RAS - How Our Beliefs Shape Our Reality

Reticular Activating System (RAS) is “one of two parts of the reticular formation in the brain-stem that maintains an alert state in the cerebral cortex and is concerned with arousal. The reticular activating system filters out repetitive stimuli, preventing sensory overload*”.

Our mind is constantly bombarded by a great due of information received by our senses (visual, auditory, taste, smell, and touch). “It has been estimated that, through our five senses, we receive millions of bits of information each second of the day, whereas our conscious mind can only deal with 126 bits per second (based on work by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the book ‘Flow’, who estimates that we use 40 bits per second to understand one person speaking to us).”

Reticular Activating System (or RAS) filters the sensory information that we receive. in order to avoid information overload. We are able to consciously perceive only the tiny percentage of information that we filter out from the overload of information we are bombarded with every second.

There are three main filters of the information:

* Deletion
* Distortion
* Generalisation


In the book “NLP: The Essential Handbook for Business”, the author Jeremy Lazarus writes: “When you perceive information, much of it is deleted… Indeed, psychologists assert that if we were aware of all information received by our senses, we would be overwhelmed and would not be able to function. In a positive sense, deleting information helps you to focus on what needs to be done, for example, focusing on specific tasks to meet deadlines. In a less useful sense, deletions can mean that you could miss important information, perhaps because your attention is focused elsewhere. For example, you might be in such a hurry to produce a report that you only skim-read an e-mail containing important information.”

Our mind filters out the information according to what we are focused on at the particular moment. We consciously notice (observe) what we are focused on. If we focus on lack of opportunities, scarcity, or things that we dislike or do now want, we are filtering out the information that matches that. On the other hand, if we focus on opportunities, prosperity, our goals, things that we want to manifest, obtain, or accomplish in our life, we will accordingly start ‘noticing’ people, things, and opportunities that can help us get there.

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Setting goals, creating vision boards, and visualisation can help us to focus on our goals and desires and inform our mind that every bit of information related to that is important for us to be consciously perceived. Although we do not consciously notice all the information from our environment, our subconscious mind receives it, and therefor paying attention to what kind of environment we expose ourselves to, whether our home decor matches the life we want to create, and what we are consciously focusing our attention on are important steps in changing our beliefs and the ‘reality that we see’.


In the book “NLP: The Essential Handbook for Business”, the author Jeremy Lazarus writes “Distortions are when you assume or interpret information, putting words and labels on an event.We can distort the information that we observe to match our own belief system and expectations.

For example, if you have low self worth, you may interpret another person’s lack of interest in talking to you or spending time with you as a ‘sign’ that they do like you, while they may in fact be busy, having a ‘bad day’, or going through a tough phase in their life. Another example would be if someone has a belief that rich people are corrupt, and they read or hear how a very rich person made a generous charity donation, they may interpret that as if all they only wanted some publicity, and they do not care about the humanity at all. 

In the book “NLP: The Essential Handbook for Business”, the author Jeremy Lazarus gives the following example: “… if your boss’s assistant asks you to see him immediately and says that he is not happy, what does this mean? In itself it means nothing, yet you could be excused for having thoughts such as “What have I done wrong?” or “I’m in trouble.” Though these thoughts may be appropriate, there are many other possible interpretations of why he wants to see you. Your “negative” assumptions about it will influence how you approach the meeting. If you can learn to recognise your own distortions, you can avoid jumping to conclusions and make more informed decisions and choices.”

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Generalising is forming opinions or conclusions from only a few facts, cases, or experiences. Generalisations can help us categorise things while learning, or in certain cases to form a positive opinion (for example, if you learn or achieve something very difficult, you may form a generalisation  that if you learned or achieved that difficult thing – you can learn or achieve anything).

But, generalisations can also lead to forming prejudices against certain groups of people, or to forming limiting beliefs, such as: “I always attract a wrong man” (a limiting belief that a woman can form after a few unsuccessful relationships with men who were not compatible for her), or “I get fired from every job. I just can’t keep any job for long.” (a limiting belief a person can form after getting fired two times due to circumstances that were not their fault, such as downsizing in a company).

Our Reality Matches Our Expectations and Subconscious Beliefs

Having in mind how our mind filters the information that we receive, according to our beliefs, what we chose to focus on, and our expectations, we can truly understand the meaning of the phrases: ‘Change Your Beliefs – Change Your Life’ and‘What You Focus On – Expands‘.

By choosing to consciously focus on the things that we want to obtain, achieve, and manifest in our life, we can start ‘noticing’ the things, people, resources, information, and opportunities that can lead us toward the fulfillment of our goals and desires. Having in mind how we filter information, we can open ourselves up to questioning our beliefs and opinions, becoming more compassionate human beings, and making better informed choices.

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