The brain comes without an instruction manual

In everyday life, our minds play tricks on us again and again as they try to translate physical reality into a mental image for us.

The brain comes without an instruction manual

In my research on the SCARF model, I kept discovering neurological principles, which, I believe, are necessary for understanding. So, I am starting a small series of articles on the subject. Let's see where it takes me.

In everyday life, our minds are always playing tricks on us as they try to translate physical reality into a mental picture for us. What we understand and what is real are often two different things. What exactly consciousness is has occupied philosophers and scientists (and many more), in the form of the mind-body problem (German video), for centuries.

A few insights into the brain

Some things that affect our behavior are fact and long studied. I have collected my sources in the links at the end of the article.

1. the brain is a connection machine

The approximately 100 billion neurons in our brain are highly interconnected. They exchange chemical messages with each other. The connections are influenced by our experiences, learning, feeling, memories. While the number of cells does not continue to increase, they do continue to network throughout our lives. The map of connections continues to be written through our use.

2. no brain is identical

The statement is quite trivial, but it has major implications for our interactions. Neurons are networked by our experiences. None of us has received 100% of the same networking throughout our lives, so everyone also perceives their reality a little differently. Never assume that the other person thinks the same way as you do.

3. important things are hardwired

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is the working memory and processor for things when we are actively thinking about something. However, it is tiny and can only hold a few pieces of information at a time. Information is quickly lost here; after all, it has to be processed further quickly.

If we encounter experiences that seem particularly important to the brain, these are temporarily stored and transferred to a permanent state overnight during sleep. We cannot choose what is stored here with us - or even with a counterpart. By active learning, we try to control it with ourselves.

By the way, I highly recommend the linked video. Sleep is so important!

4. our wiring controls our automatic perception and reactions.

In conflicts, our emotional system takes over. There is no more great thinking, cooperating or learning. No, there is attacking, defending, playing dead or fleeing. How often do we come up with the best and most rational arguments for a situation only after an argument? Quick solutions are played out with ready-made, wired programs.

The physical construction of the brain controls perception. It is therefore the glasses through which the world is seen. Negative experiences, so this is not surprising now, affect our automatic perception and reactions to them.

It also takes significantly more positive experiences to make up for a negative one.

5. it is practically impossible to dissolve old connections.

In a normal, healthy brain, created connections remain intact. Age can cause one or the other to fall behind. Information that is stored remains active. However, the pathway may be different.

Cell reduction can occur due to brain disorders such as long-term stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or external influences such as medications and drugs.

6. it's easy to create new connections

The good news is, it's uncomplicated for the brain to create new connections. Through repetition of content, focused attention - especially with emotion - the brain can be intentionally changed.

Focusing on new content and its constant repetition will once "widen" the connections to the new, intentional habit. In stressful situations, the new information will then come more easily and readily to mind.

Short conclusion

We can see here that our possible conception of our own brain is much more complex than we might think. In everyday life, it is therefore necessary to understand the specialties and the behavior of a person with whom we interact. Unfortunately, our brain is not directly built for this. A psychologically safe environment is essential for this. This will definitely be a follow-up article, the body's stress response and what we do to ourselves when we "sully" our own brain with negativity.

  • Link: The brain: mind-body problem (German)
  • Link: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft – Brain (German)
  • Video: Jan Born – Sleep and memory (German)
  • Book: Myers, D. G. (2014). Neurowissenschaft und Verhalten. In Psychologie. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  • Book: Birbaumer, N.-P., & Schmidt, R. F. (2018). Biologische Psychologie. Springer.
  • Photo: Hal Gatewood auf Unsplash

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