Q. How do you get to Broadway?
A. Practice, Practice, Practice.
That’s an old joke but I thought I’d open with it in order to talk about practicing. You’ll get better at any activity by practicing at it. Skills can be increased at the piano, times tables, or karate depending how often you practice. For example, we can schedule oil painting lessons in our week and eventually become quite good at it. This isn’t a revolutionary idea because it’s so well known. Obviously, there are more skills than piano or karate that can benefit from practice.
I’d like to talk about other skills (not so desirable ones) that we can be practicing without even realizing it. Just because this ‘practice session’ isn’t intentional doesn’t mean our bad attitude doesn’t become worse.
An old grandfather told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.”
The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”
I’d like to alter this analogy. Instead of feeding a good or bad wolf, we practice.
We can either practice:
Joy, Love, Hope, Humility, Kindness, Empathy, and Bravery
Anger, Jealousy, Greed, and Resentment
I started this by talking about practicing skills such as piano. However, the converse is true as well. For example, my spelling isn’t so good anymore. I’ve gotten so used to the spell check on my computer, that my spelling isn’t what it use to be. Use it or lose it. I didn’t use it (using my brain to determine the correct spelling) and therefore I lost it. (my skills at spelling)
Let’s get back to the wolf analogy. If we spend more time practicing resentment than we do with empathy, the bad wolf gets stronger WHILE THE GOOD WOLF BECOMES WEAKER. This sounds a bit trivial. It’s like I’m splitting hairs by wanting to alter an old Cherokee legend. However, this trivial difference will become clear as to why I wanted to point this out.
Robert Louis Stevenson knew about the two sides of a person when he wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is a work of fiction. Drinking a cocktail of chemicals won’t turn you into a monster. However, I would like to borrow this story
I’d like to pause my talk about practice and start talking about the brain.
The concept of the Triune Brain is well acknowledged among psychologists. I talk about the Triune Brain on this page of my blog. Puppet Actually this current page is more like ‘page two’ of that one and if you haven’t read it yet, you’ll get lost while reading this one.
Our brain is designed to have a ‘veto’ in it. If it perceives that the situation is urgent, it can over-ride logic, reason, and rational decision making at any time. This survival action is normal and served us well since the ‘caveman days’.
You can ‘practice’ using this veto. In fact, you can get so good at it that you activate the veto during inappropriate situations.
However, in the last few decades, this power to veto has been (and is being) abused. Why this is happening is a multi-pronged circular argument.
How do you solve the problem, ‘What came first? The chicken or the egg’? However, in the case of the survival trigger getting abused, the question is, ‘Did the entertainment industry focus on raising our emotions as high and for as long as possible or did we first request/demand this?’ (“The channel that I watch has the most sex, drama, social injustice, and outrage. If I can’t find enough on TV, I’ll seek it online!”)
Drama is entertaining. It’s fun to be on an emotional roller coaster ride! (as long as we can change the channel whenever we want) However, during the time that we’re on the roller coaster, we’re practicing/exercising the simplistic part of the brain that’s unable to use logic or reason. At the same time, we’re also weakening the frontal lobe. (The smart part of the brain) The longer that we focus on outrage, heartbreak, and injustice, the less time that we have for joy, love, or hope, Use it or lose it. You can become a ‘Mr. Hyde’ by losing your skills at preventing him from coming out. When these skills (or lack of) becomes part of your character, changing the channel is no longer easy to do. (Mr. Hyde starts coming out more often) Drama isn’t so enjoyable anymore. It feels bad and therefore you want to escape reality by tuning into more drama. This is a vicious circle that can hold your ‘rational brain’ hostage for decades!
This damages the amygdala in your brain (veto trigger) even more!
That would be a very powerful ending if I were to finish the page here. If I did then I would be just as guilty as the writers that strive to bring out the most emotion possible. Instead, I’ll remind you that my analogies and mental pictures are more like caricatures. I exaggerate to emphasize the point that I’m trying to make. I would, however, like to finish by recycling an ending that I used for another page. It fits so well with this one also.
It’s common knowledge that a diet of 70% fast food and ice cream will affect your body. However, it’s a relatively new idea that what you feed your head also makes a difference. In short, a drama junkie will INTENTIONALLY expose them to false information for the sake of entertainment!
OkOkOk.. I understand the effect of false information. However this ‘brain damage’ is amazingly small.
YES, IT’S SMALL. That’s part of the problem. It’s so small that it’s hard to comprehend that it will ever amount to anything! It’s hard to take this threat seriously. Meanwhile, the endorphins can be intoxicating and lots of fun. Why stop this?
Many small things add up. Although this is well known it’s still hard to comprehend that it will make a difference. To illustrate the difference, substitute ‘false information’ for ‘small handfuls of sand’.
The island is so big that small handfuls of sand make almost no difference! It’s almost laughable to suggest that playing in the sand will affect the island at all! It takes a bit of thinking to realize that it does. THAT’S THE OTHER PROBLEM! When emotion takes charge, logic is forced to take a back seat! The more emotional, the less rational and the faster we’re looking for (or making up) facts that support our view! This results in that the more emotional we get, the quicker we are at shooting down all the reasons to reduce our TV drama viewing!