Do you tend to walk down the same pathways or do you like to explore new ones?
We are currently living near Stockport and often pop along to Happy Valley, an ancient wooded valley along the Ladybrook River, for our favourite local walk. It’s so peaceful, and you would never imagine that you were so close to the Manchester metropolis.
The last time we visited, a large oak branch had fallen and crossed the usual path. This must have only happened within the month, as it wasn’t there on our previous walk. I noticed that the old trail had disappeared, and a new one was formed by walkers strolling around the bough.
Imagine trying to keep using the blocked pathway, scrambling over the branches and getting caught up in the web of wood. That would be ridiculous and wouldn’t make sense.
However, how often do we do this with our thoughts? We keep going down the old pathways, our own horror stories, those negative ones that we struggle with, and we wonder why life seems so hard. We keep tripping over that deadwood when we focus on stuff that doesn’t serve us, such as anxiety, shame, fear, etc.
Just like the new path created by the walkers, our brains have pathways. With every repeated thought, our brain strengthens these neural routes. How brilliant that whatever age, we can change – due to our neural plasticity, our brain has thousands of billions of synapsis that can create new pathways.
You may wonder why you keep going down that old pathway, keeping outdated beliefs about yourself that don’t serve you. It’s habitual. As in the book The Inner Work by Mathew Micheletti:
The brain can then become addicted to the chemicals released, called neurotransmitters, each time a neurological reflex is activated. The brain will even look for and find a reason or excuse to “go there” so that it can receive a chemical hit of the thought or emotion that it is so addicted to.
The great news is that when we choose to focus on what we DO want, we can form new pathways.
Micheletti writes, “with each moment spent in states of gratitude, love, ease, and trust, the neuron connections for them gets stronger as well, and the old pathways begin weakening.… we can make happiness a natural, habitual response to life—our original, pure state.”
There is a school of thought that believes it’s essential to go back into our past. Yes, it can enable a person to find meaning and closure and see that they have resilience. But couldn’t this antagonise our mental wellbeing if we keep our recollections alive?
For example, I used to think I was not good enough. I would bring memories to the forefront of my mind of someone calling me “Thick as two short planks” when I was 17 and other times when I failed. I kept this story alive for decades.
I don’t have these thoughts anymore. You may wonder what shifted this.
I learnt and gained a deep understanding of how human experience is created. Just like anything, when we understand how something works, we don’t need to keep thinking about it. Just like driving a car, in the beginning – there can be a lot of thought about it – when do I press the clutch?
I realised that I was keeping this deep-rooted memory alive using the gift of thought. The belief wasn’t true; I was re-creating it. I am the director and producer of my own reality – so why on earth was I bringing up all those supposedly important memories from the past, the ones creating my anxieties? Going back in the past is like digging a hole deeper and deeper in order to get out of the hole!
I realised the fallacy. I also realised that I was one thought away from taking a new pathway, and I took it.
We are all on our own journey called life. What pathway do you want to take? An old path, worn-out with boulders to navigate or an exciting new direction, with love, joy and gratitude in your heart?
Hi, I am Lindsey Reed. I love connecting with people and enabling them to remember who they really are, their true selves. Coaching is online, the wonders of technology. If you would like to connect with me, pop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s have a conversation. I look forward to hearing from you.
My book Got It: The Answer to a Confident, Productive & Stress-Free Life is available from Amazon in over 25 countries. It describes how we create our experience of our own reality called life. Through this understanding, we can have a more confident and freeing life.