Our brain is a physical object, and its reactions are physical. We may attribute our memories and experiences to some spiritual and intellectual domain, which is perfectly fine. Sometimes, however, it is best to attribute our experiences to misinterpreted physical experiences. For example, if you have a bad gut feeling, it is probably a heartburn rather than premonitions. Personally, at some point of my life, I used to think I have a depression. Then I realized that each time I get depressed my stomach clenches, so I took heartburn medicine and my depression was gone. This post has been inspired by this, this and this articles.
Consiousness on/off switch
Recently scientists discovered that people with a damaged part of their brain often loose conscious thinking abilities. The part of the brain called claustrum, when damaged increases the duration but not the frequency of lapses of consciousness. This means that we quite often lose our conscious thinking, but we recover much faster than some war veterans in the study. The recovery from a loss of consciousness includes communication between both sides of your brain. People suffering from split brain live dual lives: the conscious auditory hemisphere is not aware of the discoveries made by creative visual hemisphere. As a result, there is a deep feeling of understanding we cannot quite grasp. Have you ever felt that there is something important you understand intuitively but just cannot consciously grasp? Probably the understanding is stuck passing from one part of the brain to another. Instinctively, we try to focus on that thought, which is fundamentally wrong. When we are deeply relaxed, the communication between brain hemispheres gets easier and these fundamental intuitive understanding can pass through the doorway of our consciousness.
Bridges built and destroyed
Our brain is constantly evolving and adapting. This phenomenon is called neuroplasticity. When some part of the brain is damaged, the brain can recover from the injury adapting new neural connections. Due to inner changes of the brain some strange brain connections occasionally rise, and some stable connections get destroyed. Consider a nation like the Philippines sitting on thousands of different islands, and then imagine bridges between islands suddenly appearing and disappearing. How would the population, trade routes and ideas pass between such islands? This is pretty much what is happening in your brain. Some connections you learnt to trust may suddenly disappear, destroying our perfect memory structures. On the other hand, we may suddenly and unexpectedly grasp new idea or understanding when the unconnected brain areas get connected. To some degree, we can mitigate the memory loss effects using dual coding and reviewing our most important memories from time to time, and the second effect is a very welcome creativity boost. The thing is: these physical effects are profound and unpredictable. This is one of the reasons human mind is such a profound mystery.
Environmental or subliminal clues often bypass our conscious defences. We do not really notice something we see hundreds of times. This is an automatic response. Otherwise, we would be flooded with too much information, more than we can handle. However, the stuff we do not notice consciously is quite often registered subconsciously. We can probably even access it in a state of deep relaxation or with some practice. The information we do not notice gets integrated into our experiences and our visualizations. This information gets encoded within the details of our memory palaces or in how we relive the experiences. What is even more important, it influences our decisions and choices in subtle and profound ways. Having a warm liquid in our hand we get more secure, being exposed to moral codes we are less prone to lie, seeing a higher price we are destined to overpay for something quite reasonable. It is a good idea not to act impulsively, as impulsive intuitive decisions are most prone to environmental clues and manipulations.
Misattribution of difficulty
People are sensitive to their feelings of ease or difficulty, but unaware of what triggers these feelings.
Why do some people hate math? Maybe the first class teacher was really bad, and we hated the math in the first class. Then we were not good in the first class and we felt we are not good in higher classes, so we were less inclined to study. Then we needed to build new understandings on a steady fundament, and our fundamental understanding was not that good. Eventually, we may think we have a dyscalculia when all we had was a bad first teacher. This happened to me with sports, happened to Anna with reading. Our education system does not allow to fix the problems we had acquiring during the most fundamental stages of learning. If we are smart enough and aware enough we can create bypasses, maybe even turn a disadvantage into a competitive edge. Anna’s dyslexia caused her to learn and then teach speed-reading techniques. My initial shyness and difficulties with people drive me to learn more about psychology, media, communication…
Next time you have a gut feeling, ask yourself: what is causing it? Do you have some subliminal understanding, is it a physical or environmental cue, misattributed past memory, or something entirely different? You will learn a lot about yourself and will make much less poor choices.