Sunday, September 30, 2007

It Doesn't Belong To You

There is a conventional wisdom, a common-sense view of the world and our place in it.  And this view is embedded into our language, our religions, and our every day perception of ourselves:

We see ourselves as independent beings, possessing free will and the ability to choose our own path in life.

And this view is completely, utterly, horrifyingly wrong.

Because there is one simple truth that, if you fully understand it, will change your relationship with yourself forever.  You will not look at your life or your failings in the same way, ever again.

However, like all truly powerful, simple truths, a mere statement of this truth does not suffice to understand it on a gut level.

So, in this article I will try to build up your understanding from more basic truths, to reach this deeper understanding:

The body was not made for us;
We were made for the body.

We believe that we have a body.  But in fact, it is the body that has us.

We believe that the body exists to serve our goals.  But in fact, we exist to serve the goals of the body.

This is easier to see if we look at animals.  There are animals that do not have brains, and animals that do.  The animals that have brains, are better at finding food and reproducing, so there are more of them.

Clearly, animals grow brains because it helps their bodies survive and reproduce.

The more sophisticated the brain, generally speaking, the more successful the animal.

So clearly, animals grow more sophisticated brains, because it helps their bodies survive better, and reproduce more.

Are you seeing a pattern yet?

So the thing that you and I call "I", does not exist for its own benefit.  It exists because the human genome found it useful for the needs of the human body.  To put it crudely, "I" exist because having a sense of "I" improves my body's ability to eat, fight, f**k... and care for the resulting children.

Now on the surface, this idea may seem to contradict our noblest ideals and impulses.  What is the point of morality, art, progress, and our worldly aspirations in general if we're just a software upgrade to a walking, talking f**k machine?

But you don't have to look at it that way.  Just because we were made for one thing, doesn't mean we can't still choose our own purposes in life.  It's just that you need to understand your original purpose, or else...

You'll Think It's Easier Than It Is!

The idea that we control our bodies and our lives, is an enormous source of suffering in the world, because it leads to ineffective action.  We think it's enough to "decide" to do something in our heads, and that this will somehow lead to changing.

However, if you've ever actually tried to change anything significant in your life, you'll know it's nowhere near that easy.  And if you investigate deeply enough, you'll discover that whatever you're doing that's difficult to change is serving some need of the body.

Yet, in stark contrast to the difficulty of changing when you decide to change, it is ridiculously easy to change when your environment changes.  For example, when I was a kid I was pretty fat -- until my family moved to Montserrat and didn't bring a car.  Then I had to walk pretty much everywhere, and the fat came off just like that.

To put it another way...  our bodies are designed to automatically adapt to things that change outside us...

And Resist The Changes That Come From Within!

If you don't get this, you'll have a lot of trouble changing, because you'll think you should be able to change just by making up your mind and applying "willpower" and "motivation".

But this doesn't work because you are under the mistaken impression that "motivation" is something that comes from you...  instead of your body!

When you don't like your circumstances, this produces stress and tension in the body -- which the body then provides "motivation" for you to get rid of.

However, as soon as you do enough to make the tension go away...  so does the motivation.

That's why it's so easy to decide to start exercising...  tomorrow!

If you are using the body's tension-relief motivation system, you will only ever take enough action to relieve your current tension, and you will let problems build up until they create enough tension to force you to do something about them.

And so this cycle goes, from problem to tension to action to relief to inaction to recurrence of the problem.  Your body doesn't mind, because that's how it's designed to work, running on never-ending cycles of hunger and eating, fatigue and rest, sexual tension and satisfaction.

But That's Not Good Enough For Us

You see, "we" are a virus of the mind.  The brain and body are like a computer that we have infected, and desire to take over for our own purposes.  That we consider our purposes to be "noble" and "good" is irrelevant to the simple fact of the matter: "we" are an occupying invader, a parasite at worst and a symbiote at best.

If we fail to understand this, we will not be successful in taking control of brain and body, because we will not take the right actions.  If we think we are already in control, we won't be looking for the loopholes that will allow us to actually take control.

We'll think we should be able to change without changing our environment,  who we associate with, and our attitudes and beliefs.  And we won't understand how to create positive motivation,that draws us towards what we want in the long run, instead of being driven by short-term tension relief.

Religion tells us that the spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak.  But if the flesh were really weak, it wouldn't be a problem: the flesh would be the spirit's bitch pretty damn quick, and we'd all be saints.

No, the problem is that the spirit is a freakin' ghost, and only the flesh is really real. Spirit is a pattern encoded in the circuits of the brain, with no independent existence of its own.  Spirit is trapped in the flesh, embodied by the flesh, carried around by the flesh like a shark carries the suckerfish glued to its gills.

And the only power our suckerfish spirit possesses to move the shark, is...

To Whisper In Its Ear!

In cartoons, you sometimes see a character with two little spirits whispering in his ears: one good, one evil, with each trying to convince the character of their own spin on things.

This picture is almost accurate, except that we tend to identify with the character in the middle, when in fact "we" are more like one of the spirits.  Imagine yourself as a tiny angel hovering next to your own ear -- observing what your body sees and hears, and influencing what it does, by whispering suggestions in its ear.

This is a much more accurate picture of how the mind-body connection works, than the idea that the Devil is whispering in your ear about the sins of the flesh.  If only it were that simple!  No, if there's a devil, he already owns your entire body, and it's your job to usurp his control by plotting against him, whispering treason in the night.

Okay, maybe that's a little too dramatic.  Your body isn't really the devil.  It's just an animal, and it has its own needs and priorities.  Like keeping you alive long enough to reproduce.  Really, that's pretty much all it cares about.  But it doesn't have your brain power to do it with, so it does things really superficially.

Like if your mom used to come into your room and yell at you for being lazy, making you feel inadequate, then you might end up feeling afraid or inadequate any time you see a big enough mess.  That's because your body, with its simple stimulus-response association, has learned that messiness equals yelling and reduction of social status.  So let's face it...

Your Body's Not Too Bright

But as is so often the case, the brightest guy is not the one who's in charge!  Your body (or to be precise here, your emotional brain) is the one running all the glands that secrete the chemicals that make you scared or sad or submissive or angry.  The emotional brain gets a stimulus, and responds by shooting your body and brain full of drugs to prepare you for the right response.  It's a crude system, but it works well enough for animals.

Problem is, we don't want to be animals.  We don't like getting shot full of drugs every time something happens, because we're smart enough to figure out better ways of solving our problems than the four F's.  (Fighting, freezing, fawning, or running the f**k away!)

Trouble is, we never get to implement those better ways, once our system has been pumped full of drugs.  The body goes off and does its own thing, leaving our brain to think, "What the hell happened?  I didn't mean to..." (fight, freeze, fawn, etc.)

That's why a staple of comedy in the movies is the character who says, "I'm going to march right in there and give him/her a piece of my mind," and then the next scene is them failing miserably at it.  We've all been there, and done that.

In order to change this, we have to remove the conditioned response, either through Emotion Elimination, or the Gateway of Desire, or through any of a zillion other NLP techniques.  The simplest and most reliable ones, however, work by interrupting responses in the body -- not by messing around with what you think.  Because let's face it, you're not exactly upper management in this shindig.  What you really are, is...

A Consultant To The Body Politic

Our bodies grew brains and consciousness in order to answer questions for the body, like:  Is that really a tiger, or just a rock?  If it is a tiger, what's the best path out of here in a hurry?  When we get water in future, is there a better route to take to avoid the tigers?  Why is Grog looking at me like that?  Does he plan to fight me now, or is he going to bash my head in with a rock after I go to sleep?

Actually, I mis-spoke a little.  Answering questions is what your brain does.  What you do, is ask them.  All day long.  Constantly.  Just like my imaginary caveman's stream of consciousness just now.  What makes it a stream of consciousness, in fact, is the questions.

Think about it.  And when you think about it, you'll find you're asking yourself questions.  Thinking in fact consists almost entirely of a constant Q&A session with yourself, although depending on the way you think, the questions and answers may be visual, verbal, or even in the form of feelings.

Consciousness is the question-asker.  Brain is the question-answerer.  But body is the do-er and taker of action.  The body alerts consciousness when threats and opportunities arise, so that consciousness can ask the right questions, and the brain can provide answers.  Body then acts, based on its interpretation of the answers.

It's sort of like this.  Have you ever had a boss that you tried to explain something to, and they ended up doing the opposite of what you were trying to convince them to do, because it was more advantageous to them personally to do things the wrong way?  Well, your body can be just like that.  It doesn't care what you think about the situation in terms of your values, but rather in terms of its values -- which aren't always in alignment with your own.

The Prima Donna Body

So you are just a consultant, called on the spot to voice an opinion, which may or may not be promptly taken out of context and used to other ends than your own.  Are you beginning to see why changing some things can be so hard?

You are not running the show.  You didn't even write the script, and you are certainly not the star.  You are, at best, the star's agent.

But remember: the star (body) is not very bright.  In addition, its needs and desires are very basic and easy to fulfill, compared to your lofty personal ambitions.  So you can use your position as a trusted advisor to influence and persuade the body to do your bidding.

Now, to be fair, it seems a lot of the time like you are running the show.  That's because, as long as you feel safe, your body is largely happy to do as you wish.  That's why one person can quite easily do what another person struggles to even consider doing.

Also, for educational reasons, I've heavily played up the themes of conflict and being trapped, even though it is not actually useful to think this way on a day-to-day basis.  It is more useful, in truth, to think of life as more of a collaboration between you and your body.  But describing it that way would not have gotten across just how distinct "you" and "your body" are.  Each of us is really two people, or at minimum a person and an animal.

Or perhaps it would be better to say that we are each two animals: maybe a monkey riding on the back of a horse, and laboring under the mistaken belief that it is really only one big animal.  (Meanwhile, the horse can't help but be aware of the monkey, but tries to ignore it when it's not being helpful!)

Monkey, Meet Horse

The monkey of mind holds the horse's reins.  He can usually stop the horse in its tracks, as long as it's not too scared.  Indeed, the monkey can get the horse to do just about anything, if it's not too scared.  This leads the monkey to believe it's really the one in charge...  except when the horse gets scared!

But the horse is dumb, and gets frightened by stupid things.  Plus, the horse is interested in different things than the monkey.  So the monkey has to use the reins to get the horse to pay attention to the right things.  It has to train the horse not to be afraid, to know that the monkey will not lead it into danger.  The horse must learn to trust the monkey, which it will only do if the monkey treats it with compassion.

In truth, the bond between our monkey minds and horse minds is much deeper than can be expressed by this equestrian analogy.  You cannot lie to the horse, nor can it lie to you. In a sense, it knows everything that you know, but it primarily responds by association to what you bring to its attention.

So, two secrets, right there.  Compassion for the horse.  Directing its attention.  With these two basic ideas and practice, you can do anything that it's possible to do with a body and mind.  Everything else is details.  Of course...

There Are A Lot Of Details!

And if you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend you join The Owners' Circle.  Each month, you'll receive a new newsletter and CD, providing you with practical information about the details of managing your mind-body connection.  For example, this month's newsletter is on "Fear and Commitment", and explains the mathematical principle behind the way hesitation and commitment work in your brain.  (You don't need to be a mathematician, though, to use the step-by-step techniques I teach in the newsletter!)

And this month's CD is on "How To Succeed Without Trying".  It explains one of the important differences between "trying" and "doing", and how to easily turn off the "trying" so you can start doing.  You'll discover an easy, simple method for getting out of your own way, and turning on your natural motivation - no stress, willpower, or effort required!

You can get the newsletter and CD shipped out to you right away by clicking here, and filling out your shipping information.  And, every month, you'll get another newsletter and CD, each one telling you something new... about yourself! 

So even though your mind and body don't belong to you by default, your life can still become yours.  You just have to take three steps: 1. treat yourself with compassion, 2. make the decision to be the owner, and 3. become the master of your mind and body.

Now, the first two steps, you'll have to do on your own.  But I help a lot of people with the third one, and I can help you, too, once you enter the Circle.