In contrast to most of my writings of late, which are usually complaints or critiques, this post is about something I'm being proactive about in my own life. As I had alluded to in my post in November, I am conducting some thought experiments in an effort to counteract some of the negative patterns in which I have gotten stuck over my lifetime.
As discussed in my post about depression,
I take issue with the assumption that if you are depressed, then this
means that there is something wrong with your brain. However, perhaps somewhat contradictorily,
I also believe that reality is subjective and that regardless of ones
circumstances, people can fall into a compounding cycle of negative
thinking due to a type of confirmation bias.
pessimists among us (and I say this being a recovering pessimist
myself) tend to expect the worst. For example, if you are a pessimist
it would not be unusual for the following type of dialogue to pop in
your brain during your morning commute: "Traffic is so slow today; I bet
you I'm going to be late."
Now, if the worst actually doesn't
happen and you make your destination on time, you will likely think
something to the effect of "huh, well, I lucked out," then slough it off
and never think about it again.
However, if you are late, as you
had predicted, you will go "ah ha! I knew it!" and your mood for the
next few hours will be affected and the event will stick in your mind. If it
happens 3 more times you will say to yourself: "See! This always happens to me, no matter how early I leave!" —
yet, had you actually taken time to record every time you rode the
subway and how many times you were late you'd probably find out that you
were late an awful lot less than you think.
As stated before, I recognise that reality is subjective; a simple example of this
would be how a bunch of people can witness the same event and have
wildly varied accounts of what happened when asked. We all have organs
in our bodies that have to translate reality in a way that our brains
can process, and given we aren't infallible computers there is bound to
be a difference in how each of our brains process the same data. So what we often call "reality" is really
only a personalised reflection of but a sliver of the whole truth, and
therefore we really are responsible for shaping our own reality.
for a while I had been considering a way to deal with this propensity
for negative confirmation bias within myself and trying to rewire my
brain to look at "reality" a different way. I've certainly been
introduced to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
by psychologists and counselors in the past; unfortunately I have not
yet been disciplined enough to stick with the journaling and reflection
required by the program. To make matters worse, I would feel shame and
disappointment at not being able to stick with it, which would do
nothing but make me sadder... Damn those vicious circles!
After concluding that my anxiety about not
being able to catch my negative thought patterns before they happened
was only making things worse, I realised I needed a different approach.
Thinking back to the confirmation bias mechanism, I wondered if there
was a way to make the good times stick in my mind — the times
when I lucked out, the times when everything fell into place, when
everything worked out in the end, or simply the times when things worked
out the way they should have.
One day when I was feeling particularly down, I decided to revisit a philosophy called Ho'oponopono — a philosophy I had
been introduced to on the blog of Mary Elizabeth Croft, whom I have
mentioned in my post about the Freeman/Sovereign/Natural Person awakening. Ho'oponopono is an ancient native-Hawaiian
practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, and I first heard of it in
relation to psychologist Dr. Hew Len.
Now, this was my first introduction to Hew Len,
and while what I read seemed intriguing, I couldn't get past the
new-agey lady that was trying to share Dr. Len's ideas and entreating
one to accept a free download. I don't have any interest in finding
out, but something tells me that this download would include info on seminars
that you can pay to attend, etc... Hew Len and his practices were also apparently featured in a book called Zero Limits
by Joe Natale (of whom I am unfamiliar). From what I've read in
web-reviews of that book, it would seem the overwhelming majority felt
that the underlying theories of Hew Len were of interest and
inspiration, but the book was spoiled by Natale's constant promotion of
his other books and seminars, so I don't think I'll be reading any of Natale's work
anytime soon either.
However, from what I have gathered via
the web, the claim is that Hew Len worked as a staff psychologist for
Hawaii State Hospital from 1984 till 1987 in a ward for the "criminally
insane". Allegedly, after 3 years of working there, he was able to turn
the ward around to the point where wrist and ankle restraints were no
longer used and violence almost ceased to exist. Eventually there were
so few patients remaining that the ward was closed. It is claimed that Hew
Len achieved this without actually meeting with any patients to conduct
therapy or counseling. He claimed this happened because he worked on
cancelling within himself whatever it was that he was
experiencing as problems with the patients in that ward. He does this
by thanking "the Divinity" and by asking it to erase in him the negative
thoughts and feelings that his mind produces and that make him
experience things negatively; he also refers to this as erasing "bad
I feel I should qualify here that the idea of
communicating with some sort of higher being or power and asking them to
take away one's negative thoughts, in order to fix the problems of
other people, does sound a little strange, to say the least. I am
firmly on the fence about whether or not there is a "divinity" (or
divinities) out there in the universe, or outside of our dimension, or
reality or whatever; I am also not so sure that we would be able to
communicate with such a being, or that it would even give a shit. I
also read Dawkins' God Delusion and loved it — I couldn't help
but smirk to myself as I read the arguments that he so deftly presented
about why and how the arguments for the existence of a God are based on
logical fallacies or faulty reasoning.
Conversely, I also feel that
there is a conundrum in us humans trying to decide for ourselves if we
are the end-all-and-be-all or not. It's kind of like an ant looking at
his ant hill and its miles of interconnected tunnels, as well as his colony, who
work tirelessly and in beautiful unison, not giving a second thought to
sacrifice themselves for the good of the colony, and he might think to himself:
"Look at what we've accomplished! Why should I think there is anything out there better than this? Who
could possibly hold more control over ones destiny than us?" Yet that
ant has no idea of what we humans do, feel, think and accomplish; they
are completely unable to conceptualise the world at the human scale, and
what goes on at our level. of existence.
It is all a matter of
perspective. We don't have the benefit of a third-party perspective on
our own reality. We are burdened with our own biases and our own
self-built realities, therefore we can never see the "bigger picture" as
it were. As the saying goes: "there's your side and my side and then
there's the truth."
Having said all of that, what attracted me to Ho'oponopono is the idea that what happens in your reality is your responsiblity. Like I said in the third part to my Government, Shmovernment post, "You can't control outcomes and you
control others; the only thing you can control is your reaction to
them," and Ho'oponopono is very much in line with these ideas.
This blogger described Ho'oponopono as follows:
Simply put, Ho’oponopono is based on the knowledge that anything that
happens to you or that you perceive, the entire world where you live is
your own creation and thus, it is entirely your responsibility. A
hundred percent, no exceptions.
Your boss is a tyrant? It’s your responsibility. Your children are
not good students? It’s your responsibility. There are wars and you feel
bad because you are a good person, a pacifist? The war is your
responsibility. You see that children around the world are hungry and
malnourished if not starving? Their wont is your responsibility. No
exceptions. Literally, the world is your world, it is your creation. As
Dr. Hew Len points out: didn’t you notice that whenever you experience a
problem you are there?
It’s your responsibility doesn’t mean it’s your fault, it means that
you are responsible for healing yourself in order to heal whatever or
whoever it is that appears to you as a problem.
It might sound crazy, or just plain metaphorical, that the world is
your creation. But if you look carefully, you will realize that whatever
you call the world and perceive as the world is your world, it is the
projection of your own mind. If you go to a party you can see how in the
same place, with the same light, the same people, the same food, drink,
music and atmosphere, some will enjoy themselves while others will be
bored, some will be overenthusiastic and some depressed, some will be
talkative and others will be silent. The “out there” for every one of
them seems the same, but if one were to connect their brains to machines
immediately it would show how different areas of the brain would come
alive, how different perceptions there are from one person to the next.
So even if they apparently share it, the “out there” is not the same for
them, let alone their inner world, their emotions.
This message really hits home with me. Responsibility. If you see a problem, it is truly your
problem. If you see a problem, whether or not you feel you have any
part in causing it, it is your responsibility to do something about it.
And given our reality is subjective and just a projection of our own
mind, then it only follows that the "problems" that we see around us are
projections of our own minds as well — it is the way that our brain
has chosen to interpret the data that was fed into it, and so this idea
of "erasing the bad data" makes sense to me.
have all lead me to the little experiment I have been undertaking. (It
took me long enough to get to it, right?!) Nowadays, whenever something
good happens to me, even small things, I take a second, I look up to the
sky and I say "thank-you." Every time I'm in a rush and find my car
keys in the very first place I look, every time I just make a green-light while driving, whenever I assume the worst and the worst doesn't happen, I express gratitude. And I think it's working.
mechanism of why this might be working also made me think of a medical
study (unfortunately I can't find anything about it on the
web, otherwise I would have linked to it here), where they were treating
people suffering from PTSD by having the patients take some sort of
drug that elicited pleasant feelings, (probably an opioid of some sort or maybe MDMA)
while the patient verbally recounted their traumatic trigger
event. After repeated sessions, eventually when
the patient would think of the event, they would no longer feel the
symptoms of their stress disorder because their body now associated
pleasure with the memory. It tells me that there maybe something to
the idea that the problems we see in life are our responsibility to
erase — that if someone or something is bothering
you, it is really your problem.
Somewhere in my endless web surfing I came across
discussions about a book, which I've added to my "like to read" list, called
The User Illusion, by Tor Norretranders. From what I've read from the reviews of others (such as here, here and here) in the book Norretranders postulates that our conscious mind is
but an illusion that we believe is ourselves; that truly there is much
more processing happening in our subconscious mind and that but a
fraction gets pushed to the conscious mind. Not only that, but our subconscious is aware of things before our conscious mind, but somehow
our conscious mind tricks us into believing we were "conscious" of
something occurring the very instant that it was happening, when in fact
we were not. The consciousness also tends to get in our way — like when we "over think" things. Anyone who has ever mastered a skill — be it making the perfect pool shot, or playing a flawless piece of music —
knows what it is like to be in "the zone", where things just seem to
"feel" right, where you almost feel like it isn't really you making the
decisions, your body just kinda does the right thing, because you are
working from your subconscious. Yet the times when you consciously
think "okay, so I'm going to have to move my hand this way and apply
this much pressure at this rate" you actually flub it.
postulates that our consciousness can only handle 20 bits of data per
second and yet via our various senses we are actually taking in about
12 million bits/second and all of this gets processed by our
subconscious; and to make this 12 million bits processable by our
conscious mind it compacts the data into chunks that our consciousness
can handle. So it gives us objects, or symbols (the chunks) to work
with; it works much like a graphical interface on a computer -
presenting us with physical icons and buttons that we can use to
interface with a computer, which is actually processing through millions
of 1s and 0s in the background. So given my brain can only throw a
fraction of the data it is presented with towards my conscious mind, it
only makes sense to try to get rid of those negative chunks. Why waste
time on that?
So my thankfulness experiment seems to be
working. I don't know if it is so much the act of thanking a "divinity"
smiles down on me and makes things better, but that
the simple act of being thankful and truly feeling the emotion of
gratitude actually does "clear the data" as it were or that "chunk" that
the subconscious tends to throw at me when certain situations arise.
And maybe, in the end, that is all that prayer or demonstrating
reverence and gratitude
to a "higher power" does. Maybe we've just built all of these
religious stories about some power outside of ourselves, when all we are
really doing is speaking to our own subconscious.
makes me think of the first thought-pattern experiment I conducted on
myself, that seems to have helped me with anxiety, but I'll save that
for another post.