Instinct, the first dictator to our thinking, genetically links us to our earliest ancestors when mindless trial-and-error behaviors determined who survived in a savage environment. Survival of the fittest and fight or flight behaviors remain prominent. Tradition emphasizes the tried and true solutions that were effective for yesterday’s problems! Instinct and tradition are reliable and efficient most of the time. However, when confronted with novel problems that require common sense wisdom, such as the current proliferation of weapons of ultimate destruction, predetermined solutions often become dangerous. Recognize that nature (instinct) and nurture (tradition) are dictators! They characteristically demand that their perspective be blindly followed based on the authority of past success and habit. Instinct and tradition are hard-wired. They lack the common sense wisdom to consistently direct new knowledge to constructive outcomes.
Here are three examples of critical word-switches that free our thinking from instinct and tradition so that we may effectively deal with new knowledge using common sense wisdom. Each of these simple word-switches redirects the way we think, feel, and act.
• “Should” is a dictator’s trigger word. It demands compliance with a prescribed behavior. The word-switch “could” invites us to create alternatives and choose from among them.
• “He, she, it makes me ...” accurately labels the control others have over us when we are immature. Continued in adulthood, this trigger word leads to blaming, resentment, and harmful action. As we attain maturity, substituting the word-switch “I allow...” inspires us to assume personal responsibility for our well-being.
• “Either/or” is a trigger word that divides the world into two extreme categories such as safe or dangerous, good or evil, us or them. It is characteristic of the thinking demanded by dictators that fosters bigotry, prejudice, and harmful confrontation. The word-switch “both...and” recognizes the positives and negatives of each alternative. It focuses on similarities more than differences, promotes tolerance for diversity and collaboration towards shared goals.
Let’s now define “trigger word” and “word-switch” to establish a commonly shared meaning:
Trigger words are signals (usually a word, combination of words, or symbol) that turn on imagination leading to a specific concept or idea. Trigger words turn on the specific meaning that was assigned by either nature, nurture, or our self, i.e. our mature freedom organ. Meaning energizes the thinking, feeling, and action pathways established by its creator, be it instinct, tradition, our self, or some combination. Our first set of trigger words express nature’s perspective, primarily instinct. After birth, our nurturers provide us a second set of trigger words wired to turn on their perspective, primarily tradition. And, with the maturity of our freedom organ, i.e. our intelligent cerebral cortex, we become self-programmers. We ourselves may create a third set of signals that turn on the newer interpretations and meanings we assign to data by applying current wisdom.