This statement can at first sound ridiculous and be dismissed. Likely because the word “brainwash” tends to have negative associations. It’s not negative or positive. It is what it is, and the majority of beliefs you already have about your life and how to live it have been put there through a form of brainwashing… the parents you have, the religion you were prescribed, any siblings, the school you went to, significant relationships, societal expectations… all of the information you get from these sources, especially the repeated messages, is brainwashing you.
My client, who will soon be entering her 30’s, is particularly prone to self-criticism, amongst other things. The source of this behaviour is repeated messages of a similar theme from the day she was born to as recently as the week before our coaching session.
That’s some serious brainwashing! This can only be undone with some serious counteractive brainwashing.
You can’t go for a run on the first of January and then think you’re set for the year. Within a couple of days the effects of the exercise have worn off. You have to get moving every day and do some serious exercise at least a few times a week. You also need to eat well. You have work on your body on a regular basis to have it perform at its best. This is generally accepted knowledge (brainwashing).
When it comes to development of the mind, I often meet people who’ve never actively worked on it. Or the people who go to a service such a counselling (sometimes only after the situation got so bad that were was little choice left), have one session and then think they’ve got the issue sorted. Part of this is because there is societal brainwashing about it being ‘weak’ to get counselling or coaching (fortunately this is changing), or that there is something wrong with you if you haven’t got your thoughts under control.
No, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re human and that means there are certain natural laws about how your brain and your thoughts are created.
Some people accept that this is a natural law but don’t bother living by it because it’s hard and they can get disheartened.
Yes, it’s difficult (or unfamiliar at least). For more on this, read my article: Why does life have to be so difficult?
So if we can get over the sense of difficultly, let’s talk strategy…
One of my favourite ways of brainwashing myself is audiobooks. I can listen to an audiobook once and think that I like what the author said and admire them for saying it and what they’ve achieved for themselves. After one listen though, not much is likely to change in my behaviour. I will listen to the audiobook… (side note here: it’s not just any audiobook, it’s an active choice after asking myself the question: If I were going to be brainwashed, what information would I want to be brainwashed with?)… and then I will listen to it again, and again, and again… until:
- First, my own brain starts actively questioning my thoughts and beliefs against the new and different information being downloaded. This also happens in conjunction with reflection on behaviours and actions I’ve been taking in my life.
- Second, my brain starts to accept and believe the new information and it becomes part of who I am. Then my behaviours naturally align with the new thoughts and beliefs.
This is why I like audiobooks; I can multitask. Because who really has time to read the same book over and over again? Audiobooks can be done while cooking, cleaning, driving, walking, or when I’m awake but not ready to get out of bed yet!
The multitasking helps me to make the task easier. Undoing the information in your head that is not serving you is WORK. It’s a daily practice and it’s frustrating because you can feed yourself information designed to serve you for seven days, and on the eighth day do something that is completely representative of the ‘old’ you that you’ve been trying to brainwash into oblivion. And that’s okay. (Remember what I said about the new thoughts being blended with reflection on actions I’ve been taking. Your brain will test you as you and you learn as you go).
Stick with it. And remember the well known saying ‘Happiness is in the journey, not the destination’ because if you’re doing this right, you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life. And that’s a good thing.