As an NLP practitioner, a lot of the work I do focuses on the Reticular Activating System or RAS for short. Simply put (I like to keep things simple) the RAS is the brain’s information filtering system and each person’s RAS is unique to them.
We receive so much information at any given time, if this system did not exist, we would go into overload. The system works by filtering all the information we receive, then files it either in our unconscious or conscious mind, based on what makes sense to us according to our perspective of the world, through our beliefs, values, conditioning etc. Pretty good system.
RAS acts as a kind of door between the unconscious and conscious mind. Everything deemed not to make sense, useless, not relevant, goes straight into the unconscious and the door is closed. Leaving us with the information we can understand and makes sense to us, according to our view of the world.
It is important to remember, our perspective of the world is totally unique to us. We all experience the world in a way that is completely individual to us! (Hence a well known saying in NLP “The map is not the territory.”)
To give an example, if you buy a new car that is red, it seems all of a sudden that every other car you see on the road is red. It’s not that they’ve been in hiding waiting to pounce as soon as you got a red car, it’s just that you didn’t notice them before, as your focus was not on a red car, (unless of course your previous car was red!) so previous information you received that related to red cars was dumped in the unconscious mind, courtesy of your RAS.
Then when you became the proud owner of a red car, it became relevant to you, so information your brain received relating to red cars got promoted to the conscious mind and hey presto, you started seeing a lot of red cars!(And you will be thinking about red cars now, because I’ve mentioned them quite a bit!!). The red cars were always there, you just didn’t see them, as they were not relevant to you, so you didn’t focus on them!
When you think about the things that you want in life which for you may be success, a wonderful job, money, happiness, great relationships, it is exactly the same principle. If you are not focusing on or not sure what it is you want, you will not be aware, not notice and will miss the opportunities, people, places and everything that is relevant to you achieving what you want in life. However, as in the case of the red cars, they are still there, you are just not seeing them! As soon as you do, your RAS will spring into action!!
It’s generally easier for us to think about what we don’t want in our lives! Maybe a little trickier to think about what we really do want!! However, thinking this way can really hold us back from living the life we’d love to live!! So……..
Do not think of a pink elephant!!!!
I guarantee you are now thinking about a pink elephant!!! The brain is a tricky piece of kit!! It has to think about what it has been told not to think about, in order not to think about it!! (With me so far?) It does not compute a negative!! So when I am telling you not to think about a pink elephant, your brain does not hear “not” it just hears “Do think of a pink elephant!”
You probably will have experienced this for yourself! Ever been out for dinner in a white top said to yourself “Don’t drop food on it!” And of course you do? Or carried mugs of coffees and said to yourself “Don’t spill them!” And as if by magic, that’s exactly what happens? It’s all down to the brain not being able to recognise the negative command you gave yourself and just hears “Drop food on it!” or “Spill them!” It is not you being clumsy, it is your brain carrying out your command in the only way it knows how! I’m sure you can think of a few examples of your own!
So if you are thinking about all the things you don’t want, your brain will just take that as what you do want!
I don’t want to be ill.
I don’t want to be broke.
I don’t want to be out of work.
I don’t want to be unhappy.
And the brain will do its job and your ever efficient RAS will throw all the things relevant to being ill, broke, out of work, unhappy out of the unconscious mind and into the conscious mind, as that is where your focus is! The exact opposite of what you want!
There is a great exercise that will help you think about what you do want, if you are not too sure, rather than what you don’t want! And then your focus will shift!
Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left hand side head it “What I don’t want.” and on the right hand side the heading “What I do want.”
Start listing all the things you don’t want such as “I don’t want to be ill” “I don’t want to be broke” etc., whatever you don’t want in your life write it down on your list!
Once you have completed your list of what you don’t want, then you turn your attention to what you do want! Which is the exact opposite! So for instance if the first thing on the left hand side is “I don’t want to be ill” then the opposite of that is “I want to be healthy” which you write down on the right hand side as the first thing. Continue doing this all the way down your list until you have completed the “What I do want” column as the exact opposite of everything you have listed in the “What I don’t want” column.
And then you cross off, rub out, everything on your “What I don’t want” list and now you are left with your positively stated and completed “What I do want” list.
All you have to do then is focus on those things you want. Imagine them! Visualise! What will you be seeing, hearing and feeling? What will you be doing? Where will you be? What will be happening? What will people be saying to you?
When you do that, the door is opened! Your RAS is activated, which will then filter all the info you receive relating to what you are focused on into the right place, the conscious mind. When that happens, not only has the door opened, your mind has opened.
It’s opened up to possibilities, opportunities and ways on how you can get what you want, because your RAS is working in its usual efficient way and filing everything relevant to what you are focused on in the conscious mind. So what you couldn’t see previously, you can now see clearly!
So get your RAS dazzling and get the results you want!
Article written by Janet Wilks, NLP Practioner and work coach