- On July 24, 2018
Have you ever gone some place anticipating the worst and been totally—pleasantly—surprised?
Priming, a function of our brains, plays such a huge role in what we experience.
Last week I was in Mexico. The negative rhetoric from the current administration and the news coverage of crime, drugs, poverty, danger had primed me for apprehension and fear. Having never visited there myself, my mind was subconsciously colored by the overwhelmingly negative messages I see and hear.
Was it as bad as what we see in the news? Should I be worried?
My brain had no experience with Mexico to counter the negative story I was hearing. Left on its own, the brain takes in what it hears as reality…unless we do something actively to change it.
I got curious and asked friends who had been there. I read reviews. I read stories of people.
I gave my brain something else to process besides the negative energy of fear. Through what I learned, I consciously shifted my focus towards the positive energy of anticipation.
Thank goodness for the incentive of attending a friend’s wedding in Riviera Maya or I might never have delighted in the magic of the people, history, and culture of this diverse and proud country!
I was sharing with a colleague some of the adventures of the week—cenote caves and underground swimming holes, Mayan pyramids, similarities between Mayan and Christian traditions. The response of my listener, “Oh I’d never go there…far too dangerous.”
I wanted to say, “There’s so much more to the story…the beauty, the warmth of the people, the centuries of history and culture. Look deeper before you let the negative things you might have heard close off the possibility.” But I didn’t. The conversation shut down quickly at the word ‘never.’
If I had settled for the prevailing story, I would have been apprehensive and fearful to venture out. Instead I welcomed curiosity and engagement and reveled in a week of brand new experiences, like hiking deep along an underground river through a massive cave system and eating tamales and crunchy cheese-caramel marquisitas from a corner push cart.
It made we wonder: What else do I subconsciously close my mind to because of something I’ve read or heard? What have I missed out on?
Is there a situation when you have you primed yourself to think negatively about something, and discovered the real story has offered so much more possibility?
Photo: JMaliszewski, 2018. Climbing down the Mayan pyramid at Coba. Inside a cenote (sinkhole). Fresh tortillas for lunch in a Mayan village.