Archive for November, 2010

This is my favorite quote from Richard Bach, the Metaphysician.  Henry Ford, the Pragmatist, said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right!”

I wouldn’t be pounding this concept so hard if I didn’t see the problems people create for themselves every day at work just because their thinking is skewed.  So many many times each day I hear a co-worker bemoan some “fact” about his or her reality that just isn’t “true”.  I put true in quotations because Truth (with a big T) is very definitely subjective.  If you are accepting something as True, then it is.  The obverse is also true.  If my colleagues would say, “I am not satisfied with the way this project is progressing, and I am discussing alternatives with the other folks in my group” then I would smile and nod.  But that is not what they say.

They say, “Mary ruined the project with her stupid idea” or “Management was unreasonable when they demanded this be done on a deadline” or better yet, “Everyone is putting me down and not letting me do my work”.  I love that one.  Do you see the drift?  If something is not going well, it is someone else’s fault.

Do these folks honestly believe in their heart-of-hearts that they are infallible?  Do they really think that if they had complete and total control of the project it would turn out perfectly and on time?  I don’t think so.  I think they are making all that noise so when the criticism comes, it is aimed at someone else.  Deflection to protect their egos.

An how is the ego damaged by failure?  Are You what people think of You?  or are You something else?

A great many people define themselves by what others think of them, and how do they know?  Unless they are reading minds, they are guessing.  This makes for an unwieldy self-image.  You are what you THINK others are THINKING about you.  All comes back to what you think… again.

Our culture encourages this way of self-image because it sells a lot of products (from beauty products to self-help books!).  Young people are nearly impossible to impress with any other way of thinking.  To them it IS vitally important which table they sit at in the cafeteria.

I would say that no amount of public approval will completely satisfy an insecure Ego.  The insecure will always focus on the one negative comment, as if anything less than complete agreement or complete adulation is unacceptable.

Impossible, therefore massive psychological misery.

You are NOT what others think of you.  You are what you think of yourself.  This is manageable.  If you are dissatisfied with yourself, you can change the way you  think of your Self.  It is more difficult (and expensive) to change the way others think of you.  Even then you cannot be sure.

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In our society this question becomes extremely important around Middle School.  After a decade or so, it evens out to some semblance of habit, and after mid-life it may become important again as one examines one’s “scorecard”.  If you think past the roles you play in society:  mother, father, child, teacher, breadwinner, caregiver, etc. and delve into that more personal aspect of yourself, you enter a fascinating area of existentialism that takes experience and imagination to navigate.

Where does the “you” of you reside?  Psychologists dissect the mind like it is a lab rat:  here is the Ego, the Id, the Subconscious…but where are they?  Will your Ego show up on an MRI?  If science cannot see or detect the you that is you, do you exist?  Descartes’ famous words apply: You think, therefore You must exist.  But how are your thoughts, YOU?

Your body is what you eat, You are what you think.

You are familiar with self-doubt, and perhaps you have observed the changes that occur when you move from thinking, “I can’t do that” to “I think I can” to “I know I can”.  Hopefully some readers will remember the story of the little train that could.  Everyone who has ever accomplished something wonderful had to start the process with the belief that it would happen.

Your collection of beliefs about you and your world define You.  Thankfully these beliefs are fluid and swirl about in complex patterns.  All it takes is one thought to change a belief.  Sometimes you have to think that thought many times to change the liquid pattern that is your Self, but it can be done, and with no more effort than it takes to decide what you want from a menu at your favorite restaurant.  If you imagine the fingerprint of your Self as a fractal, and then imagine the pattern as a physical manifestation of the mathematical equation, then your thoughts are the numbers plugged into the algorithm.   Change a thought and the whole pattern changes.

Now imagine how quickly your thoughts dart through your mind every moment of your day, and you can imagine that fractal in motion.  How beautiful you are!

The first step to really knowing yourself, is to be aware of that input.  Slow down and capture those thoughts.  Realize that every second they are programming your Self.  Try an experiment: capture a thought as it whizzes by (chose one you WANT to change) and replace it with a more positive one.  Do it all day and imagine how your fractal changes.  Others will notice.  Watch for that reflection in their behaviors.  Fascinating.






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Reality is overrated

I am a philosopher at heart.  Some days I wake up with an idea or a concept and then observe my day with that idea in mind.  Lately, I have noticed how much the people around me (friends, family, co-workers) are focused in fantasy and not on their “reality”.  I have teenagers and young adults at home, and when they are not busy with their studies (which could be argued are NOT a reality) they are texting or gaming or drawing fan art or writing fanfiction or watching movies.

In each of those tasks, their brains are focused AWAY from reality.  Not in it.  At work my co-workers spend WAY too much time talking about “Dancing With The Stars” or “Atlanta Housewives” or the film they went to see.  Others are far into fashion or their friends’ and associates’ private lives (but not their own).  Is Reality so boring?  Yes!  Our brains are designed to imagine.  That is what makes us human.  The most wonderful things on the planet (aside from Nature) were imagined by Humans:  Art, Architecture, Film, Dance, Music, and especially Literature.

You could argue that bad things are imagined by humans as well: Greed and Violence and the degradation of Nature, but that is for another post.

Is reality is defined as what more than one person agrees is happening…and un-real is what cannot be corroborated?  Think about it.  If you believe that cats are scary, then that fear is very real to you.  As a cat-lover I cannot imagine that fear.  I can’t sleep without at least one in my bed, but I have a co-worker who screams whenever she sees one.

You may say that some experience is subjective, and other experiences are objective.  I would argue that is not the case, but then I have to bring metaphysics into it.  I will do just that in another post.


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Anyone who has been drunk knows that he or she cannot trust the sensations they receive at the time.  No, the room is not “really” spinning, and no, there are not two of everything.  But when you are sober, how is it that you think what you sense is NOW real?  Because other folks can confirm it?  That doesn’t always happen either.  Think back to a time where you and a friend are reminiscing.  Do your memories match up?  Not likely.

Even in law enforcement, the authorities are frustrated by multiple renditions of the event.  Some will match up, some won’t.  This plays into the psychological category of  “repressed memory”.  Thankfully, a lot of that has been disparaged as it has come to light that subjects will remember things planted  or suggested by the therapist.  Some years ago, though, repressed memories sent innocent people to jail for things they did not do.

Now that we have MRI’s, researchers can get real-time images of what your brain is doing while you are thinking.  Those learned folks have found that a remembered or imagined image is in the same part of your brain as is a currently viewed image.  This suggests that your brain does not distinguish (perhaps in a finite way)  the difference between imagination and reality.

Folks who meditate or in other ways alter their consciousness understand a bit of this distinction.

To interpret one’s environment, 100 % of the data must come through our physical senses.  Or does it?  Have you taken a taste test?  held your nose, closed your eyes, and tasted an apple and a raw potato?  I remember doing this as a child.  A raw potato and an apple “taste” the same with your nose plugged.  Your brain will have to choose which one 50/50.  As soon as you release your nose, you know it is an apple (or the potato).

We rely on our senses to tell us what is happening around us.  Folks who have faulty connections will not perceive a reality that conforms to the majority.  People with schizophrenia, synesthesia or other disorders perceive very different realities.  It has been suggested that artists and musicians don’t see the world the same way the average person does.

Is there more to the world than what our five senses tell us?

Yes.  And it is a whole new world.

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