What we experience is our brain’s best prediction
Our brains are not designed to tell us the truth
You see a car speeding over a curb directly toward you. You instantly leap to safety. You survived because your brain is constantly processing sensory inputs – touch, sounds, smells, sights.
But our brain can’t devote the time or resources necessary for identifying each sensory input in real time. Rather, the sensory input, in the context of how we are feeling at the time, “triggers” our learned past experiences in our brain's Mind Map to create our brain’s “best guess” at what is really going on and how to best respond.
This means that actions based on initial perceptions or emotions can be particularly problematic. Immediate impressions are potentially very inaccurate predictions. And an emotion is a rapid, learned judgement – and behavior – based on past experiences. Therefore, immediate impressions and emotions often do not fit with reality, particularly in social situations. And responding instantaneously or emotionally in a manner that is not consistent with the reality of the situation can get us into a lot of trouble.
Ideally, with time, our brain gradually corrects itself, making better and more accurate predictions – resulting in experiences that more closely correspond with reality. Sometimes, it can be difficult to align our experience with reality, even with time and effort. Experiences of severe emotional trauma can become so deeply embedded in our Mind Map that sensations or feelings can trigger a re-experiencing of the trauma. In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic experiences can become dissociated from external reality, resulting in terrible suffering and actions that are inappropriate and even destructive.
How do we avoid making dangerous mistakes when our brain’s prediction does not match the current reality? Join us as we learn strategies for engaging higher cognitive control mechanisms!