Honoring every experience as an opportunity for learning and growth.
Philosophers and psychologists have long been saying that our thoughts help shape who we are. In the age of science, we can see that they were more right than we might have given them credit for.
A phenomenon called neuroplasticity allows the brain to form connections between various brain regions, and then change the connections based on our thoughts, actions, and environment. Learning is a process of slowly building neural networks that accomplish a specific task, strengthening them through repetition. Once established, these neural networks can be activated almost effortlessly, sometimes without you even needing to be conscious of it.
It occurred to me the other day that this phenomenon may be part of the reason that we find old habits, especially thought patterns, difficult to change. Perhaps you’ve recently broken up with someone, and can’t stop thinking about them. Well chances are pretty good that while you were dating, you thought about them an awful lot. The neural network is there, whether you like it or not, and your habit of thinking about this person is now wired into your brain.
The part that we have to consider, instead of beating ourselves up over not being able to let this person go, is the fact that the network that is now being effortlessly activated was forged over time, and its deconstruction will also take time. This goes for any pattern (thought or behavior) that we want to change about ourselves. We are not a victim of our habits, our patterns, or our thoughts and feelings. They all arise out of the building blocks that we put there, which means we can change them.
So the next time you find yourself struggling to change a pattern that no longer serves you, give yourself the time it takes to do the job right.