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  • Writer's pictureMaria Alda Gomez Otero

How does your brain compare to Spotify?

Your brain and Spotify have more similarities that you might think. It can be quite disappointing to discover this, as it makes your brain sound more machine-like than you would have liked it. The problem is that you normally identify with your mind, and you believe that your mind is in your brain. This is a misconception. It is currently known that your mind is a complex network of information gathered in different parts of your body, with your heart and your brain being always in direct communication. Your gut also has many neurotransmitters that communicate information to your brain. In the old days, your brain was thought to send information to your body, and your body to be the passive recipient of this information. Your body would change according to the signals received by your brain. Now, we know that it is more complex than that. Your body sends signals to your brain, which in turn sends signals to your body, and both respond accordingly.

A brain designed to help you survive

But getting back to comparing the brain to Spotify. When you are a child, your brain is constantly creating connections between your neurons to make up your personality. The connections are basically oriented to one important function: survive. If you lived in a good enough environment, you probably created connections that link people with qualities such as caring, affectionate, loving, etc. As a result, you created thoughts, emotions and behaviours to help you survive in a world with that type of people: “ I am lovable”, “I feel happy”, “I enjoy helping people”. But if you grew up in a less than good enough family (aggressive, abusive, critical), your brain may link people to qualities such as aggressive, dangerous, shaming, and you may create thoughts, emotions, and behaviours to help you survive, such as shame, submission, numbness, uncontrollable anger or other emotions, “I am not lovable”, “I need to be the top dog”, and “I don’t care about anybody else”.

This a very black and white classification. You will probably have a combination of both inside you, some of these aspects creating internal conflict. This combination makes up your internal programming. It is like the hardware of your mind-body. Your adolescence and adult life will have an impact on this programming too. If you had difficult or traumatic experiences, chances are they will be imprinted in your programming, as new neurons might have created different connections.

The neuron connections are unconscious

Normally 95% of what you do in your life is unconscious, and it comes from this brain programming based on your neuron connections. A lot of it was created when you were a child or when you experienced difficulties as an adult. This means that you unconsciously breath, brush your teeth, tie your shoelaces, but also shout at your partner, feel ashamed or sad, have low self-esteem, and struggle with irrational beliefs, such as “I am not good enough”. Because all of this is unconscious, you do a lot of it without conscious awareness of it.

Remember that your brain is primed for survival. If you run your automatic unconscious programming every day, this means that you are expecting the same things that you experienced in your past in your present reality. If you weren’t listened to by your parents, you will expect not to be listened to by your significant other. No matter how many times they listen to you with attention, you will only remember the times that they don’t.

Your brain and Spotify pay attention to what you listen to

In the same fashion that Spotify pays attention to the songs that you listen to in order to offer you similar recommendations, your brain is primed to only pay attention to what you “listen to”, “feel” or “do”. If you like jazz, Spotify will know that you like jazz because it has a way of paying attention to what you listen to. If you are constantly feeling sad, having negative thoughts, and behaving in a way that you dislike, your brain is registering this too (without any judgement). For your brain, this is just information. Judging the information is another piece of information that your brain pays attention to.

Your brain and Spotify will bring you more of what you “listen to”

Spotify pays attention to what you listen to (like jazz) and recommends more of the same. It even creates entire playlists with the type of music you will probably like. In the same way, your brain listens, observes, and brings you more of what you are used to. If you are used to think that you are “unlovable”, your brain will look for signs of this being true in your life to bring you more of what your brain believes it is important for your survival. The thing is your brain will overlook other signs, such as people being loving and caring with you, the same way Spotify would not present you with music that you rarely listen to.

Actively paying attention in Spotify and your brain brings change

You can actively pay attention to your Spotify to discover trendy playlists in a different genre, offered to you. Similarly, if you pay attention to your environment, you can see cues of other emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in you: you can be loving, you can accept and love yourself, you feel happy sometimes.

You can re-program your brain and Spotify

If you savour these moments, feelings and thoughts, your brain will record them. “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. You can then re-programme your neurons to change their connections so that your thinking, emotional life and behaviours can change. In Spotify, the moment you start listening to other type of music (pop), now you get other playlists with that music.

There is no right or wrong

The same way that you prefer some type of music to another that is playing in your Spotify, your preferred thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are not wrong. They just have a different flavour. If you wish to continue feeling, thinking, and behaving the same way, it is your choice. But you could also check other thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and discover other ways of being that might suit you better.

The big difference between your brain and Spotify

Spotify will bring you more of your music automatically. It is a machine. Your brain doesn’t work quite like that. Your brain can change its programming, but it needs many repetitions for that to happen. Or a new experience. If you can create new experiences in which you are experiencing different thoughts, emotions and behaviours and you are becoming aware of them, it is easier to change your brain programming.

How to create new experiences

This is where counselling and psychotherapy can come handy, as therapists are trained to respond to you in a different way to most people in your life, creating new experiences for you. There are other options to individual therapy. You can create new experiences in group therapy, dramatherapy, self-development groups, dance therapy, body awareness classes, in mindfulness courses. There is so much available now. Explore with curiosity, seek becoming more aware and enjoy the journey!


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