Welcome to stren #45, Transforming Snapshots into a Motion Picture. This critical insight is the process by which you assume personal responsibility for your destiny. Master this skill and you will make a quantum leap towards creating a joyous, meaningful life experience. As you attain sufficient physical and mental maturity, you can free your will from the commands of instinct and your nurturers, the process we call becoming our own person or attaining self-mastery. Mental freedomis not automatic; you must actively secure your independence because dictators resist giving up their power.
Strens #7-15 explained the seven word-switches that free your will to attain self-mastery. Strens #35-43 provided a useful tool, the Mental Freedom Control Panel, to recognize the mental action choices available to your freed will to transform information into action. Your choice of word-switch turns on a specific mental action pattern (MAP) while it switches off alternative actions. The insight here is that the eight choices are connected in predictable combinations. They are not isolated events. Each action choice flows into another. By teaching yourself to recognize the common links, you immensely strengthen your freed will’s power to choose the positive actions and thus avoid those combinations that have become ineffective or dangerous.
Here are three examples of commonly linked word-switches with their action outcome:
1. “This sure was a tough issue but I worked out a reasonable plan; congratulations to me!” This is the combination of problem-solving and self-endorsement.
2. “I screwed up again. Why bother? I’ve got such a headache.” This is a combination of blaming-in (I screwed up), helplessness/hopelessness (why bother?), and the Mind/Body response (I’ve got such a headache).
3. “What if something terrible happens while I’m driving? My heart is pounding like I’m having a heart attack and I could lose control. I can’t do it. They should be able to cure me.” Here is a combination of worry, avoidance, hopelessness/helplessness, and the blaming-out MAPs.
Recognizing the common combinations of the eight action patterns will strengthen your effectiveness in becoming master of your personal kingdom. Instinct, tradition, and human dictators express reality as snapshots; there is one way, which is their way, “the right way!” Mental freedom requires that you understand the real world is a stream of connected events whose flow you can redirect through the power of self-management. As you recognize that your mental action choices are animated, more like a motion picture than a series of indelibly printed snapshots, you position your freed will to create alternatives to the choices that fate and circumstance have made for you. Your freed will can then choose from among them using common sense wisdom to attain preferred outcomes. You will elevate your power of self-mastery by combining the two consistently constructive mental action choices, self-endorsement and the problem-solving sentence. You can do no better than practicing the serial repetition of these two word-switches and the selective avoidance of those action combinations, previously effective, that have now become ineffective or dangerous.
The immature, undeveloped mind of a child is designed by nature to perceive the world as snapshots, as independent, easily understood opposing action choices: “yes or no,” “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” “O.K. or not O.K.” Two-category thinking was adaptive when survival required strict obedience to unequivocal directions. The instincts that were necessary for our ancestors to survive in a savage environment, and the control we require from our nurturers during our helpless stage of development, have become hard-wired for obedience. After untold repetitions, such dichotomous thinking becomes habit. The persistence of “either/or” thinking as we mature into adulthood distorts our perception of reality by focusing on differences and overlooking similarities. This two-category thinking that we all passively acquire promotes win or lose confrontation to establish dominance. In civilized society, the primitive, physical fight or flight instinct is mentally expressed as blaming and avoidance. These action paths too commonly cause us to become our own worst enemy. We make an important step to a newer way of personal responsibility thinking (ANWOT) as we expand our way of thinking from “either/or” to “both ... and” – by turning our “snapshots” into a “motion picture.”
The 26 letters of our alphabet and the eight notes of our musical scale become meaningful when joined into a continuous pattern. Likewise, the eight word-switches that turn on a specific action pathway take on greater meaning when orchestrated into a sequence. Your freed will power may compose the melody of your life experience if and as you assume personal responsibility to actively select and combine your mental action pathways. With eight MAPs, whose intensity may vary along a 0% to 100% spectrum, the combinations available are infinite.
Certain sequences are commonly repeated, as shown in the above examples. Once you can identify the outcomes of specific combinations, you empower yourself to repeat those patterns that lead to preferred outcomes. This enlightenment to the ongoing drama and action in your mental “movie” will really pay off. First, teach yourself to distinguish the positive from the negative mental action combinations. Then, consistently substitute the positive for the negative combinations. These simple steps will make you the wise master of your thinking, feelings, and actions.
Here is a very important related insight: the longer a MAP exists and the greater its frequency of use, the more that action becomes habitual and resistive to change. The six action patterns we all passively acquire from instinct and our nurturers have deep roots, established long before you can equip yourself with the two MAPs you must actively self-initiate to wisely manage today’s challenges,common sense problem-solving and self-endorsement. Your self-mastery organ, the cerebral cortex, is not fully physically mature until your late teens, and studies of adult development conclude most individuals remain mentally and emotionally dependent on their early influencers until their late twenties or early thirties. Many individuals never attain significant independence from the way of thinking initially programmed by fate and circumstance.
The six passively acquired mental action pathways:
The blaming-out and avoidance MAPs are the first established because they are the mental expressions of our genetically coded primitive fight or flight instinct. The blaming-in MAP is prominent only in humankind because our nurturers “educate” us in guilt and self-putdowns very early after birth. Blaming-in is a powerful way to direct behavior. The hopeless/helpless “give-up” MAP has been shown to be acquired early in animals and humans. Once this MAP shuts down our energy factory we passively adapt to remaining a servant to our early dictators. The worry MAP is also learned as we acquire language. Symbols become signals that transform the innate “red alert” emergency response from a physical reaction to a mental one. In today’s world, danger is more symbolic and occurs over a prolonged period rather than requiring an instant action that quickly resolves the red alert state. The outcome of worry is a sustained “pink alert” state leading to a variety of avoidance and mind/body disorders. Our inherited mind/body connection is easily set off balance by the persistence of a state of “pink alert.” Prolonged physiologic imbalance leads to multiple physical and mental disorders.
The two action pathways your freed will must personally initiate:
Problem-solving is creating symbols that turn on an original action path to solve a current challenge when the established path is no longer effective. Common sense solutions created through intelligence tend to lack sufficient emotional energy to overrule well established earlier action patterns. Problem-solving must be linked to self-endorsement to provide the necessary emotional energy to overrule established action pathways. Make the Mental Freedom Control Panel a powerful tool to recognize and consistently apply the mental action choices that work. The combinations that no longer serve their original purpose will atrophy from disuse. Individuals who repetitiously combine the problem-solving and self-endorsement patterns create a successful life experience.
Each of the eight choices offers both satisfaction and cost. You might expect that your thinking would seek whatever benefits each action pattern has to offer, but that’s not how it works. The negative action paths persist because instinct and tradition link their commands to instant emotional consequences. Emotion provides great power to survive and resist change. The wiser action paths of common sense intellect, such as collaboration for mutual benefit, usually lack sufficient power to replace the emotionally linked survival of the fittest, fight or flight, win/lose, self-serving action paths of instinct and tradition. We commonly observe combinations of the blaming, avoidance, worrying, hopelessness, and Mind/Body mental actions that result in harm and respond poorly to conventional treatment. The power of this stren is that once you can label the negative combinations, you can challenge and replace them with a more effective mental action.
Linking the problem-solving and self-endorsement mental action pathways will generate the energy, creative power, and patience to make yourself a wise and powerful creator of your own destiny. The problem-solving sentence applies common sense wisdom and original “out of the box” self-initiated actions specific to today’s issues. Self-endorsement creates the emotional energy required to overrule those patterns no longer adaptable to new knowledge. You will position your freed will to assume personal responsibility for the way you think, feel, and act. You will join fate and circumstance as a new member of your personal Board of Directors and succeed in becoming its Chairperson. Our best hope to create world peace is global education in the newer way of thinking that consistently combines these two mind-freeing, easy to teach and learn MAPs. You can do it! Although the methods are easy and available to anyone, they require work, patience, direction, and some degree of risk-taking. For practice in recognizing MAPs, periodically redo the exercise and score sheet provided in stren #44.
Practice: Can you label the Mental Action Patterns in real life situations?
Specific life situations provide an opportunity to practice identifying common mental action combinations. Can you identify the combinations most influential in those here provided? For the big payoff, can you recognize the combination of patterns that prevail in your own life experience? Consider the means available to you to modify the established combinations and create the pathways that lead to preferred destinations. Skill in recognizing the linkage of the mental action choices to one another will grow your self-mastery by leaps and bounds.
Examples of mental response combinations: see how they change and how you can change:
- 1. For several years following a football injury that left him quadriplegic as a teenager, “A” was embittered, hopeless, depressed, and preoccupied with dying. He blamed others and himself. One day he had an insight that changed his life. He realized that as long as he focused on what he had lost, didn’t have now, or couldn’t attain, he’d stay miserable. He began to focus on what he did have and what he could do. He obtained help to attend school including an aide to literally “turn the pages.” He earned a degree in higher education, married, and adopted a child. When I saw him, he was strikingly enthusiastic and happy. Here is a mixture of the blaming, avoidance, helplessness/hopelessness response dramatically changed by problem-solving and self-endorsement.
- 2. “B’s” parents were very demanding and her superior performance made her their favorite among her siblings. “B” had what most people want – brains, good looks, a good job, and recognition from her peers. Yet her perfectionism kept her miserable and she suffered from regular tension headaches. Nothing she did was quite good enough, not the way it should be. For example, even though she had beautiful teeth, she was preoccupied with a perceived “defect” which was unnoticeable to others, and so she tried not to smile. She was what I would call a “love junkie,” dependent on others’ approval for her self-worth. Here is a mixture of shoulding on herself, i.e. blaming-in, worry (“what if they don’t accept me/”), and the Mind/Body response.
- 3. “C” found that a bit of alcohol before a talk relieved his anxiety. He felt better, and perhaps he did better. He found similar relief from marital stress. In time, alcohol became like a “best friend” – it gave him immediate comfort, was uncritical, and was readily available. You can imagine how this short-term gain brought increasing longer-term pain. When those who cared urged him to abandon his “friend,” he became resentful and adamantly denied his growing dependence: “I can stop anytime I want!” As his work and marriage deteriorated, he was given an ultimatum: “Get help or else!” While at first he was reluctant, his resistance to AA gradually changed to enthusiasm. He acquired the wisdom others offered. His newer manner of thinking led to one of his greatest satisfactions, helping others by doing 12th step work (mentoring others). What MAPs can you identify?
- 4. “D” had such panic episodes that she came to avoid most situations. She could not take her graduate exams, refused to drive an automobile, and her “what if” thinking regularly pictured the worst of all outcomes. With encouragement and support, she step-by-step confronted her fears and slowly expanded her boundaries, including driving. As the “what iffing” changed to “most likely” and she grew more confident, she was able to take and pass her graduate exams. She established a more wholesome life style. Can you recognize the change in her mental response patterns?
- 5. “E” was adopted when her new dad wanted a daughter rather than his biologic son. Her presence was a rose to dad, but a thorn to mom. Life for E became quite difficult when several years after her adoption, dad died. The balance of “favored” (dad) and “reject” (mom) was suddenly shifted to “reject.” E was no longer the prankish, spoiled child; she quickly became a hellion. All that goes with blaming-out bloomed, especially lack of consideration for others. As she later expressed, “Better to be rejected for what you do than what you are. You can always change what you do; you can’t change what you are.” What MAP’s can you identify? Could self-endorsement skills make a difference?