Heard Any Good New Music Lately? Chances are it sounds like something you’ve heard before.
How sameness affects our identity
It may come as no surprise that our brains are more likely to enjoy new music that is more familiar, than new music that is vastly different from what we usually listen to. The same goes for new ideas, thoughts, and considerations…and even news channels.
Think about it – when you hear a new song, or a new band, do you immediately try to make associations to other music or bands? “Hey check out this new band, they are a mix between Neil Young and Elvis Costello.” Isn’t that what the music genome project is built upon? Some of you might experience it regularly as Pandora, which builds playlists based on common characteristics of songs. A recent article from Smithsonian Magazine, which ties our music preferences with the way our mind works, got me thinking about how inextricably linked this is to our own sense of self.
Creatures of Habit – Habitually Maintaining Our Identity
We are creatures of habit largely because our minds operate on a sameness pattern that eventually largely contributes to the creation of our identity, sense of self, or our “agency.” We append the rest of our lives, consciously and sub-consciously working to maintain and edify our identity as we know it. There is credible evidence that the psychological mind works this way because of how the physical brain works.
I’m currently studying a book called Synaptic Self by Joseph Le Doux (an author and Professor of Science at New York University’s Center for Neural Science). In the book, Le Doux writes, “My notion of personality is pretty simple: it’s that your ‘self’, the essence of who you are, reflects patterns of interconnectivity between neurons in your brain.”
His contention is that the key to who someone becomes is largely shaped by the particular patterns of synaptic connections and the information encoded by these connections. As we age, these patterns prefer to repeat and thusly imbed and further into our psyche.
Our Identity Plays a Key Role in the Connections We Make Every Day
My clients and colleagues have heard me teach that, as humans, we form our sense of self via connections. Biologically, physically, socially, neurologically, we need to make connections. We need to create connections so we can find meaning. Our ultimate meaning is our identity, or sense of self. We view all of the rest of the world and everything that’s in it in the context of how we understand ourselves.
Rule number one of the four rules of engagement is that our greatest desire is to be right. I would add that the thing we need to be most right about is our sense of self. Our sense of self is the first and foremost contextual filter by which we understand and judge all other considerations.
When Our Sense of Self is Challenged, We Experience an Identity Crisis
In the rare instances that some event challenges the core of our sense of self, the result is life-altering. It is true identity crisis. For some, it can lead to revelation, for others, to depression. Think of the following phrases:
“My world is falling apart.”
“I’ve got to pull myself together.”
“Nothing makes sense anymore.”
Notice how all of these phrases imply the feeling of a loss of connection or cohesion. When things change dramatically in our losses, usually by some force beyond our control, it can shake things up enough that we can no longer make connections in order to create meaning that is familiar to us. And thus, we begin to lose the foundational context by which we define everything—our sense of self.
We are creatures of habit because of the way our brains and our minds function.
It is said that history repeats itself. Perhaps it would be more explicit to say that individually and collectively, we are likely driven to recreate a new up-coming history based on some familiar old pattern. It is very difficult to do otherwise because we don’t want to risk losing ourselves in the process. To quote an old familiar song (I know you’ve heard it before) that can be found on Pandora radio, “Should old acquaintance be forgot…”