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Expat focus: how your brain is fooling you out of emigration

By November 29, 2016July 25th, 2020Newsletter

Expat focus: how your brain is fooling you out of emigration

November 29, 2016

Many South Africans struggle with the decision – leave or stay? Expat forums are chock-a-block with anxious members seeking advice and motivation for their decision to leave the country.

When one door closes…

One of the greatest gifts to human intelligence is our ability to envision multiple scenarios and outcomes – we can analyse situations and foresee relatively plausible outcomes based on this analysis. But this cognitive competence is a double-edged sword which can also be debilitating. Psychologists believe that this endless focus on what-ifs creates a loop of anxiety and indecision which is not based on sound logic (yes – your fears are illogical). And it is the myriad of choices which prevents many individuals from attaining success and happiness.

In fact, studies have shown that people are likely to be more dissatisfied with their decisions if they have too many options. This phenomena is known as the paradox of choice. In order to make a satisfactory choice, individuals have to weigh up all aspects and possible outcomes of these choices. The more choices there are available, and the more disparate these choices, the greater the anxiety and the less satisfying the eventual decision is for the individual.

What does this mean? Well, essentially, even though you cannot accurately predict the road ahead and cannot possibly know the future, it is absolutely necessary to close the door and eliminate the other options in your mind.

The psychology of change

Another thing to be aware of, is that your mind will instinctively support the choices which are more familiar. The brain is wired to prevent trauma and anxiety – it wants to circumvent stress. One of the ways it does this is by seeking out the path which is most familiar and comforting. We are hard-wired for pattern-recognition – this allows us to make decisions on the fly and “keep us safe”, but it is also deceptive. Anything which is unfamiliar, stressful or unconventional will immediately be flagged as hazardous and dangerous, and your emotions when focussing on this change will therefore be negative. Since dramatic change is seen as a physiological risk, your mind will trick you into believing this change is bad for you, dangerous or impossible. In fact, approximately 90% of your mindpower is dedicated to making associations based on existing knowledge and experience according to your “life script” (your collective experiences to date). This means you have a mere 10% to guide conscious logic, reasoning, decision-making and willpower, according to Genesis Health.

Your subconscious cannot logically predict whether a certain situation or behaviour is good or bad for you, but since any new situations or behaviours are unknown, it preserves energy and seeks to prevent harm by steering you towards ideas and situations which it understands. Sadly, this instinctual need for self-preservation often keeps people in situations, relationships and positions which are detrimental to the conscious being. Your subconscious will tell you the familiar thing is pleasurable, even if it is making you miserable.

This thinking essentially keeps us in many toxic situations – in relationships which are abusive, exploitative or dishonest, in jobs which are unsatisfying, emotionally paralysing and traumatising, in a neighbourhood, city or country which no longer serves us. It’s a type of circumstantial Stockholm Syndrome which makes us complacent, empathetic, favourable and inadvertently dependent on things, situations and people which are essentially destructive and holds us hostage.

Make a choice and stick to it

The only way you will move beyond seeing change as a threat is by allowing more changes in your life. You will have to learn to identify your uncertainty, discomfort and anxiety associated with change as a physiological and psychological bias and become tolerant of this uncertainty.

Once your mind becomes used to the idea that new experiences and changes aren’t dangerous, it will, over time, become less resistant to change and no longer flag these experiences or decisions as hazards.

In the words of Make Me Successful:

“Freedom and success lie on the other side of your doubts and fears.

If you want it, go get it.

Follow your intuition and let your heart take you to a place where your brain could never go, the promise land.”

You are stronger than your fears. You are better than the way you are being treated. You are more capable, tenacious and resilient than you will ever believe. So make your decision, trust in yourself and move on!

We’ll help you on your way

If you need assistance with your financial migration, simply leave your details and one of our consultants will contact you to get the ball rolling.

Carpe Diem!

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