25 May, 2013

It's a sign!

I'm not a believer in signs, I told my friends at dinner a week or so ago.  "But?" they all laughed, knowing that more was coming.

But if I was, I continued, I would think that I'm seeing signs telling us this trip to Italy is the right thing to do. I was amused more than anything - since we had decided to go to Italy and the Middle East, I had received my Cuisine magazine issue that turned out to be all about Italian food, that I'd seen articles about Puglia (one of our planned destinations), and that I'd seen a number plate that seemed, on first glance, to read "Dead Sea."

"I know, I know!" I said, as we all laughed at this.  "It's simply another example of seeing something you're thinking about.  You know, just like cancer sufferers suddenly meeting lots of others who have had cancer, or infertile women seeing pregnant bellies and newborn babies everywhere they go ..."

"Or seeing Dead Sea number plates!" they all chimed in.

Turns out there's a name for this phenomenon, which I learned that night.  It's called the reticular activation system (RAS), and describes the way we can become acutely attuned to specific topics or ideas.  The RAS  goes much wider than our often acutely felt sensitivity to pregnant bellies.  It explains how our brains sort through what is important (ie hearing our names being called at an airport), and what isn't (all the peripheral chaos around us at an airport).  And we can train our minds what to recognise as important.  Not in the way a lot of the self-help books suggest we can (eg.  the ghastly "think positive and you will get pregnant" suggestions).  But perhaps it explains how I managed to reprogramme my brain to stop thinking about babies, stop thinking about pregnancy, and see the positives and benefits of life without children. We've all suffered the effects of our brains' reticular activation systems.  But it makes me happy to know that we can also use this to our advantage.


  1. Yes, it is great that we can use RAS to our advantage!

    BTW: was there also any article about sLOVEnia in the magazine :)

    It must be a great magazine - all about Italian food. This is my favourite cousine of all.

    Have a nice weekend!

  2. Oh, interesting to know about RAS. :-) THANKS for sharing the info! Today I learn something new he he...

  3. That explains, too, why a particular number keeps showing up for me. Just a few weeks away from a big birthday and all the sudden 50 is everywhere.

    Eager to hear more about your upcoming holiday....hope it brings as much joy to you as my recent trip did.

  4. Pamela's comment reminded me of a friend I had at university -- she was born on November 11th (11-11) & she saw 11s everywhere she looked. I think of her whenever I look at the clock & it's 11:11. ; )

    How long will you be away? Looking forward to the stories & photos! :)

  5. I had heard of this phenomenon before, but forgot the name. It is funny isn't? I have noticed that happening in my life as well. It definitely can work in good ways as well. I noticed that when I was going through a period of longing for friends who didn't have kids, suddenly there were women popping up everywhere that I knew who didn't have kids. I just hadn't really focused on it before.