“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”

Attributed to both the Talmud and Anaïs Nin

Seeing the world as we are is tricky business, and it describes why life gets so confusing and difficult at times. We can be convinced that our perception of a person or situation is accurate, when not only are we mistaken, but we are completely unaware of how our view is based on unconscious and faulty assumptions.

Neuroscientists are revealing the culprit of these mistaken impressions in what they call implicit memory. You can think of implicit memories as bits and bytes of your life experiences stored in a giant server farm in your brain, but one that gets some of the wires crossed. Implicit memories operate outside of our conscious awareness, like undetected malware running invisibly but potently in the background of our computer. And implicit memories make no distinction between past and present time.

Here’s an example of how implicit memory works: If you were stung by a bee at six months of age, you likely don’t have an explicit (conscious) memory of the event or how the people around you coped with it. There are many ways this stored experience could come into your life now. You could be jumpy around buzzing insects, even harmless ones, without knowing why. Or if you were in a big crowd when you were stung, you may have associated pain with a closed-in feeling and be a bit claustrophobic. It may have become a piece of evidence in a belief system that the world is a dangerous place, especially if this belief has been bolstered by other experiences that all ended up deepening the same neural grooves. So things that feel like our intuition or gut reaction may only be a distorted reenactment of an implicit memory.

And here’s the kicker: Nearly 80 percent of our behavioral programming comes from (unconscious) implicit memories!

The next posts on SEEING, will offer ways to recognize implicit memories, delete outmoded programs, and reboot your brain.