An Invitation. . .

. . . to choose the path of greatest advantage
rather than yield in the direction of least resistance

- George Bernard Shaw

Emotional Disorders diminish the quality of a human life. Some — such as Bipolar Disorder — have a biological etiology, and are appropriately treated with medication. However, when the counter-productive emotional reactions is not caused by a medical disease, but by one's beliefs and perspectives,  the cure involves working with the mind rather than the body.

How can you tell the difference between a medical and a psychological disorder? When the negative emotional states come 'out of the blue' rather than as a consequence of your interpretation of the events that happened, it is likely to be primarily biological in origin. On the other hand, when the self-sabotaging emotional state is a consequence of your beliefs and perspectives, the cure involves changing pathogenic thinking patterns.

Symptoms Versus Cause

Consider the depressive episode of a person with Bipolar Disorder. The negative emotional state has a biological etiology. Cognitive therapy methods can help manage the symptoms, but they do not address the cause of the symptoms [the biological error].

Consider the negative emotional state caused by thinking of everyone you know who is younger than you and yet makes more money. Here, medication may help manage the symptoms, but does not address the cause of symptoms [the cognitive error (this cognitive cause of misery is called: Personalization).

Personal Research

Studying subjective experience [phenomenology] is different kind of challenge than studying the physical sciences. When researching the latter, we can safely assume that the cause-and-effect principles are the same in different laboratories, and once they are specified they can be used by other laboratories and passed down from generation to generation. In contrast, subjective phenomena exist within the experience of each individual. So, each individual has but a single lifetime to learn how to work with the subjective phenomena he or she experiences.

Fortunately, the generic principles of learning and motivation are well understood. However, to apply these principles in your phenomenological universe requires you to do some personal research.

The pages ahead contain a range of ancient and modern methods that enable the user to intentionally influence subjective phenomena without the aid of drugs or other external agents. Acquiring this set of skills and faculties enhance your ability to act in accord with your interests and principles, despite the influence of local conditions that would motivate you to defect.

A Developmental Passage

Few of us have been taught how to work with subjective phenomena. Most people continue to follow the thinking patterns they used as children  — even when doing so produces bad outcomes for them. However, as an adult with the mental faculties to explore the cause-and-effect principles that determine your reactions to the things that happen, you can use the understandings you acquire in the service or your will.

Your current predicament is not the result of being diseased, defective, or bad. People become entrapped by a pattern of self-sabotage, because they are all too human.  Unlike mouse traps, a simple entrapment mechanism that you can see and understand, Emotional and Addictive Disorders are phenomenological traps in that they exist in the world of experience and obey psychological rather than physical cause and effect principles.  To escape this kind of trap, you have to understand the cause-and-effective principles that pertain to subjective phenomena [the study of these principles called, "phenomenology"].

This course will guide you through one of the most interesting passages of life-span development. From the emotionally reactive mentality of childhood to the more advanced cognitive tactics that enable you to respond mindfully to the things that happen.

This course is not about making you happy or fearless, but about becoming free of illusions so you can see the truth. Discovering the truth about yourself and the way you react to the things that happen will make you free!  

By the time you complete the text and experiential invitations on the pages ahead, you will understand the important cause-and-effect principles that determine your reactions to the things that happen, and the procedural skills to act mindfully, even during crises of great stress and temptation. [As is the case with learning to fish, rather than passively receiving a fish, the benefits of developing the skills to achieve independence are irreversible.]

Meta-Cognitive Awareness

Meta-Cognitive Awareness is an important milestone along the passage from the mentality of childhood to the more advanced cognitive tactics described here. It refers to the appreciation that your beliefs and perspectives are merely the subjective experiences of a particular creature at a particular time — they are not necessarily true [and not necessarily false]. The feeling of certainty that a particular belief is valid does not make it so — even if you are really certain. Your beliefs are creations of your nervous system, so naturally your nervous system appraises them as valid. As comedian, Elmo Phillips, observed: "I used to believe that my brain was the most important organ, until I realized who was telling me that."

If you can step outside yourself and observe how you think, you will be able to identify the cognitive distortion mechanisms that cause so much unnecessary suffering. We are continually taken in by the illusions that result from assuming that our perceptions and interpretations of the things that happen is valid and complete. This truth will make you free!

In contrast to the temporary effects of medication, the benefits of understanding the cause-and-effect principles that determine how you react to the things that happen do not dissipate as soon as the treatment ends. In fact, once you become aware of this meta-cognitive perspective, your understanding of and ability to manipulate your subjective experience will continue to grow long after you have completed this course.

Navigational Notes

Learning about subjective experience and how to intentionally influence it is different than the study of any other topic. You can read about phenomenology, but to truly understand it and develop the skills to manipulate phenomena such as motivation and emotion you have to work with them directly. The thought experiments and experiential invitations presented throughout this course provide opportunities to try out and practice using some ancient and modern methods to work with subjective phenomena.

Because this material is designed to be used by individuals with different attributes and challenges, more tools are included than any one person will need. The downside of presenting so much material is that it can seem overwhelming. To get to the explanations and tools most helpful to you, please take advantage of the navigational tools.

The goal of this course is to enhance the power of your will so you can over-ride the influence of the cause-and-effect principles that promote self-sabotage and follow your path of greatest advantage. An important responsibility is to use your evolving understanding of yourself and the nature of your challenge to navigate your way through this course so that you acquire the skills to navigate your course through the remainder of your life. The links to the left is the default path and lists all the sections and pages of this course. Please feel free to jump around.

In the future, you will be at a different place in your course of life, but these tools will always be available to you. The links in the footer are included to help you access useful content quickly. Here is some annotation for the links in the Header and Footer of each page:

  • Your emotional reaction to the events that happen depends upon your interpretation of those events. Some cognitive structures are special; they evoke self-sabotaging emotional reactions that, over time, destroy people's lives. See: Popular Thinking Errors. The way out of these traps is through Cognitive Restructuring. The Thought Record will help you deconstruct your emotional reactions from the clearer perspective of hindsight, and come to a progressively better understanding of what causes you to react as you do.

  • To follow your path of greatest advantage you have to be clear about how you appraise "advantage." This means that you are crystal clear about your values and your Hierarchy of Motives and the values you use to appraise your options —  see Core Motivation.

  • it is important to stay cool and clear thinking during crises so that you can resist the forces that would motivate you to act counter to your interests and principles. Several paths to taming the creature you inhabit are described. Needless to say, intellectual understanding of these paths is insufficient to enable you to perform heroically during crises. As is the case with any performance art, good outcome requires developing the critical procedural skills through practice. Invitations to explore and work directly with Experiential Phenomena.


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