The mind as an interactive tool that does not want to be controlled. Maybe the secret to a healthy mind is to cooperate with it.
Most of us interact with our own minds in a passive, one-way fashion. Our thoughts and feelings come. We become aware (to one degree or another) as they happen. And that is how we think and feel. It doesn’t occur to us that the mind is a two-way street. We are not our minds.
The mind is a tool that works on autopilot. However, we CAN take the wheel. When faced with such an opportunity, most of us grab that wheel and yank it in the direction we think best. NLP or neuro-linguistic programming is often used in this fashion. Are you aware of a disruptive image or inner voice? Move it. Shrink it. Get some distance from it. Take control!
But why don’t we just ask our minds for what we want? Why don’t we listen and sincerely try to understand that voice in our head that seems to be giving us so much trouble? How did we come to fear ourselves such that we’re so prone to avoid our own thoughts?
Perhaps it’s because we’re still on a learning curve. We don’t understand the nature of the mind so we just do what we’ve always done, or what someone else suggests. Yet, who out there is teaching us how to cooperate with our minds? These teachers may have the most valuable lessons to teach!
You are not your mind
No one wants to feel abnormal. The whole idea that there are visions and voices within that we “fight” seems crazy. Not many people show up and say, “Sorry I’m late. I was fighting a voice in my head.” Yet, this the kind of thing what we ALL experience. We move through the day accompanied by self-talk, inner warnings, images that guide our decision-making, and feelings from whence we know not where. We are people with minds that have a mind of their own. This is normal.
It’s helpful to consider that if you did not purposefully think a thought, it is a property of your mind (not “you”). Try this: Close your eyes and listen. Don’t think of anything on purpose. I just did this tiny experiment. When I closed my eyes and listened, I heard an inner voice say, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Normally, I’d be discouraged by such an intrusive thought. This time I replied, “I am doing a thought experiment.” to which the voice retorted, “Well, it’s stupid.”
At this point, interacting with my mind isn’t pleasant but I have turned my mind into a two-way street. I am interacting with it. If you can interact, you have a chance to influence.
Rule of thumb: When your mind interferes with your plans, don’t avoid it. Interact. Respectfully.
Royal Road to the Unconscious
Sigmund Freud referrred to dreams as the royal road to the unconscious. Meaning, dreams are 100% unconscious thoughts. Therefore, understanding dreams is the key to understanding unconscious motives.
Interacting with your mind may be another path to mining the unconscious for its wealth of resources. However, as Freud also suggested, you’ll need to get through a layer of psychological defenses. The mind is not an open book. This could be why some of our first thoughts around a given issue are self-critical in nature. The mind is testing us, much like we might test a stranger. Friend or enemy? If this is true, we may sadly have positioned ourselves as enemies of our own mind. Given how most of us treat our minds when it tries to communicate with us (ignoring, avoiding, wishing it would stop, hating it) that makes perfect sense.
Somehow in this mix is the key to self-acceptance.
What, really are would be accepting? Our minds. Not our self. Perhaps in our quest for self-acceptance we’ve confused our self with our mind, particularly our subconscious mind.