Welcome to stren #77, which identifies the skill that frees you to become your own person.  We owe our capacity for self-mastery to what we label “reflective thinking,”    When you put on make-up, shave with a razor, or trim your eyebrows, how much easier is it to have a mirror?  Seeing your reflection allows you to make adjustments to get what you prefer.  Reflective thinking is our mirror for self-mastery.  It provides us self-consciousness - we are conscious of our consciousness.  We think about our thinking.  The complexity of the cortical area of the human brain and our use of symbols to create language empowers us to “see” our self, to manipulate our mind’s activity and direct its course to serve what we choose instead of what nature and our nurturers urge. 

          Reflective thinking is our source of mental freedom!  Just as our kidneys and liver have evolved to their present level of specialized function, the newest portion of our brain provides us reflective thinking.  I call this brain segment our “freedom organ.”  It enables us to join nature and nurture in determining our destiny.  As we physically mature and our nurturers teach us language and the use of symbols, we become a junior partner to fate and circumstance.  The newer way of thinking (ANWOT) is the means by which we may gradually become senior partner, “Chairman of the Board,” and “C.E.O.”  Nature’s gift, your “freedom cortex,” and your nurturer’s gift, language, and their alliance provide reflective thinking.  Such enlightenment will surely arouse your passion to attain mental freedom.  Enthusiasm is the most important ingredient to our source of energy to succeed in becoming master of yourself.   

          Reflective thinking provides us the ability to add prevention to learning by trial-and-error and role modeling.  This important mental skill is called “cognitive rehearsal” or “no-trial learning.  We use our imagination to create multiple alternative pathways and follow them to their logical conclusion before putting them into action.  Freedom is the ability to do this.  The poor judgment we exercise in our mental rehearsal enables us to learn before taking physical action that is irreversible.  The prewired pathways that have become ineffective or dangerous can be redirected to new action pathways that result in our desired outcome.  Reflective thinking provides the out-of-the-box originality we create using today’s knowledge to solve current problems. 

          Until we develop the marvelous gifts, our freedom organ from nature, and language from our nurturers, our thinking remains a faithful servant to instinct and habit.  For the nine months of our gestation period, we are clearly controlled by forces totally unrelated to our intention.  Fate and our genes are “boss.”  At birth, when we are helpless and immature, our nurturers stamp their will on our destiny.  Circumstance, also beyond our control, adds its mark to what we inherit through fate.  Thinking begins early, but it’s crucial to recognize that our will is servant to our masters, nature and nurture, for many years.  Sources outside our choosing establish our initial behaviors – allegiances to a tribe, flag, and belief system. With luck, and the gifts of nature and nurture, we are encouraged to seek mental freedom, to become what we choose to become.  But more commonly, the “establishment” directs us to blindly accept what it has determined is “good” and “right.”  Originality that is not in compliance with what our nurturers prescribe is often labeled “rebellion.”  It is likely to be ignored, or criticized and punished.  Fate and circumstance, like all masters, resist releasing their slaves.  If you are unfortunate enough to have an overly controlling slave master, self-mastery, i.e. mental freedom, is yet available, but at a greater investment of your will power.  Even if fate and circumstance are unkind, you have the resources to attain mental freedom, as so many others have demonstrated!

          I believe that when a sufficient number of our population free their will to discover the universal rules of cause-and-effect, we will unite our global community with the common sense values of cooperation and collaboration for mutual benefit.  Let’s become our own genie and fulfill our wishes for a joyous, meaningful experience in a peaceful world.  What better gift can we offer to those we love!