Friday, June 7, 2013

Working With the Mind

There are two commonly held beliefs that limit our ability to change our minds. Unfortunately these two beliefs are held by many practitioners of psychotherapy and thus they appear to be sanctified by that profession. These two beliefs are:
1.      You are a victim of your conditioning, i.e. someone else is to blame for how you feel.
2.      Telling your story or analyzing the circumstances that caused suffering will heal it.
 These are simply untrue. Bringing the past into the present is simply a way of reliving it. Sometimes it is necessary to tell your story when the past is incessantly pushing its way into the present. A witness can be helpful the way a relief valve is helpful for the build-up of steam pressure. However until the heat source is turned off steam pressure continues to build up and need release. In the case of emotional pressure the heat source is the belief you are a victim. The moment you take responsibility for how you feel you are no longer “victimizing” yourself. It doesn’t change what happened in the past. What it does do is open up the present as a gift for you to use as you wish, instead of mindlessly playing old tapes of the past in it.

In working with the mind belief is everything. Belief empowers thoughts. It keeps them going.  Without belief a thought system will grind to a halt like a car running out of gas. Telling your story can have the effect of reinforcing your belief in it. It is much more fruitful to find your current attachments to the suffering. These exist in the present and must be undone in the present.

All we have to work with is our own minds. No one else can enter our minds and clean them up for us. Perhaps a good way of viewing it is not to wonder who messed up our minds. Just decide it doesn’t matter. There is a clean-up to be done and we’re going to do it. I remember the time my apartment was broken into by a thief. I came home to find drawers turned upside down and stuff all over the place. At the time there was a sense of violation that someone had been into my stuff and taken my grandmothers jewelry. But that was because I was attached to my stuff. I identified with it. Now 40 years later where is all that stuff the thief messed up? Gone. Gone who knows where. And so what? It is no longer relevant to my current life at all. When I faced having to clean up my apartment I didn’t want the thief there to do the work of putting things away. He was clearly untrustworthy so why would I want him in my apartment again? I wanted to clean it up myself.

When someone steals your peace of mind it is equally foolish to want them to make it right for you, to want them to take back what they said or did, which is impossible because it happened, or for them to feel guilty for what they did. If you have tried this you know it doesn’t make you feel better. Chances are the one who has wronged you is still an unreliable character so why would you want them to fix your life for you? If your peace of mind is stolen only you can get it back. This is everyone’s challenge in the world.

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