No one would deny that being scared of a tarantula is probably a good thing and most of us would be. It’s a brain defence that helps to keep us safe. Many people however see any spider, no matter how harmless, and make the same danger assessment they would if they came across one of its more lethal cousins. Once that assessment has been made, what we commonly think of as anxiety or panic sets in. It’s at this point the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) takes over and all of a sudden a purely perception based, mental experience has become a very real physical one.
What is happening here is that the mind has made an instantaneous scan of it’s database of potential responses but instead of hitting upon a specific one to retrieve i.e. based on the size of spider and the reality of the danger it presents, it’s hit upon the scariest one it could find and stubbornly refuses to go beyond it, The initial scan has hit such a block that the mind can no longer look for alternatives in order to make an accurate assessment of the situation.
As the mind has decided that the situation deserves a higher ranking in the fear spectrum, the body naturally responds and provides one.
This is why people around us often fail to understand what’s actually going on. They carry out their own spider mind scan, and because they haven’t built up a “spider roadblock”, they’re able to retrieve a specific, in perspective, response to it.
They see our response and can’t understand it because they are seeing the situation very differently.
They fail to realise that we aren’t responding to the spider itself, we are responding to the spider, or more specifically the danger, that appeared in our mind scan. In this sense our response is actually very rational. The important thing to realise is that when it comes to anxiety there is no spider, purely a pre-determined perception of one and it is that that’s creating the anxiety in the first place.
Figure 1.1 Response in an Arachnophobe
Figure 1.2 Response in a Non-Arachnophobe
In both of the above scenarios you will notice that the initial stimulus and the subsequent response is, in essence, exactly the same and what is more, the response is the rational outcome from the scan. The stimulus itself doesn’t trigger the outcome, the scan does!
This becomes even clearer when you look at the fact that most phobic reactions can be triggered purely by a picture of the offending object.
Again, the mind sees the image, scans and then provides the “appropriate” response for the individual. To reiterate, the response is not based on the situation, the situation may as well not exist in the first place, it’s based on the result of the scan.
Mind Scan Theory gives us an insight into the way in which we think and the processes we unconsciously carry out when we experience things.
It shows us that we’re not actually affected by the circumstances we find ourselves in, rather by our perception of them. It gives us the tools to understand why, regardless of the circumstance, our mind will make it’s own assessment of the gravity of a situation and even more importantly it also sets the level of feelings we should have about it. This is rarely based on actual reality though and in many people this is where anxiety, panic and all too often depression stem from.
Mind scanning is what determines our experience, not the experience itself. This is why two people will see an event completely differently and, as we’ll look at later, this is why two people will get completely different outcomes from an identical situation.
Mind Scan Theory will be published in 2016.
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