How the brain mirrors other people

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The discovery of mirror neurons in the brain 15 or so years ago has transformed our understanding of how children learn and how adults ‘read’ other people.

Mirror neurons are groups of nerve cells in the brain that fire if either the person sees someone else doing something and if that person does the same thing. For example, if you observe someone else smile then the mirror neurons will signal; if you smile yourself then those same neurons will also fire. Which implies that your brain is set up to ‘mirror’ other peoples’ behavour so that you can adopt it, understand it, or implement it yourself.

Which tells us a number of other interesting things:

  • Firstly, the brain is set up so that it can temporarily adopt the point of view of another person and extract information about what that person is trying and to do and why they are doing it.
  • Secondly we now know more about how humans learn. As everybody knows very young children learn by imitation. What we now know is that when children copy adult behaviour their brains automatically encode that behaviour so that they can mimic it within seconds. One reason why children learn so fast. And, also, why new cultural fads – slang, dress styles and gestures like the ‘high five’ – spread so rapidly amongst adults.
  • Thirdly, it has now become a lot easier to understand how most human beings can read other people so fast. If the brain contains neurons that simulate other peoples’ activities: their facial expressions, speech, gestures, movements and emotions then it will only take a split second for the brain to ‘read’ someone, even when you don’t know, consciously, that you are doing it. For example, your Headmind might, superficially, assume that someone you meet for the first time is nice, charming and interested in your welfare. Meanwhile Bodymind, using it’s mirror neurons, is taking a deeper assessment. It might notice, for example, that the eyes flicker elsewhere while you are talking, take in that slightly dismissive wave of the hand, that his smile fades away a split-second too short. Within moments your body is coming up with uncomfortable feelings while the conscious mind is carrying on with the conversation in the belief that all is well.

One weakness of traditional psychology is that it tries to explain how people learnt about other peoples’ intentions in terms of logic. Meaning that if the people you meet obeyed social conventions in terms of saying the right things, smiling in the right places, putting their arm around your shoulders, etc, then they might be ok. But Bodymind may know different. Which leads to a conflict between your ‘feel’ about other people compared  to what you think you may know about them. But because Bodymind uses intuitions rather than words to communicate to you those insights may be over-ridden by Headmind as ‘illogical’. To your lasting cost.

 

 

Image by  SashaW

Five ways to get rid of your moods

Mood In my last-but-one post I wrote on what your moods tell others about you.

In this post I describe how you can shake off negative moods.

The first step is to understand what a mood actually is. It’s not a feeling or an emotion but a subtle change in Bodymind energy which can be sensed both by yourself and by others around you.

For example, a self-pitying mood could manifest as a heavy, oppressive, melancholy kind of energy.

While a fun-seeking mood could be light, bubbly and playful.

The second step is to raise Awareness. Of who you are and what you are doing in the moment. Of your emotions, feelings and moods. You can’t change a mood that you don’t know you have. In some cases you can shake off a bad mood just by becoming aware of it and focusing your attention on something else.

Which brings us to the third method, which is actually the simplest one to use: listening to music. If your mood is down, put on something uplifting. If your mood is bitter, put on something sad. If you are panicky, put on something with a big beat! And so on.

The fourth way is to eliminate the cause of your moods, which reflect your relationship to yourself, to other people, or to life.

  • If your relationship to yourself is judgmental your mood is likely to be edgy, tense, strung-out.
  • If your relationship to other people is hostile your mood is likely to be prickly and ‘ready-to-blow’.
  • If your relationship to life is defeatist your mood is likely to be depressed.

In each case the answer is to change the attitude.

  • Instead of passing harsh judgments on yourself, focus on your achievements.
  • Instead of attacking people, empathise with them
  • Instead of giving up on life find new things to do or a new way to live.

The fifth solution is to get rid of your Personality. You only need to use this one if you find that the same mood keeps coming up, again and again. For example, if you are continually despondent, agitated, or bitter and you have been that way for a while then you have become trapped by false personality.

Image by nyki_m