Would you take a little three question quiz? It's very easy. You already know all the answers.
I told you it was an easy quiz. I bet everyone got 100%.
- 1-Do you ever have conversations in you head? How about when you're "thinking" about a pending confrontation?
- 2-Do you ever have those same kinds of conversations with an anonymous person?
- 3-Do you ever explain things to yourself. Do you explain things to yourself as though you were another person "teaching you how to do something, or how something works? Or it might by you "teaching" some other person.
What a treasure house those conversations are. You want to learn about yourself? Want to understand your behavior, especially the stuff that causes stress? I've sorted out a little something that might be of value.
It feels like stress is just part of life. It just comes, and we have to deal with it. Seems like things have a way of going wrong. Murphy's Law, right? Wrong. Seems like we bump into the wall a lot. We plan to go through the gate, but hit the wall instead; or at least bang our shoulder on the gatepost. Sure would be nice for things to go all Right once in a while. Other people might have their own problems, but it looks to me like other people don't have a problem with some of the things I have trouble with. How can two people confront the exact same circumstances and one experience no stress while the other is bumping into the wall? Someone doesn't understand Reality. If one person can get through a circumstance without stress, then anybody can. The difference between the two people lies down next to the subconscious, very well, but not completely, hidden out of sight. I'll get ahead of myself by saying, we act based on our beliefs. Our beliefs run the Show.
Before we go into beliefs, however, let's take a quick look at thoughts. How would one describe a thought? I think comparing thought to feelings will provide an answer. Feelings are like little islands of individuality. They do just about anything they want. We have no control over our feelings. Ever try to stop feeling sad? "No matter what happens, I'm not going to laugh." We have no control over our feelings. They come and go seemingly at their our volition.
Ever try to keep from thinking something? Thoughts' "pop" into our heads constantly. They, too, seem to have a life of their own. That's what thoughts do, but what thoughts are is the question. They aren't words, as some might guess. Thoughts are little bits of understanding, they are abstract concepts.
You're sitting reading on the porch swing. A slight shiver breaks your concentration. You say, out loud or in your head, "Dang, it's getting chilly." "Dang, it's getting chilly," wasn't the feeling. The feeling was lack of warmth. You just put that concept into words, which related to you. Thoughts act the same as feelings.
We have some little flash of understanding, and we put it into words. You may have noticed that expressing the concept this way is a very natural thing to do. It seems very basic. It must serve some important purpose. What does this process accomplish? Continuity in our lives.
Ever try to retain an abstraction? We can't retain our thoughts any more than we can make a feeling keep going; unless, we have a way of restructuring the feeling in a way that allows retention. I don't know of a way to do that with feelings, but I know that this is the process by which we retain thoughts.
We make our abstract thoughts, concepts, retainable by giving them order. When a "pang" of hunger comes, we immediately put it into words; whether out loud or in thought. This happens at a very basic level. We construct a sentence, or two, that states the concept in its most primitive form. It's the first draft of our defining the thought. As such, it will reflect most accurately the foundational core beliefs that form the Frame Of Reference for the expression. It could be thought of as a Freudian Slip. You know how sometimes different words come out of our mouths than we had planned. These Head Sentences are probably the next best thing to Reverse Speech for true communication.
Perhaps you haven't heard of Reverse Speech. A quick Net search will turn up plenty for you to examine, so I'll just briefly outline what Reverse Speech is. Someone found out that we communicate in a way that we are not consciously aware of. Indeed, we can't be aware of. We can see ourselves doing certain gestures that communicate, and hear our tones of voice, but there's no way to "monitor" Reverse Speech.
Here's how it works. And I'll be very surprised if you don't at least laugh out loud, and at most 86 this piece at the end of the next paragraph. You've never heard such a preposterous idea in all your life. It just can't be true. But it is.
We talk backwards, filling out the whole communication, as we talk "forward", in our usual way. At the same time the forward words are coming out of our mouths, we're putting together all the little inflections and pauses, and "uh"s to form a short comment on what we're saying forward. We start doing this before we actually form coherent words or sentences during babyhood. I told you you wouldn't believe it. Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard?
BUT IT'S TRUE! ! !
You can't get much more primitive than that. It's so primitive that we can't even discern its working. It would be like trying to watch your brain send its signals around your body. Wouldn't that be neat!?
Well, that first draft of your Head Sentence is probably very close to being completely free of outside influence, like the words we use to make up the Sentence. Sometimes we have trouble finding the right word and have to settle for a word that bends the thought just a bit. But I feel that the first sentence we make up for the thought will more readily show the underlying beliefs than what finally comes out of our mouths. We do a lot of re-writes of that first sentence, usually.
To avoid some possible confusion, the head sentence isn't the sentence that just pops out of our mouths unplanned. I mean that first draft, raw sentence that first puts the concept into words. But the raw, first draft could be the one that comes out. I'm sure that happens a lot with non-threatening things. But with "touchy" subjects, I know I do many rewrites.
Who hasn't caught themselves working on a "script" when thinking about, for instance, making an apology to someone? We don't need a script. All we need is the ideas we want to discuss.
We don't understand how that locks us into expectations. If the conversation gets off the track we have laid out, the apology might never even get said, as we fumble around trying to get back to our script.
Those rough draft sentences are a door to the lower levels of our consciousness. When we worry the cracks between the words, we uncover things that we are almost never conscious of.
Before we go further, I need to say that I'm not making a case that these Head Sentences are bad, and we would be better without them. I understand them as the way things are. We don't have any options. The minute there're symbols to use, they will be used. If one has a language, their thought/concepts will be kept in order by that language. When words are around, we think in words. I wonder if deaf people think in Sign. Hmmm.
Now we can go on. Remember? These Sentences are a door to our lower levels. There are two main questions to be asked of the Sentence. Not only do we ask, "Why did I make up a Sentence?" We must take the analysis to the actual words that were used. We must also ask, "What particular emphasis is given to the concept, by those particular words?" Just as a preface to later, we're looking for Not Spots. Little Niches of Negativity.
Specifically, we look for any limiting words like, can't don't, won't, isn't, doesn't, couldn't, etc. These are all Not-words. The prize winner, however is "but." But may be the most limiting word ever invented. It's interesting that God and "but" are both three letter words that are direct opposites. God's three letters implies limitless, while "but" is the most limiting.
A little "but" goes a long way.
One "but" can cancel even the resurrection of Jesus. One could recite a litany of complimentary phrases about another's behavior, and the "X" it all out by adding a comma, and saying, "but…" Is that familiar? We immediately lose all focus on the good stuff, and move forward on our seats in anticipation of what follows the "but." "Oh yeah. I mean, she's really community minded. She does Red Cross, Summer Recreation, teaching Aide, Girl Scouts, Little League Mom's Club. She really contributes a lot, but,…have you ever noticed…..?"
Of course, we don't all approach the same concept from the same direction. With surety, others will be found expressing the some concepts from Frames Of Reference different than ours. Very simply speaking, our Frame of Reference can be thought of as the same as our "Core Beliefs." It's the Stuff that runs things from the subconscious levels. Anyway, we all don't react the same to the same thing.
Let me expand that part with an example and five reactions. The situation is that someone is holding the door for another person. They are strangers. I'd like you to try and imagine each of these people reacting to the person holding the door.
- 1. A bare grunt of recognition
- 2. Ignorant, paranoiac avoidance; suspicion, hurried steps, no eye contact.
- 3. Viewing the holder as a giver of "love", maybe just a friendly smile.
- 4. Vocalization; telling the person they are being nice.
- 5. Many other reactions, from pride and embarrassment to "thank you."
The point is that we all make up the sentences, but our reactions can be very different. That clearly indicates to me that the words used in the sentences are different. This can be of great value. If any human being can have a positive, uplifting reaction to an event or concept, then every human being who is experiencing stress in the same circumstances has some hope of re-arranging their beliefs to help their reactions change from stressful to pleasant.
It's been very clear to me for many years now that we experience stress as a result of trying to twist Reality to suit our comfort, convenience, and concupiscence. (Sorry, but that was the only word that came to mind when I tried to think of a third "c" word). In other words, we act in selfishness; even at the lowest levels of our usual definition of the word selfish. A good single term might be Protectionism. Whatever, it's all those times when we take care of Number One, first. That behavior results in stress somewhere in the future; how long probably depends on how clever a person is at hiding the selfishness.
Recognizing that our Head Sentences are keys to our Core beliefs gives us a way to eliminate a little more stress from our lives. I repeat, we make up little sentences in our heads. It's how we order our thoughts. I guess most of those sentences never reach our vocal cords. But it feels like the more intense concepts push their way out and we "talk to our selves." Who hasn't muttered under his breath at the jerk on the freeway?
Now that we understand that we "talk" to our selves and call it thinking, we can see that the person who replies to an age-old question by saying, "No, I don't talk to myself," doesn't understand his thoughts very well. That's practically all we do. Who hasn't experienced running conversations in his head?
And again, there's nothing wrong with that. It's a necessity of order. What's the problem, then? The problem is that most of us are oblivious to, 1- the beliefs that found the words, and 2-that we can't express those concepts with the pitifully inadequate and limiting words we use. It takes paragraphs to express a simple physical sensation, like a burn. High abstraction increases the volume of expression exponentially. If we have trouble with burns, how can we talk about love? If we have a hard time describing that feeling of first snuggling under the bedcovers each night, that great "Ahhhhhh," there aren't enough words to describe our frustration. When I think of frustration, it binds me up like some mummy.
You can't say what you mean, not even close to 100%. So? Our basic beliefs get twisted by our inadequate words. That makes them easy to pass over or ignore. We can think, "Well, that's not right, but I know what I mean." Sound familiar? But that's a trap. That sentence still becomes the "position" we've taken on the subject. We accept our woefully inadequate, deficient construct of reality; thereby, serving our Frame Of Reference beliefs. The next time the concept comes up, we fall right back into those same erroneous words we have stored from the last time. Four or five experiences later those words become the Way Things Are.
Here's how that looks in the daylight. If we've accepted the Sub-belief that most everyone "has an angle" which will result in our disadvantage, then we'll react like number two above. That was the person who got all paranoid, and avoided eye contact with the person holding the door open. Overblown beliefs, like paranoia, literally fill a life with stress.
We not only construct sentences and thereby order our thoughts. We talk ourselves into behavior-governing beliefs. Someone who doesn't recognize this will almost never ask himself, "Why'd I say that?" He's letting himself get away with murder. Every one of those little sentences that has some foundation in fear "kills" another little bit of the Real Self. Our fear always goes to self-protection. We spend great amounts of energy protecting ourselves from the "harshness of life." We feel we have to insure not only our survivability, but also our popularity, our finances, our position. Our fear shuts down the functions of the Real Self.
Let me clarify what I mean when I use the term Real Self. I guess that would have to be that part that isn't our ego. Soul isn't quite right, but expresses the fact that it's something beyond the physical. The Essential Self, might be another way to say it. Our spirit Self might also fit. Do you think that the part of us that is "present with the Lord" at death, is above the fears that we live by? I think yes. Doesn't It see through our insecurities? Surely. Can it physically do anything about it? NO. As I say below, It is a slave to our consciousness. It can't stop us from committing suicide.
It's the "eternal" side of us, and I'm sure It knows well what's going on with us.
Our Real Self isn't afraid of surviving, or what other people say or do. Our Real Self knows It is completely equipped to deal with ANY physical circumstance. We were made to live in the physical environment. Self has complete confidence in Its survivability. It also knows that no outside force can affect Its basic structure. There is only One external force that can truly affect the Self. God. But that effect results in a different You. So, technically, even God can't change us in the way we think other people can change us, or affect us by their words or acts. Our real Selves are inviolate.
But the Real Self is a slave to our decisions and hasn't the power to act on us physically. It can't forcibly make us run away from an oncoming train, if we've decided on a test of strength with the locomotive.
It's a courageous thing, looking for our Not Spots. Remember those holes of negativity that corrupt our thinking? Those little pockets of fear that help us twist Right for our own use? It's hard work, and continual embarrassment, recognizing and dealing with our shortcomings, deficiencies. But wouldn't it be better to go through a bit of pain than live the rest of our lives based on false beliefs? We don't do well, psychologically, in an environment of separation. Fear always causes a separation. You see a bear, you split! Fear at the thought level keeps chipping away, day after day, until one day we notice that we are completely alone, cut off from humanity.
When we act out our fears, we are NOT acting integrated with Reality. We are separating ourselves, just a bit with each fearful decision/action, from Reality. Do that long enough, you become completely separate. One possible point of confusion was my statement about "waking up one day." In actuality, I don't think there would be such a wake up. Inherent in the separation process is the determined ignorance of the separation. By the time we're completely separate, we probably don't have "eyes" enough to really see the separation. At the higher levels of fear, I think the Fearful Separated One would be glad of not having to interact with all those people, who are out to get him.
Folks were meant to work together; trust one another in at least some basic areas of life. That's what cities demonstrate. On certain basic levels of survival, cities are maintained by vast numbers of people cooperating in some of the foundational elements of the city's existence. People who never see each other their whole lives, who live at opposite ends of Chicago, cooperate by stopping at a red light. Laugh, but that's a fundamental to survival. It sounds small until some jerk broadsides you. We rarely focus on, or realize how great our cooperation is with others. "Come on. People can live without ever coming into contact with other people!" Are you one of those one-in-five hundred thousand? How many in this country go decades without human contact?
We live together. And how we act with each other is directly governed by the beliefs we hold. The beliefs we hold are "physically" realized in our verbalizations.
A lot of folks are searching around trying to find out Who they are. Bad choice of words. I think we all know who we are. I know that few of us "know" what we do. Trying to find out "who we are" can be an abstract dead end, and lead to our giving up the search. Even though all our actions are governed by our beliefs, can we think or assume that we are those beliefs? No.
We know with certainty that beliefs can change, and old behavior abandoned. C.S. Lewis cites childhood beliefs as an example. The beliefs that found, "Don't cross the street," change to something quite different in a teenager, and again in middle age, even in old age. We aren't our beliefs. And the good news is, it's relatively simple to change our beliefs and live richer lives. It's hard and can't be done by tomorrow, but it's possible.
Head Sentences are the door to our Beliefs. I've learned, "If you want to know what you believe, look at what you do, or say." And in the present context, that means prying apart those Head Sentences to discover the beliefs that found them.
I used to know a guy that jokingly liked to say, "Do you ever think about the things you think about?" What have you been thinking lately? What have you been talked into by your erroneous beliefs' use of inadequate words to express your experience?
Surely, any Head Sentence that contains a negative element should be examined and dissected in order to carve out the Not Spot, so healing can take place.
My advice is, when you talk to yourself?, listen.
To the Backwoods Philosopher Index page.
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