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Our brain and us! Who is cheating who?

by Ilka Emig

Whoever understands his
brain can do things different than the brain suggests immediately,

says psychiatrist professor Manfred Spitzer in an interview, and right away I have to think that whenever I start a diet my brain suggests immediately to eat all kinds of food.

Our brain, the little cheater! If there is something I don’t want to think about all I do is think about it. Maybe you have heard of the phrase “Don’t think of a pink elephant.” And yes, of course, now you have to constantly think of a pink elephant.

Information can be processed slower or faster. In our example the information ‘pink elephant’ is processed fast, and the negation limbs behind with its ‘not’. So, the advice to phrase things in a positive way instead of negating makes sense from a neurophysiological point of view. In education it is a known fact that it is better to not repeat the ‘wrong’ but to rather say it ‘right’.

Better

be calm2

Than

don't panic 2

On a more behavioral level there is a bigger concept behind it all, called ironic processing. It describes us reacting automatically versus reacting in a controlled manner. It’s a game between the unconscious and the conscious. While we have seen the concept work on the level of language, it also works on the level of habits.

Elevator or Stairs?

Imagine we are in a place with stairs and an elevator! Don’t we automatically and unconsciously find ourselves in front of the elevator, the easy way, the learned habit? Then we need to pause and take a conscious decision to take the stairs. Once we freely choose to take the stairs we feel great. We know we did a good thing, right for our body. We can even choose to use the stairs all the time, and after a while it can become a new habit.

But do you know what the funny part is? Once we have no choice, once we have only stairs to use, we are frustrated. We don’t feel great at all anymore. We are plain mad because we were forced to use the stairs. It is important for the motivation to have a choice. That’s also how our brain works. And you know what? We simply have to live with it.

Finally, enjoy this video on YouTube to see how fun can make people choose the stairs!

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simplyilka

Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and lovable scientist with a knowledgeable expertise in brain science. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

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Tamara - October 22, 2013 Reply

Nice slogan mommy

Sent from my iPad

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Tamara - October 22, 2013 Reply

Mommy do Oma and opa now about this web page

Sent from my iPad

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scottishmomus - October 26, 2013 Reply

What a great video. I knew it. I try to make my teaching fun. Who doesn’t learn better if they’re enjoying it? It just makes so much sense.
I want those stairs. :)x

muggleinconverse - October 27, 2013 Reply

I love that stair video. The quote is great too. Your post reminded me that even though we can think of ourselves as our thoughts, we often need to control them to be who we are.

Holistic Wayfarer - November 6, 2013 Reply

ThOuGhTful posts here. =) Thank you for the follow! Cheerleading your way.

simplyilka - November 6, 2013 Reply

Thanks for your kind words! Glad we are in touch! Looking forward to reading your thoughts 🙂

Akshita - December 31, 2013 Reply

Hello! I’m a new reader. 🙂
Very interesting post! I’ve always been told that it’s better to use positive words rather than ones which negate, but I never knew that there was a neurological reason.
The video was great too!

simplyilka - January 4, 2014 Reply

Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed it and learned something new 🙂

Gemma - February 12, 2014 Reply

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find the majority
of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content in your case?
I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write about
here. Again, awesome website!

    simplyilka - February 16, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Gemma! I am touched. I never thought someone would be interested to be a guestblogger at my page. Could you please provide me with a link to your blog. Your name is opening at a guestpost you have written for someone’s blog, but doesn’t say much about you.

    Thank you, Ilka

Ella - June 27, 2014 Reply

Hi Ilka!

Our human brain is strange, isn’t it. We think it all organized and clear. But wow, it’s not.

I love the video!!!

    simplyilka - June 29, 2014 Reply

    Hi Ella!

    Absolutely right. Our brain is quite complicated.

    And the video is great. It really shows clearly what I described in the post. Glad you liked it 🙂

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