Insight – Understanding how to achieve higher level performance by understanding the underlying psychological needs
The most fundamental psychological illusion is the idea that our bodies will not act on their own. Instead of feeling and doing as you want, your body tends to follow your thoughts. In reality, the body’s body is the most complex brain/body system we use to interact with the environment and with each other. To make a conscious decision, a person relies on signals from their senses, such as the sense of hearing or the feeling of hunger. Even though the body can sometimes give in to its emotional needs and become hyper-aroused (like the brain when it’s hungry), it’s also important to remember that your body has no conscious control over this. This means any manipulation of the body that can produce a conscious feeling of a desired outcome is not only ineffective, but likely to backfire.
How does this illusion work? In order for your brain to understand that you made a conscious decision to perform your best, it needs to find a reason for doing so. In the case of a conscious decision to eat, you’re going to have more control over how you feel than the brain would have with no decision to motivate you to eat. This means that your brain would be biased to think that eating is good for you, rather than a simple decision based on physical need. In effect, the brain is making a false assumption based on the data available. To achieve the effect of consciously believing that you should eat, your brain requires the belief that eating will satisfy your physical needs.
This illusion can be countered by using the concept of “theory of mind.” Theory of mind means that mental processes are only as good as what the person perceives others to be doing. An intuitive mind would use the knowledge that someone else is doing something to guide their decision making. This helps that person make better conscious choices.
The idea that your brain can only make conscious decisions is only true if you’re not using cognitive distortions to try and manipulate your thinking or the way you act (see below).
Cognitive distortions are mental actions that can make you look foolish and/or unreliable. For example, if you suddenly decide to drink a bunch of tequila before you even get to the grocery store and go for some fun, or if you suddenly start making rash decisions based on gut feelings, your belief that those other decisions are correct and the gut feelings are wrong is reinforced as wrong and irrational thinking.
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