This is the sixth part of a lengthy article by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Psychologist called Emotional Memory Management: Positive Control Over Your Memory. The link to the next segment is included at the close of this segment.
Rule: The brain doesn’t care which file is active.
Like the body, the brain operates many times on automatic. Our breathing operates the same way. We can take control of our breathing and inhale, exhale, inhale, and so forth. We can also ignore our breathing, the brain will switch to automatic, and we will breath anyway.
The brain operates the same way. It will automatically pull files as we go about our day. As we see fellow co-workers, friends, or neighbors, it will automatically pull their file – that’s how we remember their name and information about them. The brain does this automatically. Importantly however, the brain really doesn’t care which file is out. However, the fact that the brain operates on automatic is important to us.
When the brain operates on automatic, the files it pulls are greatly influenced by our mood. For example, if you are severely depressed, if your brain is left on “automatic,” it will pull nothing but bad, trash, and garbage files. When depressed, due to the brain chemistry involved, our brain will automatically pick bad files to torment us. Our brain will pull every bad file it can find, often far back into our childhood. As long as the depressed brain operates on automatic, it will continue to make us miserable by pulling every file which has guilt, depression, and a bad mood in it. It will play a series of our “worst hits”.
Remember, we can change files at will. Since the brain really doesn’t care which file is active, a depressed mood can be changed by simply switching the brain to manual, taking more control over our thoughts. This is especially helpful when a bad file is pulled accidentally. This fact will be discussed further in this paper.
Rule: Like the files, the brain only allows one feeling or emotion to be active at a time.
Again, this is a simple rule if we think about it. At any one second, the brain only allows one feeling. We cannot be happy and sad at the same time. As an example, it is almost impossible to be in a “romantic” mood if you are anxious, depressed, or fearful. In another example, pull a file on someone you think is romantically attractive. Get a picture of that person in your mind. Now imagine someone throwing a large snake on your lap. You’ll notice the romance immediately disappears and fear of the snake becomes the active emotion.
Many people have used this brain rule to deal with bad files. As an example, many people have bad files on certain individuals. Suppose we have a bad file on “John Doe.” The mention of his name, seeing him in the street, or any reference to this man brings up a bad file which has bad feelings – anger, hatred, resentment, etc. One way to cope with this bad file is to place a funny name or comment on the file label. In other words, instead of a “John Doe” file, we now have a “Beanie Weenie” file. You’ll notice that many divorced individuals have humorous names for their ex-spouse. This is the same principle. If we pull up a bad file but we have a funny name on it, it prolongs the emotion from surfacing and allows us to put the file away without any problem.
The fact that the brain allows only one feeling also allows us to have great control over our moods, more than we think. For example: A nasty neighbor calls and harasses us for some reason. We immediately pull the file on this neighbor, then another file as we are upset, and end up hanging up with a mood of anger, resentment, and an attitude of “I’ll break her face.” As long as we keep her file out during the day, our mood will be the same – anger, resentment, and so forth. In high stress jobs, for example, people frequently assure others that they don’t take their job home with them, that they leave the work, briefcase, and paperwork at the office. Importantly, while they don’t take the “work” home with them, they clearly take the “mood” home with them. They don’t bring home the briefcase, they bring home the irritability, tension, and high-stress feelings.
However, if we choose to change our mood, we can do things like listen to favorite songs, look at a high school annual, look at vacation pictures, and do other things which will cause the brain to pull different files which have different moods – better moods.
Keep in mind, the brain will do anything we want: it will allow us to be angry the rest of the day or it will allow us to change it’s mood – it simply doesn’t care.
[The next segment continues with Brain Operation and Daily Use.]