When it comes to Shiva Nata, you’ll find a lot of people mentioning how brilliant the practise is at changing your ‘patterns’.
Patterns? You’re not talking about quilt designs, are you?
Mental Patterns and Habits
Mental patterns are actions, behaviours or thoughts, which have a specific trigger or pattern to them.
As a psychologist, I may call it “reinforced behaviour”, as a behaviourist “conditioning” or, as a neuroscientist, “learning via LTP”.
For example, if someone hits us, we may act in many ways: hitting back, yelling, falling silent, or using some other mechanism.
They are the things you do/think when one familiar trigger occurs. Sometimes this can be as simple as a mood shift. Sometimes they’re motivated by our fears, sometimes by our dreams. Other times, by pure experience; what’s worked or failed in the past.
My Personal Example
I have a pattern of trying to take photographs of every moment of my life: Especially with other people. I then have a pattern of making everything into a ritual or a “tradition”.
At first, I didn’t see it. I’d find a “rabbitional reason” or say it was “fun” or “important”. After three years of being in my photos, a friend made a comment and the penny dropped.
This comes from many motives:
- I fear losing my memory therefore I have to record everything.
- I can’t throw away birthday cards in case that person dies and I find I’ve recycled the most recent part of them. I fear loss of their love, their words, of being loved.
- I fear never re-experiencing emotion. If I’m happy in a moment; I fear I’ll never feel that happy again. So I make it a regular thing. I took a photo of R and I when we first moved into Uni and on the day she moved out.. Then when we came back for Year 2, and when she left Year 2.. and when she arrived to year 3.. (and so on).
- I experience a lot of negativity due to my habit of reminiscence; and thus need reminders that times will get better.
- I remember being in a space where I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been happy. I take photos so I’ll always be able to remember something good if I get back to that dark space again.
Not all of our patterns are helpful. As useful/justified as some of those reasons can be made to sound; it holds me back.
- I struggle to just experience things because I’m busy trying to get my camera out.
- I worry that I’ll lose friends/family thus take photographs to prove I once had them. Whish pushes them away when I take photos every time we meet up.
- I spend my time looking over old photos instead of living my life
- I end up re-living negative experiences despite the fact that photo is positive [another pattern], such as seeing a birthday card of us smiling from this year and remembering the time she and I argued three years ago.
Perhaps it doesn’t sound too bad; but some patterns can be so destructive that you need to change them.
And in order to know how to change negative patterns; we need to know how they form.
How Patterns Are Formed – The Psychology
Many of you may have heard of Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s behavioural reinforcement.
Essentially, this involves pairing stimuli/triggers to cause a repeated reaction.
A rabbit is shocked via a metal grid it’s standing on when it hears a loud noise/tone.
After a while, it thinks “there’s the tone, shit, it’s going to hurt” and thus begins to flinch/cry at the mere sound of the tone.
In terms of humans.. If your housemates are being loud and you yell at them to turn it down; and they do (out of fear), then you’ll likely always try to yell at them for being loud. It worked once; it will work again.
Each time they hear you yelling, they feel afraid and notice that by being quieter, no harm comes to them. Thus in any situation where someone is yelling, they learn to be quiet, even if they’re surrounded by my people shouting happy chants at a football match – it’s enough alike to trigger your “be quiet” response, and you feel uncomfortable.
The behaviour of silence is rewarded by lack of (anticipated) pain/negativity. The association between the yelling and the silence is strengthened each time you avoid being in trouble by acting silent.
In terms of Psychology, patterns occur where both association and reinforcement are affecting you.
How Patterns Are Formed – The Neurology
In the brain, associations are made, too. The neurons, or wires, connecting the fearful part and the memory of what happened last time are used together. Both wires fire; creating a pattern. Now when one fires, the other will also fire regardless of its own stimuli.
This is known as Long Term Potentiation.
In terms of the rabbit, the foot-shock causes pain neurons to fire. The wires that go from the motor cortex (the feet section, for example) go to the fear section (amygdala); while the auditory cortex neurons also fire.
As all three of those wires fire together; again and again and again; they “wire together”. They don’t actually fuse; but they create a bridge to shorten their route and begin to fire together automatically.
Thus, after a while, the auditory cortex fires at the tone; and the neurons connecting the fear and flinching movement of the feet also fire; as if it were being shocked. The foot moves despite no shock or pain; due to the sound.
This is often explained as “Cells that fire together, wire together.”
When you do two actions together; the neurons of those begin to work together.
- Seeing a flame brought near your finger makes you flinch/try to pull away.
- Hearing the voice of the uncle who always yelled at Christmas makes me feel sad, angry or fearful
The brain is plastic; it can change/re-wire itself in a relatively short amount of time; no matter your age. So neurology suggests the mechanisms by which psychology explains.
So the brain can be changed; leading to behavioural change.
Changing Negative Patterns
How can we change these patterns?
We un-wire them. By un-firing them.
The simple answer requires you to fire one neuron alone until it forgets to fire the other alongside it. If you play the noise a lot and don’t shock the rabbit, after a while, it will forget the shock association.
A second method involves wiring it to a new one. So when the sound plays, make a light come on as well. As the rabbit learns to associate the light and sound, it will then look up at the light when the tone sounds; forgetting that once upon a time, it would have braced for a shock.
This would work in our yelling case:
So we hear yelling (A – auditory neuron), feel the fear (B – amygdala) and run/hide (C – motor neurons).
If we break the pattern; put a new action or stimuli into the picture, such as experience a lot of yelling in positive contexts – (football games where your team’s winning and karaoke parties) neuron A fires a lot without the other two being supported. Instead, new, positive emotions are invoked (D – hippocampus) when we hear (A) yelling.
Shiva Nata is a fabulous way of doing this.
* Wires diff cells together – un-associating strand A and B, thus breaking old patterns.
* Wires new cells together A to X instead – thus giving new patterns.
* As A-B automatically connect, shivanata brings your conscious awareness to it, so you can consciously see what those patterns are so that you can focus on changing them.
* It specifically does this across the corpus callosum; the communication area between your two halves of brain (left and right), allowing the mathematical, logical side to connect with the more emotional, linguistic side.
If you’re not sure of your patterns, think about the “bad habits” you feel you portray.
Do you always get angry when someone leaves you to wash up? That’s a pattern. Do you procrastinate because you’re afraid to start or finish the work? There’s another one.
Find your fears, check your language and you’ll find the patterns. If you’ve identified your bad habits but aren’t sure how best to re-wire them; give shivanata a try, look for the emotions behind it (fear, anger etc.) or give me an email.
- Rose -