It's time to rip the cover off what really works to ditch addiction, depression, anger, anxiety, and all other kinds of human suffering. No, not sobriety. We're talking the F-word here: Freedom. We'll share, straight from the trenches, what we have learned from leaving our own addictions behind, and coaching hundreds of others to do the same—and since it's such a heavy topic, we might as well have a good time while we're at it.
Bob: I have this distinct memory of being two years old.
When I was two years old, my mom took me and my older sister—at the time, there were just the two of us, so I was a little less than two, apparently—and we went to a horse ranch where I went horseback riding. I have this distinct memory of myself on the horse, my mom kind of standing next to the horse in the saddle. There was wide-open field, wide-open range, maybe a fence down yonder.
My older sister happened to be on a horse all by herself. Now, my older sister is only 15 months older than I am. So, she's three years old or so and she's on a horse by herself, and that horse then starts trotting off and galloping. It runs away with her. [0:01:15]
I remember this feeling of complete terror about horses and fear about what's going on. I remember her screaming and her arms flailing a little bit until somebody could calm the horse down some, and she was hugging onto the mane and holding onto the bridle or the or the reins a little bit. I don't remember there being saddles on the horses; there probably were.
But this is my memory of an early event in my life when I was two years old, and the crazy part about this memory is that, one time, I was going and talking to my parents about it, and I was relaying what I remembered in a sort of joking fashion like families do when you're reminiscing about the past.
I told them what I remembered, and my mom was like, No, I would never put you on a horse by yourself, let alone put your sister on a horse by herself. We never did that. We did go horseback riding once, but we didn't do it on a ranch like that. It was just in a pen. And here's a picture of it. [0:02:09]
She showed me a picture and here I was having this massive memory that seemed to be sort of a defining thing in my head as one of the earliest things I remember. It had nothing to do with what I actually remembered or with what really happened—and this is the trouble with memory.
Today, on the Alive and Free Podcast, we're going to talk a little bit about memory, how it works, how identity works, and how this plays into not just finding freedom from addiction, depression and stuff, but actually how to use it constructively to find a way out.
But this is going to be a rollicking trip. It might be a slightly longer podcast, but it's going to be fun. So, here we go.
We are looking at a scenario where we have to figure out why memory is so messed up. Now, there's a Netflix series called The Mind, Explained that does a pretty good job at exploring some bits about memory in their first episode where they talk about memory. If you're interested in that, it's a 20-minute episode, and it’s really good. Some really fascinating information there. We're going to go a little further than that, but let's recap. [0:03:14]
They pull up a lot of people who are experts in the field of what memory is and how it functions, and how the mind works and puts things together, and they start to piece together a story about memory that is very different than what most of us believe.
Most people believe that a memory is literally a recording of something that happened in our past that lives somewhere in our head, and we access it and it helps us to recall or remember stuff. Unfortunately, that's not how the mind works. Also, unfortunately, it turns out that memory itself usually deteriorates really rapidly. Within a year, it's 50 percent distorted, makes missing holes in all kinds of stuff. This becomes important even for tiny things like day-to-day stuff—what did you eat for dinner last week?—and for huge, life-defining events also. [0:04:00]
In that episode, they pull apart and they pull out people who are talking about their experience of 9/11. Now, most people with 9/11 remember where they were. They remember what they were doing and whatnot. So, this lady was talking about how she was in elementary school.
She distinctly remembers looking out the window of her classroom and she sees smoke billowing out in front of the window over Long Island Sound. Now, her mom had been in the city working that day and she remembers a certain amount of fear around that.
When she was telling her mom about it, much like when I was telling my mom about my memory, turns out that her mom wasn't working in the city. Her mom was working in Connecticut. Turns out that the elementary school was some 40 miles away from the Twin Towers and there was no way the smoke would have reached there. Turns out that the smoke also happened to be billowing in the other direction, and it turns out that the window to her classroom didn't actually face Long Island Sound, even though the elementary school was close to the water.
We have this massive disparity between what she distinctly remembers happening on that day and the facts of what was actually true. [0:05:03]
Where did she get this idea of what was going on? There were all kinds of screens showing billowing smoke out of the Twin Towers that were happening around the same time, and so her mind had that information. Her elementary school was near the water and the smoke billowing over the water sort of makes sense. Her mom in the city, her mom had worked in the city for most of her early years, and so it made sense that she just connected it with that, even though at that period of time, her mom happened to be working in Connecticut.
All of these disparate facts show up and her brain is piecing them together.
Here’s how this really works. When you're having an experience, all of this data is coming into your nervous system and into your body via all of your sensory organs. You have visual data that comes in and your thalamus and hypothalamus are directing traffic. They're the sort of go-between with all the different areas of the brain they're connecting and the dots with everybody.
And so, the information comes in, and your thalamus and hypothalamus are saying, Okay, that's vision stuff that goes to the back to the visual cortex. This here is auditory. Okay, so you're going to go over and we're going to process it over here. Your touch, sweet. Would you step behind me and give me a back massage? This is smell. Oh, you're stinking. We don't want anything to do with you. For some strange reason, smell isn't processed in quite the same way. Interesting. But you have all this data. [0:06:20]
On top of that, you have emotional information that is from the amygdala, right? And so, now your amygdala is telling them whether or not this is important emotionally, and whether they were afraid or happy or whatnot that's going on. And you have thoughts that you can perceive that are going through storylines and whatnot. And you have location that's being sensed by certain cells.
So, you have all this information that comes in, boom, and it's filtered and sent out to be processed in all these different areas of the brain.
There's a structure in the middle of the brain called the hippocampus. This is going to get rad really quick, guys. This hippocampus, its job is basically to weave together all these disparate threads into a single tapestry—so you have the thread of vision. You have the thread of sound. You have the thread of taste and touch, and you even have smell, yes. And you have the thread of emotion and thought processes, and all of these things—and all of these are woven together into a major tapestry that allows you to actually experience the event. [0:07:18]
What you are seeing out your window right now is not actually the real world. What you are seeing is a projection in your mind of what it took in from the real world, so your eyes are not actually seers. You don't see through your eyes. You receive light through your eyes and you see through your brain projecting an image in you.
That's going to sound really weird because, if you're close to mountains way off in the distance, those mountains are actually inside your head. They're a projection of your mind, way in the heck out there, but it feels like it's outside of you because that's how good your mind is at creating this experience. But you're, literally, in each moment, weaving together all of the data from the outside world and creating an experience for yourself. [0:08:05]
This is a rather empowering notion that your weaver, your hippocampus, the thing that's stitching these things together for you, is giving you an experience and that that's coming from inside you. That means that you actually have access to reprogram that sucker.
Memory works the same way. The only difference is the belief that it's happening now, which can change in people who struggle with PTSD and whatnot, where it actually feels like it's happening again.
Imagination works the same way. Imagination doesn't have the belief that it's happening now or that it happened in the past. With this is a belief that this could happen in the future or this is just a fun thing to think about, but it's not real. Either way, you're still giving yourself an experience. You're experiencing it even though you don't have the belief that it's real.
So, your mind is this great weaver, and it's pulling all of these disparate threads and yarns to make a beautiful tapestry that you and I call life, that you and I call our experience. You and I call it history, but it's not. [0:09:05]
It's his-story. It's literally “the” tapestry that he wove in his own mind that just started from the data from the outside world, but that is filled in with all kinds of different things.
Case in point, your eyeballs actually have a blind spot in the back of them where the optic nerve attaches to the retina. There's a blind spot. It doesn't receive light there, which means that what you see on the outside is your mind filling in all of the blind spots and all the gaps—and that's what happens with memory.
Over the course of a year, or less time, even, for some people, more time for others, this memory deteriorates and there are gaps and blind spots, and that gets filled in with other pieces, other threads, in order to make a complete tapestry. Nobody likes a tapestry with a hole in it.
As your beliefs and thoughts about life and your life experience change, you will experience your memories differently because you'll put them together differently. The cool part is that this is where your identity comes from, your identity, who you believe you are—Oh, I'm a weakling. Oh, I'm an idiot. Oh, I'm not good at public speaking—and this comes from past experiences and emotions. [0:10:11]
If you have the ability to go in and shift those, not by trying to lie to yourself and say something else happened that doesn't work. This isn't about lying to yourself. It's about training your mind not to put the pieces together in the same way anymore. It's not about inventing pieces. It's about training and to not put them together anymore in the same way.
If you or someone you know is looking to drop the F-bomb of “Freedom” in your life, whether that's from addiction or depression and anxiety, or just anything that's making you feel flat-out stuck, but you have no clue how to shake it and just want help doing it, head on over to LiberateAMan.com and book a call, where we can look at your unique situation and give you the roadmap you've been missing.
Here's another rad twist. The hippocampus. It’s called the hippocampus because it’s shaped kind of like a seahorse, and hippocampus is the scientific name for the seahorse. In old Greece, hippocampi, the seahorses were believed to be the baby version of the real hippocampi, the adults, which were actual seahorses.
Now, in later mythological depictions, the front half of them is a horse and the back half is a fish, but originally they were horses. Now, that means a horse that came out and was created in the crest of the wave. Maybe if you saw The Last Unicorn cartoon video many, many years ago, back when I was a kid, same idea, that the horses were created in the sea foam on the waves and whatnot. But these horses, typically, live deep down in the depths of the ocean. They have no natural predator, but they hang together in packs, and so the only thing they have to worry about is another pack of hippocampi. That's it. [0:12:01]
Now, what's interesting about exploring the mythological side of this is that the word hippos in Greek means horse and the word kampos is the word for a wide, open area or a field. Now, some people translate that to mean sea creature or sea monster, but it literally just means kind of a wide, open area or a field like a college campus. And so, you have hippos + kampos. It's, basically, a wild horse, a wild, free-ranging horse in the open fields.
This starts to connect with Zen traditions where they'll often talk about quieting the monkey mind by quieting the chattering monkey, and this you'll hear off and on in people who are dealing with meditation and mindfulness, how you want to quiet your monkey mind, so it's no longer chittering, because it's really hard to enter deeper states of meditation when you've got this chattering monkey.
The other part of mindfulness is not often discussed that I trained and I paid attention to because I came from the Kung Fu side of things. It’s taming the wild horse. [0:13:04]
Now, in the beginning, it was just the horse is your body and the monkey is your mind. But if you look at this and you understand that the hippocampus is a wild seahorse or a wild horse, now we come into an entirely different range of things, because, here, this in your mind, this structure in your mind, is a pair of horses. If one is broken, just like the hippocampus work together to support each other, the other one will still function and you'll still have a functioning memory.
People who have damage to the hippocampus, and you'll see this in the Netflix series if you want to see it, they actually have a higher propensity toward depression, toward Alzheimer's, towards schizophrenia and other mental health disorders. They have no real memory beyond semantic memory of dates and places, or skills and whatnot, but they don't really have much short-term memory or any capacity, because their weaver is broken, so there's nothing telling them what this means anymore. They don't have the ability to really envision into the future and visualize what might happen because their hippocampus is broken. It's deteriorated. And so, that's an important piece. You want to have a strong one, but you want to tame this wild horse. [0:14:18]
Now, what is a natural predator? The natural predator, there isn't one. The only threat is another set of hippocampi, which is the memory of another person inside of their head. They remember events one way; you remember events another way; and there is this duel, this battle that ensues in some people.
Don't raise your hand if you're driving—but how many of you have ever had an argument with somebody about what happened where you're like, No, you said this. No, you did this, no, no, no, when the reality is your hippocampi are going to battle because you both wove the situation differently?
When we talked about having a conversation with your spouse or significant other where you both win, it's because we say, Okay, cool, both weavers are right. You both wove a tapestry and your tapestry looks like this and mine looks like that. Right? Cool. [0:15:07]
The goal is to tame the wild horse. What happens when you put a bridle in the horse’s mouth? Meaning, you bridle your passions, to use Christian language. It doesn't mean stifle them. It doesn't mean destroy your passions. It doesn't mean anything like that.
It means, literally, let the passions be strong and healthy. Just put a bit in their mouth so that you can direct them, so that when they want to run, they run where you want to go. No big deal.
When you've tamed these wild horses and put a bridle on them, who was the Greek god whose chariot was pulled by hippocampi? His name was Poseidon, and he was the god of the seas and the oceans, and he was the god of earthquakes.
Now, think about this. The seas, all the fluids in your body, all of your chemistry, all of your emotional state, when you have learned to train your hippocampus to piece things together in a way that is beneficial for you and to eliminate a lot of the emotional baggage, you become the god of your own sea, your own chemistry, and the trembling and movement of your limbs, your behaviors, your actions, the movement of your bit of earth called the human body. [0:16:17]
You also become a god of your behaviors because your behaviors come out of your emotional states. They come out of your identity. They come out of your memory. They come out of who you think you are. I've used this analogy before that it’s why we love ice cream, even though we know it's not great for us; because we have amazing nostalgia for it.
Hot dogs. I used to love hot dogs as a kid, and then, at BYU, I worked at the Marriott Center, where we had to clean up after basketball games and we had to clean up after football games at the stadium as well. And so, we got all the leftover concession stands and, that year, I destroyed my ability to like hot dogs anymore, because, ugh, they just wrecked me. It didn't take very long before I couldn't handle hot dogs anymore. [0:17:01]
But when I smell a hot dog cooking, I still have a nostalgia for it and a thought through my brain like, But maybe it'll be good this time, because I've pieced together, in my mind, a notion that this is something that brings cope, comfort, whatever it is that I felt as a kid growing up, eating hot dogs.
We have this nostalgia for things, but when you can actually train your mind to release the nostalgia, the emotional story around it, and you can get to the bottom of things, then, all of a sudden, you become the god, the master of your sea and your earthquakes. You become the master of your emotional chemistry, the one who creates it instead of the one who is just affected by it. Your behaviors, your habits, your actions, the one who creates those instead of the one who's just affected by them.
What we do at the Freedom Specialist is, literally, a process of teaching a person how to consciously retrain their hippocampus, to piece things together in a way that helps them to live life where they're in control, where they're the creator instead of them being a victim of their own emotions, a victim of their own behaviors, whether it's addiction, depression, anxiety, bad habits, business sabotage. [0:18:15]
Whoever comes to us, you know, that's what we're doing. We're in the process of helping them retrain their nervous system to respond differently to life and, therefore, weave a different tapestry for their own life, one that is of their own conscious creation instead of one that is just the result of a bunch of haphazard threads that came their way, that they never realized they had a choice in how they’re put together, whether that's from parents’ teaching them, whether that's from religious upbringing, whether that's from traumatic events, whether that's from any number of things that have happened in their life.
This is the most important part, really, when it comes down to helping a person find freedom from any place that you're stuck in your life. It's literally helping you through a series of processes and experiences that I’ve developed and studied, and rehashed and refined over time, to get them to the point where—using their body, using their breath, using their mind, using their movement, using their emotional state, using their memory, even—we help retrain their mind and their body to live in a way that bespeaks power and control, so that they can be the god of their own experience. [0:19:25]
If you'd like to experience that, obviously, set up a call. Go to TheFreedomSpecialist.com, set up a call if you want some help with stuff like that. That's great. We'd love to help you out. There are a lot of different options and ways that we can do that.
One final note about memory, though. This is something that is really, really powerful. Why would creation—or evolution or a God or however you want to think about how this came together—favor a memory process that is actually notoriously inaccurate in the way it puts things together?
And this is the final piece and this is where we're going to go a little bit longer today, and this is why—the three main things that memory champions and other people have discovered about memory that make it so that it sticks are these: place, story and emotion. [0:20:10]
Why place? There are actually neurons in your hippocampus that are linked to certain places in your life. They've taken a rats through a maze, and different ones of those cells—they call them place cells—fire at different parts inside the maze. They help the rat navigate and remember its course. Why? If you needed to survive and needed to know the last place you got food or water, wouldn't it be important to remember the place or the last place that a tiger jumped out at you? Wouldn't you need to remember that? Yes.
What about emotion? Emotion. I need to know which things are emotionally charged, especially which places, figurative or literal, are emotionally charged, so that I can figure out whether or not I want to go there again. If it's a negative emotion, like fear, anger, sadness, depression or something like that, then do I want to go back there? No. But if it's a positive emotion, do I want to go back there? Yes. So, it's a way of mapping, again, for survival, procreation and everything else of the species. [0:21:06]
Next, story, narrative. What's the point of having a story inside of this linked to this? Easy, that's for prediction of the future. Okay, cool, I see that, if I hear a car at this distance and I see this gap between them, there's not enough space for me to cross the road, because the last time I tried that, it didn't work out so well. I'm going to predict that that car is going to go past before I could get across the road, so I'm going to wait. It's a predictive mechanism. It's for survival. We use it in social settings. We use it in political arenas. We use it in the physical world. We use it in fights. We use it in all kinds of stuff. So, the reason for a story is so that you can predict an outcome.
The problem with that is believing the story and then stopping paying attention. If you have a story in your head and that's how things work, and then you stop paying attention—we're going to talk about this in another episode here, in the next couple of weeks—then all that happens is you're no longer getting good information and now you can't make adequate predictions. [0:22:05]
The point of having a memory or a story in your head about what happens is only to make a prediction about what's going to happen next, and then, that gives you a chance to act. But then, you're supposed to drop the prediction and pay attention to what's happening, so that you can make new predictions about what's going to happen after that, so that your mind is continuing to run instead of getting stuck in one place while your body is still going. That's where we run into problems.
The interesting bit about memory, if we come full circle, memory is where your identity lives. Memory is where your emotions about things live. Memory is how you think about yourself.
Memory is the result of the reason why people don't and can't let go of addiction very fast. It’s because they have such an entrenched memory that their mind has pieced together about the fact that “I've tried everything and nothing works” or “that's impossible.” All of these memories and stories that they've woven together into the tapestry in their mind of them being powerless in an addicted state that they can't get out, or powerless in a depressed state, or powerless in an impoverished state where they can't get out. [0:23:05]
But you’ve got to remember that memory is there for survival, and if it's no longer serving you, the way to change it is to learn how to train your memory, your mind, your thoughts and your imagination to start to work differently, so that they're no longer weaving a tapestry that you hate, but they're starting to weave a tapestry that you love.
So, that's it for today. Just remember, if you want to become the god, so to speak, the Poseidon in your own life, where you're in charge of your emotional state and your behaviors, it comes down to being able to consciously retrain the mind from every possible angle—physiologically, meaning using your body to do it; mentally, using mental processes to do it; emotionally, using emotional processes to do it; and even energetically and so forth—using every angle to retrain your mind completely, so that you've tamed the wild horse and so that it can pull the chariot of the one who's finally able to create their own life. [0:24:03]
Until next time, guys.
And that's it for today's “Alive and Free Podcast.” If you enjoyed this show and want some more freedom bombs landing in your ear buds, subscribe right now at wherever you get your podcasts from. And, while you're at it, give us a rating and a review. It'll help us keep delivering great stuff to you. Plus, it's just nice to be nice.
This is ThePodcastFactory.com