a. Vision: Defining a Self and Sustaining Goals

shoreline.jpgWhat do you do with your mental time?

Do you ever notice where your mind wanders?

This is the big question for people like me, who can get on automatic pilot. I ask myself every once in awhile the following:

  1. Am I taking it easy or doing something meaningful?
  2. Am I taking the time to clearly state my goals?
  3. Do I ponder and meditate on them?
  4. Can I see how the future will be positively affected by my vision?

Clearly goals and vision are intertwined in a powerful way. A picture can represent a thousand words. Therefore the vision needs to be put into clear words so that you can and will act on it.

THE MENTAL GARDEN

Can you think of your mind as a garden that needs tending?

If so you know that a bit of wisdom is needed to differentiate the weeds from the flowers. Some ideas do not grow as they are often just worried thoughts. How do you tell the flowers from the weeds? And what do you do with the weeds?

I have seen that people who are able to deeply consider their ideas are more authentic people.

Mediating on your ideas will allow you to be more sure of your “authentic self,” that deep part of you which truly understand the importance of obtaining wisdom.

The authentic self can more easily develop with a well thought out plans to enhance your thinking head.

In a paradoxical way mediation and other disciplines like neurofeedback, use the calming of the body as a way to allow the mind to find its deeper wisdom.

Generally speaking if the mind is clear then the body is calm. But in our too busy world, the body takes on the anxiety floating all around us. Be it big stressors or traffic jams or budgets: the body absorbs the anxiety and this affects the mind.

If the mind is not clear then one can take that as a clue to use the body to calm the mind.

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Having clarity of mind also is impacted by the process of handling unresolved family relationships. talk about big stressors that we are often blind to seeing, family relationships tops the list.

Understnding your place in the family sytem may take many years to comprehend as most of us aer too cut off from the past to see its impact on us. Being able to approch family relationships with the goal of seeing the big picture carries us towards a more objective viewpoint. It is well worth the effort to become more neutral about the people who are the most important to you.

How do we see the big picture? One example would be that when someone in the family dies, this death can end up making people allergic to one another. How nice now we can see the automatic nature of emotional cut off. But too bad as it often makes us react.

People get too distant or too involved and sensitivities grow into powerful forces. Once one is sensitive there is little if any ability to be autonomous.

Over the gnerations the sensititivty has been fed and nurtured with rumors about who are the good ones and who are the bad ones. Often the too distant families have a lot of hard feeling about what people should have done.

After seeing the blame game for what it is then you can see the over functioing game. Its not like people know they are doing this they just do it. Our job is to see it and not react. Acting is not reacting.

In overfunctioing or reciprocal relationships often there is a wide disparity between how people function. One or two well-functioning people seem to always be there to help others function.

The point here is that if we can see these kinds of mechanisms operate in families we cna be calmer about our approch to dealign wiht the automatic mechanism in the family rather then trying to fix or blame peopel for being the way they are.

When unresolved family relationships are properly understood and handled, then your mind is clear and ready to go forward.

Unresolved family patterns become imprints upon the internal world of your mind body connections.

Understanding the connections between how you feel about people in your family and the old, old dynamics is one way of obtaining the wisdom needed to realize your goals.

THE BRAIN AS A COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEM

The brain, perhaps the bodies most complex system, can be divided into three communicating parts. If the parts of the brain do not communicate well, then there is dysfunction.

One can look at the communication system of the brain and one can see how the brain is organized into three sections:

1) The earliest system to evolve was the brain stem. All of life that has a backbone uses the brain stem to make contact with the outside world through the senses. According to Paul D. MacLean there are 23 behaviors operated by this area of the brain. It is commonly referred to as the “reptilian brain”. It has the same type of ritualistic behavioural programs as snakes and lizards. as soem say it is the part ofthe brain that is filled with deep ancestral memories.

2) In the more evolved species this information is sent up to the internal brain, the limbic system. There are only three new behaviors associated with the limbic system: play, audiovocal communication and care of the young. And where would we be without play?

3) The brain creates an internal world, which the cortex, the last evolved part of the brain organizes. Not an easy job. The cortex has association areas and decision-making areas that enable the information to be acted upon.

In general the brain gives a lot of weight to what you learned in the past. It is a trial and error brain. Often our expectations of the future are based on the past.

If one had early on encountered difficult times then the brain is conditioned to be fearful of any and all similar signals.

Preconditioning works in the service of anticipating and therefore survival.

If, at the other extreme, the early mind body encountered positive non-stressful events then the preconditioning is to be more relaxed and positive about incoming information.

The overarching goal is to remain curious and not too over or under-responsive to how things used to be or how we want things to be.

Preconditioning also sets your energy thermostat. If you are fearful, you are using much more energy defending your “self” from others than for more purposeful and creative use of your energy. Being over defended is like wearing a ten-ton metal suit to a dance.

If you have had many negative experiences you may have learned to be helpless at the slightest challenge or overly suspicious and blaming of your “self” or others.

Clinical experiments have shown that it does not take but one or two aversive trials to effect your outlook and coping strategies.

It is clear that to sustain a vision you will have to modulate past experiences of failure by mental effort and then experiencing success.

BLAMING OTHERS FOR FUN AND MONEY

Why is it that we so often blame others for our difficulties?

I used to say it was God’s joke. God gave us eyes to see what others were doing and no eyes to see what we were doing.

If one were to see how the energy flowed then one could see that if one gets mad at others there is more cheap energy available for the self.

If one blames self there is less energy available and a depression may not be far behind. In terms of survival perhaps there is a slight preference for anger, aggression and even wars, rather than isolation, lack of energy and depression.

WAYS OF MAINTINING HEALTH

For generations people have understood the importance of regulating health by proper diet and exercise.

A lot of people maintain their health by turning to medicine or drugs. Medicine is often necessary when a crisis or illness occurs. However medicine and drugs are external forces and make people often feel less sure of self and dependent.

It is often useful to consider who you use to learn about options for health. Who is on your A team? How do you manage these relationships. It is foten easy for ppeople to become over dependent on people who are professionals.

Some people say its good to take notes when heath care people talk to you or to bring in a list of written questions. There are many techniques to help you remin autonomous in the face of authority people.

FUSION AND CONFUSION

It is a relatively new idea that humans have an automatic tendency to become dependent on one another leading to a state of emotional fusion.

Dr. Bowen called this the “undifferentiated family ego mass.” One’s very identity is tied up in relationship towards important others.

What can one do? Well, first one needs a vision.

Separating a self from important others usually comes first in one’s minds eye.

First, we have to understand how sytem become fused and then see how we participate in it and then gradually how we can little by littlereate more breathign space for ourselves.

This is not something that one does initially without thinking it through. Most of us need practice at separating a self before we can do it automatically.

There are many relationships where each of knows we have gone dead in the water. We became passsive poeple. How funny when we can not talk to someone who is important to us.

Separating a self is one way of managing the dependency that is created in any relationship.

It is important to have knowledge of where you stand and then knowledge of where the other person stands and then the knowledge of what it would take to make an effort to relate to the other person by being slightly different.

Any differences can run the gamut from breathing differently to being able to ask a good question or put in a different idea. assuming a differnt posture with others takes courage.

Such a posture means that one can step out of comfortable relationships and ask questions of authorities or of those we need or love.

One knows that this might disturb the other but we are not doing it to disturb the person, we are doing it to put in a difference or to make emotional space.

If there is enough emotional space then each person is a bit more autonomous and can think for his or her self. That is the goal.

There is a tremendous force to go along with others and to agree or to disagree- that is the togetherness pattern.

Separating a self (SAS) is one way of knocking on the door of opportunity towards being a more thoughtful person about emotional space.

It requires an awake mind that is centered when in relationship to others.

One is not trying to win or to make a point or to be heard it is all about respectfully decreasing dependency. This tendency to be dependent on others can be changed with effort over time.

If you can be different verbally and non-verbally, while grounded in factual knowledge, you will realize an additional payoff in your relationship system.

KEEPING AN OBSERVATIONAL JOURNAL

Factual knowledge is useful to promote an understanding of the emotional process as it operates in the behavior of those near and dear to you. For example, think of how much you would learn if you were keeping a journal of how many times you are able to define yourself as just slightly different from the important people around you.

The log could be a fact record of who said or did what that made you realize you had agreed too much or said to little or had not been able to be quiet and ask a good question etc.

There are many ways to recognize that the relationship has gone underground.

Once you notice that there are things that need to be said or done then you can start your log.

  1. How long do you think about a new or different approach to this relationship logjam?
  2. Jot down what you decided to do and then when the time was right how you were able to do it.
  3. Then you can note what the effects, short and long term, were of this interaction.
  4. The main goal is to note your personal effort to try and regulate your part in all important relationships.

For thousands of years humans have been striving for self-regulation to realize their goals. The Zen Buddhists are fond of saying that one cannot tell if a person is good or evil from the posture from which they pray, but if they are kinder to others then the posture is correct.

The ongoing benefits of the eastern meditative traditions have been offered to the westerner by using today’s technology.

Biofeedback machines can give western health practitioners and yourself immediate physiological feedback on blood pressure, heart rate, sweat response and EEG neurofeedback.

It was the early thirties when Walter Cannon first spelled out the fight and flight syndrome. The neurochemical reaction of the body to stress and anxiety, the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine, are what increase blood pressure and heart rate.

People can learn to do something about these automatic processes. Stress management and biofeedback are fields of knowledge that have grown enormously since Walter Cannon’s day.

Neurofeedback is the newest example of humans using machines to control the use and abuse of psychic and physical energy. Early on Elmer Green noted that alpha theta training was very useful in helping people to go deep into their own minds to explore and find their own true vision.

With coaching and guidance, you can train your mind and body to a calmer and clearer state. With practice blood pressure goes down, as well as other bodily reactions to stress or anxiety. The biggest payoff may occur in the changes in your relationship system. A clearer mindset and a calmer body make most people a bit easier to relate to.

THE PRICE OF PROGRESS

There is always a price that one pays for forward progress. If one tries to clear the mind the body can act up, if one tries to calm the body the mind can start to throw a temper tantrum. If one gets the mind and the body into harmony, then often the relationship system will object to all the time you are spending on these projects.

One has to be prepared to deal with resistance in defining a vision for one’s own self.

Little by little, if you are able to reduce your emotional dependency, you will obtain a clearer view of your life force.

It is one thing to say that you have a vision, but another to say that it is your own vision. Hopefully time will be on your side as you step into this adventure of finding and defining your own way.

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