The Reticular Activating System. What the heck is that?
Our Reticular Activating system (RAS) is essentially a loose network of neurons and neural fibers running through the brain stem. This network is what makes up the reticular activating system. This network of neurons connects with various other parts of the brain and drives our desire. There are two portions to the system: the ascending and descending reticular activating system. The ascending RAS connects to the parts of the brain including the cortex, the thalamus, and the hypothalamus. The descending RAS connects to the cerebellum and to nerves responsible for the various senses (Wisegeek.com, 2019).
The reticular formation is not anatomically well defined because it includes neurons located in different parts of the brain. The neurons of the reticular formation make up a complex set of networks in the core of the brainstem that extend from the upper part of the midbrain to the lower part of the medulla oblongata.
What this means to “the rest of us” is that the Reticular Activating System is like an air filter. Open the hood of your car and if it has even been a day since you last replaced that thing, I guarantee the filter prevented unwanted dirt and junk from entering your engine where it might cause disruption. Like a filter, our RAS has been dispositioned to filter out unwanted information. If we are enjoying the sport of American football one day we are unlikely to notice much information pertaining to European Rugby or Olympic Bobsledding the next because the topics are not similar or interconnected. We typically see what we want to see through our frame of mind. This frame of mind is mostly the result of our identification (or not) of our goals and desires.
One such affirmation I have arrived at is my goal of obtaining my PhD and helping to change lives more than I ever could before. Well in order to pursue and eventually achieve that lofty but obtainable goal I realize through habits and behavior I have eliminated routines, people and stressors that could impact my pursuit. A further example of mine is the 3 or more hours daily I once spent playing Call of Duty while weaning myself off Opioids and recovering from my alcoholism. During recovery, Psychology was the farthest thing from my mind and no number of flashy professionals would change my mind. Now that I am clear-headed, my focus is intently on continuing my work and I cannot tell you the last time I even powered on my PS4. That is not to say playing video games wasn’t fun, quite the contrary I loved fragging newbs and talking smack! My RAS was currently only programmed to look for videos on new released content and what cool new weapons were available. Carl Jung wasn’t even on my radar anymore. My continued pursuit in the study of Psychology is once again because I made the conscious decision to implement some changes. These are the changes and important information I try to bring to you, my fellow Trainwrecks. We can take control of our lives if we just put forth the effort and get out of our comfort zone we may have created or been forced into.
The reticular activating system often gives us the ability to “notice” the things around us, making us more present to reality and what is truly going on outside of the false narrative our uncalibrated mind is trying to protect us from for whatever reason. Our RAS gives us the ability to focus on a task, perform it well and suddenly be able to shift focus to a popular song we like without completely breaking our concentration on our original task. We hone in on the things we have dedicated focus to. This can never be more obvious than when observing someone obsessed with politics constantly seeking approval and validation of their own belief systems. These people who are obsessed with politics will often seek out others who disagree with them and purposely degrade what they will refer to as an “enemy” because they simply cannot find any other way to deal with their self-imposed victim mentality. People obsessed with politics often refer to those who disagree with them in that polarized sense to validate their own desire for conflict and as an excuse for themselves simply having low self-esteem as well as a lack of a sense of belonging. Nothing more.
A positive way our reticular activating system affects our day to day behaviors is a process of identifying unconscious goals and desires we pay attention to the things we permit/promote ourselves enjoying. Further, our RAS can assist us in working out how to make the things we want to happen. We “notice” what we’d like to see. We “see” something we think we might identify. We “identify” what we want. We create a circumstance based on what we have identified.
Lets harness the power of control over our own personal focus. Let’s reshape our impulses and desires through the reticular activating system. We can do this!
You’re Welcome. Internet.
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Medical News about NLP
Iwańczuk W, Guźniczak P (2015). “Neurophysiological foundations of sleep, arousal, awareness and consciousness phenomena. Part 1”. Anaesthesiol Intensive Ther. 47(2): 162–167. doi:10.5603/AIT.2015.0015. PMID 25940332.
Reticular Activated System