What are you doing to yourself?

I previously wrote a post about feedback loops being all around us but the other day I was confronted by the enormity of self induced feedback loops. I was particularly shocked by the complete lack of awareness that we have when imposing these feedback loop on ourselves. By being unaware we are not harnessing the power of feedback loops to change our behaviour in order to achieve our goals. But as you will see It is also likely that we are achieving the exact goal we want but we just cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge it.

My thoughts along this line of thinking began as the result of a conversation about a pending marriage break-up. The female party noted a rising frustration “he keeps bursting into song. He seems so happy despite the situation we are in.” She continued “and its not the whole song or chorus, its just the line ‘I am a rock, I am an island’.” My immediate thought was ‘he is not singing because he is happy he is sending you a message’. It was only later that I began refining my thoughts.

The conversation continued along other themes then she mentioned that she was walking to relieve stress and had found a song that was great to walk to, which she said really made her feel better. As she spoke about it you could see a lightness in her mood. When I got home I downloaded the song, thinking my walking could use a little help. It was when I heard the words of the song that the enormity of self induced feedback loops using songs hit me.

Her song ‘Red Rubber Ball’ (lyrics below) was all about coping and recovery when the person you love walks out of the relationship. The song however also indicates that she had some sort of awareness of existing relationship problems. It occurred to me that by listening to ‘her song’ and particularly because she was pairing it with other senses such as proprioception through the action of walking, visual, audial, and smell, she was unconsciously using feedback loops to condition herself for recovery after the inevitable breakup. But she was not aware that this is what she was doing.

I then decided to look at his song ‘I am a Rock’ (lyrics below). His song clearly indicated someone who was reinforcing a type of self-induced isolation. He was protecting himself from external attempts of deep relationship connections. He had created or defined his world and had become comfortable with it – he did not want to have anyone intrude. The unconscious reinforcing section of this song also suggested that he was of aware of having had at some previous time, a deep relationship form which he had benefitted and this aspect he wanted to preserve.

These layered levels of awareness reminded of the Iowa Gambling experiment. I began wondering when these two people actually know about their irreconcilable relationship issues? When did they start using self induced feedback loops to help bring their subconscious behaviour to the surface? Amazingly the structure of both songs gave insights into this. It was also interesting to note that both parties had subconsciously selected Paul Simon songs suggesting that there was indeed some deep connection between these two people. So let’s look at the structure of the songs.

Structure of Songs

In both songs there is a conscious statement of how they are currently feeling. In the first two lines of her song she acknowledges conscious awareness of the situation. In her next two lines she attempts an ego boost in preparation for her conscious action of believing that it is going to be alright. This is reinforced by the chorus.

His song starts with a statement that indicates a subconscious awareness, which occurred much earlier in the relationship. The picture that he paints show that he knows he is isolated – it is how he sees himself. It is a lonely image that suggests he knows he is not connecting with others. There are no ‘others’ in the image that could possibly engage with him. This is followed by the reinforcing chorus ‘I am a rock, I am an island’ – here he is conditioning his feedback loop to maintain his isolated self-image.

In the second verse she reveals that she was aware at some less conscious level that he was unable to make a conscious deep and meaningful connection with her. When connections had been made she had unquestioningly accepted them. It was likely this process was at the subconscious level and it was only now coming to the surface. In his second verse he is conscious that he is actively preventing connections.

In the third verse she has cognitively processed what has taken place and has devised an action to reinforce her feedback process for recovery. He too reaches the cognitive level in his third verse. He is now cognitively aware that there was once a deep connection and that it has served its purpose but he now no longer needs or wants it.

So he knew before her that he wanted out of the relationship but he was not consciously aware of it. He is also aware of who he is and most importantly that he is comfortable with his world view and his island like state. He is in a homeostatic relationship with himself, which requires minimal to no change on his behalf. He just has to maintain his world view.

She became aware that he wanted out of the relationship but believed there was a reason for his behaviour that could be resolved. At the conscious level, she now realises that she can not engage with him and that her only recourse is to alter her own actions and create a positive feedback loop that will amplify her behaviour and aid her recovery.

Now I know this may appear to be a ridiculous over analysis of two apparently randomly selected songs by two highly emotional people in the throws of dissolving a long term relationship. But think about it. These were subconscious responses of two people in a heightened emotional state, which is when humans tend to respond more intuitively. As in the Iowa Gambling experiment they were intuitively responding (10 card turn) long before their conscious reasoning took place (50 card turn) and it is likely they have not yet got to the rational stage (80 card turn). Getting to the 80 card stage would involve a deep understanding of their own internal feelings and behaviours, the feelings and behaviours of the other and an understanding of how the two relate.

So food for thought stop and think about which songs you play frequently, particularly those that make you feel better, or motivate you to action. Then look deeper, are you perhaps using the songs as self induced feedback loops to help you to modify your behaviour? Could you enhance your awareness and start consciously using songs to help you achieve your goals? I now know I do. When I am struggling with emotionally charges issues (both good or bad) I revert to certain Motzart pieces because I use them as a feedback loop to rapidly induce a heightened state of cognitive processing.

Whether we like it or not we are responding to stimuli and songs are a powerful stimulus. They trigger our cognitive processing as well as our audial sense and if we walk or dance then other senses are brought into play as well. The more senses that are in play the greater the chance of behavioural conditioning.

USE IT or it will use you!

Her song: Red Rubber Ball – Paul Simon

I should have known you’d bid me farewell
There’s a lesson to be learned from this and I learned it very well
Now I know you’re not the only starfish in the sea
If I never hear your name again, it’s all the same to me

And I think it’s gonna be all right Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a red rubber ball

You never care for secrets I confide
For you I’m just an ornament, somethin’ for your pride
Always runnin’, never carin’, that’s the life you live
Stolen minutes of your time were all ya had to give

And I think it’s gonna be all right Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a red rubber ball

The story’s in the past with nothin’ to recall
I’ve got my life to live and I don’t need you at all
The roller-coaster ride we took is nearly at an end
I bought my ticket with my tears, that’s all I’m gonna spend

And I think it’s gonna be all right Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a red rubber ball
Oh, oh, oh, I think it’s gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a red rubber ball

His song: I am a Rock – Paul Simon

A winter’s day In a deep and dark December
I am alone Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock, I am an island

I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock, I am an island

Don’t talk of love But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock, I am an island

I have my books And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armour Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock I am an island

And a rock feels no pain And an island never cries

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