Your personal success multitool – The Reticular Activating System

In this post I am writing about the Reticular Activating System, your personal success filter.

Reticular Activating System - Your personal success multitool
Creative Commons License photo credit: brian.ch

The Reticular Activating System – What is it?

The what I hear you say? The Reticular Activating System, abbreviated to RAS, is an area within the human brain that plays several important roles in our day to day lives. The Reticular Activating System is a primitive network of nerve cells and fibres that regulates our cardiovascular, respiratory and motor responses; it also receives input from your senses via the central nervous system and ‘filters’ those inputs to only allow through information that has some importance to you. Through these functions it controls your ability to pay attention, be awake or asleep and allows you to be aware of activities that are happening in your environment.

Reticular Activating System – the ultimate spam filter

The Reticular Activating System also performs as a filter for all of the sensory inputs that you receive. Just think for a minute of how much activity is going on around you, what you are touching, what you are seeing, what you are hearing… Quite a lot really, all that data is bombarding you continuously. The RAS decides what is and is not important to you and what you need to pay attention to, if it did not you would suffer from information overload. The ‘filter’ sits between the subconscious and conscious minds, and is programmed by the conscious mind. It is this ability to programme the filter that makes the Reticular Activating System so important in achieving your goals.

Reticular Activating System – your personal pilot light for success

Just like the pilot light on a gas central heating system, the Reticular Activating System is on call 24/7/365, it sits there patiently waiting for a demand or event to occur and then lights up the boiler. When a piece of information is received by your sensory systems that is important to you, the RAS ‘flares’ up and lights your internal boiler to raise your awareness and bring that piece of information to your attention. Have you ever experiened being in a busy place with lots of noise going on, yet as soon as someone mentions your name or something that you are interested in you seem to hear it from nowhere? Perhaps you have experienced the situation where you have been thinking about a new car or piece of equipment then all of a sudden you see ‘it’ far more regularly. That is the Reticular Activating System at work.

The importance of the Reticular Activating System in goal achievement

It is the ability of the Reticular Activating System to raise your awareness to important pieces of information that makes it an important tool in your goal achievement toolbox. The RAS is not able to distinguish between real or synthetic events and stimuli, it believes the messages it receives. Therefore it is possible to programme it by creating specific goals in your imagination, the more sensory specific you can make them the better. The ‘filter’ then raises your awareness to items that can assist you in achieving your goals. By thinking about, talking about, reviewing and writing out your goals regularly you reinforce the filter’s programming.

Make the most of your toolbox; Use your imagination, generate specific and detailed goals that your Reticular Activating System can go to work on.

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  • Michaelcrowe

    Sorry to burst the bubble but the reticular activating system is a sub system which cannot be affected directly in any way. It is affected only by here and now activity that passes through the critical faculty. The critical faculty observes scenarios or situations and compares them to stored memories of similar scenarios or situations. It then monitors the good or bad effect on the reticular activating system. Then based on the stored memory, good or bad, and the psycho – physio feedback from the reticular activating system, good or bad, the critical faculty decides to allow the conscious mind to proceed.
    Various hypnosis, nlp and other new age charlatans talk of bypassing or circumventing the critical faculty.
    It cannot be done!
    Every single thing you experience including learning itself has to pass through the critical faculty.
    There are no shortcuts or back doors.
    The critical faculty is your main survival tool and even when it sleeps when you sleep it continues to monitor the reticular activating system for any threat or danger to the life form.
    The critical factor can however be re-educated even instantly.
    If I ask you to pick up a red hot iron bar with your hand you will rightly say no.
    If I then give you an asbestos padded glove and explain that no heat or damage can penetrate the protective glove your critical faculty’s knowledge of protective clothing and asbestos heat resistance now allows you to pick up the red hot iron bar.
    The formula is that the greater your positive mind set and the higher your confidence the lower your critical faculty becomes. It learns to trust you to make decisions that will not threaten or harm the life form. Indeed your good, healthy choices will reward and enhance the life form.
    If you have always been a loser, making the wrong choices, with zero self confidence and a record of defeat then your critical faculty will be massive and will start to question even the small changes you attempt to make.
    This however is not a negative post so how do you reverse this bad situation?
    You simply retrain the critical faculty to learn that you can be trusted.
    Something as simple as a cartoon computer game, would attract the child like learning centre in the brain.
    A game of survival would have the critical faculty sitting up like a dog.
    Reward and praise for successful choices and hints and instructions for unsuccessful choices.
    The existing game Fallout 3 is all about surviving in a post nuclear society, building survival skills and learning the best combination of skills and attributes to do this.
    Playing such a game successfully helps build a positive mind set and increases your confidence.
    Something to think about! 

    • Michael, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. What you have written is very interesting and challenges the popular ‘wisdom’ and convention of the role/function of the RAS. In the argument you have posted above what is the “Critical Faculty”? It is a new term to me. Of course I can google it, however, as you appear to have some authority on it, I would like your views.

      • Michaelcrowe

        The ‘critical faculty’ is the basic survival mechanism built into the brain which is designed to protect the life form at all costs. If taken to extremes it creates a personality that takes no risks whatsoever. This could result in hiding under the bed, as in creating mystery illness that prevents us from working and keeps us housebound or to a lesser extent indulging in low level employment, relationships etc. Mentally keeping us safe.
        The opposite extreme of positive mind set with extreme self confidence is just as bad creating billionaires and superstars that indulge in really bad decisions and errors of judgement. They seem to be invulnerable until they make their first big mistake and everyone spots it. A balance of both would be the desirable giving you a positive mind set with healthy confidence tempered by a critical faculty that is willing to take acceptable risks.
         Are you with me so far?

        • Nickmcdonald

          Hello, I am an MBA student researching this from a business mindset point of view.  Having read through Michael’s comments I am now off for a large glass of wine and a lie down in quiet room to try to reach that critical balance where I can learn all I need and still remember it! Thank you for such a top insight into the way our brians operate.

          • Thanks Nick for taking the time to read and comment on the post and the comments. 

        • Michael, thank you once more for your contribution. I will need to read and digest this again. 

      • Michaelcrowe

        The critical faculty is a very misused term sometimes applied to the overall intelligence of a person. In reality it is only one of the many
        intelligences we possess but what makes it important is it’s function as the information sentry to the mind. All rational information has to be
        processed by it. Depending on how high your critical faculty is, and therefore negative or how low it is and therefore positive, the information is
        then marked on a sliding scale as acceptable or rejectable. To believe everything you are told is considered childlike as children have a low
        critical faculty even if they have not yet built up a high positive mind set or any great deal of confidenceEmotion on the other hand is not rational and so is allowed past uncensored. The subconscious compares the emotional information to any
        similar information already stored and feels the joy or grief of the event. This causes a good or bad reaction within the reticular activating system
        and the critical faculty then passes the information to the conscious mind as good news or bad news.Music is ignored by the critical faculty and like emotion is passed back as a good or bad feeling.This ability of sound waves to bypass the critical faculty was seen as an exploitable loophole and research done in the last century inside nazi
        Germany was geared towards creating a mathematical sound formula that could unlock natural talents within the brain or indeed input information
        directly into the human brain. Binaural beat technology is something that we hear a lot of now but back then it was brand new. The nazi scientists
        invented a program known as ‘feraliminal lycanthropy’. The idea initially was to tap into the primal instinct and create fearless soldiers. The
        secondary goal would be the ability to train them instantly with any skill. Does this sound familiar?All that they managed to create was a giant vibrator that aroused the subjects sexually. This alone was put forward as proof that they had
        achieved the first goal of the research to tap into the primal instinct. Utter nonsense! The present marketing attempt to use binaural beats and
        somehow sneak words and information in either in dog whistle frequencies or with the sound reversed etc. is just as silly.The critical faculty is a force to be reckoned with and cannot be tricked or bullied into allowing access.Everyone has probably experienced the effect that alcohol has on the brain as it seemingly increases our confidence. What it really does is
        decrease our critical faculty and therefore we naturally display more confidence. The more we drink the more confident we seem to become.Taken to the extreme and purely in the interest of science if we were to drink that much that we ‘blacked out’ we would achieve a total reduction in
        the critical faculty. An observer at the time would notice that we present an extreme form of self confidence and while our critical faculty is non
        existent we are actually in danger. We could go for a swim in the river or climb a dangerous bridge and depending on our emotional state
        become very lewd or even aggressive. The same effect is noticed in patients coming out of anaesthetic. A strange effect shared by both these
        altered states is that you will not have any memory from the time you ‘blacked out’ until the time you woke up. You will remember I said that the
        critical factor has to code the information for acceptance or rejection and therefore with no code the information is completely ignored.Hypnosis attempts to reduce the critical factor in order to have suggestions accepted positively and confidently. People with a high positive
        mindset and high confidence do not need hypnosis. What they believe must become reality within the excepted bounds of their limited critical
        faculty. People less positive and less confident with a low critical factor still respond positively to hypnosis. People with lowself esteem and low
        confidence and a large critical faculty always respond negatively and do not allow themselves to enter the hypnotic state.Everyone responds to hypnosis either positively or negatively.This brings us nicely back to the subject of the software. I applaud anyone who tries to advance mind science. Sooner or later someone will hit on
        the right formula. In my opinion only, the formula has to be based on the seesaw effect of confidence versus critical faculty. The ability to boost
        one while lowering the other until a sort of mental homeostasis is achieved. An instant hypnosis for everyone. Your ability to learn anything whilst
        in this state of mind would be enhanced a thousand fold.

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