Recently I was talking with a friend about fears, doubts and anxiety. As my friend took a drink I could see he was thinking about something. He placed the cup of coffee on the table then said these words.
Once bitten. Twice shy.
I asked him what he meant by this? He said you know, once bitten, twice shy. When you have been let down by something or someone you trusted has let you down. When this happens you become very wary about going there in the future.
Once bitten twice shy is interesting. It may mean missing a great opportunity. Developing a new relationship or living a life doing what you really want.
In the recent post Nothing to Fear I mentioned that over 90% of what we worry about never happens.
I shared this from Hardwiring Happiness by Rich Hanson.
‘In general the default setting of the brain is to overestimate threats, underestimate opportunities and the resources for coping with threats and fulfilling opportunities’.
So let’s explore this some more around the phrase once bitten twice shy and seek to understand the thinking behind it.
I have previously talked about Negative Basis. Negative Bias affects the structure and building process of the brain. What flows through your mind changes the way you feel and act. The result of this flow is two kinds of learning. Two kinds of memories. These memories are called ‘explicit’ and ‘implicit’
Explicit memory holds all your personal recollections, from when you were a young child to whatever happened ten minutes ago. These memories tend to have a more positive bias the further back in time they go. For example I recall completely the weekend I rode the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Challenge. Feeling good after two days cycling across the Yorkshire Wolds and taking in the sea breezes. The pain I felt when climbing the hills is long gone, overwritten by the pleasurable thoughts of finishing.
Implicit memory holds information on how to do things/procedures such as driving a car. Washing and grooming. Finding your way through a delicate conversation with a partner or friend.
Implicit memory holds your assumptions, expectations, values, inclinations, models of relationships and the emotional residues of lived experiences.
Implicit memory is like a vast warehouse that holds most of your inner strengths and most of your feelings of feeling inadequate, defensive and holding on to the feelings of old pain. Implicit memory usually has much more impact on your life than explicit memory.
You may have guessed that it is the implicit memory that holds the friend negative bias, hence once bitten twice shy. Is there any wonder we are bombarded with negative news? Why leaders and politicians focus on our doubts and fears. We dwell on these doubts and fears. We talk about them with our friends over a dinner or a drink. Our doubts and fears may even be reinforced by a friend saying ‘yes that happened to me’.
What about if we worked on changing the negative bias by focusing on a positive experience.
Positive experiences happen to us on a daily basis. Unfortunately we don’t let them into our lives. Not even for a few seconds.
How about noticing the positive things in your life and focusing on them for just ten seconds. This simple exercise will help you form new positive neural pathways.
As you read this, focus right now on the positive relationships you have. The close friends that you have. The smell and the colours of the flowers in your garden. The colour of your front door.
Really focus on the positive things in your life. The positive things that really mean something to you.
Change the way you think and your life changes.
Be Happy-Be Inspired.