12 Jul Reprogramming your Internal Representation and Build your Resilient Thinking [Part 3]
‘Internal representation’ (IR) or ‘re-presentation’ is the process where information from the outside world filters through your mind before you assign a meaning and attach an emotion to it.
It’s a process that takes place in your unconscious mind so you’re not really aware that it’s taking place. It’s also part of the process that reduces the 2-4 million bits of information you receive every second of the day down to 134 bits of information, making it much easier to digest. Incredible isn’t it? You can read more about why this is important in part one and two of this blog in case you landed here before reading them:
- Part 1: How Resilient Thinking can Prevent Teen Depression from Setting in
- Part 2: Getting to Grips with Internal Representation and Resilient Thinking
What’s your favourite dinner?
Let me give you a quick recap using a great analogy. Think back to when you last ate your favourite dinner. How did it taste? What flavours do you remember? What food textures did you prefer? We all have a favourite meal because it tastes amazing and makes us feel good as we eat. The anticipation build up, the enjoying of eating the food and the after effects.
At the moment, my favourite dish is Thai Green Curry with sticky rice. I love the smell of the spices, the unique taste, the heat of the spice and the texture when you add the rice! Every meal is digested in the same way by the systems within your remarkable body. Your taste buds tell your brain that you love these bursts of flavours (or not) and this will cause you to relate your meal to a happy place in the past or because you really like sweet foods or savoury dishes or a particular foodstuff. Once you’ve eaten your meal your body takes over and processes the nutrients and various components of your food without you consciously being aware of it. It filters out of the meat or veggies or dairy what it needs as essential fuel and disperses it to the organs of your body.
It’s quite a complex procedure. After you have swallowed your food it passes through (or gets filtered through) your stomach, small and large intestine, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. As soon as your food enters your mouth its breakdown begins as digestion takes place. Once complete, your body will excrete the parts of the food that are no longer required. Exactly the same can be said for your internal representation of an external event taking place. Your mind will keep the essential information based on past experiences and what it sees as being important at the time.
This also solidifies the notion of ‘delete, distort and generalise’ that we discussed in part two. Your unconscious mind goes through this exact same process when choosing what parts of the 2-4 million bits of information you really do need to be aware of.
“You don’t need to go through your challenges alone.”
Think back to a classroom incident
Can you remember a time when you were in the classroom and an incident took place that caused mixed reactions? Perhaps a few of your fellow students were mucking around and giggling at some of the material your teacher had shared. This may be a situation that is completely innocent but the giggling outraged your teacher. Perhaps some students laughed but what was said or done upset others. Which reaction did you relate to? The incident may have been more serious such as someone throwing a chair and having a complete meltdown.
The important thing to remember here is that people will react differently to the same incident because of the filtering process inside their subconscious mind and the internal representation that gives it a meaning. This meaning creates an emotion. Think of the meaning and the emotion as siblings – you and your brother or sister (if you have one) or your feet, which come in a pair. The two are a pair and are often together.
This emotion can be positive or negative and will determine your use of language, tone of voice, facial expression, even how tense your body is. If you are outraged your voice might be high pitched and your choice of words strong. All of these factors give a situation a very different meaning to you and those around you.
“You are responsible for the words you speak.”
Choosing your words wisely
Your emotional state is often reflected by the words you choose to use to describe a situation. Your words create your reality. Your emotional state will define how you react. Your reaction forms your behaviours.
Was the classroom incident mildly irritating, got on your nerves a bit or was it SO ANNOYING that you felt hot and bothered and couldn’t think clearly? Be careful how you describe it. What parts of the situation made you choose those words? What were you doing with your body or what was your body chemically creating inside that added to those feelings? If you can change those feelings you can completely change the outlook on the situation.
What I’m trying to say here is that if you think carefully before you react and choose a calmer state, more neutral or positive words then you won’t feel angry, upset or unclear. You will feel different about the situation, cooler and more in control. Boom there’s your resilient thinking kicking in!
I can’t change your past and neither can you. I wish it were possible but we can’t yet time travel and your past does shape the way you are today. Your past provides life’s important experiences and lessons so you do need to have them.
Brainwashing you with hypnosis isn’t the answer either because that won’t help you to become more resilient. You need to train your brain to give new and improved meanings to external situations through your filters and IR. You can go from being disempowered to being totally empowered and in control of your life. The only thing you have control over is inside your mind. You have no control over external events but you can choose how you react to them. Take responsibility for you and don’t put your feelings and behaviours in the hands of others. Listen to that voice inside and take control to change your internal dialect.
“Your mind is free from worry.”
Developing positive emotions and meaning
If things aren’t right with your relationships – family, mates, teachers, peer group – or if you’re not getting the results you need in how you feel every day when you get out of bed, how can you manage your mind in the moment? If you’re not getting the results you want in achievements, it might be sport, art, music, science or something else, how can you change the thoughts that create different behaviours and outputs and results?
Try this exercise…
Think about the last situation that made you really angry. Write down how it made you feel and the triggers that made you take this meaning.
- Describe the event in general terms
- Where were you?
- Who were you with?
- Who was involved in the actual event if there was some sort of clash?
- In your own words, why do you think this event happened?
- How did it make you feel?
- What words did you express at the time?
- Are these words different now?
- What meaning did you assign?
- What consequences did your reaction have on you?
- What consequences did your reaction have on those around you?
Use any words you want to describe the situation. Were you angry, frustrated, disappointed, did you play the victim? The more in-depth you can describe this the better because it will help you to reflect on what really took place.
If you felt angry it might not be because the teacher or student said something you took offence to. It might actually be because your dad is really strict or a family member has suffered in the past and you added this experience to the IR meaning of the current situation. Do you see how this ‘baggage’, this past experience, can alter your emotional state in a new situation? This is key. This is what you need to avoid in order build up your resilience.
Think about the situation again. How would you react differently knowing what you know now? How would it affect you and those around you differently?
Now try the same exercise with a positive situation and compare your answers. I guarantee you’ll get an eye opening moment!
I’ve given you a bit of homeplay here, it will also be on the website – download the PDF ‘Bob’ I mentioned in the first article. Practice thinking in this new and positive way. Take your time. I never said it would be easy, it takes repetition and listening to your inner voice. It also takes the ability to turn the process into a game so that you have fun with it – go out, have fun and play to change your thoughts.
“Have the courage to share your true feelings and opinions.”
Choose the life you want to lead
Thanks for reading this Spark to your Success blog article. I hope it’s provided a few useful ideas to think about and helped you feel more confident and resilient in yourself. You are super special, just keep reminding yourself of this and take care to erase any negative approach you may have to situations.
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If I get the opportunity to work with you, coach you or train you personally then we will definitely have fun exploring additional ways to build the most amazing you. I have fun games and exercises as learning resources plus a huge bank of podcasts, informative blogs, and PDF documents.
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