Fender Benders and the Autonomic Nervous System
Sooooo, yesterday, I backed out of my garage into the front of my son's car.
Yup, just backed right into it. No damage. I mean, I was backing up so I couldn't really get to a speed that would cause any damage. But, like, duuuuhhhh. I felt pretty stupid.
I'll add to my confession that my car has those safety features that are intended to protect me from such mishaps. . . a rear-view camera, that image that shows the red and yellow field around your car, and beeping.
Y'know that beeping that goes faster and faster as you get closer to an object. I presume this gradually-increasing beeping is supposed to get my attention.
Like, "hey lady, you're getting very close to hitting this thing outside of your car. You should maybe stop now."
I didn't stop. . . until I tapped the front of my son's car. (Okay, “tapping” is maybe a bit generous, but it was fine.)
Here's the thing. My son never parks in that spot in the driveway.
Also, that beeping sound from my car happens every single morning when I'm backing out, because I have a somewhat narrow garage and the car is sensing all the crap that's in my garage in that space that should be for a second car. (Don't even get me started about all the crap in my garage.)
So I've gotten used to hearing that beeping sound. I mean, my brain just did not sense any danger whatsoever as my car was furiously beeping at me.
And this got me thinking about how our brains get so accustomed to sensing certain things outside of us, and then repeating the same action in response. I've been fascinated by this for the last day and a half.
As explained in this great article, I apparently have a nervous system that regulates a variety of processes that take place in my body without my conscious effort. Important stuff like breathing, digestion, and my heart beating.
It's good that I don't have to consciously tell myself to breathe and digest. This makes sense to me.
My nervous system also scans a lot of data every day, sifts through that which is already familiar to me (not dangerous) and points out the stuff that seems different (possibly dangerous).
And that's why I backed into my son's car, notwithstanding the loud and increasingly rapid beeping noises. My brain was familiar with that noise, which was never a reason before to stop backing out of the garage.
Familiar meant not dangerous. So I kept going.
I was literally wired for it.
It's easy for our brains to process the familiar stuff.
Brains love familiar.
Our brains can take the familiar information from our external surroundings and delegate the resulting process to run without conscious effort.
It’s like our brains are just on rinse and repeat.
Historically, this conserved our energy for more important things like catching the animals that are smaller than us and that we can eat, and running away from the animals with big teeth.
So our brains are very much in favor of running the same story over and over.
They are very much in favor of repeating the same thoughts about the circumstances that exist outside of us. . .
which will trigger the same feelings. . .
and lead to the same actions. . .
even when those actions create not so great results in your life.
Your brain doesn't want to create new and improved results, it wants to rinse and repeat.
When you let your brain run on default, it will rinse and repeat. There’s nothing wrong with you. Your brain is just trying to keep you alive.
But did you know that you don’t have to rinse and repeat?
If you want different results, you can generate the feelings that will drive the actions that will create the results you want.
So what’s beeping for you in the background of your brain?
What little fender benders are you creating every day because you’re not questioning a thought that your brain is just running in the background, so stealthily that you don’t even recognize it as a thought that you can choose to believe or not believe?
Stop and notice. Become curious — fascinated, even — about what you're thinking.
Those thoughts are creating everything else in your life.
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