To Think or Not to Think…That is not the Question

4 Dec

Brain as a ComputerEver have those days when you wish you could just CONTROL-ALT-DELETE your way to new thoughts, a different situation, or varied emotions?

I’m certainly not immune to moments of feeling frazzled and tired, maxed out, emotionally overloaded, or otherwise just wanting to left click on my hibernate button. At the end of each day I usually go into power saving mode, but I know well when it’s time to power down for a full battery re-charge.

During the work day I’m conscious of making sure the necessary downloads and back-ups are performed. I’ll need a lot of the information I create and collect later on. Fortunately, I also possess a pretty high tech machine that auto saves and regulates many of my running processes on its own.

You know what it also has though?  A bunch of default programs, many of which I am unaware of. And they surprise me sometimes.Those little pop-up warning boxes suddenly appear, and a noticeable shift in my usage level occurs. The list of running applications  gets longer, and I’m forced into either making a decision, freezing up, or short circuiting.

I used to choose what I believed to be the path of least resistance. I’d log off. I’d pretend that whatever was happening just wasn’t. I wish I could say it gave me the reboot I was looking for and everything ran more smoothly afterward. Instead, I just got bogged down, my RAM got closer and closer to the red, and viruses infiltrated my system  until I was forced to pay attention.

What I needed was a lesson in caring for my software, but also the skill to recognize and manage my hardware. I needed to learn how to regularly run the disk defragmentation and update processes.

Here’s the deal: like a computer with an operating system, we have background programs running constantly. These background programs- the lessons we learned as we grew up, the messages we absorbed that were conveyed to us by our early relationships, the environmental influences and genetic inheritances that exist for us that created our biases, limitations, fears, and conditions of our thinking– block our ability to fulfill our potentials. Rather, we fulfill our programming.

Unlike computers, however, we have the gift of consciousness. We can be critical and we can be vulnerable. But we also have to be willing to be these things. We can be more than empty operating systems just being run by the background applications, or we can engage our awareness, access our capacities, and grow our abilities and our sensibilities.

We can choose to install new programs, even a new operating system, but unlike a computer we can never erase what we were programmed with at the start. This makes our jobs quite a bit more interesting because it means we must develop a greater sense of our selves to live more  authentically. Those moments when you’re hitting max capacity or getting bogged down in details and you surmise,  “I think too much” , perhaps it isn’t that you’re overthinking. Perhaps it’s that you’re not thinking effectively. Perhaps the wrong questions are being asked. Perhaps the problem hasn’t been identified. Perhaps we haven’t thought enough to decide what  program we really need or how to write it.

effective-mind-controlIn essence, if the conscious mind becomes aware that the program isn’t good, you must do the processing to get a new program in. You must be aware of where you want to go, but also be conscious that you must act in another way for the program to work. All the while, your old circuits ( those self limiting, self sabotaging beliefs) will come into play. Slowly but surely, however, you can override them.

If we don’t think, we don’t feel. “Maybe that’s  good,” you may be thinking. A lot of feeling “hurts.” Except without emotion then we become robots. Without emotion we can’t experience empathy. Without emotion we live incomplete and disconnected lives.  Without emotion we can’t experience love. Without emotion we can’t be in real, genuine, raw, and fulfilling relationships. For you can’t share with others that which you cannot yourself understand. Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

How we think and what we think embody our perceptions and our attitudes, and these result in our emotional selves. The biochemistry of our bodies is altered with the feelings we experience. Fear produces cortisol, norepinephrine, and histamine, for example. And love? Well, love produces oxytocin and dopamine. Rather than the cells acting protectively like that password protection screen that pops up, they are enhanced, they grow, and they expand!

Love is expansive and all encompassing. You know what it feels like to be loved, to “feel felt”, to feel nurtured and understood. Can you imagine life having never felt love?

So we don’t want to do away with emotion. Other benefits exist besides becoming a more self-actualized person, however. Take, for example, the evidence that people who cry live longer than people who don’t, that gene activity is altered via the blood chemistry that changes as a result of emotion, & that love and compassion creates the optimal environment for neurogenesis. Yes, the cortex of the brain grows and expands. This is the area of the brain critical for our thinking and processing! But you’ve likely heard that we only use approximately 5% of our consciousness. That means that 95% of our behavior is based on the subconscious–those background programs, our ‘old stuff’ as I’ve referred to in previous blogs and articles. It’ll hang on, just sit back and watch, and see if you’ll respond when it pops up every now and then. And sometimes you will. Sometimes you’ll have what you consider to be an odd or extreme reaction and upon analysis realize that you were perceiving something that wasn’t there. In essence, the feeling wasn’t “real,” but the way in which it manifested in your body was!

“But what does all this mean?” you ask.

AuthenticityI’ll break it down into what I believe to be the keys to an authentic life:

  1. Learn to step away from your conditioned responses.
  2. Your old programming is what has been downloaded by others. You often didn’t choose it. Do you want to operate according to you or to others?
  3. When you live ‘consciously’ you empower yourself to create the life you desire.
  4. By paying attention, staying present, defragmenting, and constantly updating, you gain control.
  5. Authenticity means that you are not living in denial of who you are. Acknowledge and accept the old programs, and decide what you’d like to convert to a new file format or override with new programming.
  6. Ask yourself: “What is the highest standard I can hold myself to?” And update accordingly.

In my mind it’s not about thinking or not thinking.

I will think, and I will think often. But I will think well. And I will think critically. I will control-alt-delete my way to my task manager.

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