Negative Feedback Loops - allenhall.ca

Our brains are artificial intelligence in that they are designed to learn without our knowledge of their learning. Through experience our brains observe life and our interactions with it. Our brains take note, they recognize patterns, they store this information to influence our behavior. This is part of a safety mechanism although this ‘Artificial Intelligence’ serves many purposes.

The information gathering and subconscious manipulation does not just occur over the period of our single lifetime. It occurs over the course of many lifetimes and keeps the information it gathers stored and passed along to the next generation via our DNA. It passes the information along from lifetime to lifetime in order to grow, adjust, and survive. This is part of how we evolve. This is why we have seemingly insurmountable irrational fears such as being afraid of harmless snakes, insects, andm high altitudes observed from the safety of solid ground. This is a remarkable biological defense mechanism. It serves many positive purposes but it can also be quite devastating.

Because the brains stores information in such a pragmatic way it can influence a person's life dramatically. It can cause what are known as negative feedback loops. For instance it can gather data and form a hypothesis then test this hypothesis and confirm its own conclusion. It does this in congruence with the logical reasoning part of our brain. This is the part that we as individuals have more control over and if our subconcious confirms something through our concious mind our subconcious will make it that much easier to make the same outcome again. Here is an example.

Frank is an anxious woman. When Frank is in a situation she assumes is volatile she becomes anxious. This triggers her deep lizard survival brain to recognize the situation as a threat. This supposive threat than in turn triggers feelings of fear and the ‘fight or flight’ response is proposed to the frontal region of the brain. When Frank flees a situation that causes the anxiety, as she normally does, her lizard brain notes that it was correct in perceiving a threat and documents this data for later use. It notes the geographical area it happened, the colors associated, and, any circumstance that otherwise contribute to the feelings of anxiety and fear.

When Frank is again in a similar situation the lizard brain responsible for the safety of the human that is Frank will again promote feelings of fear and the option to flee. This time it may do it sooner than before. It may produce these feelings before Frank even steps out the door before she is close to the social situation that causes anxiety.

“Run!” it will say “You are in danger! We have been here before!”. Frank will run and the brain again confirms that it was correct in its perception and builds stronger resistance to future attempts at “unsafe” scenarios.

The trouble is that Frank wants to be more social. She wants friends and a community. This is a common and perfectly reasonable desire but for whatever reason Frank gets anxious in a crowd. The subconscious feels this uncomfortability as a threat and recognizes fear. It will then in response promote thoughts that encourage flight. “Run!”. And so, Frank runs, again confirming the brains suspicion.

The next time the brain and its ‘artificial intelligence’ will warn Frank with anxiety even before she leaves the house. If Frank has the idea of doing something social her brain will send signals that this is not a good idea. That it is a dangerous thought. This occurs again and again and is why some people are so devastatingly and hauntingly debilitated by anxiety and fear. It is a negative feedback loop that grows stronger and stronger every time it is allowed to influence the behavior of the conscious mind. Frank will remain unable to pursue her desire to be part of a community. She will believe the whims of her protective subconscious and sadly in response will not experience the joy she deserves from this life. Blocked by thoughts she perceives as her own better judgement Frank will be faced at every turn with anxious thoughts.  It is a negative feedback loop produced by our brain’s built in ‘‘artificial intelligence’.

So how do we break this self made imprisoning cycle? Unfortunately that can be very difficult. It is likely that upon hearing the solution that I propose, if you are a suffer of such loops, you will object and design the suggestion as impractical, too difficult, or that you are unable for such a course of action. All of this is lies of course. They are lies manifested by the protective subconscious brain who has been doing merely its job to protect you. It can be altered and its degree of difficulty will vary depending on the length and severity of the habitual negative feedback loops that you participate in.

To change the feedback loop of ever debilitating behavior we must override the subconscious with the conscious. Recognize these deep thoughts as merely suggestions. Walk through the fear. Do not allow the protective nature of your subconscious mind to dictate the course of your life. Your subconscious is doing its job by attempting to protect you. You must do your job to listen to that subconscious thought but not be dictated by it. You must enjoy this life. To do that you must take control. All you have to do is live your truth. There will be resistance but in the words of Andy Warhol “So what?”.

You are not weak. The belief that you are is a true statement to the iron will of your resolve. If you can believe something so completely, like the notion that you are weak, then you can come to know its opposite just as completely. You are not weak.

This world needs you. There is no escaping that. Whether you choose to step out of your protective feedback loop or not you affect your surroundings and all the people in it. Regardless of what you choose you are as equally important as every moving part of this universe. Your meaning will reverberate through everything and everyone. You have the choice to tone this meaning. You know what you have to do. Your heart screams for it and your soul yearns for it. They have (your heart and soul) placed in you the trust to seek out and fulfill. Listen to your subconscious. Consider its warnings. Do not let it dictate your life. It does not have the capacity to fulfill your desire or your meaning. Only you can do that. It is your responsibility.

You do not need to be happy. Happiness is a quick fix - it is chocolate cake. Happiness is why Frank never approaches fear. Her subconscious claims that if Frank does something uncomfortable she will not be happy. So what? Happiness is deluded and its value is exaggerated.

We can create positive feedback loops to counteract and reverse the effects of negative feedback loops. A good strategy for this is to create a reward system. Determine a negative habit you would like to change and break it down into small parts. Reward yourself for completing each of those parts. Do not overlook your reward. If you create a reward system but feel you can forego the reward this can cause a great problem. Use the reward you set up or you will disappoint yourself and hinder the process.

This reward system can be as simple as “I am going to the mall today even though it is scary. I am going to purchase things I need. When I return home I will reward myself because I did something that is not easy for me. I will reward myself with a bowl of ice cream or glass of wine.”.

Be wary of over indulging in your reward system. Keep it simple, short, and, practical. Tomorrow you can reward yourself for not rewarding yourself too much.

It can be extremely helpful to practice this habit with a partner. It is beneficial in many ways such as serving the reward based positive feedback loop, strengthening the relationship, and, being a practice of better communication. Reward yourself if you accomplish this with your partner.

In this article I mainly used anxiety of social interaction for my examples. However there are very many habits that form negative feedback loops. What is important to note is that many of these feedback loops get tied into our personality. Such as thoughts like “I do not go to dinner parties because it is not in my personality to go to dinner parties.”.

To me this is bullshit and there IS NO PERSONALITY. There are just thoughts, ideas, habits and neurons that get thought of and deemed as being a personality.  

You can be be whatever you like as long as you work at it and form the feedback loops necessary to strengthen what you desire.

As always listen to your heart and your soul. They will guide you. Listen to your fears. Fear is real but it is not a master. Ask yourself “Why do I fear this?”. You know what you want. It is not easy to get what you want but consider that a salmon swims upstream constantly because in their hearts and soul they know it is what they must do.

Do not let your subconscious dictate your life.

You can do it.

Break the cycle.

I love you.

Allen