Our Mind-Brain-Body is a Signal Seeking System
We all want to understand how to better navigate our world.
The more 'information' we get, the more data our brain has to work with.
This gives the mind-brain-body system a better database of information to see patterns, and make better and better predictions.
The mind-brain-body system is seeking this at all times. This is the nature of intelligence.
So when we are interacting with someone, both people are exchanging information with each other.
Information doesn't just mean something intellectual or cognitive.
Information comes in the form of smell, electric activity from the skin, voice frequencies, facial muscle tension, facial micro-expressions, body movements.
Words contain the least amount of information because they are only an attempt to translate vibration into coded 'grunting'. Words are the last to form. All the stuff that happens before that are signaling our internal state and our intentions with someone.
When someone interacts with you, there are 'neural expectations' that you will signal your internal state and intentions with them, and be a source of 'call-and-response', (or as Harvard Center on the Developing Child calls it, 'serve and return').
When you are not present, your signals are not giving relevant information to them.
This is a disruption or 'violation' of the mind-brain-body expectations of human interaction.
Let's take voice as an example.
When someone speaks...
- the vocal folds in their throat tighten in various ways that alter how the air gets pushed out, which then alters how the air molecules bump into each other.
- the speed and force of these molecules bumping into each other creates various waves, which then travel to your ear.
- the frequency of these waves travel to your ear, and as they hit the membrane of your ear drum, they are transduced into kinetic energy
- this kinetic energy then turns into hydraulic energy as the fluid in the ear sends waves to other cells and cilia
- these signals then get transduced again into electro-chemical signals for your brain.
(Read: I Can Hear Your Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth for beautiful explanations and writings on sound and hearing)
The internal state of a person will affect how those vocal folds are tightening and loosening. The internal state of a person will therefore affect the micro-vibrations of their voice. This gives you some 'data' to sense what their internal state is.
You can apply the same mechanics of voice to what happens as their heart beats, or the electric conductance of their skin changes, or the motor movements of their body change according to their state. All of these things change the way the molecules around them bump into each other, which then sends out different frequencies that you pick up on.
When you are truly present with someone, it affects all of these tiny physiological signals we project to them.
Your voice will have a particular frequency, your breathing, your eye movements… all of these align in a certain way when our conscious awareness is holding steady on someone in that moment.
When we’re not doing this, it violates the ‘neural expectations’ they have of both verbal and nonverbal communication to detect your intentions and your reaction to what they are projecting out.
When they detect that you are not present, their mind-brain-body system will start to do its calculations for searching for cause-effect relationships, and try to figure out why you are not aligning your presence with theirs in that moment.
When you are not present, you will often see a person resort to different behaviors to try to pull you back into being present with them. Their voice may get louder, whinier. Or they may try to make you laugh, entertain you. It will depend on what has worked for them in the past, as well as trial and error with you.
To have truly intimate, authentic, connection with another person, both people need to be present.
I'm sure you'd like for there to be a magic button to push so that the people in your life will be more present with you. But we can't control this.
We can only control OUR presence. But your presence will project the micro-signals of psychological safety needed for the other person to be present with you.
Whoever is the most aware of this needs to lead the way. If you can become aware of the movements you make and the micro-signals you send as you escape into your own thoughts instead of being engaged in the present, this can help you 'reverse engineer' the process.
You can break down some of those motor movements and re-train the mind-brain-body circuitry to be more engaged more of the time.
This building of circuitry then gives you more access to choosing to be present when you want to be present. And to let your mind wander, daydream and contemplate when you want it to. But it becomes a choice, instead of your mind wandering just 'happening' all the time.
This becomes one of the most powerful choices you get to start to make with every moment of your life. To be present or not.
Are you able to command yourself into being present?
It's a powerful skill every human being on the planet can master.
If this interests you, please join me in my Master Class to actually experience, in an interactive way within a community, how to command your presence and show others how to do the same for themselves.
I also go into the Micro-Movements of trust in this article and guest podcast interview with Better Leaders Better Schools