Climbing Out of a Rut

From an Edge neuroscience article I linked to before:

“Now you ask him to send signals to both hands as if he were moving them, clenching and unclenching or rotating while he’s looking in the mirror. Now he’s going to get the impression— you don’t initially ask him to actually move the left hand because if he moved it would be painful, he only moves his right hand —and he imagines his left hand moving. What then happens is the patient gets the visual image that his left hand, which is immobilized and paralyzed, is again obeying the brains command, it looks like it’s moving and is not painful. This way you unlearn the learned pain and the learned paralysis.”

It’s a fascinating trick played to alter perceptions, which works despite knowing the trick is being played. That got me thinking.What happens when you are stuck in a rut? It’s tempting to think a rut is a set of habitual actions. You drive to work on autopilot, talk to your spouse in the same ritualized exchanges or whatever. But what this and the phantom limb treatments show is the way you perceive yourself and the world around you are the critical elements.

Driving to work on autopilot can only continue as long as you perceive the environment as unchanged. If a truck shoots out from an alley, in most cases you will resume conscious processing. To get out of a rut that element of surprise must be internally supplied by your imagination. As suggested in this post by Eric Falkenstein, take a walk and let your mind make new connections. Even if your imagination is awful and most of what results is self-criticism of your poor screenwriting abilities, that in itself is a change in your mental landscape. Keep yourself guessing. Put your other shoe on first and see what happens.

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