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Tag: emotions

tire ruts

Get Out of That Rut!

Ever felt stuck in a rut? The idiom comes from the early pioneer days when covered wagon wheels would get stuck in the grooves or channels of a dirt road where prior wagons had passed. The wheels would get bogged down by the deeper holes or forced along a specific track.

Ruts can be an emotional state. As much as I look forward to summer relaxation and fun, there’s a part of me that has been on the go, driving kids to sports events, youth groups, and attending end-of-the-year school functions. My life has been what’s next, next, next for so long that when I can’t list off a few things that need to be done immediately, I start to feel edgy. I have to force myself not to create busy work. It takes a couple of weeks before I can relax and be okay without running around at Mach two with my hair on fire (to quote from Top Gun).

In his book, MaxOut, entrepreneur and business personality, Ed Mylett, talks about how we move to what is familiar to us – specifically with emotional states. The question is, what state is our status quo? Is it angered, stressed, fearful, anxious, worried, or depressed? Are we returning to harmful emotions because they’re familiar, like how dogs return to their vomit? How do we move toward the good emotions, like those derived from the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

youn girl thinking

God, in His goodness, gave us the answer in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I know what you’re probably thinking (or at least I was). Easier said than done. True, but when we also look at how God made our brains, the genius of our creator is awe-inspiring.

We have a Reticular Activating System or RAS, where our brains focus on what is deemed essential and filter out most other stimuli. The RAS is why when you get a particular hairstyle or specific fingernail color, it pops up everywhere. Ring tones are a famous example; once you choose one, it sounds like everyone has the same one. This is because we’ve told our brains to look for this information and not let it slide by us.

If we concentrate on what is worrisome or stressful, our brains will filter for anxious stimuli. If we focus on what is excellent or praiseworthy, our brains will reward us with positive and encouraging stimuli. When we ruminate on our dreams and God’s purpose for our lives, opportunities, connections, and learning lessons will pop up on our radar.

Over time, by merely redirecting our thoughts, we can jump the rails of our negative rut and get on a life-giving path.

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brain and artificial intelligence

Avoiding Mind Tricks

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” said Greek philosopher Socrates. We can think we are so smart, but our brains are easily fooled. The boys and I binge-watched some old episodes of Brain Games. While a dance crew preformed their routine, the audience had to count how many times the dancers stepped into a circle. Because of their focus on the ring, over fifty percent of the crowd missed a large penguin strolling casually across the stage. The next segment showed how our brains make assumptions about shading. The host showed a Rubik’s cube where the center color on the shadowed side appeared orange, but on the unshadowed top, the center square looked brown. When the squares were moved next to each other, they turned out to be both brown, but the shadow tricks us.

In psychology labs, I was warned against many different types of bias that could alter results. Here are a few I remember:

Selection bias – over or underrepresenting certain people groups in the sample.

Observation bias – where participants in the sample group are aware of being watched and alter their answers or how they act (consciously or unconsciously).

Confirmation bias – researchers (consciously or unconsciously) look for results or patterns to agree with their opinions or conjecture.

Between biases and mind tricks, it seems our logic often can be flawed. We’re disillusioned into relying on reasoning skills to guide us, but truth is, humans are easily deceived, which makes the devil’s job a lot easier.

If the brain isn’t reliable, then what about our feelings? Perhaps we should let our hearts be our guide. Yet, anyone who’s thought they’d met Mr. Right only to get dumped knows the heart can be capricious at best.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears right, but in the end, it leads to death.” When we live by logic or emotions, we can easily be led astray. If we don’t know God’s wisdom and plan for our lives, then we’ll wind up settling for a secular counterfeit. Feelings and rational thought can become the idols we sacrifice ourselves on.  However, the bible says, fear of the Lord leads to wisdom (Proverbs 15:33), and if we ask God for wisdom, it will be given to us (James 1:5).

If we seek Godly wisdom, we can walk in our purpose with confidence. But how do we know when wisdom comes from God? James 3:13 says it will show with deeds done in humility and a good life, and in verse 17, James states, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

God has a plan for us, but so does the world. God’s plan is to give us life to the full, but the world’s plan will leave us empty. We can choose life and to be life-giving.

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