We see only what we believe. What we see then is not an objective reality but a reality that is based on our perception. This concept has been part of ancient wisdom for generations. Yet it’s only recently hit mainstream thinking, probably due to studies in the workings of the brain and psychological studies over the past few decades. Research has shown that we only pick up 126 out of the two million bits of information that hit us every moment. Our unconscious minds sift through all of the millions of bits and choose which 126 bits will become conscious. It does this filtering based on our beliefs and memories of our past experiences.
For example, say as a child, another kid told you that “nobody likes you.” Being vulnerable, you might believe them. Going forward then, all you would see is people not liking you. You would interpret every action, every word, every look as “they don’t like me.” It becomes your reality.
The good news is that research has also found that our memories are not set in stone. They are naturally being rewritten all the time. That means we can rewrite them intentionally so that our beliefs become more positive and supportive of who and what we want to be. To explain the new research on memory encoding, I’ll use myself as an example:
My parents got divorced when I was 5. Let’s pretend for a moment that this experience had very little to no impact on me. I know that it did but apparently, I handled it pretty well at the time. My mom’s recollection of it was that I was really calm. My father remembers my holding back some tears. Not sure which one was correct. I recall being calm.
For this example, let’s pretend that I didn’t revisit or think about the divorce for a year. (I know. Not likely. But let’s just go with it.) Then at the age of 6, a friend of mine comes up to me and says, “Man, my parents just got divorced.” I say, “Oh yeah. Mine got divorced a year ago too.” That was the first time I thought about it and I’m in a good mood. While I’m not recalling everything that occurred in the memory, the first time I recall it, I am recalling the actual event itself. So, if I had never thought about it for that entire year, the very first time I think about it again, I am recalling the actual experience itself of my parents getting divorced.
Let’s pretend another year goes by and I haven’t thought about the divorce during that year. At this point, if someone brings up the topic, you might think that I’d recall the divorce as it happened at age 5. But in actuality, I don’t recall the event itself from age 5. I recall the last time I recalled that event when it was filtered through my 6-year-old filters. In other words, at the age of 7, I’m not recalling the divorce as my 5-year-old self in this hypothetical situation. I’m recalling the time that I recalled that event at the age of 6, which is a recall of what happened at the age of 5.
Let’s pretend now that at age of 7, I now feel pissed off about the experience. My dad’s not paying attention to me and I don’t think he loves me anymore. As I recall the divorce, I encode the memory with the emotions I feel in that new moment. The next time I recall the event, I’ll remember it with the emotions I had at age 7, not how I felt at age 5.
By the time I entered my 20s, I was in a committed relationship yet finding no fulfillment. Every time I thought of my parents getting divorced, I viewed it as the reason why I couldn’t connect with my partner. I blamed the divorce for why I wasn’t having a positive experience in my relationship. Every time I recalled my parents’ divorce, I encoded that memory with how I felt and filtered things in that new moment. Fortunately, at a certain point, I brought that limiting belief and that negative emotion to light and released them.
According to research, memories alter as we go through time. They shift because when we recall them, we’re not recalling the actual event. We’re recalling the last time we recalled that event. We’re running it through our current set of filters and emotions. Stop and think about that. Each time you bring up a memory, how you feel in that moment changes your perception of the past. What if every time you recall it, you add fuel to the fire? You get even more upset about it or create more limiting beliefs around it. This is how someone can become incredibly negative about an event that may have not been a big deal at the time.
Now think about the opposite: What if you brought up memories with an entirely different mindset and attitude? What if you looked for the gifts and lessons within that past event? If you have a situation from the past that has a lot of negative emotional charge around it, you don’t want to just reframe it into a “happy” memory. Acknowledge and release that charge first. The gift of teachings such as NLP and Huna is that they can assist with releasing the negative emotion at the root so that you can change the distortions of your memories. It’s akin to clearing out the filters that cause you to look at the past a certain way. The more release work that you do, the clearer your vision becomes – not only when you look at the past, but also when you look at the future. If you practice consistent release of baggage, you can integrate the lessons, experience more positive emotions, and have a brighter outlook on your life. If you see only what you believe, the positive things you see on the outside now become a reflection of the positive beliefs you have on the inside.
Empowerment, Inc. is the leading authority on NLP, Huna, Mental and Emotional Release®, and Hypnosis.
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