Let’s start off by looking at you when you were young.
Imagine you are five years old going to kindergarten. Once there, you are vulnerable. This is the first time you have been away from your family members for long periods of time. At first you may try to be strong, though eventually most children end up either being picked on or they have to face an embarrassing situation. As an example, let’s say you get up in front of the class and the other children pick on you.
The brain will now make logic of this situation. It gathers the emotions you are feeling, connects them with the five senses you have, and then it creates a perception of what has occurred. The first and obvious response by a child is to think that all the kids in the class are jerks, yet the brain is doing much more than coming to one simplistic conclusion.
This new experience has triggered off a neural response inside your brain. Because the event was new and emotionally charged, the effects of this simplistic childish interaction may have ongoing wounding’s that will continue into your adult life. The neurotransmitters (conductors of information) will instantly make parts of this experience into strong connections much like the 4 lane highways we were talking about earlier. Put simply, the strongest emotions you feel are the ones that leave the most resilient imprints in your mind.
So exactly what is it that stays in the mind? Well, this is where it gets very interesting. As you get older you may not even remember this story. Because you are young and life is full of little moments, the experience of being embarrassed in front of your classmates may fade away very easily, yet the neurotransmitters this tale created will not. In fact, the neurotransmitters have begun connecting the dots, and now that these dots are connected they will not go away until something conflicts with them. Instead, they may possibly gain further strength by linking other similar experiences to it, and therefore gaining a more distorted belief system regarding your perception on reality.
What I am saying here, is that this one simple experience will not turn you into a future Hitler. Such powerful shifts to your psyche could only occur when a distorted belief is reinforced over and over again (which we will talk about soon) or when an occurrence is traumatic. As for this childish bullying situation, I would call it nothing more than a catalyst. It precedes what is to come next. Essentially the brain has stored a feeling along with the story in your mind, and now, to avoid future pain, it will link A and B together to try to avoid the same problem from occurring again in the future.
So what is A and B?
A = The emotions felt from getting up in front of the class.
B = This could be anything else. It could be the smell in the air, the faces people pulled, the experience of being at school, the feelings of insecurity or vulnerability, the size and/or shape of the room, being away from family, the jam sandwich you had for lunch and so on and so on… Remember there are over 100 billion neurons in your brain and each one can link to 10 thousand others. There is no shortage of space to link up random experiences.
Although the things that I linked up in B sound a little silly, it is actually true. When we are in heightened emotional states our surroundings and feelings are all connected together as an experience. Imagine being a hunter and walking into a similar cane field where previously you were bitten by a snake. You would want your nervous system to become instantly focused wouldn’t you? Well, you are in luck because this is exactly how the mind works. After the first experience it remembered the cane field plus the pain you felt, it then stimulated the mind to become focused. After this it tightens up the muscles so that the body is prepared to move quickly to prevent another possible attack.
In the hunter gatherer situation it sounds a lot more impressive. Yet the mind works the exact same way in the schoolyard. Your embarrassment was a form of discomfort that you did not want to feel again. Therefore your mind remembers faces, smells and it may even remember the time of day that this occurred. And ALL of this is to avoid one little thing in the future. Pain…