Is Your Mind Lying to You?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about the pattern of beliefs that run through my mind. I have noticed that my beliefs are always explaining an emotional “feeling.”

When we (I) say things that are declarations about how the world is (actual, “reality,” etc.), I know that those belief(s) are just one direction of more than one available – like does winter weather in Vancouver suck or is it great? It’s wet, dark and cold – sucks for a cyclist, right? Or is it great because we have the most beautiful rainforest in the world, and it’s ice-free and warm compared to the rest of Canada, and a massive acceleration of daylight and beauty follows soon after and, therefore, great? Two opposite stories about the same event, right?

I got a ticket the other day for cell phone use while driving. A great example to discuss the narrative of the mind here. For days I have thought I’m right, they (cops, lawmakers, etc.) are wrong, no question. I have ironclad logic about their wrongness and my superior and special status to drive how I like based on 39 years of accident-free driving, blah, blah, blah. Well, the main event is not any of that.

The Main Event is feeling vulnerable, narrative reading attacked, controlled, etc. It’s a feeling, an old one, that I don’t like, followed by another one that’s not very pretty. Anger and a desire for conflict by going to court, forcing the cop to show up (to reclaim my power, in order to feel safe by dominating the situation). So then my mind goes to work on a narrative and in about 10 seconds has a sound argument about my righteousness and their wrongness that goes exactly according to a pattern.

An old pattern: I want safety that I believe comes, at least in part from control (power). I frequently feel in control (a delusion, as we are not in control but surfing a beautiful wave, the direction we can only partially control). I lose the feeling of power when I am violated (another illusion) by cops, for example.

For me, it has paid to deconstruct these machinations of the mind. There is always, always a pattern: an external event that activates old, unpleasant inner emotions. The mind instantly creates a supporting narrative of a particular flavor. It’s all based on fear rather than love.

The problem is that if unaddressed, the pattern doesn’t heal. It continues, as there is an endless supply of external events available to provide the opportunity for the old feeling to return. It was never far from the surface to begin with. In my case, I had a controlling mother, who, while loving, told me how, and what and when to feel. So I must take responsibility for attracting that interaction with the cop and for my feelings and recognize my potential mental war. The whole thing is an opportunity for awareness and healing. Acceptance is the only way to internal peace. I must accept the situation. Then I can laugh about it.

I have a metaphoric exercise: Draw a line down a piece of paper. Write all the negative stuff on left: cop wrong, law wrong, the bullshit quota of the Police Dept. to generate revenue. After all, I was moving at a walking pace in stop and go traffic when the bastard, er, excuse me, officer pulled me over. On the right make a long list of current blessings: I am free. I have abundance. I am healthy. It is an honor to interact with my brother. The officer, who I love and who serves me by keeping me and my family safe, by reminding people to drive safely—I have a temptation here to return to judging—it was a beautiful sunny, warm day. It was a minimum penalty of $167 divide that by one ticket every four years it’s about $0.11 per day that I joyously offer for this privilege of safe roads. I get to use freely every day.

The question is, in which story do I prefer to live? In one where I am suffering or in one where I am not.

Let me repeat: if I live in the story on the left, I am suffering as it is living out an old, unhealed, emotional pattern. If I live in the story on the right, I’m in peace and joy.

And both stories are true and completely available!

So, what am I saying? Watch declarations of the mind as they may not be true, but merely supporting old beliefs. We can choose to live on the right side of the page, but it involves the willingness to dismiss old beliefs.

There is contrast in the world every day, and we simply place our attention on the part of contrast that we prefer.

Consider this: Did I aggress against you by not showing up when I think you thought I said I would (or, however, the narrative reads)? What feeling happened? What was the main event? Is it a familiar feeling? Of course, it’s an old feeling, probably a pattern that returns. It doesn’t matter from where the feeling came. (I believe we are composed of about 50% experience from environment of origin and 50% genetic memory passed to us.). What would the right side of the page read if the mind were asked to compose it? This sent me off to review my theory, always a further examination of what’s going on within me.

So I might say assess the “actual” feelings rather than the mind’s analysis of the world, as the mind’s analysis can be highly biased to support feelings. (See Wiki: Cognitive Bias for a basic introduction and List of Cognitive Biases for an impressive list of the mind’s potential trickery.)

My recommendation: Stick with the main event, the feeling, and disregard the supporting narrative. Only then can the healing continue.

Photo Credit: Marko Milošević via Compfight cc

Chris Gruver

Chris Gruver is an artist, athlete, model, spiritual journeyer living in Vancouver, BC, far from his old country of somewhere in the southern US. He believes he’s been on the road for about 30 years and has plans only to continue the dream.

One Comment
  1. Dori Owen

    This is such a great way of thinking, Chris, and really challenged me to look at a $184 toll road ticket in a much different manner. I am going to try to learn this skill and apply it to life situations much more important than a lousy too road ticket. Thanks for such a thoughtful essay questioning learned behaviors that really CAN change! –Dori

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