In The Power of Losing Control I write that the only thing we can truly control is our primary world, or ourselves. Everything and everyone else lives in our secondary world. I make this distinction because control doesn’t exist in the secondary world. It is a world that we have no control over, yet have power in through influence. More about primary and secondary world.
So if we have the ability to exert our will and use the power of control in our primary world, why don’t people exert it more often in order to create better lives for themselves? One answer is that the mind has the ability to both help and hurt us. Psychoanalyst Fritz Perls said, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”
Thoughts > Connection > Meaning
The fact is, as human beings, we have an incredible capacity to get in our own way. Here’s a simplistic explanation of how this works. The mind experiences a thought. The thought doesn’t have meaning in isolation, it needs to be connected to another thought. These connections continue to form and create neurological pathways until enough synaptic connections are made to create meaning.
When a new thought enters our head, our minds have familiar and well-worn neurological pathways in place for that thought to travel. Think of it kind of like ice melting on a mountain; the water moves toward the well-worn crevices of the mountain’s surfaces as it forms streams down the mountain. Over time, these crevices get deeper and deeper.
Neurologically, biologically, socially, and psychologically we are driven to make connections so we can find meaning. The problem is, our thoughts move toward the well-worn neuropathways of our minds whether those connections create edifying meanings or destructive meanings. And because the mind can experience both conscious and unconscious thought, it can happen without our awareness.
Story > Connection > Meaning
How can we create more awareness about how we’re processing our thoughts? One way is by examining our stories. Stories create meaning by making connections. Our stories of ourselves are the result of the connections we make. In this way, we are the stories we tell ourselves we are.
We have the ability to change our less than edifying stories about relationships, people, work, money, life, politics, love, sex and other concepts, but we first have to become aware of our stories and then understand that our current understandings aren’t necessarily true—even if our personal historical experience has proven us right.
All that you see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.
-Edgar Allen Poe
Exercise Your Mind to Work For You, Not Against
It’s difficult to use the power of our will and our self-control to find more edifying definitions that serve us. But for most of us it is absolutely within our power. It begins with opening your mind.
- Examine which definitions might not serve you. Explore other possible meanings that could be true and would be more edifying. To get started, think about or write down how you would describe yourself to a new pen pal or someone who doesn’t know you well (essentially, your labels).
- Recognize personal attachment to particular notions. Think about family stories about you, or ideas you hang out to but may not have examined lately.
- Work to get control of your nervous system to create detachment and peace. Question your assumptions and automatic reactions to things or thoughts. Slow down and allow yourself to let go of the old way and be open to new thoughts about an old process.
- Accept all new awareness without judgment.
All of this must be done with great diligence, as the mind can trick the will. All of this must also be done with as much objectivity as possible.
More Resources and Exercises
For those of you who might be interested in examining, uncovering and changing the stories, narratives, meanings or definitions that don’t serve you, here are a few links to some further reading and exercises.
- Top Ten Things to Let Go Of
- Power of Losing Control Companion Content
- Success Strategies
- Assess, Accept, Adjust and Advance
This is the process of unlocking the limitations of the mind and freeing yourself to become more peaceful, more powerful, more happy and more successful. It may just be the hardest and most rewarding work you’ll ever do. And it can be done for you personally and professionally. It can also be done for your business or organization.