Letter 6: The Mental Freedom Control Panel (MFCP)
Dear World Peace Leader,
Welcome to letter 6 of the mini-course on How to Become a Powerful Force for World Peace and a Mental Wealth Millionaire.
Would you like the power that transforms being one’s own worst enemy into becoming one’s own best friend and lifelong traveling companion? A minority of individuals manages to create a joyous meaningful life experience; we all can make improvements. This letter identifies the eight alternative action pathways available to us, and how to use them to create a wonderful life experience. Accurate labels serve us as switches to selectively turn them “on” or “off.” Two choices consistently create positive outcomes. The remaining six commonly take us on paths we’d best avoid. As you teach yourself to recognize these eight choices, you will create a powerful tool to consistently direct your energy toward happy returns; the harmful choices will atrophy from disuse.
Recall the basic wisdom of two great philosophers! Peanuts, a cartoon created by Charles Schultz, advised that “Happiness is a state of mind.” Epictetus, a 1st century Greek, told us, “Men feel disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.” We recognize that many individuals have wealth, status, good looks, connections, and health; yet they are quite miserable. We see others lacking these assets; yet they face their life with enthusiasm and joy because of their mental attitude. I am not suggesting it is better to be without material assets. Given the choice, better to be (and strive to be) “a have” rather than a “have not”. However, material assets do not replace attaining the mind control that is the most significant contributor to your well-being.
In prior letters, I have explained that our way of thinking, feeling, and acting is first determined by two dictators, instinct and tradition. As we mature, we are prone to become a servant to human dictators ... unless and until we free our will power. We become our own person by accurately labeling the action paths available to us.
Learning starts with labeling! Accurate labels are our handles to grasp and direct our thoughts. Naming is humankind’s most powerful meansto direct our thoughts and will power to create change. Naming creates the switches that enable us to turn an action pathway “on” or “off.” Words are symbols we use to call forth concepts. Concepts are mental motion pictures that empower our mind to problem-solve. Labels that turn on accurate understanding are often all that we require to energize constructive management of an issue.
I have created what I call The Mental Freedom Control Panel (MFCP) by labeling eight alternative action choices available to our will. I claim the MFCP as my original creation. It has been among the most powerful tools I’ve built to master my will power and create a marvelous life experience. I have chosen these eight labels to include each of the mental choices available to us. Each action pathway is worthy of considerable attention. Thus, I recommend that you review all eight and then consider each as an individual stren to be studied, understood, and appropriately managed. Learning the simple formulas that identify and activate the common action paths and naming them brings dramatic results. Practice strengthens and makes for effortless “thought control.”
The Mental Freedom Control Panel is a switchboard through which we may control our life’s experience. We simply teach ourselves to selectively turn on the preferred choices and turn off the others. We no longer need to becontrolled by instinct, tradition, and human dictators. Consistently select the problem-solving and self-endorsement switches. You will learn how they complement one another and lead to the other wisdoms that create a newer way of thinking. Here are the eight action paths available to our will. A clear explanation of their origin and how they work follows:
- Blaming-in and secondary blaming
- Self-endorsement and secondary endorsement*
- The Mind/Body connection
Numbers 1 and 3 are today’s mental equivalent of the primitive physical fight or flight response prominent in instinct. Number 2 is commonly the outcome of our nurturer’s attempt to conform to their rules by programming guilt, self-putdowns, and the like. Numbers 4 and 5 work together to get us what we want and avoid what we don’t want using common sense wisdom. Number 6 is today’s way of expressing the behavior our ancestors required to survive in a savage environment by anticipating the possible danger that lurked at every corner. Number 7 is the most devastating “give up” response that shuts down our energy factory and leads to depression and apathy. Number 8 is the source of many areas of muscle contraction pain we experience such as headache, backache, jaw pain, etc. It is also the source of sustained over or under-production of stress chemicals that influence heart rate, blood pressure, and on and on.
Like the unlimited combination of meanings we create with the finite number of letters in our alphabet, we are able to create an infinite combination of life experiences with the eight action switches that comprise the MRCP. The most common MRCP mental choices are the “primitive responses.” These consist of blaming-out and avoidance. They are primitive because they arise from our inherited biological automatic “fight or flight” instinct. The remaining mental response choices rely more on our ability to think applying the complex cerebral cortex portion of our brain. As you learn to recognize these eight possible will power choices you will make the substitutions that convert the harmful patterns to helpful ones. The problem-solving and self-endorsement patterns are consistently beneficial; the other six, with few exceptions, are the source of most of our unhappiness.
The huge benefit in learning to recognize these eight alternative choices is equipping our will power to consistently lead us to wise outcomes. As helpful as this basic knowledge is, our web site provides an even greater payoff by showing how the MFCP switches are interrelated as patterns instead of individual actions. It provides a simple way to measure the degree to which we use each of these patterns of behavior. Individual “snapshots” of the action pathways can be orchestrated into a “motion picture” where you conduct the symphony of all possibilities. A self-evaluation tool shows you we can strengthen the positive patterns to dramatically improve our well-being.
1. The Blaming-out switch
I label the first of the eight mental action choices “Blaming-out.” This interpretation of data is to direct energy to punish someone or something when we experience frustration.
Blaming-out is the most primitive, common, and easiest to recognize mental action pattern. It is so instinctively preprogrammed into our mental action pathways that it pops up automatically and effortlessly when we experience frustration. Blaming, leadingto harmful aggression, is easy to recognize once we teach ourselves to recognize the following “a + b” sentence:
(a) He (she/they/it) did what he should not and therefore
(b) he deserves punishment.
Or the inverse form:
(a) He (she/they/it) did not do what he should have done and therefore
(b) he deserves punishment.
Each of these sentences follows the same action pathway. Someone or something is deserving of harm because an expectation was not met. The expectation may or may not be reasonable. Intelligence, i.e. logical reasoning, is usually not a match for emotion; this is why self-endorsement strens, considered elsewhere, are necessary as they attach emotion to intellect.
I consider blaming-out the most popular of our eight choices for several reasons
1. The fight part of the innate “fight or flight” instinct with which we are prewired by nature is among our most persistent survival skills. Animals and our early ancestors living in a savage environment needed to be automatically prepared to instantly fight or run. Violent crimes of passion, road rage, and other forms of primitive physical aggression are too frequently triggered by the frustrations we commonly experience. In a relatively civil society, physical aggression is usually punished. The most ready substitute for physical aggression is mental aggression, some form of blaming. As intelligent individuals, we soon learn that blaming others is a way to express frustration that is tolerated, sometimes rewarded, or less punished.
2. In our society, blaming others has come to be the way we persuade others to support our instinct for physical aggression. Getting others to label our source of frustration as evil, bad, blameworthy, etc. is an effective means to see that the offending source is harmed.
3. Through our immature years, we justify blaming others! Humankind is helpless and dependent for such a prolonged time that we reasonably believe that whatever we experience is due to someone or something other than our self. If we experience frustration, we conclude that someone or something other than ourselves “didn’t do what should have been done.” Once we get into the habit of concluding that our frustration is the failure of some “other,” emotion sustains our established habitual way of thinking. Even when our intellect is sufficiently mature to tell us we are no longer helpless, that we need to take responsibility for our well-being, blaming persists because emotion trumps intellect. How often do we choose to do what is emotionally beneficial at the moment even while knowing that a different action would provide us greater benefit in the longer term?
4. The most palpable evidence that blaming-out is the most common of our mental choices is direct observation of current events. Simply listen to the news or read the paper. Nations, governments, religions, and neighbors persistently blame one another. Yes, there is evidence of common sense, but we have yet to make common sense sufficiently common to elevate our society to collaborate in win/win peaceful cooperation. We remain stuck favoring our competitive instinct and win/lose confrontations, leading to harmful outcomes.
Animals and primitive humans, past and present, primarily deal with danger by physical attack and/or running away, creating short term gain at the expense of long term pain. Our nurturers and societal rules teach us relatively early that we are more likely to get what we want by substituting mental for physical aggression. Blaming others includes resentment, shunning, prejudice, labeling others “evil”, “bad,” “wrong,” “inferior,” and so on. We claim dominance symbolically by demeaning others. Blaming out, like the other negative action choices, rarely gets us what we want in the long term.
Here are some reasons why blaming is rarely productive:
1. It wastes valuable energy that could be directed to constructive outcomes.
2. It commonly leads to punishment rather than learning to correct the problem.
3. The assumption of “the culprit” being wrong or “bad” is often unfounded. Our early either/or two category way of thinking commonly distorts our thinking to identify ourselves as “all good “and to dehumanize the other as “all evil.”
4. The “blamer” commonly experiences tension, resentment, or bodily distress, and is subject to any of the many physical symptoms resulting from prolonged stress.
5. Most important, punishment commonly inspires a similar response from those blamed: retaliation, increasing levels of destructive energy, physical and/or symbolic harm to all parties, and sometimes all-out war. We call this tit-for-tat “escalation.” Appropriate limit setting and education are more likely to result in cooperation for mutual benefit.
By labeling and recognizing the blaming-out response, you can make a huge difference in your own well-being and that of the global community. To diminish your blaming mental responses, first learn to recognize when you are “shoulding” on others or yourself. Look for the prescribing words: should, have to, must, ought. Enthusiastically endorse yourself for spotting the blaming response in your thinking. Remind yourself that you are now in a position to take constructive action. Substitute descriptive words such as could, prefer, would like. Substitute personal responsibility, “I allow …” rather than “he/she/they/it makes me.” Apply the problem-solving mental response pattern. Periodically review The Mental Freedom Control Panel stren.
2. The Blaming-in and Secondary blaming switch
I have labeled this action pathway “blaming-in” because we are taught by our nurturers to redirect harmful aggression to our self. Blaming-in is the champion of what we call “guilt.” It includes various forms of putdowns, self-blame, mental and even actual physical “beating on our self,” and in the extreme, suicide or “murdering oneself.” Blaming-in is a common way we create depression and make ourselves our own worst enemy. When we recognize mistakes, directing our energy to common sense problem-solving instead of self-blame is a far more productive use of our energy.
The blaming-in response, like the blaming out response, is among the easiest to recognize and change. Here is the a+b Blaming-in formula:
I did what I should not have done and therefore I deserve punishment. (or)
I did not do what I should have done and therefore I deserve punishment.
Blaming-in is learned from our nurturers. Animals show little evidence of guilt and we are prone at birth to direct anger and aggression to others rather than at our self. Our nurturers could not create conformity to their preferred rules and traditions if they had to be constantly present to reward or punish behavior. They have a far more efficient method of control. It is to emotionally hardwire self-discipline in the form of blaming-in. Guilt is a favorite method of nurturers to teach us that their expectations should become our expectations. It controls the uninhibited impulsive self-serving behavior innate to each of us. Our earliest lessons include implanting the prescriptive “should” and “should not” words that establish the rules of our nurturers and their culture. Physical aggression within one’s own tribe is usually strictly forbidden. Creating guilt for engaging in physical aggression or even thinking about it is an important way the prohibition is enforced, although physical aggression may later be encouraged toward non-members. Perfectionism is a common problem when expectations are set beyond what is reasonable. Perfectionists are among the most miserable of all humans. No matter how highly others would evaluate their performance, the perfectionist finds the slightest blemish to turn on self-putdowns.
Here’s how blaming-in works. Imagine a child pushes his sibling off a chair; has his hand in the cookie jar; carelessly runs into the street; or wipes his nose on the curtain. He is caught in the act and is about to be punished. The child would like to say “Scram! Get out of my life!” but he looks up at the giant that is about to inflict discomfort and realizes he is no match. “Aha” thinks the child. “I can talk my way out of this. Confess. Seek mercy.” He confesses: “I did bad, I know it. I won’t do it again. I promise.” “Not good enough” says the parent. “You don’t look like you really mean it.” The parent must be convinced the child really looks and, more important, really feels guilty. The child complies. He does his best to be convincing. With many repetitions of going through the guilt motions, the child not only is able to convince the parent; he has created the real thing. Can you count the number of “should” and “should not” demands you heard through your childhood? Was “no” a favorite word in your upbringing? After hundreds of such encounters, the child becomes an expert in guilting, in blaming-in. He not only talks the talk; he has learned to walk the walk. Now, he has skillfully learned to zap himself with the desired putdown when he errs or even just thinks about the mischief he’d like to get into.
There is a variation of blaming-in we use so commonly that I assign it the special label, “secondary blaming.” The label secondary blaming makes it easier to recognize and thereby effectively manage this characteristic form of blaming-in.
Secondary blamingis “blaming yourself for blaming yourself.” Once we learn that blaming-in is non-productive and to be avoided, we begin to have some success in directing our energy to common sense problem-solving instead of “guilting” or beating on our self. Invariably, we find we slip back and repeat the old habit pattern of self putdowns. Thereupon, we are likely to utter, “I put myself down again! I should have learned to stop that by now! I’m so stupid, blaming myself again.” We are prone to continue to blame ourselves when we catch ourselves blaming ourselves! We tend to have unrealistic expectations of our ability to do what we know. Getting rid of established habits is accomplished by learning from our mistakes, not by continuing to guilt ourselves for guilting ourselves. Each time we can recognize we are engaging in secondary blaming, it’s best to reward our self with a powerful emotional self-endorsement. This will provide the energy to quickly pick our self up and engage in problem-solving instead of putdowns.
To diminish your blaming mental responses, first learn to recognize when you are “shoulding” on others or yourself. Look for the prescribing words: should, have to, must, ought. Enthusiastically endorse yourself for spotting that you are engaged in blaming. Remind yourself that you are now in a position to take constructive action to better your response. Substitute descriptive words such as could, prefer, would like. Substitute personal responsibility, “I allow …” rather than “he/she/they/it makes me.” Apply the problem-solving mental response pattern. Periodically review earlier strens.
The greatest danger to humanity, including the well-being of our loved ones, is the failure of our society, i.e. its institutions and leaders, to teach its citizens to identify and challenge the blaming patterns. Instinct, tradition and human dictators demand that everyone do what they prescribe as the good or right way. They usually punish when anything other than their prescribed path is followed. Let’s credit, respect, and not blame our nurturers. They are usually benign dictators who demand of us what they believe to be in our best interest. They are teaching immature minds that are only capable of either/or thinking. For decades we lack the ability to survive and make wise judgments. Most nurturers carry out their mission doing their reasonable best. They are limited by the residual either/or thinking they learned from their nurturers.
Unfortunately, too many dictators emphasize their own self-serving interests without regard for others’ well-being. The risk of rebelling from authority even when supported by common sense enables dictators to hold their charge a prisoner to their biased either/or thinking instead of moving forward to the self-mastery stage of development.
Until we teach ourselves to problem-solve using common sense instead of the blaming action patterns; until we teach ourselves to learn from our mistakes instead of punishing ourselves, we will remain servants to instinct, tradition, and human dictators. The newer way of both...and, common sense thinking can tell us to what degree the dictators themselves are stuck in the immature either/or thinking that demands dominance over all non-members.
3. The Avoidance switch
I have labeled the third of the eight choices available to our will the Avoidance switch. It is especially powerful because it has its origin in the primitive flight part of our fight or flight instinct. The primitive automatic innate “flight” pathway is our emergency action to run or hide from life-threatening danger. In animals, it is a favored means of survival! In our (relatively) civilized society, physically running away is seldom effective. First, modern technology makes it easy to find people. Second, physical life-threatening stress is uncommon. Most people constantly face symbolic danger and psychological stress, rather than actual physical danger. Thus, we learn to substitute mental means of avoidance for physically “running away.” [Running away to escape a mugger is better considered problem-solving rather than avoidance.]
Our mind works in many ways to avoid discomfort and/or preserve short-term pleasure at the cost of a longer-term harmful outcome. Present feelings are often more powerful than intelligent reason. Here are some readily observed avoidance patterns substituted for physically running:
· procrastination: finding another activity to escape an unpleasant task
· “socially running”: changing jobs, spouses, friends, residences, and so on
· substance abuse such as alcohol/drugs/food
· telling lies – “It was my brother.”
· withdrawal – isolating oneself physically and/or emotionally
· self-deception: the mind is so effective that deception is accepted as truth
· denial - “I can stop drinking whenever I choose.”
· rationalization – excuses believed by the individual but no one else. “The train usually makes me late.” “It’s because my biorhythms are off.”
· paranoia– projecting our uncomfortable ideas/feelings on another:
“They don’t like me because I have pimples.”
· substitution/displacement– angry with his boss, he kicks the dog.
· regression– we revert to an inappropriate pattern that previously worked.
A four year old wets himself when a new sibling gets more attention.
· physical and/or psychological “illness”– feigned or exaggerated physical and/or mental illness may excuse one from facing a stressful reality. Becoming Napoleon or some other powerful person is more satisfying than being “a nobody.”
The various behavioral expressions of the avoidance response, such as substance abuse and procrastination, are easily spotted. Patterns involving mental self-deception are among the most difficult because the individual believes their distorted thinking, and therefore lacks motivation for giving up the avoidance “defense” against discomfort. Individuals with strong avoidance patterns are more difficult to persuade to engage in the self-education that inspires one to create better alternatives. The most effective (but certainly not only) way to control negative action patterns is to learn and practice the common sensenewer way of thinking. As you increase your collection of strens, the avoidance actions that no longer work will diminish in strength.
Additional interventions include love and support from others, social pressure, and psychological and/or religious counseling. I have learned not to “give up” on resistive individuals because of my prior work with life style drug addicts and anti-social individuals. There are many ways to encourage, and sometimes “bribe” the most resistive individuals to come around. Focusing on the positive mental responses, problem-solving and self-endorsement, often inspire the desired change without even having to directly challenge the avoidance mental response pattern. The negative responses tend to “melt away” as the problem-solving and self-endorsement action pathways are more regularly practiced. In addition, developing the positive responses often motivates the individual to directly address their negative patterns.
4. The Problem-solving switch
I have labeled the fourth of the eight choices the Problem-solving switch. Its origin is common sense knowledge and wisdoms we initiate. Common sense wisdom is the most universal and certain pathway to bring about what we want and avoid what we don’t want. I urge you to regularly use this sentence to wisely manage your life’s experience:
Given this situation, what is most likely to get me what I want, for now and in the future, for my benefit and theirs?
While not “magic,” this simple, elegant, easy to learn sentence is so effective, it works like magic. Notice, no one and nothing is being blamed. Energy is directed to resolving and/or making the best deal with the challenging issue. With repetition, we make the universal problem-solving sentence habitual, and virtually automatic and effortless. It will gradually displace the six negative action pathways that get us what we don’t want. Even if you don’t vigorously take action to get rid of the negative action patterns, they will gradually atrophy from disuse.
The magical problem-solving sentence features both...and processing of information that promotes common sense solutions to problems. We all first learn to think in two either/or categories when our brain lacks the maturity and experience to apply common sense wisdom. Two-category thinking is hardwired into our mental action pathways by instinct and tradition, as determined by nature and our nurturers, fate and circumstance, i.e. not me. Once either/or processing of information is programmed into our intelligent brain, it persists. Two-category thinking remains our dominant action pathway until we attain physical maturity and teach ourselves sufficient common sense wisdom. Either/or“dichotomous” thinking biases us to focus on our differences.
Either/or thinking is characteristic of instinct, tradition, and human dictators who demand that there is a right way--their own--and categorize all others as unacceptable. We can hardly expect that nations, religions, politicians, or neighbors will peacefully collaborate for their mutual interests until there is a preponderance of the both...and thinking that applies common sense to recognize our similarities and shared interests.
The essential elements in the universal problem-solving sentence are as follows:
1. It emphasizes the long term as well as the short term consequences of today’s action. Getting into the habit of addressing future consequences causes us to consider alternatives. Thinking before acting is more likely to create common sense solutions than the older methods that are hard-wired for immediate or quick response by instinct and tradition.
2. The benefits to others as well as to one’s self need to be addressed. When each party has a sense of accomplishment there is a foundation for future collaboration and progress for mutual benefit. Traditionally, individuals think they have done well when they attain a distinct advantage, when they’ve “beat” the other party. Short term gain often results in longer term pain when one or more parties walk away dissatisfied. Win/lose confrontations often come back to haunt us. In win/win solutions, all parties feel they have accomplished what is reasonable given the circumstances.
3. By focusing on what might work to bring about a mutually desired outcome, each party can rely on universal common sense. Universal means multiple parties with different backgrounds and interests would come to similar conclusions. The common sense test simply asks if reasonable people of difference backgrounds would come to similar conclusions regarding fairness. The bullying and self-serving interests of individuals can usually be exposed readily when a consensus can be reached regarding fairness.
Our world is in trouble because most people look at life’s challenges through the immature either/or way of thinking that focuses on differences. Who will be the winner? What is in the best interest of my local priority irrespective of the consequences to the global community? Even if you don’t understand the importance of making the magical problem-solving sentence a routine way of dealing with life’s challenges, but still use it, you will experience huge benefits. It is so easy to learn and to apply. Here it is again. Plant it in your mind.
Given this situation, what is most likely to get me what I want, for now and in the future, for my benefit and theirs?
5. The Self-endorsement and secondary endorsement switch
I label the fifth of the eight choices the Self-endorsement action pathway. Self-endorsement is the means by which we generate the emotional energy to assume responsibility for our destiny.
Endorsement means to approve and/or support. This “becoming your own best friend” mental skill, though vital, is one of the most neglected. Helpless at birth, we depend on others for many years. Most of us learn to provide for our own physical needs, and would be offended if some “other” tried to attend to their feeding, dressing, bowel care and so on (barring unusual circumstances such as illness or injury). Yet, I observe that adults who regularly provide their own minimum daily requirement (MDR) of self-endorsement are in the minority. Do you know “love junkies” who remain dependent on others’ approval for much of their self-worth? Who are overly sensitive to what others think? Approval is the major source of the mental energy that powers our mind. It is the basis of what we call “will power.”
Unlike blaming, which we express quite instinctively and effortlessly, we learn self-endorsement through willful mental action. With the intensification of approval, we generate higher levels of energy as follows:
approval → endorsement → enthusiasm → love
Love is an intense affectionate concern and enthusiasm for a person and/or something. Self-endorsement is crucial because the ability to love another grows from our skill in loving our self. How do you understand “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Love is not to be confused with sex. Our sexual organs contain receptors that receive and relay messages, usually pleasurable, to older areas of the brain. The brain’s pleasure area is closely related to the area that deals with aggression. Love is a willfully created and expressed activity of the mature portion of our brain, the cortex. Love and sex may go well together but they can also be quite unrelated.
Here is an easy way to evaluate if you are providing your MDR of endorsement. Imagine you could tape your thinking, the conversation in your head that you have with yourself. Replay segments of it. Does what you hear sound as though it was a conversation between two or more best friends? No putdowns/blaming? How much endorsement, support, warmth, friendliness, problem-solving, and/or good feelings are expressed? How often do you hear, “I like what I did,” “Good job,” “I’m such a hot sketch,” and sustained enthusiasm for your life’s experience? Our web site contains multiple proven self-endorsement strens.
Secondary endorsement is an important special expression of self-endorsement. Since endorsement is one of our most important mental acts, we wisely reinforce the skill of self-endorsement by endorsing our self for endorsing our self:
“Attaboy! (Attagirl!) Congratulations to me for remembering to endorse myself.”
Can we endorse our self when we make a mistake, when we’ve used poor judgment, when “we’ve done wrong”? Simple! Keep in mind that the most useful way to manage a mistake is to learn from it. We already experience harm as a consequence of our error and/or misfortune. Why add to our hurt unnecessarily by blaming our self with putdowns? By acknowledging our shortcoming and applying the problem-solving sentence, we apply our energy to best deal with similar situations now and in the future. Blaming gets us nowhere and punishment predictably makes things worse. Stamp out blaming! Consistently endorse yourself for recognizing and dealing with your shortcomings. I have found it helpful to recall how we learn to walk. We fall many times as we teach our self the skill of walking. As a child, we simply ask, “Did I lean too far to this or that side? What can I do to correct it?” We often show more wisdom as a child than as an adult. What causes us to become “blamer-inners?”
The most important wisdom in this stren is to recognize the importance of habitually engaging in self-endorsement. Consider some of the benefits:
1. You engage in conversation with your self most of your waking life, far more than anyone else. Why not make your self your lifelong friend and traveling companion?
2. One of life’s greatest satisfactions is giving something of value to others. It’s hard to give away what you don’t have. When you fill your self with love and positive feelings, you will have an abundance of value to give away.
3. Self-endorsement is the secret of patience. The emotional reward we provide now is the source of energy that enables us to pursue worthwhile skills that have great payoffs in the future.
4. Most people go through life as “love junkies” dependent on others for their self-worth. As children we require others’ support. As adults we are responsible for supporting ourselves. It is certainly worthwhile earning others’ approval and love, but as a bonus, no longer as a requirement to make life worthwhile.
5. Among our most harmful characteristics is a tendency to blame others or guilt ourselves. When we teach ourselves to provide our requirement of endorsement, we no longer get so distressed when others don’t respond as we’d like. Blaming will become a thing of the past.
6. One of the highest achievements we attain as a human being is skill in forgiveness. Forgiveness is a difficult form of expressing love. Self-endorsement is a key source of strength to allow us to forgive.
Self-endorsement promotes love, forgiveness, patience, and freedom from dependency on others. It enables us to assuming personal responsibility for our life’s experience. Self-endorsement is the antidote for blaming, guilt, and dependency. A substantial number of the strens offered in this series are various methods to teach ourselves the skill of self-endorsement. Each method will add to your mental wealth. I urge you to acquire a wide variety of self-endorsement methods. Practice them until they become habitual and effortless; there are few better addictions.
6. The Helplessness/Hopelessness (H/H) switch
I have labeled the sixth of the eight action choices the Helpless/Hopeless (H/H) switch. Because this action shuts down our energy factory, I consider it the most devastating switch on the MFCP. The H/H switch is the means by which we become our own worst enemy. The outcome of the H/H response is apathy, depression, suicide or some combination of these alternative destinations. No other species creates these negative behaviors to the degree we do.
The H/H response is one of the easiest to recognize. Recognition is critical because it then becomes possible to prevent or counter the depression and apathy associated with this response. Let’s begin with learning to recognize the trigger words we use to turn it on:
- I can’t. I give up.
- What’s the use? Why bother?
- Who cares?
- It’s not worth it. I’m not worth it.
- It’s hopeless. I’m helpless.
- To hell with it. Ferk it.
- Plus any of the lesser-used words that turn on helplessness/hopelessness.
Those “give up” words signal our energy factory to shut down. They are the opposite of the trigger words that turn on energy which I provided in letter 5: “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I will.”
Through our power of interpretation, we have recently made ourselves directors of our own destiny and that of our loved ones. As human becomings, we are so rapidly expanding our knowledge that our generation has suddenly entered the era where multiple tribes possess ultimate power. Ultimate power has created the race we now observe between Utopia and Armageddon. We can’t afford to turn our energy off or even down. We must sustain our energy to direct our knowledge to beneficial destinations. We are in a timed race and the clock is tick-tick-ticking away.
Our task is clear. Let’s prevent ourselves from drifting into the H/H response. Like a whirlpool, once we are caught in it, it is nearly impossible to get out without outside help. Teach yourself to recognize the H/H words. Prepare yourself to vigorously attack them before you fall into the whirlpool. Create in your mind a red alarm box like a fire alarm box. As soon as you see, hear, or smell any of the H/H words, sound the alarm. You will thus prepare yourself to run, not walk to the nearest exit. It so much easier to build your mental muscle for prevention now than to wait until a cure is required.
Here is an additional important insight about the H/H response: None of us are born with the H/H pattern. We create it by preceding it with other negative responses. We have identified the five alternative negative action pathways that precede and lead to H/H. They are blaming out, blaming in, avoidance, worry, and the mind/body response. Are you beginning to see how our eight action pathways are interrelated?
Clearly “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” Prepare yourself in advance to vigorously and aggressively attack any utterance of the H/H response. Nip it early in the bud. Prepare to substitute, “It may be damn difficult, but I can do my reasonable best!” As you strengthen your skills in the newer way of thinking and increase your problem-solving and self-endorsement mental action pathways, the H/H response will weaken and disappear.
7. The Worry switch
I have labeled the seventh of the eight action choices the Worry switch. It is characterized by our inappropriate anticipation of the worst possible outcomes of our action. The worry action pathway is a major source of excessive anxiety, fear, phobias, and is one reason physicians are excessively consulted about “heart attacks.” (A myriad of physical disorders are identified in the eighth MRCP switch, The Mind/Body switch.) Understanding is a powerful step towards managing the worry response.
Worry is anticipating the worst possible outcomes of a situation. Because our body responds to our mental interpretations similarly to the way it responds to actual material events, inaccurate interpretations result in inappropriate outcomes. Once you learn the formula, the worry response is easy to recognize: We tend to “What if.” We anticipate and create images of the worst unlikely outcomes of a situation. What if … the airplane engine fails … the elevator breaks down … they can’t stand my pimples.... What if .... What if .... What if .... “Oh my God, my heart is racing; what if I’m having a heart attack? I can’t stand it.”
The anxiety escalates as our images trigger our physical “emergency response” system to turn on muscle tightness, increased heart rate, irregular breathing, and release of emergency chemicals that signal our body to go to “red alert.” Learn to recognize the “What if” and substitute “Most likely...” “Most likely … the airplane will get me where I want to go … I haven’t heard of anyone being permanently stuck or starving in an elevator … others are more concerned about their own appearance than my pimples.” Every time you “What if,” give at least equal time to “most likely.” Think also of the very best, most positive, happy outcomes of a situation, even if they are as unlikely as the negative “what if’s” you create. Smile and enjoy the positive “what if’s.” Various techniques of gradually facing the feared situation, often with some support, are very effective. This is called desensitization training. So is relaxation training, using such techniques as Progressive Relaxation, a method invented by Edmund Jacobson at the turn of the 19th century, and biofeedback training. Medications are commonly used to relieve symptoms, but teaching ourselves a newer way of common sense thinking to interpret our experience is one of the most powerful means of dealing with worry.
The brilliant innate red alert emergency response that preserved our ancestors is rarely required in the society where most of us reside. Today’s greatest dangers require collaboration to problem-solve using common sense more than fighting to assert dominance or running away. Survival did require anticipating the worst possibilities so as to be constantly prepared for physical action, but the release of energy chemicals is now better directed to mental problem-solving. In today’s relatively civilized world our challenges are almost always symbolic, created by our mental power of interpretation - such as preoccupation with material wealth, social status, physical appearance, self-worth, love, and what meanings we assign to information. Our ideologies (political and religious) and tribal allegiances are commonly a source of the conflicts that create worry and anxiety. Their life-threatening outcomes usually materialize over a period of time rather than instantly.
Sometimes it is difficult to identify the specific “what if” worry statement. Just as some individuals are sensitive to poison ivy or peanuts, it makes sense that some individuals have super-sensitive emergency action pathways that are set off with little provocation. Such individuals need not continue to suffer because they can learn to label the emergency response a “false alarm.” Even though the fire alarm goes off, when we conclude it is a false alarm, we no longer need to panic and run to the exit. Relaxation methods, learning to maintain our calm, and various treatment methods can alleviate our excessive reaction to the stress.
Do you see how worry had survival value and laughter had virtually none? Animals and our ancestors are not known for laughter or their sense of humor. Our language is biased to words that create worry. For example we have no single word concept to signal the very best outcomes for our actions. The closest I’ve found is optimize. How often have you heard someone say I spent the night optimizing? Resentment literally means re-experiencing any sentiment, but it has come to mean in our language only anticipating a real or imagined injustice that results in tension. Our work-in-progress includes continuously updating our language to signal better ways to deal with the stresses brought on by modern living.
If you are a worrier, I urge you to seriously practice signaling “on” the common sense problem-solving and self-endorsement mental action switches to a newer way of thinking. Regularly substitute “most likely” for “what if.” Every time you anticipate the “worst” outcome, practice imagining the most optimistic “best” outcome no matter how outrageous it seems. When you learn to control the negative mental action switches which we all use to varying degrees, you’ll love the results.
8. The Mind-Body switch
I have labeled the last of the eight action choices available to our will power to transform information into action the Mind-Body switch. The mental energy we create powerfully influences the state of chemicals and nerves that are responsible for our physical state. Our manner of thinking has a profound influence on the way we feel and the way we act. Thinking, feelings, and actions are interconnected. This is the very reason why the newer manner of thinking is our opportunity to become director and producer of our life’s experience. It is also the reason why “stinking thinking” is the source of most of our life’s unhappiness.
Consider just a few of the endless list of mind/body responses: skin … rashes, hives, blushing; vascular … high blood pressure, heart irregularities, stroke and heart attack; intestinal … vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, appetite change; genital and urinary … frequency, incontinence, impotence, frigidity; muscles … muscle contraction pain, headaches, backaches, jaw clenching, fatigue, twitches; lungs … rapid breathing, dizziness, asthma; endocrine … hormone irregularities, thyroid problems, obesity, sugar management, and menstrual irregularities. Accidents increase when our attention is preoccupied with mental stress. There is recent evidence suggesting that even cancer and infections (immunity) may be associated with our manner of thinking. Various terms have been used to identify the influence of the mind on the body, such as “stress,” “somatization,” and “psychosomatic.”
Try this simple exercise to demonstrate the power of stress: With either arm, make as tight a muscle as you can. When you think it is as tight as it can get, tighten it just a little more. Within 60 seconds or less, you will experience pain. Stop! Don’t overdo it. Now, instead of keeping that muscle extremely tense less than a minute, imagine keeping it slightly tense for hours at a time. People often have a “target” set of muscles that they imperceptibly tense over a period of time. Can you now understand why most headaches, and jaw, neck, and back pain are the result of “muscle contraction tension”?
Mind/body mental response patterns are often difficult to recognize and to directly change. “Treatment” is often directed at the symptom, such as aspirin for headache, dental work for teeth grinding, self-medication such as alcohol for anxiety, and so on. The newer way of thinking, skill development in problem-solving using common sense wisdom and self-endorsement, is an effective means that indirectly resolves mind/body problems. General enhancement of your well-being, learning to remain calm, becoming your own best friend, and becoming your own person all contribute to a more orderly regulation of one’s chemicals and nerves.
These eight arbitrary labels of our mental action choices will allow you to better identify your choices and wisely direct them. As you gain skill, you will begin to see combinations of your mental response choices rather than individual responses. They are not “either/or”; rather, they are “both…and, a bit of this and some of that.” One mental action path leads to another; they commonly work in combination as explained in our web site stren, The Mental Freedom Control Panel,step 2.
Summary: Our intelligent use of symbols to create meaning enables us to join fate and circumstance as producer and director of our life’s experience. We may even become the “managing partner.” The strens or “mental strengths” proposed for teaching yourself a newer way of thinking will update your thought process to better deal with modernity. The Mental Freedom Control Panel is a powerful resource to enhance your well-being. Prolonged stress can cause strain in every part of your body. Increase your problem-solving and self-endorsement skills as you diminish the blaming, avoidance, and other mental action pathways that no longer serve their original purpose, and may now cause harm. You can do it! Although the methods are easy, they require work, patience, direction, and the willingness to selectively let go of established ways that are no longer adaptive.
Letter 7 will impress you with the power of self-endorsement and provide what I consider the two most powerful self-endorsement strens.