Have you ever wondered why people are so diverse in their emotional reactions, interpretations and opinions about everyday situations? Why is it that some people have a positive mental attitude, while others are gloomy and believe they have little personal control over their lives? Why do people experience and think about the same subjects or situations in totally different ways? Each party thinks they are right and, at worst, the other person/group is wrong. Judgment is the genesis of discord, conflict and sometimes war.
I am hopeful that expanding awareness and respect for neurodiversity will help people become kinder, more understanding and more tolerant of the differences of others. My intent is to help people create better lives for themselves and others, through the power of their brains.
Each person’s unique brain wiring contributes to our neurodiversity. Our brains have created our representational system for life, from childhood experiences to where we are today. The following are important facets or aspects of neurodiversity.
- Sensory and Cognitive Strengths – On the most foundational level, your favored sensory pathways to take in information (six combinations of Visual, Kinesthetic and Auditory sequences) and process it cognitively (Sequential, Global and Integrated) should be leveraged for career and life success. When you are using your strengths, you are more productive, having more fun and happier.
- Your Gifts – Everyone has natural talents and gifts, even when they may not be obvious. Howard Gardner, Harvard Psychologist, says we possess combinations of 9 intelligences: Visual/Spatial (Picture Smart), Bodily/Kinesthetic (Body Smart), Musical/Rhythmic (Music Smart), Logical/Mathematical (Number Smart), Linguistic (Word Smart), Intrapersonal (Self Smart), Interpersonal (People Smart), Naturalist (Nature Smart) and Existential (Spiritual Smart). Our gifts shape our interests and help define what we are good at doing. Using our gifts contributes to inner joy and satisfaction.
- Interests and passions – Your interests and enthusiasms about life (e.g. career and life goals, music, art, cooking, health, sports, learning, nature, and hobbies) should be explored with zeal, as long as they satisfy you and cause no harm or injury to others. Your interests and passions are shaped by your natural gifts, early childhood and life experiences.
- Knowledge – Most subjects taught in the educational system provide useful knowledge to navigate life. The internet contains true and helpful information along with false and misleading information. It is best to trust teachings from reliable sources. Constructive and integrous knowledge are building blocks for a purposeful and fulfilling life.
- What we experienced as children – Young children are particularly susceptible to believing and retaining, as memories, what they experience, hear and see. Our early programming (birth through age 7) has a profound impact on our values, behaviors and how we interpret and respond to life. If life is not going well, it may be productive to think about and sort out what was useful and what may have been harmful and untrue from your childhood, or even adulthood experiences. These include negative programming like, “you are stupid,” “you can’t trust…,” “you can’t escape the reality of…” Any belief that limits your peace-of-mind and ability to grow and change your life for the better is eligible for scrutiny and change.
- Social programming – Even the adult brain can be highly naïve, consciously/unconsciously taking in and believing what it reads, sees and hears. Beware that social programming runs rampant on the internet, television, radio, in the print media, workplace and literally everywhere people interact with one another. The brain cannot discern truth from falsehood, particularly when it is bombarded with repetition from people you may respect. Mass hysteria and the “Henny Penny effect” can easily occur, even with intelligent and educated people. Just look about you and identify where social programming negatively and positively affects quality-of-life. Social programming can build opinions we hold true and defend with vigor, forming the basis to attack others.
- Values – Values drive behaviors. They come from life experiences and what we hold to be “true.” We can control our behaviors and the resulting outcomes by constantly up-shifting our values to higher levels. When we experience conflict, fear and pain, it is an ideal time to examine our values and beliefs. Questions to ask include: “How can I look at this situation differently?” “What do I really want as an outcome?” “What behaviors will give me the outcomes I want?”
- Emotional “hot buttons”- We all have many emotional hot buttons that initiate a wide range of feelings from highly negative to highly positive. Certain songs may trigger feelings of sadness or happiness, making us want to sing aloud, dance or cry. A person’s “look” or body language may set off a range of interpretations, such as acceptance, approval, rejection and judgment. Words and tone-of-voice can stimulate our emotions in positive or negative directions. Photos and imagery affect our mood state. A “tailgater” may set off “road rage” or may signal an increased need to stay calm. The thought of public speaking may generate a panic attack or provide a feeling of positive excitement. Emotional “hot buttons” are the brain’s way to create feelings for strong memory imprints. Trying to put your brain in “neutral gear,” when your negative emotional “hot buttons” are pushed to the limits, will help you regain composure to think clearly. There is some truth to “counting slowly to ten” when you are emotional.
- Beliefs, Opinions and Prejudices – Nearly everyone thinks their perception is right, when experiencing a situation, processing it through their “brain programming” mechanism and placing it into memory. This process is continuous and subtle. There is potential for trouble, when we defend our positions, beliefs, opinions and prejudices, thinking that we are “100% correct” and other people are “wrong.” The litmus test for questioning your position is when you experience conflict with others or when barriers and obstacles seem to block you from achieving important goals and desired outcomes. Maybe this is a good time to listen to the points-of-view of others and question the validity and usefulness of your own beliefs. Ask yourself, “Do my beliefs and opinions serve me and others in positive or negative ways?” You may be surprised at how quickly you can get back into the flow of life, when you release your tight grip on outdated and faulty thinking and take the time to understand other people’s points-of-view.
In summary, I believe that neurodiversity is an unrecognized strength of the human race that can be used constructively to improve quality-of-life. Our neurodiversity gives us what we want in life, but it also gives us what we don’t want. Faulty programming causes faulty decisions and misinterpretations of situations. The good news is that we can reprogram our brains to override what we don’t want, gaining more of what we truly desire. If you want different and better outcomes, change your thinking.