As human beings we pattern match back to what has happened previously as a point of reference. Sometimes the unconscious matches back to patterns from the past without acknowledgement from the conscious mind.
Pattern matching is essentially a reference point for new things that happen. Our metaphorical brain allows us to compare events from the past in an attempt to give meaning to new things that are happening. Without such reference we would not be able to survive as well as we do.
A ‘faulty pattern match’ (or ‘sloppy pattern match’) happens when we pattern match back to something that happened in the past which does not assist in relation what is happening in our immediate environment. The unconscious reaction is ‘faulty’ or ‘inappropriate’.
The fear of bananas (or ‘bananaphobia’) is a faulty pattern match because the fear response inappropriately attaches itself to something (i.e the banana) which is not at all threatening or dangerous.
An example of how fear could wrongly attach to a banana so that someone develops a fear of bananas is if as a child that someone has a frightening experience after finding a banana had been put in their bed as a practical joke. They, perhaps, thought it was some kind of snake or other creature and this could have created a high level of immediate fear. The unconscious mind could metaphorically attach the fear response to all bananas in a misguided attempt to help that child out in the future.
The APET model devised by psychologist Joe Griffin of the European Therapy Studies Institute takes into account how the pattern matching brain works and with this in mind, the faulty pattern match in relation to the fear of bananas can be further explained.
Activating agent – Any stimulus which prompts a reaction (in this case, a banana)
Pattern Match – Pattern matching the banana to circumstances of the past
Emotion – What someone feels in relation to that pattern match
Thought – Thoughts about the feelings in relation to the banana
With the fear of bananas, the fear becomes ‘trapped’ in the emotional part of the brain (the ‘amygdala’). The emotional reaction can be so strong so as to permanently retain this fear in the emotional part of the brain without being able to be processed by the logical or thinking brain (the ‘neocortex’).
When the activating agent (the banana) provides a pattern match inappropriately attaching the fear to the banana and setting off the the fight or flight response then this alarm reaction narrows the focus into black and white thinking, preventing the thinking or logical brain from seeing the banana as a non-threat. The thinking brain is ‘hijacked’ by the emotional brain.
The way to overcome fear of bananas is to unhook and disassociate from the pattern allowing the memory or memories around bananas to be reprocessed so that the neocortex or thinking brain can provide a narrative to recognise the banana as a non-threat. A sufficient degree of calm allows the emotional arousal to subside and the neocortex to evaluate what has happened and the banana can then be recoded or reclassified by the brain as no longer being a stimulus which triggers the fight or flight response.