You Have a Reticular Activating System!

Your Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a structure that sits in your mid-brain and connects the brain stem, to the cerebral cortex, through various neural paths. Our brain stem controls most of our involuntary functions (breathing, heartrate, electrical activity), as well as reflexes of the body, while the cerebral cortex is the seat of consciousness and thinking abilities.

The RAS forms a link between these two different regions, helping our consciousness put together our sense of an internal world, through assimilation of sensory information, gathered from all body parts. In simple terms, the RAS lets us consciously know how we’re unconsciously functioning – are all systems “GO” or not.

The RAS is associated with a number of important human capacities including:

  • Our circadian rhythms or sleep-wake-cycle
  • Our capacity to recall or remember information (useful when we’re enrolled in school and being tested on materials covered in textbooks or in classes)
  • Our alertness, especially as it relates to our danger reactions including Fight/Flight/Freeze
  • Our ability to notice what matters and make decisions based on that capacity.

Why should you care about the RAS? 

Because it also serves as a filter to help you focus on information that is most important to you. It functions as a two-way conduit to both send and receive messages between our conscious and unconscious selves – a handy tool if you know how to use it!

On top of all the things it manages automatically (collecting information for us so we can make healthy adjustments moment-to-moment and day-to-day) it also serves as a filter allowing us to quietly (and subconsciously) focus on the things that matter most to us.

Assuming you’re in touch with your core values (we’ve talked about that before) and acting in alignment with them on a regular basis, it is your RAS that points you toward the things you’ve PROGRAMMED it to notice and respond to!

Here’s a simple example of how the RAS filters information for us.

  • You decide to buy a new car
  • You narrow down the type of car, the brand, model, and color you want
  • You test-drive your top picks
  • You select and purchase your RED, FORD, ECOSPORT (actually my car).
  • Suddenly you see dozens, even scores of Ford, Ecosports on the road, many of them red – and you’ve never noticed them before!

Your purchase process has “taught” your RAS that this is an important decision and that it matters to you – so now, your awareness is heightened, and your attention is drawn to the details you’d never really seen before — scores of Ford, Ecosports on the road.

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

What if you were to turn this filtering capacity into a magnificent tool for manifesting what you want in your life? What if you were to “teach” or “program” your RAS to be looking for, noticing, and calling to your attention those indicators in your environment that would most serve your needs and purposes? We have the capacity to do this, through the act of INTENTION. . .

  • What if you used your affirmations to consistently remind your subconscious self WHO you want to be, WHAT you want to be engaged in, and HOW you want to live your life?
  • What if you made a list of the many attributes and characteristics of people you’d like to draw into your circle of friends; kind people, thoughtful people, generous people, (etc.)?
  • What if you painted a picture or made a collage (vision board?) incorporating images of the things you want to attract into your life (a promotion, a partner, a new home)?

Then, having richly and thoroughly described to your subconscious RAS the elements of what you’re looking for, you turn it loose to simply FIND those things in your environment, call them out to you and remind you to act on them! That’s what it means to MANIFEST in your life – to create what you most want to surround yourself with – it is an unconscious process made conscious by the act of INTENTION.

Sound crazy? Hold on, let me tell you a story (an old story from my own life). . .

In the early 1980s, I lived in Gary, Indiana. It is a small city, west of Chicago, on the Indiana side of Lake Michigan – it is also where Michael Jackson grew up. I was single and planning to move to Minneapolis. In preparation for that move, I began to recite to myself a mantra that went like this, “I am surrounded by handsome men who love being with me” – I did this thinking I might ultimately attract romance.

What I failed to do in programming my RAS with this mantra was to be sufficiently specific.

When I arrived in the Twin Cities, I engaged in building meaningful relationships with a number of health-related causes, many connected to the AIDS crisis that was raging at the time. Within a year, my life was “surrounded by handsome men who loved being with me” – all of them were gay.

I had totally manifested exactly what I asked for. Your RAS will do exactly as it is instructed! So, the moral to my story is to be careful what you ask for!

What do you want to attract into your life? Where do you want this year to be different from other years? What do you want to achieve or accomplish in the months ahead? All of these desires can be aided by INTENTIONALLY using your RAS – I’d be happy to show you how it’s done!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

Recent Posts

Woman enjoying the scenery on her road trip

Taking Advantage of a Long, Holiday Weekend. . .

Even as Americans discuss the advantages of the four-day work-week, thanks to Representative Mark Takano, D-Calif., who introduced legislation which, if it passes, would reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours instead of 40, we’re also working more hours than ever.

The Guardian reports that compared with other countries, the American workplace record is not good. “In 2021, American employees worked 184 more hours than Japanese workers, 294 more hours than British workers, and 442 more hours than German workers. Unbelievably, in 2023 there are millions of Americans who work at jobs with no vacation time” (The Guardian).

Read More →
You'll never walk alone song lyrics

You’ll Never Walk Alone. . .

Since its first recording, by Frank Sinatra in 1945, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has been reinterpreted by many musicians, perhaps most recently by Josh Groban in 2015. Its lyrics are formed by a relatively short, 17-line poem, written as a song by Rogers & Hammerstein for musical Carousel.

This song reminds me so much of the nature of my work – certainly, when clients come to me they often feel VERY alone and completely overwhelmed by the caregiver roles they fill. This is true whether they are parents of a special-needs-child or the sole caregiver for a spouse with dementia. That sense of being alone is, in itself, depressing.

Read More →
Women running past finish line at marathon

Measuring Progress Can Help. . .

I’m working with a Health Coach myself (yes, even coaches need coaches!) who seems to appreciate my need to measure things. I’m one of those people who likes to see measurable improvement – to choose metrics that allow me to demonstrate progress, if not full completion, of a goal.

Sometimes, especially if we’re working on goals that feel particularly difficult, it can be important to at least see movement in the desired direction. Most of us can appreciate the fulfillment of getting to the finish line of a quick sprint, like the 100-yard-dash. But when you’re in a marathon you need benchmarks along the way to remind you that you’re actually doing it, and that the end will come, even if you can’t see it from your current spot on the route. That’s where metrics come in handy!

Read More →
How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.

How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.