The Truth Wants to Make You Free!
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
- Steve Wright
At some point in the evolution of biological creatures, consciousness emerged. When using their rational, problem-solving faculties, adult humans have powers that are not available to animals and young children. Needless to say, this power comes at a price. Consciousness, including consciousness of the self, comes with dangers as well as opportunities:
- The opportunity: Consciousness and self-awareness enable you to conceptualize the future and figure out how to get what you want. Volition, the power to intentionally influence the course of events, emerges from consciousness.
- The danger: Consciousness and the ability to abstract makes possible self-critical appraisals that can initiate a counter-productive sequence of internal states and external events. The Recursive Traps that result from self-evaluation causes unnecessary suffering, and tend to have a self-confirmatory influence on outcomes. If the impairment develops to the point that it interferes with occupational or social functioning, it is considered a Mood Disorder.
Subjective Versus Objective Reality
Suicide bombers and Amway distributors live in the same physical world, but experience different subjective realities. Given that you buy into the crazy beliefs that maintain it, the suicide bomber is influenced by a coherent cognitive structure — the same is true for the Amway distributor. The same is also true for people who have fallen into traps broadly labeled as: Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, and Chronic Anger.
Telling the pyramid schemer or the bomber that their perceptions are distorted is not likely to produce the intended outcome. Likewise, telling the anxious person not to worry so much, or telling the depressed person to look on the bright side of things, is less helpful than well-meaning friends think. Even people who recognize that their emotional reactions are counter-productive, are frustrated by their inability to get themselves to react more adaptively.
As you follow this course you will learn about the important cause-and-effect principles that determine how people react to the things that happen. By working with some ancient and modern disciplines you will explore and become familiar with the cause and effect principles that determine the phemonena that you personally experience. Once you understand what causes you to react to the things that happen as you do, you can begin to exercise your will to follow your path of greatest advantage rather than yield in the direction of least resistance.
The puppy and the puppy trainer
To exercise your will, you have to know what you want and know how to operate the creature you inhabit. The change agent — the rational mind, also known as the "puppy trainer" — appreciates your interests and principles and seeks to influence your behavior so you act in accord with them. The entity to be changed — also known as the "puppy" — is an innocent and has no choice but to obey the laws of cause-and-effect.
Freud used the horse and rider as a metaphor for his model in which a conscious mind, driven by rational concerns, was often in conflict with an unconscious mind, driven by lust and fear. Our model also involves two minds:
- A biological creature driven by hungers and fears that uses a fast but sloppy processing system [the puppy].
- An intellectual entity capable of abstract problem solving, who can observe how the creature reacts to things that happen and exercise a mindful influence on its development [the puppy trainer].
The text is written to be read by the puppy trainer, but experiential invitations are designed to be directly experienced by the puppy. As you navigate your course through this material you will be training the creature you inhabit to act in accord with your interests and principles. You, the conscious entity reading this text will do the training in collaboration with this manual.
The biggest threat to good outcome is defecting — prematurely abandoning the challenge. I am using the corny metaphor of "the puppy" to emphasize the need to be patient and gentle with the puppy. It is easy to become discouraged, so perhaps the most important responsibility of the puppy trainer is to keep the puppy engaged in, entertained by, this process Have some respect for the difficulty of this task and do not be harsh or critical with the self. Give yourself the unconditional positive regard you would give to a cute puppy doing its best to develop an impressive competency.