Your Brain is an Expert Deletion Device
May 13, 2024
Do you remember those scorching summer days as a child? Riding your bike and spotting what seemed to be a shimmering puddle ahead, only to find it vanished as you drew near. This mirage, the sun's playful bending of light, taught us early on that our eyes can deceive us. Similarly, our brain, with its intricate mechanisms, can also play tricks.

Picture your brain as a diligent janitor. Day in and day out, this janitor works tirelessly, ensuring the corridors of your mind are clutter-free. It prioritizes, sorts, and discards information much like a janitor would decide what to keep and what to throw away. While this is essential for us to navigate daily life without feeling overwhelmed, it can also cause us to overlook crucial details.

The janitor who decides what to keep and what to discard is a good metaphor for a key concept I covered in my Empowered by Emotions program.  To navigate life without becoming completely overwhelmed, your brain must filter the vast amounts of information it encounters each day.  In essence, your brain is an expert deletion device that efficiently filters information, deciding what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

This is similar to how social media algorithms operate, each acting as an expert deletion device. They curate our feeds based on past interactions, serving us content that aligns with our preferences. Similarly, our brain highlights information that aligns with our existing beliefs and discards information that doesn’t. For instance, if you're convinced that your house cleaner often does a hasty job you might feel angry when your brain highlights the tiny toothpaste smear in the sink while obscuring the otherwise spotless bathroom. Or, when you feel down, thinking you don’t look your best, you might feel ashamed when your brain magnifies perceived flaws while overshadowing your inherent beauty.

The problem with our brains functioning as expert deletion devices is that this selective sorting can hinder fresh perspectives, making unbiased evaluation or self-reflection a challenge.  Furthermore, functioning as expert deletion devices, our brains lead to cognitive biases, which are the result of attempts to simplify information processing and make quick judgments. Just as the mirage of puddled water can trick our eyes, our brain's intricate deletion activity can deceive us by strengthening our beliefs at the risk of overlooking opposing realities.

On the other hand, when you understand your brain is an expert deletion device and the role it serves in filtering information, you can pause and challenge your own thinking.

Chance to Change
Knowing that your brain is an expert deletion device, let's put this concept into practice with a simple yet powerful exercise.

The Power of Maybe Exercise
  1. When you find yourself with a strong belief or perception, prefix it with the word "maybe."
  2. For example, “Maybe my house cleaner does a hasty job,” or “Maybe I don’t look my best.”
  3. This simple word prompts your brain to consider alternative viewpoints, fostering open-mindedness and enhancing emotional intelligence.

As we journey through life, remember the deceptive nature of that childhood mirage. Just as it taught us to question what we see, there is also value in questioning what we believe.