thoughts

Understanding Your Context Filter

By: Jill Pack

One of the first things I work with my clients on is understanding the difference between thoughts and circumstances. This is one of the foundational concepts to understand if you want to create something different in your life. Understanding the difference between the two allows you the opportunity to act instead of being acted upon. 

For example, my husband is my circumstance, and I am his. The words we say are also circumstances. They aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are. There isn’t a problem until we each have a thought about the other person and what they said. 

Now, does that mean we have to love what the other person says or does? No, of course not. But we empower ourselves to be our best selves when we realize that it is the way we are thinking about what they said or did that causes us to get upset, not the actual words or behaviors. Understanding this allows us to decide on purpose to act in a certain way instead of reacting to the situation. 

But there is another part to this. There is a space between the circumstance and a person’s thought. 

It is called the Context Filter. 

A context filter is like a pair of special glasses that everyone wears, but each person’s glasses are different because they are made up of their own stories, what they believe, what they think is important, and where they come from. These glasses help them see the world in their own special way. This means that when they look at a problem, a chance to do something, or when they are talking to someone else, their glasses make them see and think about these things in their own unique way. This is how they decide to handle different things that happen in life. 

Some things that make up a personal context filter include: 

  • Past Experiences & Outcomes or Results in our life 
  • Culture (ethnic, religious, family, regional, etc.) 
  • True Self (divine self/spirit/soul, natural abilities, personality, genetics) 
  • Current Emotional State 
  • Core beliefs 
  • Values 

All of these things make up the lens through which we view life, so it makes sense that we think the thoughts we do. 

When I begin looking at what is part of my personal context filter, I can begin examining it and deciding what I want to keep or let go of. This really is a lot of what coaching or self-coaching is. It is taking a look at what is in our context filter, questioning it, and deciding on purpose what we want in there. 

Here is an example. 

Let’s say you grew up believing that getting a college degree was very important. You went to college and got your degree. You have a successful career and are able to provide for your family. You teach your children that education is important and you believe that attending college is just a given. You value learning and education. You believe that a college degree is key to living a fulfilling and productive life. Of course, college is the logical next step after high school. Then one of your children decides college is not for them and you can’t believe it. It doesn’t make sense to you. 

Can you see your personal context filter at play here? 

Viewing their decision, which is your circumstance, through this lens shapes your experience. You feel sad and disappointed because you are making it mean that everything has gone wrong and there is no way that their life can be as good as it could be if they were to go to college. It just feels so true. 

Yet, how do you show up in your relationship with your child when looking at the situation through this context filter? Are you behaving in a way that helps you be the parent you want to be? Do you feel more connected to your child? My guess is the answer is “no” to both of those questions. 

Again, it doesn’t mean you have to love their choice, but it doesn’t have to derail you either. 

This is when your emotions can be a clue that it is time to take a deeper look into your personal context filter. Examining those things that may not be serving you in your relationship with your child. Curiosity is key to shifting your lens. 

What if you are wrong? What if it is possible that your child might even be happier if they don’t pursue a college education? What if they are learning exactly what they need to learn by not going to college? What if whatever they decide to do, it will all be ok? What if your belief is just your opinion and it isn’t the same as your child? What if that is really ok? Of course, you might feel disappointed. It makes sense because of your filter. Let yourself feel that. But, what if you can still be the parent you want to be and have a very connected relationship with them whether they choose to go to college or not? 

Using your emotions as clues can help you use questions like these to help you shift your personal context filter. Then you can begin showing up in your life and in your relationships as the person you want to be. 

We don’t want to judge or be critical of our personal context filters. That isn’t the point. Objective self-examination or awareness opens the door to change. Of course, we view life through the lens we do. It makes total sense because of how we were raised, the experiences we have had, and the things we value. We can validate that and still decide to change our filter. 

The work I do, as a life coach, is to help people take a deeper look into what makes up their personal context filters, question them, and decide what they want to keep and what they want to let go of so that they can show up in their life and relationships as the person they want to be. The person they like being. When we take the time to really look at the lens through which we see life, we can begin to see how this filter affects what we make it all mean, the emotions we feel, our behaviors, and our overall experiences. 

Click HERE to listen to this week’s podcast episode to learn more! 

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Dissection: A Lesson From Freshman Biology 101

By: Meagan Skidmore

The year is 1987. A literal bell rings and threatens to shatter my eardrums.

The students hustle and clamor as they rush into the classroom just barely avoiding a tardy. Enter Biology 101- where the culmination of the school years’ work is in the earning the privilege and “getting to” dissect a fetal pig. Not a fulfillment of any hopes and dreams of this young high school freshman. 

And yet, dissection is the one sure fire way to learn biology piece by piece, taking it physically apart in order to be put back together again, physically and cognitively speaking. 

Literally and figuratively, we took our specimen and stretched, pinned, snipped, opened, poked, prodded, and removed some things in the way in order to “see” as much as we could. To a young teen this was disgusting (the formaldehyde stench was potent) but it did result in a better understanding of my own biology as far as it related to a fetal pig’s.

Imagine if only that class were Psychology 101 where we poked, prodded, and opened our proverbial mind to reveal our thoughts and beliefs and dissected those. I think I could have gotten more excited about that sort of assignment.

Indulge me and let’s dissect the anatomy of a belief. 

Class. Is. In. 

What is a belief?

First something must happen that creates curiosity or an impetus for a need to know or understand. Ideally this happens in a situation conducive to learning, asking questions, inquisitiveness and so on.

Pathways in the brain aremade by connections between neurons (nerve cells). When a behavior is performed, the connections between these cells change with the frequency of the behavior performed. These neural pathways are like grooves in the road maps of our brain. 

The more frequently we travel the road, the stronger and more second nature the behavior. You can practice traveling down “new roads” or neural pathways by performing a new behavior with frequent repetition, connecting new beliefs to support the new behavior, as well as visualizing a positive outcome resulting from these new behaviors. (Source: Dr. Susan Rieck, The brain and our habits: Natural pathways to wellness, https://maximus.com/the-brain-our-habits)

….or in this case, for the purposes of our discussion, a thought.

A belief is simply a thought that you have thought over and over and over again

The more we have a certain thought the more ingrained it becomes in our brains, literally. They are called neural pathwaysfor a reason. As I mentioned before, our brains are all about efficiency and so will always go to our habit brain to pick from our thoughts. The brain will pick the ones we use (or think) the most.

Those thought(s) ultimately produce our feelings.

And then that thought (or thoughts) feels true because you believe it is true. 

I call this the anatomy of a belief. You can learn more about it by listening to Episode #3 on my podcast, Beyond the Shadow of Doubt™ (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-3-the-anatomy-of-a-belief/id1641584986?i=1000577877697).

I believe we feel threatened as humans in challenging a belief when we forget to come back to the basics of what a belief actually is and from where it originated.

We forget that we got to choose it in the first place; we may not realize that we did, in fact, chose it.

Father Richard Rohr talks about this idea of awakening to our power when it comes to what we think or believe. He describes this idea of shifting our locus of authority in his book The Universal Christ.

“An utterly new idea from Paul was that the Gospel was not about following some criteria outsideof the human person—which he called “the law,” but that the locus of authority had changed to insidethe the human person. This is why he rails against law so strongly and surprisingly in both Romans and Galations. The real and “new” law is an actual participation with Someone inside of us: the “love of God that has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5 and throughout). This Inner Authority, this personal moral compass, will guide us more than any outer pressure or law, he believes, and it is available to everyone.” – Father R. Rohr

The process of learning to become autonomous over our beings is so important. It is empowering and where the growth happens! 

At its foundation, the true beauty of a beliefis that WE CHOSE IT.

Whether we are aware or not of this fact is separate.

Think about it.

Even if we were taught a certain way of being or doing from a young age, there were still other options. Whether or not we were aware of them, they still existed. 

It’s the WHY we chose the belief that matters most—that is usually where we have less clarity.

—did we take it on someone else’s authority (parent/teacher/religious leader/other adult)?

—did we look inward and ask our Inner Wisdom? Or did we only look outward?

—did we “go along with it” because peers did too?

Raising our conscious awareness of our beliefs is key to gaining more clarity. 

My coach Amber Smith taught that “…the most dangerous beliefs are the ones we don’t challenge.” In our interview, Episode #52 of my podcast Beyond the Shadow of Doubt™ (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-52-the-most-dangerous-questions-are-the-ones/id1641584986?i=1000622361815), she shared further:“Before I started doing belief work…(where I was willing to look at what I believe) I had a story in my head about how I was and I thought I was just saying what was true about me. Like ‘I’m not creative’ or ‘I don’t have a good imagination’ or ‘I don’t have a lot of persistence’ or whatever.When I started a business, probably like you, there’s a lot of beliefs that you have to challenge about yourself. And I realized some of the stories that I had believed about myself were not true.Growing up I would hear, ‘oh, Amber is so athletic’ or ‘Amber is such a peacemaker.’ And I thought that was just trueand this is why it’s so dangerous! It’s because there’s other stories! Those probably serve me —being athletic, right? I was an athlete, but there’s other ones like ‘I’m not creative,’ that really hurt me in the beginning of my business.

I was like, ‘Well, I’m just not creative! I don’t have good ideas’ or another one is ‘I’m not that interesting’ and I just thought it was true. I thought this is who I was. This is how it is. This is why it’s dangerous!” – Amber Smith

I would love to know how that lands for you?

What comes up for you as you consider challenging a belief? If we like a belief because it “works” for us we tend to keep homeostasis. We don’t want to rock our boat. However when you become aware that the belief doesn’t “work” for or actually causes harm to some individuals, it often brings up cognitive dissonance. You are now faced with the choice to examine the belief and rethink it or challenge it. 

Or not.

The choice is yours.

It’s hard.

Painful.

Sometimes devastating.

You begin to question not just that belief but perhaps others that you have long held dear.

Cue what I call a pivot in our journey, whether that’s a faith journey or fill in the blank….We may view our beliefs as a state of being. If a belief is tied up in our identity it is harder to question or re-evaluate it. 

A belief is NOT you. You are the one “listening” to the belief (or thought).

You are also the one who can change it.

You are much more expansive and exist beyond your beliefs.I’d love to know your thoughts. 

Class dismissed.

PS: If you would like to join my free coaching group CLICK HERE

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Confirmation Bias And How It Hurts Our Relationships

By Karen Edwards, CPQC

We’re all human, so we all deal with confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a phrase devised by English psychologist Peter Wason. Ultimately, it is the tendency of our brain to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existingbeliefs. It’s a survival tendency of our brain to try to prepare us for possible dangers. If our brain believes that “dogs bite”, it will find every evidence of it. If a dog runs up to you on the street, your brain will make that mean it wants to bite you. If the dog licks you, your brain will see that as evidence that the dog is getting ready to bite you. So, of course, you are guarded and fearful and the dog feels the fearful energy and tries harder to seek affection, which continues to scare you. So, your reality is that “dogs bite”.

Confirmation bias is behind most of our limiting beliefs. Whatever we think will be our reality. Our brains make assumptions constantly in an effort to protect us. And those assumptions are naturally going to be negative because that is what our survival brain is there for, to find danger.

I like to think of my survival brain as my default mode. If I don’t choose what mode my brain is in, it will just default to survival and the negative.

How is this hurting our relationships?

First, I believe that one of the best ways of showing love in our relationships is to pay attention. To pay attention to the other person and really hear and see them. Confirmation bias can definitelyinhibit your ability to do that, especially if you have known that person for a long time. Your brain just makes assumptions and isn’t able to keep discovering new things about this person. But we are all changing and growing and there are always new things to discover in our relationships. One way that I’ve seen this in my life is with my son who struggles with ADHD and anxiety. At night, when I’m going to bed, he sometimes comes into my room and wants to talk to me. I have hearing loss, so I wear hearing aids and when I go to bed, I take them out and can’t hear well at all. He sometimes comes in and starts talking to me, I have to stop him, turn on my lamp, scramble, and knock things off my nightstand while I’m searching for my hearing aids. I finally locate them and put them in my ears. I ask him to repeat what he was saying. He says something like “next time you go to the store, will you buy stuff to make pumpkin muffins?” I feel irritated because I’m thinking it could have waited until tomorrow, so I naturally act irritated. He leaves feeling a little embarrassed. The next week he comes in again and we go through the same scenario, except this time my brain says “here he comes with something unimportant to say” so I’m irritated before he even speaks. My brain believes it will be unimportant and so no matter what he says to me, it will be unimportant. It’s significant to note that I really love my son, I worry and think about him all the time and try to come up with ways to connect and help him.

Do you see the problem?This is why I do what I do. Understanding and learning about my survival brain has helped me overcome its negative thought habits in my relationships. I am now able to be more mindful and take each experience with my son as it comes, without pre-judging it. I am able to pay attention and be fully present with him. Healthy relationships don’t just happen, we have to create them with our thoughts. We do not have to stay in default mode. We have access to other regions of our brains that have other tools besides survival…tools like empathy, patience, curiosity, innovation, and discernment.

We can learn tools that help us use our agency in how we think so we can create the lives and the relationships we want. We don’t always get to choose what thoughts come into our heads, but we can choose which ones we keep thinking. My mission as a life coach is to teach these mindful tools to my clients so that they can use their agency to choose what mode their brain is in, instead of living in default mode.

To learn more about working with Karen, please visit her PROFILE

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