What's your Filter?

What do you notice around you right now? Don’t think too much, just notice.

What jumped out at you right away? What did you notice next? Perhaps something that did’t jump out at you immediately? Some things stand out at us more than others because of the filters we use. 

We are all surrounded by so much stimulation at any given moment that it would be   IMG_2535impossible to register all of it. The way the brain deals with this is by using different filters. Filters help us prioritize and select what we pay attention to and what we ignore. Think of it a bit like what we will zoom in on, and what part of a picture will remain fuzzy or in the background.

 We have all been somewhere busy and noisy and still been able to hold a conversation. That was because our brain selected the filter that would allow us to zoom in on, or focus on, the person we wanted to speak with. Filters are great in many ways, they allow us to work in a coffee shop, interact with other people and even stay safe (think of the filter you would use as you walked through a dark alley at night, most of us would be “filtering” for signs of danger so we could get away safely if necessary).

Similarly, filters can become a problem when they happen automatically, and they make us feel weaker or get in the way of us living our values. Automatic filters are often because of past life experiences, particularly ones with strong associated emotions.

Consider some of the things you learned and internalized about yourself as a child. Maybe you were especially good at math, sports, etc or you were told and believed you were a looser who would never amount to anything. Whichever filter we adopt, we will look for situations that support that belief, because we have to be able to trust ourselves.

Go to the You Tube link below and see for yourself.

We see what we look for. That is great when we are looking for how great we are at our job or what a good parent we are, but it becomes a problem when we are looking for reasons to support us being a loser and everyone judging or disliking us.

When you think about times in your life where there has been uncertainty, what filters jump out at you? Are you looking for ways you will rise to the challenge or ways you are helpless and fail? How helpful/ harmful are the filters you use day to day?

If you are unsure what filters you use, make a quick list of 10 adjectives or short Boy-writing-and-drawing-Cartoon-and-5600081-123RFphrases to describe yourself. Are these helpful or harmful in your life? Are they in line with your values?  Do they make you feel stronger or weaker?

Just for fun, try to think of examples of times when they would not be true. Are there times people thought you were the opposite of what you think of yourself? How much weight did you give to those comments or experiences, did you “Zoom in” on them, or mostly ignore and forget them? How would your life be different if you changed the unhealthy filters you use?

Take a moment and try this on, because a filter is really just a tool used by our brain, it can be consciously controlled or unconsciously controlled. We can consciously, with effort, change the filters we use, even the automatic ones.

Don’t believe me? Try it! Take one of the unhelpful filters you use and for today, consciously look for the opposite. Notice how this feels similar or different. Which one feels better?

Most people are able to over-ride unhelpful filters with significant improvements in how you think and feel, but not without conscious effort and a need to practice catching yourself, but that gets easier with time.

Are you willing to put the effort into changing your filter if it means you get to experience life in healthier way? In a way that is more in line with your values?

Summary

1. A filter is how we select what we pay attention to in our life and in our surroundings

2. Filters can be conscious or unconscious

3. Automatic filters are often connected to past experiences

4. The filter we use, changes how we experience any given moment

5. We can consciously CHOOSE to use filters that are helpful and in line with our values

We would love to hear your comments and experiences with this exercise. Send us an email or tweet @DrAdrianaWilson.

Have a great week!