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  • Writer's pictureParker Hewes

Undressing Your Inner Demons (Part 4)

Recap: Defining Demons and Addressing the Root (Past Programming)


During Part 1 of this series, we started by defining what a “demon” is. Demons are the things that you've experienced in your life that have grown into these hairy, ugly monsters in your subconscious. These demons affect how you think, feel, and act, which ultimately determines the outcomes that you see in your life right now. Are you fatter than you want to be? Poorer than you want to be? Sadder? Lonelier? Sleepier? Basically, are you one of the Seven Dwarfs? If so, then you've got to approach the problem from the root.


In Part 2, we learned that the ‘root' of the problem is essentially your past programming, or the lessons you learned while growing up. Part 3 showed us that these lessons may be learned in the few ways: from the words you hear aloud (verbal programming), the examples that were set for you by others (modeling), and the experiences you had (specific incidences).


Today, you'll learn about how your demons are created and how they can become such powerful influences on your psyche. To understand that, though, we need to dig a little deeper into how your brain and nervous system work.


*P.S. Although this article might seem like too much information, I think that understanding how your brain works is an essential step for rewriting the stories of your past. Rewriting your past programming is like rewriting the software on a computer program. And if you’re going to write the code for a new program (a new story), you ought to know something about how your internal computer works.* 

The Brain as a Coloring Book


Let’s use an analogy to make these science-y topics a little easier to digest.

blank canvas empty coloring book blank pages clean slate

Imagine your brain is like one gigantic coloring book with millions of pages inside. At the beginning of your life, this coloring book is completely empty, every page is blank. Then, as you develop a nervous system (which starts before you are even born), you use that nervous system to take in information about the world (using your 5 senses and the nerves that transmit those sensations to your brain). And every time you experience a new sensation or experience a sensation in a new way, your brain will start to wire some neurons together to form a little electrical network. This network is essentially like drawing an outline on one of the pages in your coloring book - your brain simply creates a basic framework for one specific sensation or experience, and you will start to color in the outline as you continue to have similar experiences and sensations in the future. Essentially, your first-time experience draws the picture, and your future experiences fill in the details, the nuances, and the color.


Coloring Your Experiences


The colors of your coloring book represent the mood, feelings, or perceptions that your brain associates with certain experiences and sensations. If you have a negative experience with a certain sensation or sequence of events, your brain will take out its dark, negative-colored crayon and draw a little scribble in your coloring book.


coloring book scribbles drawing crayon

For example, let’s say you’ve been learning to snowboard, but you keep falling and your instructor (aka significant other) keeps getting frustrated that he/she can’t teach you. Therefore, every time you fall, hear a snarky comment, or get shown up by some 5-year-old shredder, your brain will make a small scribble of negativity in your coloring book. With enough of these negative experiences, your ”snowboarding” page will start to look pretty dark and dismal. In other words, when your brain looks through its memories of snowboarding, it will see a pretty sad painting, which translates to you having a negative perception or attitude about snowboarding.


Not every page in your coloring book will be completely colored with negativity or positivity, though. Because most sensations and experiences are a blend of negativity, positivity, and indifference. After all, no two experiences will ever be exactly the same. Every experience have a slightly different outcome and you'll have a slightly different state of mind during each experience (due to emotions, life circumstances, daily events, stressors, etc). And for every variation in outcome and state of mind, your brain will use a new crayon with a unique shade of negativity, positivity, or neutrality. Therefore, most of your coloring book pages will look like a mosaic, with many scribbles using various colors.


mosaic stones mind like a mosaic
The Mosaic of your Mind

One thing is for sure, though, after accumulating a multitude of scribbles in your coloring book, every page (every individual experience or sensation) will start to have a general theme. The theme is essentially like an electrical charge, which means each page will either be positively charged, negatively charged, or no charge (indifferent). This is how your brain stores memory. It doesn’t necessarily store all the details of an event or sensation, it simply stores the charge of each experience. That way, when your brain subconsciously scans through your memories every time you're about to make a decision, it can do so much more efficiently. Instead of your brain scrolling through every detail of every experience that is similar to the one you are experiencing (or contemplating), your brain will simply take a look at the general theme/charge of the coloring book page. Then, it will quickly give you information about how you should think, feel, or act.


The short word for this process is called your perception. And, by definition, you can’t have perception without having any prior experiences (because prior experiences are what created your perception in the first place). And to go one step further, without perception, every sensation or experience you have ever had would be completely meaningless. Because a sensation is simply an electrical signal carried by your neurons up to your brain. It is only information, data, like ones and zeros on a computer program. Sensations and experiences have no meaning until it reaches your brain. Without your brain’s perception, everything would be an indifferent or neutrally charged experience. To put it in one succinct sentence: nothing has meaning except for the meaning that YOU give it.


Nothing has meaning except for the meaning that YOU give it.

Impact of State of Mind


The implication of that last sentence is that everything you’ve ever perceived or felt about literally anything in life is simply a story. It’s a story based on past experiences, your past programming. And like we recently discussed; your perception of every experience can be easily influenced by your state of mind. So, your bad day, bad attitude, or bad mood can turn a neutral experience (or even an objectively pleasant experience) into a negatively colored scribble.



Also, more impactful experiences will have a bigger effect on your subconscious. More dramatic experiences will consequently create a larger scribble in your coloring book, which means the overall theme will end up being impacted more drastically. This concept may be rather obvious, but we can’t simply say that only memorable experiences are the ones that have the biggest impact on your brain. Because not only does your state of mind impact your perception of an experience (as discussed earlier), it also can change the size of the scribble in your coloring book. If your state of mind has shifted in the negative direction, even really small, no-big-deal types of experiences can be perceived as very impactful events. Even events that you don’t remember at all could be stored as large scribbles in your subconscious.


This is important to note, because it means that your bad mood or bad attitude isn’t just affecting your experience in the moment, it is literally changing your perception of events in the future. Your brain colors in your coloring book with negative colors, and that is what your brain will use to make judgments about similar events in the future. So, if the “snowboarding” page in your coloring book already has a general theme of dark, negative colors, it’ll be much harder to have a positive experience the next time you go snowboarding. Even if you have a perfectly pleasant day with a patient and attentive partner/instructor, your brain may only store the experience with an indifferent or neutral charge because you have all this negative baggage coloring your perception and therefore changing your outlook.


Negativity is Stronger Than Positivity


Admittedly, it’s not just negative states of mind that effect the charge or size of the scribble in your coloring book. Even indifferent experiences, like that stupid toilet paper jingle you heard as a kid, may imprint in your mind with a gigantic splotch of color, leaving you unable to ever forget the lyrics for the rest of time. Positive experiences are really powerful, too; they can completely change your outlook of life, make you more welcoming of future experiences, and keep you open-minded to other possible outcomes.


But the reason why I keep referring to negative experiences in this article is because negative experiences are more likely to have a bigger impact on our psyche. It’s just the way we are evolutionarily wired. We are programmed to avoid pain, danger, suffering, etc. If we weren’t programmed that way, humans would not have survived very long, and neither would any animal for that matter. It’s unavoidable that negatively charged experiences will be more impactful on your perception. And if the toilet paper jingle example teaches us anything, it’s that your brain is also pretty unpredictable. Sometimes your brain just does some weird stuff that doesn’t make any sense. So instead of trying to fight the realities about the way your brain works, and instead of trying to control the way your brain stores information, it’s best that you simply understand it and learn how to work around it.


Rewriting the Story


Honestly, I’m thankful for pain, discomfort, and negative experiences. Pain is an excellent teacher. There are obviously some drawbacks, but you don’t have to let those drawbacks rule your life and take control of your mind. You don’t have to let those negative scribbles become the demons of your subconscious that derail you from your goals and make you second-guess your worth, your opinions, your values, or whatever else keeps you in a state of regret and dissatisfaction.


Why? Because as I mentioned earlier, every perception, every bit of meaning that you associate with a specific experience or sensation, is just a story that your brain has created. Yes, it may have been a true story based on the realities of what was going on at the time of your experience, but it’s still just a story. And while the story may have been accurate at the time, there may be a dozen other stories, outcomes, or perceptions that could exist simultaneously. What’s preventing the next experience from being positive, uplifting, and motivating? I’ll tell you what. YOU. You are the only thing standing in your way. Your past experiences colored in your coloring book with a story (a perception) about the way things are, and you’re holding on to that story as if it were written in stone.


written in stone

But that’s the thing about negative perceptions. Unlike positive stories, negative stories lock you into this idea that what you experienced is the only way to have that experience. Pain, fear, and negativity close you off to the possibilities of having an alternative experience. Negativity basically just hits the “stubborn old man” button and turns you into an opinionated, close-minded jerk (sorry, old men).


Like I said, though, it’s not worth trying to fight this reality. Your brain is just trying to protect you by making negative experiences more dramatic. Your brain is trying to ensure that you stay away from the “danger.” But realize that what may have felt like danger or pain at one time may not always be the case. What once was a useful reaction to an experience or sensation may be completely unhelpful for your current goals, dreams, and values.


What once was a useful reaction to an experience or sensation may be completely unhelpful for your current goals, dreams, and values.

That’s how you rewrite your story. You recognize that your demons are a product of a specific set of stories from your past. Heck, your demon may have even formed from just one uber-impactful story. But in the end, it’s still a story, an unfortunate negative outcome among an infinite number of possible outcomes.



Has that lesson sunk in yet? Get ready. Because when it does, you’ll be looking at a naked demon. He’ll be stripped down to an embarrassing, hairy version of himself. He’ll be powerless over your mind, unable to scare you or control you. You’ll be the one in control, and you’ll be ready to dress up your demon with a new outfit. You’ll be ready to write a new story.


Grab your favorite crayon. It’s time to get scribbling.


 
Parker Hewes author chiropactor american ninja warrior content creator speaker

Written by Parker Hewes, a chiropractor, author, American Ninja Warrior, and serial adventurer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Parker believes learning and growing are the keys to living a full life. He started Getting Gooder to help others learn and grow, so they can create the happiest, healthiest, and wealthiest lives imaginable.

Parker also knows that our ideal life gets even better when we have others to share it with. So, keep following Parker and the Getting Gooder community as we build our ideal, together.

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