Memory Reconsolidation as Social Paradigm for Personal & Collective Evolution
There are biological potentials and capacities which lie dormant in each of us, the very potentials that both you and the world need at this time.
Even as 21st century life seems to get more confusing, fraught and uncertain with each passing year, the instinct for many is to either turn away from the growing complexities, or anxiously secure themselves against the shifting ground or overextend themselves while trying to fix some part of the problem. Our instincts haven’t evolved to help us face and contend with such a state of affairs with an open, non-clinging creativity, since doing so would have most likely have gotten us killed on the great plains. Now that humans are not up against other animals we have an opportunity to evolve our very humanity, and now that Memory Reconsolidation (MR) is enabling us to leverage dormant potentials it is imperative that we, not only as individuals but as a collective, consider the choice to (re)create ourselves.
While no individual alone can change the culture in any meaningful way or change the context into which one was born, here and now we can choose our reason for being, our ultimate concern at this chapter of our lives, the principle desire that demands the allegiance of the whole self - emotionally, volitionally and intellectually, and we can decide what we’re going to do about it.
Owning our reason for being requires us to stop, to recognize what matters most, to discern the challenge of what it’ll take to live our lives accordingly, and it requires us to renegotiate our agreements with loved ones and society, to let go and grieve and make room. Not only that, self-recreation requires for us to become redefined and reshaped at a level deeper than personality, behavior and even thought. Incomprehensible as the task may sometimes seem, one might find courage in knowing that the human organism comes with the most evolved and most adaptive set of capacities known to science, and now the findings from molecular neurobiology are revealing exactly how we can embody more of our latent potentials and become equal to our individual and collective task at this time.
Humans are endowed with a self-organizing brain and central nervous system (CNS) which plays a fundamental role in our evolutionary and adaptive processes as well as in our lifelong learning. This fact means that the CNS has the capacity to update the neuronal and genetic structures upon which our perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all based. Recent insights from neuroscience into the CNS as a powerful arbitrator in the way we attend to the world reveals how it is responsible for our implicit, non-conscious attitudes and ways of being. Irrespective of our socio-demographic status, our past challenges or present grievances, if we’ve got a central nervous system then we are each a part of this highly complex adaptive system (CAS) which has the ability to reconstitute itself as well as the fundamental essence of our way of being. Our highly adaptive organism has the capacity to help us meet even the most overwhelming demands of life with a greater agility and a deeper presence of mind.
Our motives, habits and tendencies, assumptions, beliefs and values, mental-models, worldviews and coping strategies, and even the most complex traumas, all have their roots in the nervous systems nonconscious memory banks, i.e. all of the above are adaptations to actual, lived experiences and are meant to aid us in anticipating and navigating current and future situations. What’s interesting from a transformational and developmental viewpoint is that this kind of adaptive learning requires the CNS to access, edit and re-save implicit and explicit memories on the level of our cellular neurobiology which, when changed, transforms aspects of our temperament which is deeper than the structures of personality, and the very quality of our awareness is also transformed.
Whether it's a corporate executive feeling a sense of constant overwhelm from an unpredictable marketplace or someone in therapy dealing with chronic anxiety rooted in childhood trauma, harnessing the nervous systems adaptivity addresses the necessary prerequisites for the resolution of both of these challenges because both instances are the result of previous adaptations which have become sub-optimal for current circumstances. Because human beings are more like unfolding, adaptive processes, even if our self-image lends us a steady point of reference, an integrative paradigm helps us better understand the optimal point of leverage for personal evolution on the spectrum of adaptive development. By embracing the universal capacity for adaptation, such an integrative paradigm opens up the possibility of a more reliable pathway for personal and collective evolution.
The science and the application of the molecular neurobiology related to memory reconsolidation now confirm a core idea which developmental psychologists have found in their research for decades and which underlies the practical core of The Evolving Self Method, namely that the human organism develops its capacities in ways which help it adapt in response to its experience to sustain itself. That is to say, at the fundamental level, nervous systems learn and adapt nonconsciously and implicitly, through experience. Thus, in general, the currency for adaptive development i.e. healing, growth and transformation, is learning and, in particular, adaptive learning.
Whether it’s healing trauma or expanding our capacities, adaptive learning contains the lock and the key, where our current neurobiological adaptation, our way of being, is unlocked and accessed, after which the CNS is profoundly in-formed by some novel experience or insight, and then trans-formed through a reconstitution of the former adaptation, at the level of neurobiology and gene expression (epigenetics).
The neuroscience of transformation offers us a possibility to experience a radically different order of growth and an unfathomable shift in the way of our very being. The transformational growth which emerges through adaptive learning correlates with shifts in emotional, cognitive, embodied ways of knowing. The neuroscience of transformation, allied to our reason for being, confers courage and calls us to lean into the most daunting challenges and embrace our loftiest ideals as the basis for our individual and collective readaptation.