“Once Upon A Time… They All Lived In Increasingly Unpredictable Ways”

One thing you should know about your mind, one of its prime directives, is that it seeks out the familiar: the familiar in ideas, situations, peer groups, relationships and just about everything else. From those 2 million pieces of information coming through your senses every second, anything that is already known or recognised is seized upon. Which is a GREAT skill when you are first building your internal model as a young child and one to continually challenge, shake up or even discard as you get older.

(This week’s news happened to mention research showing that learning new things and challenging your mind vastly reduces chances of dementia)

Any parent will know that as soon as you open “Let’s Go On A Bear Hunt” or start any other favourite story, the happy sproglet will be primed to recognise and respond to the familiar phases of the tale and will let you know immediately if you deviate. Try changing the sound of the long grasses from “Swishy Swashy” to “Rustle Rustle” and see what happens! Indeed, your child is at that stage learning to tread down the long grass of its own infinitely potent mind into recognisable pathways, just as surely as the characters in the story do. Which is why they become fluent in a language (or two or three) and in a set of social skills and many other things so very fast! Before long they are running, sprinting along those pathways, delighted by the lure of the familiar.

And then… this carrot that draws us to learn so fast at the start, if we are not careful, becomes the very thing that shuts off the potential, because the carrot dries up, it becomes desiccated, it turns into “same old same old”. Same old TV shows, same favourite restaurant or foods, same clothes, same habits, same thoughts, same responses, same allegiances… the same pathways trodden again and again inside until we might forget that the lush virgin jungle is still there within us, all the never-ending patterns and explorations that we have not yet touched.

Marketing is based on this drawn-to-the-familiar desiccation. Political speeches are based on this. Your social media accounts and your handheld (zombie) device encourages and accelerates it by feeding back in ever decreasing loops your own habits and preferences. In the wider arena, conflict and wars depend on it. An infinitely open, shining human being, treading those new paths to increase their shine, can easily become the opposite, and then you and I are both in trouble.

It’s this simple. The new, the unfamiliar, the ability to open are always our friends.

In previous articles I quoted the therapists’ adage “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got”. But, more than that, if you do what you always did and think what you always thought and respond how you always responded, you become trapped in a tiny little box, forgetting where the door is. (So much mental illness is connected to this phenomenon) Some might call this box a “personality”, but personalities do not in truth exist. There is only pure light and the ways in which we enhance or restrict it.

Whether you want mental health, eternal youth, a sense of your own power or simply that feeling of fun and curiosity that pervades our first learning, shake it up baby and keep shaking it. You are much more than you thought you were.