Is your brain hard-wired? — Vivienne Schultz

Optimum Human

A monthly column by social entrepreneur and A2B Transformation Group founder Vivienne Schultz.

Are you aware that, without the right kind of nurturing from early childhood onwards, unhelpful and non-responsive habits can be hard-wired in your brain without you even being aware of it happening?

During every second that you are in a state of fear or experience a sense of “I am not ok”, this hardwiring happens.

Through advances in neuroscience, it has been proved that every single incident where you were handled unlovingly, felt neglected, ignored, embarrassed, abused, harassed, scolded or where irritation was shown towards you, altered your brain.

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It caused an unhealthy distortion of your impulse control, your natural feelings, affections, inclinations, temper, habits and moral tendencies and caused character flaws.

External locus of control
A primary culprit that causes the cycle of poverty is what we call the External Locus of Control, or ELOC (the opposite of an Internal Locus of Control, ILOC).

Locus of Control is the degree to which individuals believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control. Locus = location / place.

It is a belief instilled in your mind since the age of approximately 2 years — by your parents and the social construct. It drives your behaviour and your destiny.

External Locus of Control = dependency, meaning that you allow outside factors to control your choices and your life. Abdicated power and responsibilities to external parties.

Internal Locus of Control = autonomous, meaning you are a go-getter, self-starter, decision-maker, problem-solver, taking ownership and responsibility for successes and failures.

Illustrative testimony
Here is a testimony to illustrate what I mean:

My name is Dennis Xhale, 23 years old. I have learnt that one of the most resistant hardwires is called External Locus of Control (ELOC). It took me a month or two to fully comprehend this new word, but when I got a grip over it, the peels fell off my eyes as I observed it every hour in the behaviour of my own people in front of me. I realised that this ELOC hardwire gets planted deeply in us from a very young age.

I have often felt that I have little control over my life and what happens to me, and now I know it is the belief system instilled in me, called ELOC.

Blame culture — Working with the secondary school learners in Magaliesburg, I realised the learners who are doing badly in school blame the teachers more and more for their failures eg “they did not give us enough material to read and we failed because of the teachers”.

I am not smart, it’s luck! — My brother who was promoted at his workplace for a position he didn’t think he would get thought this was “luck”. Everyone lives on a belief system that what they get and not get is due to good or bad luck! People rarely think about intrinsic value and competency. Neither do they realise that when things are bad, they just get what they deserve.

Looking for outside power to give them luck — Communities at large especially in GA Mogale where people slaughter animals and perform rituals saying they are appeasing the dead and the dead will in turn provide them with earthly income and luck. This is such a big ELOC creator.

Sense of entitlement for handouts results in destructive actions — In 2014 a community strike for the removal of the counsellor resulted in people injured and killed because the community was saying the counsellor did not give them what they deserved and are entitled to.

Educated, but still can’t switch on own brain — We opened an NPO in GA Mogale with a group of our friends who had the same education. They come to the group to show their presence, but not with their brain power. They do not take initiative, but are dependent, waiting for someone to lead them. Yet, they are very active in the task of pointing fingers and blaming one another whenever there is a failure and also ride with the glory whenever there is progress.

Dependency mindset causes a spiral effect into deeper dependencies — GA Mogale is one of the highest nyaope smoking areas in Mogale City, as more and more youth are reliant on the drug. I observed a court case in which my own cousin was sentenced to three years for theft. It proved this as he blamed the drug saying “I could not think clearly without it, I had to have a fix that morning and I stole the phone”.

Realising my own ELOC — While working for the Hub in Magaliesburg, I waited behind a desk for work and I pointed fingers and I would tell the community when there are questions that my boss was not giving me any work and that I am waiting to get information from him which was delayed. I have been to University, but also had in me the “waiting for someone else’s brain to come and tell me what to do” culture whilst my brain was switched off. I could not take initiative.

Love relationships are built on dependency — My girlfriend who recently graduated always waited for me to send her money to do her hair. She demanded it, she believed she was entitled to it for being a girlfriend. It is almost the primary conversation and would cause massive fights. I can hardly survive myself as a young person and a sense of entitlement in a relationship is not an asset, but a burden, this resulted in us breaking up.

We are to blame, but we can’t own up to our faults — Our group of guys went away for a weekend and the desired venue we were supposed to have booked was already booked and we had no alternative venue. This resulted in us settling for a cheaper and “not up to standard” venue. We ended up blaming the desired venue owners for not letting us know in time and secondly blaming the cheaper venue for not being up to standard.

Blaming the achievers — Everywhere I walk on the farms in Magaliesburg people are blaming the apartheid era for all the things that went wrong, words from my uncle were “if it wasn’t for the whites I would have had my own farm by now “. Yet, it would be interesting to see if he can perform on the same level and succeed in buying it and running it daily successfully.

This mindset can be changed
It is clearly a deep rooted task-unconsciousness stuck mindset.

I realise that none of us will change if our loved ones don’t show us our state of bad behaviour and our blindness.

If we don’t turn around this mentality asap, I believe there is not much hope for our beloved South Africa!

We all need to be made conscious of our hardwires without a confrontation! The good news is that the brain is probably the most adaptive organ in your body. Your hard wires can be undone!

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It takes a prolonged process of out-of-comfort experiences, where you teach yourself to zoom in on the core of the problem, but also to zoom out and see the bigger picture. This kind of responsive problem-solving builds new neural pathways in the brain, literally connecting different parts “up there” and building your capacity to self-start.

You can start today by refusing to blame or frame others for your lack of seeing the big picture, and solving your own problems. Make a choice to drive your own life by taking “good luck” and turning it into responsibility.

You can contact Vivienne at

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