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Your Brain Craves Completeness

Intellectual Operating Law Four
by Dr. Steven Cangiano

Your Brain Craves Completeness

Dramatic pause – Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise in the mega-hit movie, Jerry McGuire; “You complete me.” This, in my opinion, was the worst line in movie history, almost ruining an otherwise great movie. Entertainment Weekly considers it the third worst; not sure why I seek affirmation from experts, but that’s a lesson for another day. Only Renee could pull off such sour words so sweetly. Or perhaps this memorable phrase speaks to a deeper truth. A need in everyone for completeness  – your brain craves completeness.  

 We constantly search for that missing ingredient, the hidden keys to success. Your mind craves completeness. It wants to know the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It constantly monitors for gaps, inconsistencies, and congruency. Your mind is programmed to create certainty in an uncertain world. The unknown feels dangerous. This is why your mind despises gaps, especially on issues that are important to you.  

To relieve the internal tension created by the unknown, your mind constantly fills in the gaps. It always searches for completeness. I am sure you have had the experience of someone getting an urgent call in the middle of telling you an interesting story. The minute you see them again you say, “So what happened?” We have all lived with the daylong angst of having someone say, “I have something important to talk to you about when you get home.” All day, you try to fill in the gaps. You create a story in your mind about the looming conversation, and nine times out of ten, you are mistaken. 

Be careful how you fill in the gaps. There is a wisdom to uncertainty, existence would be a torture chamber if you always knew exactly what was going to happen next. Too much uncertainty can be just as difficult. Anxiety about an unknown future can be destabilizing. Sometimes it is impossible to accurately fill in the gaps, especially in challenging times. Modern society is creating unprecedented levels of uncertainty due to these rapidly changing times. Be vigilant, do not fill in the gaps with false, inaccurate or misleading information. We place a high value on knowing; sometimes it is impossible to know. 

Take comfort in the fact that your brain craves completeness in two regards: The first is that your life, especially when you are aware of the insights you are learning here, will always lead you forward. You are on a journey of expansion. The universe is expanding and so are you. The gaps in your life are temporary. The second is to become comfortable with the wisdom of uncertainty. If you know exactly how every situation in life will turn out, it would be a monotonous, boring existence. The key insight is to realize that the predominant vision in your mind always becomes a physical reality. The excitement of a compelling vision is that you do not know exactly how things will come together. Maintain the tension between your vision and your current reality, and you will be amazed at how the creative process fills in the gaps and delivers your vision to you. 

While your brain craves completeness, it is important to remember that so does everyone else. When communicating, try not to leave gaps. This will help you avoid misunderstandings. In your interpersonal interactions, be discerning rather than judgmental. When you know someone, especially for a long period of time, you automatically fill in the gaps (see Conscious Listening). This can prevent anything new in your relationship and feel judgmental. On the other hand, when you do not know someone, be careful not to judge too hastily. There is a tendency to fill in the gaps with automatic “what’s wrong” questions and negativity bias. Resist this temptation. Listen, learn, and be patient. As they say in the London Underground, “Mind the gap.” Be aware of your need for completeness, and make sure it is serving you. Learn to live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Next time some looks into your eyes and says “you complete me,” you may not want to say; “not really that’s just intellectual operating law number four.

This is Part Four of a seven-part series:

Part One: The Human Brain Synergizes Information

Part Two: Your Brain is Driven to Succeed

Part Three: Your Brain Perfectly Mimics

Part Five: The Brain Seeks Information and Knowledge

Part Six: Your Brain is Truth-Seeking

Part Seven: Your Brain is Persistent

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