Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. ~ Robin Sharma
Misinformation is a real problem in the era of technology and ever-present connectivity. But, long before the days of smart phones, Twitter, and Facebook, we were already living intimately with the world’s original misinformation machine: the mind.
To be accurate, what we’re really talking about is the egoic mind – that voice in your head that has an opinion about everything. The functional mind is essentially neutral and usually quite helpful. This is the part that knows how to drive a car, read a newspaper, make dinner, find a job. The functional mind is a servant, while the egoic mind is the wanna-be master of all that we do.
One of the first rules for living a sane life is to feel your feelings, but question your thoughts. Usually, we do the exact opposite: stuff our feelings, but obsess endlessly over our thoughts. Because they are “ours,” we have a real bias to assume that those thoughts are true. One way to debunk that assumption is to realize that all of our minds basically tell us the same things, over and over again.
In order to control our behavior (and attempt to control the behavior of others), the egoic mind uses thoughts that generate fear in its myriad forms. Fear that we are not good enough. Fear that we are messing up. Fear that we will miss out. Fear that we’ll lose someone or something that is important to us. And on and on.
All of the major categories of egoic thoughts hinge on some form of fear: comparisons, judgments, worry, obsessive planning for the future, and endless rehashing of the past. The particular details vary from person to person or day to day, but the underlying messages remain startlingly the same.
In a very real sense, the egoic mind is running a psy-op on us.
When you really grasp that point, it can feel a bit creepy at first! The egoic mind – the one you’ve been listening to the most intimately and trustfully your whole life – is not really your friend. As in any psy-op, what is says seems reasonable and important. Because society is made up of other people who are also listening to their minds, you will hear the same thoughts being reinforced all around you. They must be true!
The way out is to become relentlessly aware of how your thoughts actually make you feel. When you feel fear or anxiety (or anger, which is usually a cover for fear, especially in men), take a step back and look at the thoughts you are having. You don’t have to make them go away or “do” anything about them. The egoic mind is just part of the standard operating equipment we’re born with. You’ll always have thoughts – you just don’t have to believe them.
It’s very much like the radio programs used by countries at war to hook enemy personnel into fearful and demoralizing stories. Once you understand that they aren’t true, they stop holding power over you and just become mildly annoying white noise in the periphery of your consciousness. You might be “hooked” for a moment or two when they first come up, but you can train yourself to quickly recognize what they are and simply let them go.
The voice in your head does not have to be the master of your life.
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