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Tag: reticular activating system

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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Miss Dodd Meme from The Captain's Quest

Shocking the System

The Captain's Quest, Miss Dodd Meme "If you ever consider drugging me, it better be with poison."

All authors today, whether traditionally or independently published, are expected to do some of their own marketing. The creativity it takes to capture readers’ attention spills over somewhat into the marketing realm, but we only get one or two lines to grab the reader. I used the above quote, “If you’re going to drug me, make sure it’s with poison,” from Miss Dodd’s character in my recent release, The Captain’s Quest.  As part of my marketing strategy, I created it into a meme to shock the reticular activating system of people’s brains in an attempt to gain their attention.

The brain’s reticular activating system is a bundle of neurons only about two inches long at the base of the brain that acts like a nightclub bouncer or gatekeeper for the brain deciding what stimuli pass through into our conscious. For example, as I’m sitting in my quiet office, I can hear the muffled song of my son’s video game, the shower running, a tiny house wren chirping outside the window, the cars passing by my street, and the clacking of the keys as I type out this sentence. In order to concentrate on what I’m writing, my reticular activating system will filter out most of these sounds, keeping them corralled in my subconscious. However, if my son turns off the shower and the sound of water dripping continues. My reticular activating system will release that stimulus into my conscious, alerting me that a pipe is leaking.

 It’s also why in restaurants, we can drown out the other conversations going on around us until someone’s conversation gets heated or the waiter says our name. Suddenly our attention locks on those things and starts to block the person to whom we had been speaking. The same goes visually for what is out of place. We can see rows of pink bunnies, but our eyes will be drawn to the purple one. Or, with a row of pencils, our eyes will hone in on the one that is out of alignment.

God made our brains amazing in this aspect. Think of the onslaught of stimuli that we feel, taste, touch, hear, and see within even a few minutes. Despite the bombardment, we can focus on attention or be alerted to danger. As God’s children, we are called to be salt and light. We are challenged to stand out and live differently to be a beacon for the rest of the world.

shocked man

Today society has made it easier than ever to shock people’s reticular activating system. One of the ways my husband does it in his industry is by not swearing. In construction, it’s so rare for a company not to use foul language that his business stands out by comparison. He doesn’t have a formal rule about not swearing. He merely leads by example, and others follow suit. For the past three years, his company has won Best Places to Work in the Boston area.

It’s sad to say but speaking the truth stands out nowadays enough to shock someone’s system. This might not have been the same in years past, but now telling the truth and showing love instead of hate are reticular activating catchers. An act of love, especially when it isn’t deserved or anticipated, not only makes us stand out, it makes others take notice. People will see the light of Jesus in you. Love can stir dead hearts back to life. Speaking truth creates a craving, awaking a hunger for more.

People not only desire salt and light, but they also need it. So go ahead and show them some love–shock their system.

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