In the category of resurrected wisdom . . .
Some months ago, I bookmarked an article I came across that was originally published in August of 2009, more than a year before I started writing Put it to Bed. I have a whole store of such resources, kind of a personal tidbit library. I periodically visit this cluttered virtual chamber, in search of "writing juice," something that will trigger the process of thought and invention that gives me something to say.
This particular piece caught my eye at the time, and again this morning, because its title resonated with the self-help fatigue that intermittently overcomes those of us who tend to read our way through problems. "Why do so many self-help books sound the same?" was written by neuroscientist Dr. David Rock for his Psychology Today blog Your Brain at Work: Using Neuroscience to Improve Daily Life.
In it he says
It's not that authors are plagiarists, it's that there are a small set of quirks about the brain that require a lot of attention, if you want to succeed in the modern world. The reason these quirks require attention is that they are not insights we might learn automatically, like how to breathe: they require learning, like a language. And these quirks are often hard to remember because in many cases they go against what seems logical.
He identifies the following as five of the bigger quirks:
- The brain is built to firstly minimize danger, before maximizing rewards. This means people tend to naturally err on the side of cautious, even when the opposite would be better. This is an overarching organizing principle of the brain.
- Too much uncertainty feels dangerous. It feels like possible pain so we avoid it.
- Our conscious processing capacity is small, which makes us terrible at a lot of things, including predicting what might make us happy.
- Our capacity to regulate emotions is limited, depletes fast and needs to be used quickly to be effective.
- Our intentions and goals alter the information that the brain pays attention to.
Sometimes I wonder why we ever left the cave. We are apparently so ill-equipped for the world we inhabit. We inherit this life-long project of training our outgrown brains for the way we want to live. And it's a lot of work . . .