or even fatal.
EXP: “First Info” is partly why battered wives keep going back. If they &/or their mother got beaten a lot when they were kids, it’s what they know & expect. “Contradictory info” such as : “He’s no good for you, you have to leave…” has little effect, thrown out as incongruous & therefore not to be acted on.
NEXT: INFORMATION & the Brain (#2) Gathering Info, cont.