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Understanding How We Learn and Act Through A Metaphor Explanation

Updated on December 31, 2010

Understanding Why We Act the Way We Do

The Magnetic Brain Metaphor

When your brain is receiving information or processing thoughts, think of it as a solid, round powerful magnet. Not only do the things you see, hear, touch, smell and taste make up this “magnet” – but so do your emotional feelings and responses to these physical things. This is your “conscious” brain function - and everything that comes into your mind is flowing directly toward (or through) your “magnet”. (Not to mention the realm of your inner mental psyche of each of your thoughts and emotions that is not directly related to the physical world, like, how you feel about God (or some kind of higher power, or emotions themselves.)

Now, imagine everything in life is also a solid round magnet – big, small, weak, or powerful - or in other words - problems, situations, people, etc.

It’s like everything coming from the world into your mind is a “magnetized” “life magnet”. We are “bombarded” with them CONSTANTLY! They are hurled into our brains through our senses, directly at our “thought processing magnet” at the speed of light! These bombarding “life magnets” are who and what each of us are mentally made of because we learn what to be and how to act and react through what our senses, feelings and thoughts tell us to do.

As each of us grows up – we learn how to, not only understand the world around us in our own way – but we also learn how to feel and act as we interact in our worlds in our own way. These experiences and feelings make up each of our brains and thought processes - or our “magnets” and each of our “magnets” get stronger day by day and year by year. This is how, or why, we each see the world through our own “tinted mental viewing glasses”.

In other words, each of us has very different experiences and emotional responses to the same experiences. The simple and common things – like a little puppy chasing its own tail - is funny to almost everyone, but other things, like, making out the monthly financial budget is boring and pointless to some – but as necessary and important as breathing is to others. (Hummm, why is there so much more diverse thinking in the difficult things and not the easy or obvious things? Ah ha! It’s because the “simple” or “easy” things do not cause stress!)

The reason for the similar (and the very different) “ways of thinking” is not just the particular circumstances of each individual, but it is more directly related to how we internally process the experiences and information with our “magnets”.

As we get older - we each form our “magnets” to make the world as comfortable and comprehendible as possible. We all want the world to “make sense” especially when it comes to things we don’t necessarily WANT to deal with – but we HAVE to deal with. However, when some people are confronted with things they do not wish to deal with – they ignore or deny that these things are there or real at all – both the undesired physical things and the undesired psychological things - and this is where many people begin having trouble.

Some people have “good” or “positive” “magnets” and other people have “bad” or “negative” “magnets”. Each of us have a lot of similar experiences and some similar feelings about those experiences – but we each also have other experiences and feelings that are unique to us as individuals. It isn’t scientifically determined exactly when, where, how or why we all “grow” different kinds of “magnets”, but it is a fact that two people that experience the same exact things through growing up - will develop completely different magnets. It’s also true that drugs and alcohol can make it “normal” for our inner “magnets” to be more negative (bad) and remain in control of our thought processing for long periods of time throughout our lives.

When a person finds themselves in an undesired situation, especially a repeated undesired situation, the reason they are experiencing this - usually stems directly from their “magnet’s” acquired way of internal processing situations or feelings about the world or “life” itself. In other words, a person “trains” or forms their “magnet” to process things in a certain way - and as more and more time passes, and situations arise – and situations come and go, our “magnets” get stronger and stronger in how situations, feelings, actions and reactions are perceived and dealt with. Remember – if you keep repeating the same old thoughts and actions – you will keep getting the same old results!

Now, when a person reaches a certain point in their life, the wise ones, or the ones that decide to get rid of the denial - they try to “change” the pulling power of their “magnet”.

Changing the “pulling power” of a mental magnet is not easy and once a person does decide to “change” their magnets power or “pulling direction” – it is difficult to keep this change consistent over a long period of time.

For a good metaphor example, imagine you have two powerful magnets, one in each hand and their each round and about the size of an apple. The magnets are very strong and touching - and very difficult to separate. The magnet in your right hand is your brain as it is now (or as it “was” when you decided to make a change in your way of thinking) - and the magnet in your left hand is your life or situations in life. Remember – the magnets are very strong and they are touching. One day you decided to start changing your way of thinking – or change your right hand magnet. The other magnet, or the one in your left hand, is a problem, or a situation that arises in life. (Remember, most of the time you can NOT change the LEFT HAND magnet – it is “LIFE”.) So, you decide NOT to let your usual way of thinking, (or your right hand magnet) pull your life, (your left hand magnet), in to your usual way of dealing with the world by the “bad magnet’s” force.

As you change the way you think about each situation in life - it’s like pulling these apple size magnets apart just a fraction of an inch and holding them there – just a fraction of an inch apart. Its not too bad for the first few seconds or minutes or even hours, but after a few days or weeks, it becomes harder and harder for your hands and arms to hold these two magnets apart - just this fraction of an inch. After a while, it would be much easier to just let the magnets go back to touching again to relieve the strain and discomfort in your hands and arms (or relieve the discomfort in your life and mind).

When a person is in denial – it’s like they turn their “bad magnet” in a certain way so it is “repelling” the “problem” or an incoming “life magnet” and thusly – putting and keeping them in DENIAL. BUT – “life’s magnets” have a funny way of turning themselves to once again be attracted to our “bad magnets” and we have to constantly “turn” our “bad magnets” to keep the “repelling” or “denial” configuration going!

This is how our brains want to DEAL with life’s struggles. We tend to let the magnets go where we feel most comfortable and we “feel” the least resistance. (Most of this is EMOTIONAL pull by the “magnets” - not the physical realm of life’s struggles.)

Anyway, back to the example, as you strain with holding the apple size magnets apart through the first fraction of an inch (or the first situation that you actually decided to change how you think and deal with life) the strain becomes almost unbearable after a certain amount of time.

However, by then, another situation in life will arise and at first you feel overwhelmed - and you say to yourself – “Oh No! I have to pull and hold the magnets apart another fraction of an inch and I’m already tired from holding them apart from the first situation!”

Ah ha! There is hope! Because as more and more situations arise in your life – or, each fraction of an inch that you consistently bring the magnets apart – the bond between them becomes weaker and weaker! After five or six fractions of an inch (or situations in life) the attraction between the magnets gets weaker and it becomes easier to hold the magnets steadily apart. Then, after a few more fractions of an inch, (or situations in life) the bond will break completely and you will be free from the pulling power of your “bad magnet”!

Since this is the first step in the “breaking of the mental bad magnetic bond” it is the most difficult! However, even after you finally feel you are “free” from the “bad magnet’s pull” – the work is not done – Oh no, the work is never “done”!

After separating away from that “bad magnet” - for most of our lives that “bad magnet” will ALWAYS be there, somewhere, in our brains (or our bad ways of thinking and dealing will always be there - somewhere). We just have to AVOID that area of our internal psyche when addressing old (and new) arising situations and problems. Yea! That’s right! DO NOT LET THAT BAD MENTAL MAGNET GET CLOSE TO ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!!! ESPECIALLY with situations you have been in before!!!! You may not be able to stop the “life magnets” from repeating themselves or certain situations from coming around again – but you sure as hell can stop your “bad brain magnet” from coming in close proximity to the “life magnets”!!!

That is what OLD FRIENDS and OLD WAYS OF THINKING do – they “push” the “bad magnet” back into proximity of ALL of the “life magnet’s” and the process has to start ALLOVER AGAIN from the beginning – from that first fraction of an inch!!!

This repeating the “breaking of the bad magnet bond” and “re-uniting the bad magnet bond” can also easily become a vicious cycle and a “difficult way of life” TOO!!!

Now, before, during and after this bond breaking process - drugs and alcohol act like a lubricant that “eases” a direct path between any “life magnet” and your inner “bad magnet”. NO EXPLANATION OR METAPHOR NECESSARY!!!!!!!

We all have this inner “bad magnet”. I too have deeply buried thoughts on how I would LIKE to deal with many situations and circumstances in my life – BUT, I know that letting my “bad magnet” come in close proximity to any situation will cause my life to “start pumping mud!” (Pun toward when a guitar player is playing badly – we always used to tell the guy- “shut your amp off – she’s pumping mud”!)

Usually a “rock bottom” in life is what brings about this desire to “break the mental bad magnetic bond”, however, everyone is different. Some people can break the bond with their first, small – “rock bottom.” Other people allow their “bad magnet” to continue to have control until a “real deep rock bottom” is hit, and some people even manage to live their entire lives with the “bad magnet” in control! Of course there are also those who continually repeat the vicious cycle of breaking and re-uniting their bad magnet bond for years or even throughout their entire lives.

This is how “rehabs” work. The institutions make a setting for the patient where the problems and ways of dealing with the problems are CONTROLLED to where it never becomes overwhelming, and WITHOUT the added influence (or lubrication) of mind altering substances. Then, as the patient shows sober progress, the problems are elevated until the desired result is reached with the patient’s ability to “deal”.

I have been an “alcoholic” but not with a “physical” addiction. I guess once an alcoholic – always an alcoholic – but I can now, and have been able to for a long time, drink a couple of beers and leave it alone indefinitely. I could abstain completely from ever having another beer – but I really do like the taste of an occasional glass of beer - and for seven years I have been able to do so – but not everyone can “dabble” with their “demon(s)” without falling right back into the “bad magnet” thought processing, especially with potent drugs.

Anyway, most rehabs are for “addicts”. It is MOST difficult to “break a bad magnet bond” when addicted to (or simply using) a drug (or alcohol).

Back to the example again, for most people – drugs and alcohol are like a lubricant on your fingers when trying to pull the apple size magnets in your hands apart. As long as the lubricant (or substance) is allowed to coat your fingers (or thought processing) it is very difficult, if not impossible, to “pull the mental magnets apart” because you lose your grip or you don’t even WANT to try and separate them.

Remember – once you have SUCESSFULLY broken the “bad magnet” bond - it only takes a one time “slip up” to allow the “bad magnet” to reform a strong bond with all the incoming (and already existing) “life magnets” bombarding and already swirling around in your brain. Each time you allow the “bad magnet” to re-bond in your life – it becomes more and more difficult to pull it away again. Usually its old friends and old mental surroundings, feelings and thought patterns that allow our old “bad magnets” to re-bond in the first place, and these old ways also keep our “bad magnets” in control because it gives our emotions a feeling of “comfort” because it is “familiar” – NOT because it is good, “right” or safe.

It is BEST to KEEP the bond broken the first time you start the process and never allow that “bad magnet” to come near ANYTHING - ever again!!! You have to put that darn thing in quarantine! You have to lock away those particular brain cells in a secure room in your mind and NEVER let your thoughts even “casually” look into that room to “see how it’s going!” Let that “bad magnet” starve and dehydrate until it withers away into a long forgotten memory - like a bad dream!

It is a one way street with no “U’ turns and no way to “go around the block!”

Now, once you have “broken the bond” with your “bad magnet” – you will at first feel scared. Every problem and situation will seem like a huge mountain. Why? Well, because you are not in familiar mental territory anymore. You will feel lost and not like yourself and your brain will TRY to do ANYTHING possible to let the “bad magnet” come back into control and “make things FEEL better” (ESPECIALLY when mind altering substances are added!) This is absolutely normal until you have built a “good magnet” (or a solid foundation for better thought processing.)

To “build” a “good magnet” takes time because it also took a long time to build the “bad magnet”! Like I said earlier, as you force your mind to “pull” “life’s magnets” or situations and problems away from the “bad magnet” – you are also building a NEW “good magnet” at the same time! After several situations and problems are “pulled away” from the “bad magnet” – you will find the new “good magnet” is taking on its own “pull” toward these same old (and new) situations, or “life magnets”. As you become better and stronger at “breaking the bad magnet bond” and pushing everything toward the “new good magnet bond” it will eventually become natural to do this. You won’t have to put as much mental effort into doing it.

Life will always throw its “life magnets” or difficult situations and problems into your “life” (or into your mind) and you have to let your senses direct ALL of this information toward the new “good magnet” for better thought processing – and thusly – better results when dealing with the information – or problems.

Everyone’s magnet is made up differently. No two are exactly the same, but it’s generally easy to tell what kind of magnet others have by how they act and react to basic situations.

We all find out about good and bad things through our senses. Either you SEE or READ about it, or you HEAR about it, sometimes you just “know it” without having it come into your brain through your senses. In other words, we aren’t aware of things until the information is brought to our magnets attention by our senses or our thoughts. We ALL receive the same basic information from the world – even problems – there may be differences in the particulars in each of our circumstances – but it’s HOW WE PROCESS the information and determine our ACTIONS and REACTIONS to these problems that makes the difference. Remember - everything coming from the world into your mind is a “magnetized” “life magnet”. We are “bombarded” with them CONSTANTLY! They are hurled through our senses and thoughts directly at our “thought processing magnet” at the speed of light!

A “good magnet” will allow you to confront problems in the BEST way so you don’t cause more problems for yourself or others. Sometimes the situation may come down to a choice between one of two evils. In other words, sometimes there is not a “good” solution to a problem – BUT – if you are using your “good magnet” to process the situation you will be able to confront the “better” of the two options and “deal” with it. This is where the “angles” to life’s situations comes into play.

A “bad magnet” will automatically let the “angles” run through your mind in the most “comfortable” or familiar and easy path, and thusly you will experience the same old undesired results from the situation.

A “good magnet” will run through ALL of the “angles” and choose the BEST outcome by “looking ahead” - rather than simply letting the situation be handled by the comfortable, familiar and stagnant “bad magnet”.

Now, if (OR HOPEFULLY “THAT”) you understand this “magnet” metaphor for how we process mental information - I need to change a couple of things. This pertains to WHEN you are completely using your “good magnet” to THINK WITH! These changes I’m about to make - they just happen – I don’t know how or why – but they do. (It’s kind of like when water freezes or when a nuclear reaction happens – “It’s hard to see or understand or explain – but these things just “ARE” and they do happen! Sometimes these things happen so fast that they go almost un-noticed until after the fact.)

Anyway, once you have built a strong “good magnet” and are using it to think with – IT WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO “TURN” or MANUVER IT TO “REPEL” LIFE’S MAGNETS!!! In other words – you are no longer able to go into DENIAL!!!

Once you have spent enough time using your “good magnet” to deal with most of “life’s magnets” (or situations and problems) they will eventually and “magically” transform into simple “hollow balls of iron.” In other words, most of life’s problems will not have the “magnetic pull” like they did before – THE PROBLEMS will not affect your inner mental “good magnet” nearly as strongly as they did your “bad magnet.”

(HOWEVER – if you allow your “bad magnet” to come back into control – life’s “balls of iron” will “magically” turn back into solid powerful “life MAGNETS” again!!! GO FIGURE!!!)

Anyway, back to when “life magnets” turn into simple hollow balls of iron. Why do they do this? Because your “good magnet” already has a “good idea” of how to deal with the situation in a positive way and that forces the “life magnets” or problems to LOSE their magnetic pulling power. The hollow balls of iron (or life’s situations and problems) are still attracted to your “good mental magnet” because after all, they are iron balls (or because that’s life!) – BUT the attraction is not nearly as powerful as it used to be!

Another positive result of thinking with a “good magnet” is that once “life’s magnets” turn into simple “hollow balls of iron” and are NO LONGER magnetic – even if you COULD turn your “good magnet” to REPEL them (or go into denial) - it has absolutely no effect on life’s problems (or the hollow balls of iron) – because they are no longer magnetic and they simply remain - constantly – however weakly - attracted to your “good magnet” and thusly you must deal with them!!!!

Once you have completely achieved this “good magnet” state of mind – REMEMBER – allowing the bad magnet to again take control doesn’t make anything BETTER – except how you FEEL at the time – NOT what is going to happen down the road!

Now, I earlier used the two “solid apple sized magnets” for the metaphor to show the powerful resistance there is when changing our thought processing. But, now I want to expand to the “big picture” with a similar magnet metaphor – along the same lines.

When we are born, our lives start with a small, unshaped, weak mental magnet. As experiences, thoughts and people enter – move with or through our lives – our magnets are shaped and formed to make us who we are by how we think and act.

Realistically - our lives and brains – (or our magnets) are constantly growing and changing through experience and knowledge. This is from how we process all the previously absorbed “life magnets” that are already inside our brains – and how we process all the new ones constantly coming in at the speed of light.

When you get the hang of using a “good mental magnet” – the “hollow iron life balls” will eventually shrink to be nothing more than hollow bb’s.

The objective is to have a red HOT burning “good magnet” so that all of the incoming, “hollow iron life balls” (or hollow bb’s) hit our “good magnet” and quickly melt to mesh in and help it grow bigger, stronger and BETTER - so you can move on to melt and absorb the next hollow bb.

Remember - when you keep using a negative (or “bad magnet”) for a mental processor – the “life MAGNETS” are bigger, solid and magnetic – and they take much, much longer to melt and mesh in – (IF they do at all.) Some people have thousands of “life magnets” stuck to and hanging all over their “bad magnet” dragging it down and cooling it off. Not to mention the immense amounts of energy used to maintain the constant spinning and flipping of a “bad magnet” to constantly repel the “life magnets” (DENIAL)

(Remember – drugs and alcohol only push a “good HOT magnet” to the side and let the “bad COLD magnet” take control once again so it can pointlessly and constantly REPEL or DRAG the “life MAGNETS” around - instead of dealing (or melting and absorbing the BB’s like a “good, hot magnet” does!)


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