Do you know what copy paste is? Of course you do, you must be reading this article on your computer right now (or laptop, or iPad or iPhone), hence you do have a moderate knowledge of how to use it. In fact, everybody knows what copy paste is nowadays. And everybody uses it big time. You copy paste your address, your personal identification number, your phone number or your social media nicknames. You copy paste parts of your messages, photos, songs, and videos. It saves a lot of time and makes your tasks a little less tedious.
Copy pasting is indeed a very powerful process.
But you’re not copy pasting only that. You’re copy pasting a lot more than that. You’re copy pasting behaviors, reactions, attitudes, and processes. During your day, many parts of what you’re doing or you’re reacting to are based on a copy paste process. You’re actually copy pasting big chunks of your life everyday, sometimes without even knowing it.
For instance, when a beggar approaches you on the street, you don’t really take the time to hear his story. Be honest, you don’t. Most of the time your thoughts are following this pattern
- “Oh, a beggar, I don’t have time for this.”
- “I really want to get over this and I want to get over this fast.”
- “Where is that piece of behavior that I usually apply when bumping into a beggar?”
- “Oh here it is: copy from that remote shelf in my mind.”
- “And now paste it to the current moment.”
Depending on what your usual behavior is, you might give some cash to the beggar, or you might repel him with a low voice. You may even ignore him. But whatever the choice, you believe that you won some time on your side because you didn’t write the whole action in the moment, you copy pasted it from some other corner of your consciousness. You may think that you won some time on your side, but in fact, you didn’t.
How Copy Pasting Works in Real Life
If you really take the time to assess how copy pasting works, you can identify some common points. In my experience, a typical copy paste situation unfolds in 3 steps.
Step 1: Identifying the Stimuli
We all have something called perception. This quality allows us to identify changes in our universe and match them to our internal history. We may choose to respond or not to respond to those stimuli, based on things like our past experience, intentions or current context. Some stimuli are processed by “lower” parts of our brain, while other stimuli are processed by “higher” parts of our brain.
For instance, every dangerous situation is processed in the “reptilian” brain, one of the oldest parts of our brain. That’s where fear is processed, and in turn where “fight or flight” reactions are generated. Listening to music or reading a book are processed in more recent parts of the brain, which are specialized in performing these types of tasks. That’s where “artistic” emotions take place.
Step 2 Identify the Usual Behavior
If the change in our reality triggers the need for an answer from us, we usually try to identify the most “popular” one. It’s a way for our brain to create shortcuts, it follows “known paths”. So, based on what the stimuli offers, we browse our internal library and pick whatever we think it might be appropriate.
For instance, if the stimuli is a big flame touching our hand, our reptilian brain will trigger a powerful and potentially life-saving response, usually in the form of a “run!” command. It does that in half of a second. It’s perceived as a “fight or flight situation”.
On the other hand, if we are listening to some beautiful music, our cortex may choose to respond by producing endorphins, or “pleasure hormones”, releasing them in our blood. It’s the most appropriate and beneficial answer from our cortex when facing what we may perceive as “beauty”.
Step 3 Copy it and Apply it
After we’ve identified the stimuli and picked up the most appropriate answer, we begin applying it. Our body follows the orders sent by the central unit. If there’s a reptilian brain command to “run”, our hand muscles will contract and our hand will retreat from the perceived danger of the flame. If there’s a cortex initiated response to release endorphins, our body begins to enjoy positive feelings while listening to the music.
So, every time we identify a change in our reality, we match it to our internal history and we chose wether to respond or not. We may often choose to apply a “verified” model, or contrarily we may choose to start something from scratch.
When Copy Pasting Is Playing Nice
If you burned your hand once, then copy pasting forgoes the need to repeat the contact of your hand with the fire a thousand times to learn the consequences. Just copy paste the “avoid” behavior and move on. That goes for basically all life and death situations you’ve ever been in (or situations that have been “tagged” as such by your reptilian brain).
Being on top of a building and feeling the need to jump, just to experience flying, well, that’s a stimuli you have probably never experienced. Based on the knowledge of your own or others’ previous experience with similar situations however, your brain has most likely tagged this activity as “don’t”. Somehow you know you won’t experience true flying, or you’ll experience it, but at a much higher price than you’re prepared to pay.
Usually, copy pasting works when you’re avoiding past traumas or judging identical traumatic contexts.
What Can Go Wrong
The only part that can really go wrong in this copy pasting process is stimuli identification. The reptilian brain sends very powerful messages, and those messages are generated due to real life and death situations. Every time you overcome a threat by listening to your reptilian brain, your trust in its responses grows. You become more and more sure of your reactions. You start to see the world in black and white. So, the temptation to give “black and white” answers becomes bigger and bigger. You start to evaluate all of the stimuli around you as “black and white” and insert those really fast, primitive responses.
Even if the situation requires more attention and assessment, you assume that by copy pasting some “definitive” reaction, you’ll be safe. So, you don’t really take the time to assess.
For instance, if you had been in a relationship that was wrong for you, then every time you saw a person that reminded you of your ex, you would “instinctively” step back. Your internal history tells you that you’ve been burned by a similar stimuli, so you just pencil in that “secure” behavior by copy pasting your reaction. Which is to withdraw.
Of course that person is not even remotely identical to the person who hurt you. It’s probably only something in the attitude, gestures or even smile that reminds you of the person who hurt you in the past. If you would take the time to assess the situation, without copy pasting your behavior, you’d realize that in a few seconds.
In my experience, copy paste works only on the reptilian brain level. I mean when there is immediate danger and your brain is triggering the fight or flight reaction, you should copy paste. Those are life and death situations. You have to be fast. So copy pasting is probably your best bet.
But above these situations that trigger the reptilian brain, copy pasting doesn’t work as well as expected. The most common problem being that you’re identifying the stimuli in the wrong way. Not every situation should be dealt with using the ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, you’re missing opportunities. You may have had a bad relationship in the past. Now you meet a new person. He or she reminds you of your ex. You identify a stimuli here, so you copy paste the last best behavior you had (either give in or give out).
But fact is no one person is identical to any other person. People are different. This new person is completely different from the person they resemble. And yet, you limit your experiences and opportunities by categorizing it into the same system, instead of assessing it at face value.
Copy pasting your everyday life, outside the basic survival situations will make you a copy paste person. You will spend so little time assessing what’s actually going on with your life under the present circumstances, and you will automate your reactions at such a level, that you won’t live a life anymore. You will be like a puppet. Trigger, copy paste, trigger, copy paste…
Let’s do a test here: if your normal behavior for reading blog posts is to get over with it and close the browser without a comment, do the opposite now. Even if you don’t agree with what I wrote (or especially if you don’t agree). Just leave a comment and do it with a new level of awareness. See what’s happening with yourself. Describe it in the comment.
Even more, it doesn’t need to be related to this article, just identify some stimuli in your immediate world and see if you’re copy pasting your behavior in response to it right now. If you are, describe the situation.
Because, you know, our worlds are different and your story is completely different than my own. My book of life is written in a different way from yours, and I’m copy pasting in completely different areas.
Let’s see. What are you copy pasting right now in your life?