At the most basic level, your world is constructed by your brain. Making sense of the world and its happenings is nothing more than our individual brains’ interpretation of the signals it receives as we go about our days interacting with our environments.
Color is nothing more than cone cells in your retina being stimulated by light waves within a certain range of the spectrum. Because our brains are different, our perceptions of color are different. The sky is blue, right? No question. However, your blue is different from my blue. Maybe even very different. Neither is right or wrong. Both are blue. Your blue is just as blue to you as my blue is to me. Both are merely our individual brains making sense of the same signals.
Each of us experiences the world uniquely as our brains give meaning to events and stimuli encountered determined by our physical brain function, memories, beliefs, and attitudes about ourselves, others, and the world shaped by family, religion, school, culture, and life experiences past and present. These influences are typically below conscious awareness and determine how a person responds to the world, interacts in relationships, and thinks of and talks to themselves.
So, Mom and Dad, your sixth-grade teacher, your best friend, and your media intake help paint your picture of reality.
Memory Is Subjective
Even your memory is subjective and colored by these subconscious shadows. Research has confirmed that our brains do not store everything verbatim like a computer and retrieve exact replicas. Our memories are re-creations. Your brain rebuilds a memory from a few key features and fills in the missing details based on associations and implicit and explicit knowledge.
Your brain just makes it up! A person has no way of knowing what is recalled verbatim and what is constructed.
In his book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer writes “Our memories are not like fiction. They are fiction.” He compares memories to “a Xerox of a Xerox of a mimeograph of the original photograph.”
In your brain, a memory is made up of slight shifts in certain synapses firing in a specific sequence. Every time you recall a memory, the brain reconsolidates this process incorporating and filtering the thought through who you are and what you know at the time of remembering.
Memory is an active and ongoing process, and according to Lehrer, “A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. The more you remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes.”
Traditionally, science has viewed memories similar to unchanging words on the pages of a book on a shelf gathering dust. Not true. Experiments done at NYU in 2000 proved this false and demonstrated that the act of remembering actually changes the brain which might prove to be useful in treating PTSD and drug addictions.
Your Reality Is Unique to Your Brain
Because of our differing brains, each one of us really does live in our own little world. Reality depends on what actually happens (objective) and how our brains make sense of what happens (subjective). Although there are many commonalities across our realities, it cannot be assumed that anything is the same for everyone.
Kind of freaky, right? But, wait! Herein lies the superpower we all have. By purposefully affecting the variables determining your brain’s interpretation of the world around you, you can change your brain and life for the better.
The key is to become conscious of and take control of your thoughts and mind. Remember that your brain factors in subconscious beliefs and attitudes about yourself, others, and the world when assigning meaning to incoming stimuli and in this way, creates your reality. By becoming aware of these influences and consciously choosing which ones you buy into, allow to have an impact, and intentionally inserting new influences, you can change your past and future and physically alter your brain.
Well, you can’t literally change the past, of course. By modifying your perspective and feelings about prior events, you differ their significance in your present life. This can, in turn, allow you to modify your thoughts, behaviors, and future.
Because of neuroplasticity, a scientific truth of the last decade, your repeated thoughts, feelings, and behaviors actually shape your physical brain and its functioning. By changing your mindset, you CAN change your brain and reality.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pargon/