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#Letting Go of the Old Story: aka Trading Up

October 1, 2013

I’ve just come from visiting my mother—you remember—my mother who thinks she is going to “use up” her eyes if she watches television. She still thinks she’s going to run out of sight,  the way you might run out of gas. I think she sees this as if she is a car that already has 200,000 miles on it. Just keep that thing in the garage. Use in emergencies only!

I keep telling her vision is like love—the more you use it the stronger it gets. Sometimes I say that I’m quoting her doctor. I use his name and I say all this emphatically, with an authority I don’t have and she doesn’t believe.

But here’s the point. Did you know that “truths” you are taught before the age of five are almost impossible to relinquish? The brain gets hardwired in such a way that when you are older, the belief you were taught in early childhood has become a “procedural memory.” It is so deeply embedded in your psyche that to recall that memory or tap into that belief, is an automatic reflex, rather than conscious choice. You’ve been hardwired implicitly by people bigger than you—people you wanted to please and upon whom you were dependent for your survival. That’s one of the reasons it is difficult to see yourself as different from what you were told you were as a child. (The bossy one, the athletic one, the back-talker, the bright one.) It makes new choices about things such as religion difficult as an adult as well.

No matter what new information you acquire, or how your belief system evolves on the surface, it’s as if your brain is an old house. As you’ve matured, you’ve renovated. You’ve put in all new wiring and electrical outlets, but every time you turn on the current, the old circuits light too.

What “truths” do you find impossible to relinquish even though you know better? These can be ‘truths” you were told about relatives, yourself, or the way the world works. Write a new and better story and teach it to your brain until it feels natural. Were you the smart alec? Or were you just an inquisitive soul with a lot of questions? Were you introverted? Or just thoughtful? Write a piece of memoir in which you first learned something about yourself as told to you by the big people. Now write about letting it go.

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One Comment
  1. I have been really helped over the past few years (more-importantly, in my writing) by learning to rewrite all of those “truths” which had been hampering my life. Learning about self-directed neuroplasticity and the science of willpower development has freed me to choose each aspect of my life.

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