Every aspect of our personality, our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions stem from our mind. The brain of a young child is to a large extent an open book waiting to be filled with impressions and narratives determining its future. This then happens throughout life in a constant interplay between external impulses and inner thoughts, shaping what kind of person we will eventually be.
The way our brain works is that every time we have a thought which is similar or identical to a previous one, the neural network coding for the memory of that though becomes stronger and stronger. More and more neurons and more and more synaptic connections between these neurons in the network representing this thought will be engaged.
The increasingly stronger neural network linked to this thought puts it higher and higher on the attention of our mind. This means that after a while we tend to come back to the same thought, over and over again, and thus making it increasingly stronger and more prominent.
We can easily see this when we are anxious and worried. How easy isn’t it to ruminate and dwell on our worries, even sometimes waking us up in the middle of the night and keep us from falling back into sleep.
Thoughts affect our emotions, our expectations and how we interpret the external world. If we are generally sad and depressed, or maybe worried and suspicious, we will tend to interpret the behaviours of people around us in a negative way. Your inner narrative perhaps tells you that the person who didn’t greet you in the morning did that because of dislike, not considering the possibility that he was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he didn’t see you. Our observation will then reaffirm our initial thoughts and emotions.
A person may also be exposed to prejudice, misinformation and gossip. Identifying common enemies tend to bring people together, but the price for this is ill will and hatred. Anger and resentment stick in our brains as effectively as anxiety and depression, but the effect is the same – unnecessary suffering.
But the way our mind functions, also works the other way around. Awareness of how the mind works, provides us with an opportunity to cultivate kindness, love, gratitude and generosity. Repeatedly cultivating positive emotions, e.g. in meditation, and then nurturing such positive thoughts and act upon them will effectively shape ourselves into actually becoming more kind, loving, grateful and generous. This will not only benefit those around us but also make us happier and more content with life.
Illustration: Pixabay.com – skeeze