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Mirrors Mirrors all around,
what you see is what you become.
Or
Monkey See, Monkey Do!

Purpose

Mirror neurons are specialized neurons in specific areas of the brain. Recently science has been able to measure the activity of those neurons, and they have found that for some human activities, certain neurons fire when a person performs an action.

They have also found that the same neurons fire

even if that person is simply WATCHING

another person doing the same activity!

Furthermore, the person watching (or hearing sometimes) another person actually mirrors some of those behaviors, quite possibly without actually thinking about the consequences of the action. You mind mimics other people's behaviors and those behaviors (can) get programmed into you.

The purpose of this page is to help you realize that these scientific results can help you be aware of how much people around you can (or did) influence you in your life. It effects who you become (or became). Science has actually provided for the first time in history, scientific proof that human interactions with others does contribute to how we behave, think, or become. Throughout history, this proof is something that could only be hypothesized by professionals. Now science has measured it.

Moving forward, this knowledge can influence us as to how important it is for you to choose the people you spend your time with (or watch through media). Similarly, since we are all role model for others, this knowledge can make us aware of how important it really is for us to "be a good example" to others, as well as to yourself.

Very briefly

Mirror neurons were first discovered when measuring the brain activity in monkeys, and later verified in humans.

Someone yaws, you yawn. Someone taps their foot, others start tapping their foot. You watch a World Series game, the Olympics, and they all provide you with great emotional thoughts. You can almost feel how the players feel. Sad movies make you feel sad. You see someone drinking a bottle of coke, and you may get thirsty, or crave it! Now these are oversimplified examples, and they were intended to give you just a "taste" of what they can influence. The list goes on.

It's also important to be aware that we learn from other role models besides just people we meet. This includes both real and artificially created role models in media such as TV, internet, video games, pictures, and audio.

Now, if you don't already know, consider looking at how powerful virtual reality glasses have already proven to be. Search Videos of V.R. glasses in therapy (youtube) and Clinical Virtual Reality the Future of Therapy (thriveglobal.com). Virtual reality completely covers your eyes, and may also stimulate some of your other senses including hearing, smelling and touching. Have you ever been to Disney World's 'Avatar' attraction (thisisinsider.com)?

Since lifelike virtual reality is working so well, wouldn't it also follow that LARGER screen TV's with higher quality, and lifelike displays of people would prove to be more effective than ever in inducing our mirror neurons? It seems logical to me. The large lifelike screens and sound provide a virtual reality, better than ever before. Some experts believe that violent lifelike video games and TV may provide role models that actually promote violent acts in people. See The Potential Role of Mirror Neurons in the Contagion of Violence (nih.gov).

Besides the fact that the actions observed of other people stimulate our mirror neurons causing us to "do" and "learn" things, I want to reiterate that:

Oftentimes we mimic or learn these actions
without even thinking about it.

This means that we can learn good (or bad) behaviors, without thinking about the fact that they are good or bad! Psychologists would say they bypass the critical-thought functions of the conscious mind and are programmed in the subconscious (also known as the unconscious) mind. See also: Subconscious (wiki).

It turns out that science measured and compared the brain waves of adults to children up to age six, and they found that until around six, children's brain operates primarily without the conscious mind, meaning they actually may not even able to distinguish and/or judge between right and wrong! They simply store the knowledge and emotions without judgment, like video recorder, and this is what they are likely to repeat later on! See Are You Programmed at Birth? (healyourlife.com), a great read for everybody, but especially for those who have children they love under the age of 7! Teach only love.

Science has also verified that other senses besides just watching a person, such as sound and smell, can affect our mirror neurons and associated processes.

If you google: mirror neurons you will see many great articles about them. One thing to note is that initially, professionals started thinking that mirror neurons may be the answer to so many questions, and some of those may prove to be incorrect in the future (see a page in Scientific American). However, the facts that our mirror neurons exist, that they are effected by outside influences, and that we may not even be "aware" that we are being influenced, still remains true.

Implications

I remember reading many years ago, "Getting the Love You Want" (amazon), by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. My jaw dropped when I read:

 "You become one parent, and marry the other."

What he means is that many children start taking on (from what they learned) some of the good as well as some of the not so good traits (Incorrect Lessons) of their parents and other role models. It baffled me why someone would ever take on any destructive behavior. The function of neuron mirrors provide at least some of the answer.

Psychiatrists, doctors, and other professionals write that the recently discovered neuron mirrors provides scientific evidence to a piece of the puzzle that clearly helps to answer the question why people make some decisions that are not healthy decisions.

By observing "role models" such as parents, friends, other people
and media (such as TV, video games, or virtual reality),
our mirror neurons and associated processes do affect what we become.

I invite you to consider the following:

  • If people live around someone who drinks alcohol or smokes, are they more likely to drink or smoke?
  • If people watch negative TV such as news, or interact with negative people, are they more likely to become negative?
  • If people listen to people complain, are they more likely to become a complainer?

On the other side of the coin:

  • If people surround themselves with mirrors who nurture their minds, bodies, and spirits, are they more likely to have a healthier mind, body and spirit?
  • If people have close friends who are positive, loving, and happy, are they more likely to become more positive, happy, and loving?
  • If people spend time with people who set life goals and take responsibility for their lives more likely to have richer, fuller lives?

Now realize that both lists could go on, and you may want to consider creating a list of ones that apply to your life, and adjust your mirrors accordingly. Also, be aware that the mirrors that present stronger feelings or emotions, and mirrors that are repeatedly acting or saying something; be it helpful or harmful, will influence you more.

When I was searching for mirror neuron topics, I bumped into this excellent ted.com talk: "In our baby's illness, a life lesson." It talks about how mirror neurons are used in rehab their child, but as the video progresses, they talk about how they (the parents) realized they were the mirrors for their son. "We were looking at him as a problem." "Not from a positive perspective." "We realized that we had to become a better mirror for Mario."

What about other senses, such as hearing?

So science has discovered and measured mirror neurons triggered by the input from our eyes. What would make common sense to me is that there is a similar mechanisms within us that are affected by our other inputs, such as what we hear from our ears. For example, how do we learn our name? People repeat it to us, so we take it as truth. How much do we hear that we take as truth?

One logical point of view would be that these mirror neurons were needed for survival, at least in the past. Pretend you lived back in the cave days. If someone back then looked at you with terror and said "there is a lion coming after us", would you wait to see if the lion appeared before running?

Therefore, these mechanisms may be part of us for survival reasons, but today, just like fear, many of these survival mechanisms may produce harm. Hearsay (what we hear) can be one example where we can take something we hear from someone as truth. Remember that what someone else says to you depends on several factors, that person's perception (see also We all wear "Glasses"), knowledge of the subject, their projection, and their honesty.

Conclusion

While there are other "pieces of the puzzle" that potentially influence who we become, I think common sense or intuition (Listen to your heart) can guide us to making better decisions. Without realizing it sometimes, other people's influence can distort those truths. There will always be both positive and negative people in our lives.

After learning about the science of mirror neurons, I've started to wonder if maybe our mirrors (our role models) effect our lives much more than many people typically think they do. It might help to answer some the puzzling questions such as "Why are children who grow up around negative alcoholic families still statistically more likely to become alcoholics as adults?"

If we are aware of the affects mirror neurons and associated processes have on us, we can make conscious decisions that can improve our lives and the lives of others. Smile, and those who see us smile are more likely to smile. When given the option, I invite you to consider choosing, when you can, a positive, loving, healthy environment, and mirroring the same for others.

Thank YOU for reading this!

By David Morgan

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This page updated 04/06/19 10:57 AM