My Quest Hub

Are your Red Boxes past their sell by date?

You are here:
< All Topics

Alison Knowles

Autumn 2015

Are your red boxes past their sell by date?

Here is a simple analogy I use to help kids understand the conscious and the unconscious.

The front part of your mind or conscious part is like a high tech mobile phone – it can record sounds, take pictures, it’s really, really high tech so it can hear things, smell things and taste things too! It stores all that information in its memory – or subconscious, which is like an enormous library with very tall shelves full of boxes.

Each box has a date and a label on it.

Everything ever learnt through tasting it, smelling it, touching it, hearing it or seeing it is put in one of those boxes. Each box is labelled so you know what’s in it should you want to find it again or remember it.

We have many, many boxes all stored in a huge library containing everything we ever learned, right back to you learning to walk, working out what food you like or don’t like, what music you like, what lessons at school you like, what makes you happy what makes you laugh – absolutely everything is in those boxes.

Each box also has a date on it so you know when you learnt about whatever is in that box.

Now we have what I call white boxes – full of stuff that we like and enjoy. We may also have red boxes, and in the red boxes is stuff that we don’t like or maybe scare us or upset us.

I tell the kids that there is a little librarian, whose job it is to file all the boxes. Now the only way our librarian knows what goes in what box is by noticing how you feel when you learn something – so if you learnt you liked ice-cream because you felt good the first time you tried it, the librarian will put it in a white box. If you felt terrified the first time you saw a spider that will go in a red box.

Once you have learnt something and it’s been put in a box it tends to stay with you all of your life. That’s ok with the white boxes – but wouldn’t it be cool to get rid of some of those red boxes?

Well you can! You see every box has a date on it, the date you learnt you were afraid of spiders for example.

Why is that useful? Well – let’s use me as an example. I am 50 this year! One of my red boxes is snakes! Eeek! The date on that box is September 1972 – I was 7.

Well, when I was 7 I was very little, I did not have any of the life skills I have now. At 7 the snake was huge and I was little and felt defenseless and afraid. I was sure it would eat me or squash me.

Here’s the thing. As a 7 year old I could not think and reason like a 50 year old. As a 50 year old I really cannot remember what being 7 was like. I cannot ever be 7 again in age or wisdom – so that incident when I was 7 can never happen again. So if I looked in that box now, I would have a better chance of dealing with that fear. As a 50 year old I know it couldn’t eat me. I am a cuddly 50 year old so I don’t think it would win in the squashing competition and I know that snakes aren’t waiting for me in every tree in my garden. That’s a few of the many original fears about snakes I can let go of now!

Already I could make the snake box pink not red just from those few revelations! To be fair I don’t think I can ever file snakes in a white box – but getting them to at least a pink box means I can go on holiday now – something I never used to be able to do!

The boxes are given a date for a reason. A decision you make today is not a decision you would have made a year ago because you have grown and have more capabilities now. A decision a year ago is not one you would have made 20 years ago because you are not that person any more.

Check the labels on your red boxes – I think you will find many are just way out of date.