The Essence of Behavior

Four Rays of hope for independence from the Fourth Musketeer

I have found that all the conflict that we experience - within ourselves and with others - is always caused by our brain drawing a conclusion and our running with it. This is literally the reason for all the problems we have. In all cases when I ask a person to explain why, they offer up a cognitive distortion, something that doesn’t make sense, an illogical explanation. Based upon that I try to find the essence of what is going on. The presumption is "how was their brain incorrectly wired?". This has always proved right. Always.

Still, the task isn’t always easy. Our emotions are often closely guarded and many hate to think about them, let alone give someone else the ability to do so. Even if they do, there’s difficulty as this foundation is put into place before we’re three. Repeatedly, which is why the pattern exists after all. In contrast, memories, by the time we’re adults, don’t exist from when we were younger than 6 and, even then, they’re scant, so clues can be hidden. And this is the root of why we accept it as fact. We’re feeling something that is misleading us but we’re presuming our hunch, our gut, our intuition - whatever you want to refer to it as - is true which it may often be. Regardless we "feel" it before we’re aware of it so we take it as being real, and therein lies the conundrum. How can we know? In line with that thought, here are four rays of hope.

First, the good news and bad news is that this erroneous conclusion was reinforced during youth. That is bad because it means it became ingrained so we believe it to be fact, reality. The good part is that the actors were still around - usually our parents - and the reinforcing scenario repeated. In other words, we have memory of the crime scene. We have evidence explaining why the world in which we exist doesn't jive with the world in which we developed.

Second, the key is the cognitive distortion. The limbic system part of our brain is where the feeling starts. It is directly wired to our higher-level neocortex where our awareness resides, and fast-acting so it drives the feeling before we even think about it. Thankfully there is that cognitive distortion. It is proof that something is amiss and shows us that our higher-level neocotex is trying to explain something we feel but not doing it well. A bad habit if you will or, in more formal terms, a maladaptive strategy; a coping mechanism we use to satisfy the feeling. The benefit is that - if you’re willing to analyze it - you can get to the core of your misperception (of the past which determines how you interpret the present) or assessment (how you see the future). After all, those are the two processes of which are consciousness is comprised.

Third, and this is the best part, if you’re willing to challenge the feeling - and the more often and with greater power that you do it - you can change it. The undesirable thought pattern can be undone. That means sharing it out loud in all instances because that’s how you create new competing pathways that can eventually overwhelm the old pathways. Even if you talk it through yourself - write it down, record your voice, even make a video - you can start to alter the momentum. Processing or thinking about it doesn’t help. However, if you make a big deal of it, especially if you include others, you can expedite the change process.

Finally, and most importantly, you’re reading this. There’s a very good chance you’re hearing all this for the first time, and that’s the key to the problem. This is all in the realm of emotional intelligence. And for all our technological achievements and academic prowess we fail to understand and discuss that which is probably the best predictor of success and happiness in life; our knowing why we think the way we do and what drives our behavior. And maybe that’s the answer.

We really haven’t figured behavior out yet. It is a missing element in our cultural dialog, what we presume to be common knowledge. And it shouldn't be, so perhaps something more insidious is at work. That may be because thinking about these things makes us feel bad so we avoid it. Every one of us, from the thought leaders and the wealthy down to the common person. After all, there may be huge differences in our lives and socioeconomic status but we’re all pretty emotionally myopic. And that may be the answer.

Once you get out of being overwhelmed by your own feelings, it’s much easier to see the pain of others. And when you do, extending a helping hand becomes unavoidable because - and this is the reason why emotions evolved in the first place, the benefit which we derived from an evolutionary standpoint - watching someone else suffer doesn’t feel good. That’s what feelings are supposed to do which enable how the group is *supposed* to work. So, all for one and one for all. Those musketeers got it right. Maybe it’s about time that we do, too.

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