We don’t see thing as they are. We see things as we are. –ANAIS NIN, AUTHOR AND DIARIST
Have you ever received an e-mail from someone that made you very angry, only to find out later that you misunderstood the tone or intent of the message? Your mind reached a conclusion that wasn’t true based on what you thought you perceived, only to discover there was a different way of interpreting the message that also made sense.
Our minds are always simulating different courses of action, but sometimes there’s not enough information to ensure that a Pattern is completely accurate. Since you’re not omniscient, your mind never has complete data, so it automatically fills in missing pieces by interpreting what you sense via the Patterns you have stored in memory. In the absence of any other information to the contrary, you’ll “jump to conclusions” by relying on the interpretation your mind creates.
This capacity to fill in the blanks even happens on the physiological level. In our field of vision we have two complete bind sport—the points where our optic nerves connect to our eyes. We literally cannot see in those spots, but our brains automatically take in all of the surrounding information and seamlessly fill in the blanks. As a result, we appear to have a solid field of vision, even though it’s an illusion created by our brain’s ability to interpret information.
The human brain constantly relies on prior Patterns and information to make Interpretations in the absence of information. Think of the spam folder in your e-mail account—it uses a collection of previous spam messages (called “priors”) to estimate the probability that any new incoming messages is also spam, using a process called Bayesian spam filter can spot them anyway.
Your brain does roughly the same thing every time you decide you like someone right after meeting them—your brain is relying on Patterns you’ve learned via past experiences with other people to make a snap judgment. These snap interpretations can also be altered—a process called Reinterpretation. Think of meeting an attractive person who consistently becomes quiet and aloof whenever you’re around. At first glance, their behavior may signal that they’re shy or don’t like you very much. If one of your friends tells you that they’re romantically interested in you, however, your Interpretation of that person’s past behavior can change in an instant.
Reinterpretation is possible because your memory is fundamentally impermanent. Our memories aren’t like computer disks—every time we recall a memory, it doesn’t simply resave to the same location in the same state. Every time we recall something, the memory is saved in a different location, with a twist: the new memory will include any alterations we’ve made to it.
It’s possible to change your beliefs and Mental Simulations consciously by recalling and actively Reinterpreting past events. Mental Simulation and Interpretation rely on Patterns stored in memory, so if you want to change the results of your brain’s simulations, the best way to go about doing that is to alter the mental database of information those simulations are based on.
Reinterpretation is how you change the database.
In Re-Create Your Life, Morty Lefkoe teaches a process that can be used to Reinterpret past event in a simple and useful way:
- Identify the undesirable pattern.
- Name the underlying belief.
- Identify the source of the belief in memory, including as much sensory detail as possible.
- Describe possible alternate interpretations of the memory.
- Realize that your original belief is an interpretation, not reality.
- Consciously choose to reject the original belief as “false.”
- Consciously choose to accept your reinterpretation as “true.”
Here’s an example of how I personally used Lefkoe’s process: one possible way of Interpreting my brand management career at P&G is that I was a miserable failure—I was on the management fast track, and I couldn’t “cut it,” so I “washed out.” For a while, I believed that was true, but that belief didn’t serve me very well. When I tried to explore alternate paths, my mind naturally simulated that my “failure” would extend to my new projects as well. As long as my mind relied on this Interpretation to simulate the future, I was stuck in a self-defeating cycle.
There’s another way of Interpreting my previous career at P&G: my experience taught me a lot about how large corporation work, and I learned more about what I’m good at, what I don’t particularly enjoy doing, and how I want for me, so I stopped following that path and tried other things that better fit my strengths and desires until I found one I loved—a major victory and a huge life improvement.
Which Interpretation is “true”? Both are valid Interpretations. My mind wasn’t malfunctioning when it created the first Interpretation, but that Interpretation didn’t serve me very well. Reinterpreting the situation and accepting the second version as “true” was much more useful—without it.
Reinterpret your past, and you’ll enhance your ability to make great things happen in the present.
This Article is taken from The Personal MBA
Written by Arshad. A