As we left the previous lesson you were gazing at the reflection of yourself in a mirror. Close your eyes and there will be yet another reflection of yourself retained in the internal world of mental images stored in your brain. Just as the cerebellum creates circuits within its neuronal structure to facilitate repetitive physical activity, the gray matter of your cortex and the connecting white matter tracts create circuits to facilitate repetitive mental activity. These circuits or mental loops can be constructive or destructive. Just as lower centers of the brain can influence the cortex, the products of the cortex, our mental environment, can influence the body and the lower brain regions.
Remember the porch and how your scary thoughts sent shivers down your spine? Goosebumps are an autonomic response that can be stimulated by mental images or thoughts you generate. Negative thoughts can make you feel scared or frightened or hamper your behavior in a challenging situation. Repetitious loops of negative thoughts or images are like those pesky commercial “pop-ups” that sneak into your computer. They can keep you from accomplishing the task at hand.
It is helpful to know that positive thoughts and mental images can also influence your body's performance.
I am sure you have heard of the "Little Engine That Could". "I think I can, I think I can" is a real stimulant to enhance the outcome of any difficult attempt. When you can muster the will to succeed you can often overcome great barriers.
The mental constructs that serve as the framework for the internal mental world or the world of thoughts do have some basis in basic brain function. The common mental construct of "time" and the "passage of time" is founded in the day and night cycles of our sleep pattern. The issue of good and bad is related to the perception of the internal signals of pain and the absence of pain, hunger and the absence of hunger, cold and the pleasant sensation of warmth.
These simple concepts or mental constructs develop into grander issues as we mature. Goodness becomes associated with fairness, justice and compassion. Evil becomes synonymous with hatred, greed and prejudice. Repetitive mental activity can result in behavioral habits that once again can be beneficial or detrimental to you and society. Actions based in hatred may be made because you as an individual are in pain. If your food resources are limited and you are hungry you may act in greed. If you feel threatened and wish to protect your territory, “outsiders” are met with prejudice. We have learned that such behavior at a societal level can result in very bad outcomes. Acting from am internal state of “well-being” will often result in better outcomes.
“Win-win” situations favorable to all parties involved are the result of a fair interaction. If you have memories of being treated with respect you will repeat the process and act justly. It is easier to act with compassion when you are free of want. But even in adverse external situations you can act from a positive internal environment and make the world a better place. Be more than just a “fair weather friend” to the individuals around you that make up your social environment.
Behavioral habits such as alerting when your name is called, making eye contact, smiling and speaking pleasantly will generally result in a favorable social interaction. The converse behavior of mumbling, looking away, avoiding eye contact, or not paying attention to others will seldom create a social situation in which both parties are satisfied.
You can use your mind to train yourself to think positively to improve your performance. Use your mind to develop a healthy mental environment populated with "good" mental constructs from which you launch your behavior. Reinforce healthy behavioral habits and avoid unhealthy and unproductive habits.