Do you control your mind – or does it control you?

Robot

This is yet another addition to the lenghthening list of articles on controlling Headmind that have appeared on this blog.

It seems to be the one problem most people struggle with in therapy and in life:

  • Eliminating negative thoughts
  • Ignoring the Chatterbox
  • Laughing off worries
  • Heading off panic attacks
  • Forgetting guilt
  • Putting the brakes on obsessions
  • Doing the dirty on perfectionism
  • Postponing procrastination

So I am continually being asked for more techniques on how to control what some people like to call ‘Rational Mind’ when it is doing dumb, stupid, things. And I agree that it helps to have a variety of techniques on offer so that if one does not work something else will. So I am going to share one of my recent discoveries with you.

It came about when I was looking up one of my favourite works – The Wasteland – by T.S. Eliot and I was reminded that Eliot had, in fact, had a nervous breakdown shortly before completing the poem.

I then learnt that Eliot recovered from his breakdown in a sanatorium in Lausanne during the summer of 1922 while under the supervision of Dr Roger Vittoz, who treated anxiety problems by teaching his patients how to control Headmind with the aid of specific techniques devised by him.

His premise is that anxious people have lost control of their own minds and are paying attention to garbage. When they learn how to edit out negative words, objects, images and statements and replace it with their own content they get back control. Many of his exercises seem quite trivial at first but if you practice doing them every day for, say, a few weeks, the accumulative effect is that one is back in charge. And I can vouch from personal observation that some of the exercises work very quickly indeed.

One of them works like this.

Write out a worry statement. For example:

I CAN’T COPE WITH OTHER PEOPLE

Now imagine that you are flashing up each letter on a screen, one by one, until you have the complete statement.

Now delete each letter of the statement one-by-one, working backwards.

Next, you replace the first statement with something more empowering. For example:

I AM LEARNING HOW TO COPE BETTER

And then you ‘flash’ each letter of that statement up on the screen until it is complete. Look at the statement for a few moments, and then decide on one thing you can do in order to act on it.

Like all Vittoz’s techniques, it works on repetition. So use it every time you catch Headmind giving you a hard time with that particular worry.

If you would like to get a free copy of the English translation of Vittoz’s book on mind control  – How to Control Your Brain at Will then you can download it from here.

 

How to be unique

Download (1)
This is a continuation of my series on becoming the person you were always meant to be. The last article in the series was How to be strange. And the one before that was Why it’s ok to be a bit weird.

A second way to be strange, weird or unique is to be an incontrovertible expert in something. Or in two things. Or in three, four, five things. To become an authority on them in fact.

Now it helps if you choose subjects that a lot of other people are fascinated by. But it isn’t strictly necessary. For example, if you choose to become an expert on Palmistry or reading the Tarot then I can guarantee you a ready audience from personal experience for the simple reason that most people are fascinated by the occult, even when they pooh-pooh it. But if you decide to become, instead, an expert on Egyptian hieroglyphics the fact that you know a lot about something practically nobody knows anything about will give you a certain cachet – which is a source of pride to you, even if you happen never to speak about it. For the simple reason that Knowledge equals Power.

Another, very good, choice is to become an expert in solving problems that everybody struggles with. For example: money management, child care, dealing with difficult people, employment law, maintaining a house, etc. Knowing a lot about those things will usually mean that you end up becoming an advisor of some kind – that, too, is a great way to exploring your personal power.

One word of warning, however. Whatever project you choose, it helps to be guided by your Personal Genius.

 

 

 

How to be strange

Laugh

I once read a statistic – and I can't remember the exact figures that were quoted to me – that the odds are several trillion-to-one that someone could be born with the same genetic code as yours. Which, effectively, means that you are absolutely unique. There will never be another person with your temperament, character, experiences and personal gifts until God goes to sleep for good. 

However humdrum or unhappy your life might be at the moment you are a special person. You have unique experiences and perceptions that no one else will ever have. And it doesn't matter whether you have a humdrum life, or whether you suffer from the delusion that you are a failure. Nor does it matter if other people fail to appreciate just how different you really are. Just get on with the task of becoming the person you were always meant to be. Or, as I advised in my last article – cultivate your weirdness.

One way to do that is to start following what your personal genius wants you to do. Another is to break free of your personality. But there are other ways, and I shall write about each of them:

  • Be playful with the truth.
  • Become an expert at least one thing.
  • Break away from slavery.

 Be playful with the truth

I don't mean play with the truth (meaning: tell lies). I mean: telling the truth so straightforwardly that you make people laugh. Even telling the raw truth, just as you see it, is often amusing, as well as fascinating. As a rule, saying shocking things about yourself works best, but you can do the same for life, god, other people, or about anything else you like. As Bernard Shaw once said, telling the raw truth will be taken by most people as an outrageously witty thing to do.

Some examples:

1. Abraham Lincoln was once heckled at a rally and accused of being 'two-faced'. Lincoln (who was famously ugly) replied: 'If I had two faces do you think I would be wearing this one?'

2. Oscar Wilde was once listening to a rather vain artist who was complaining that the critics never wrote about him and that there must be 'a conspiracy of silence' against him. 'What should I do, Oscar?' he asked. 'Join it' said Wilde. 

3. I once met a woman at a party who told me that her husband was so depressed that he had given up his job and spent most of the day in bed. I also learnt that she had gone back to work to pay all the bills while at the same time looking after their four children, running the home, and dealing with his moods. When I asked: 'Don't you get depressed too?' She replied, satirically: 'Me? Oh I don't have time to get depressed."

Einstein is a pretty good example of how an 'ordinary' person came to seem more and more interesting to others. Although it took him a long time to get there. He was a failure at school and dropped out when he was 16. One of his teachers even wrote on his school report that he was probably retarded. From thereon he lead a dreamy, secluded, life as a University academic, his theories and himself more or less unknown to most people until he was 41, when he suddenly became famous. Therafter, his eccentricities and sayings became the stuff of legend. Here is one of my favourite stories about him: one that illustrates his personal humility, and his sense of mischief, as well as his playfulness with the truth.

One day, while Einstein was on a speaking tour, his chauffeur, who often sat at the back of the hall during his lectures waiting to take him home, remarked that he could probably give the lecture himself, having heard it so many times. Thinking it over, Einstein decided to give it the test and switched places with him. As he suspected would happen, no one knew who he was or what he looked like, and the chauffeur went on to give a flawless lecture on Relativity. Things only went wrong near the end when he was asked a question he couldn't answer. The driver pointed to Einstein, sitting at the back of the hall, and said:

'The answer to that question is so simple even my driver could answer it."

 

 

Why it’s ok to be a bit weird

Weird

When I was a teenager one of my recurring worries was whether I would ever be normal. In the 1970s being 'normal' seemed to mean the exact opposite of what I was doing at the time: living on my own (and liking it that way), being on the dole, writing poetry, reading philosopy, worrying about the meaning of life, and consuming too many drugs.

Normal people, I was told, were contented with life, unlike me. They were also good at making their minds up early what job they wanted to do and sticking at it until they made lots of money. In fact, being normal, as far as I could tell, meant spending lots of time thinking about money, making it, and then spending lots more time thinking about how to spend it. So all the people I secretly admired were skilled shoppers, and bang-on-the-mark about the right clothes to wear, the best car to buy and the newest restaurants to book.

Fashion

Back in 1976 when I was having this weird phase which still hasn't come to an end yet, that meant wearing baggy high-waisted trousers, platform shoes, and flowery shirts with big collars worn with a safari-jacket. To go with the moustache, huge side-burns and and big sunglasses that were de rigueur for normals. Which fitted neatly with the Ford Capris parked outside the Lee Ho Fook at the less grubby end of Croydon High Street. 

I could, just about, cope with the fact that I was a drop-out who didn't have any money and not the least idea how to spend it and make myself look normal. But (and I am being quite truthful here) what was more disturbing to my sanity was the fact that all the well-adjusted 20-somethings I knew were getting far more sex than I was, and were planning to get wed to one of their sexual partners, buy a two-bedroomed house, and make some more money. But the thought of having endless sex on demand made normality sound quite attractive. It was only later I discovered that many normals don't, in fact, do good sex.

But weddings were a turn off because weirdos like me aren't very good at settling down to live in the same house, with the same person, doing the same job all the time. And the thought of living in New Malden for the rest of my life sounded like a prison sentence.

So being a bit weird gave me a more interesting life than might otherwise have been the case.

Next up, I will be writing about how you can cultivate the strangeness in you – and become still more interesting than you are now.

How to regain control over your mind

Dayen Here is a fascinating article sent to me by the Guru of Creative Thinking Mark McGuinness.

Here is that article. You might wish to read it first before you read the rest of my comments.

That misery called meditation – What seven days of silence did to my head

It’s about a journalist who goes on a 7-day Buddhist silent meditation retreat which does his head in. After just one day he thought he was going insane. Symptoms: intense boredom, aching, agitation, restlessness, escapism. All the signs, in fact, of a Headmind that was about to explode with frustration.

Interestingly, his Headmind adopted a very familiar tactic in such situations: which was to chatter about what other people on the retreat might be doing: making up fantasies about who was sleeping with who on the retreat. Everything you would expect, in fact, from a Headmind which would do anything at all to escape from living in the now.

But after the fourth day Bodymind takes over once more and he ends up in a much better place.

Reminds me a lot of the Teachings of Gurdjieff, on which I have written before in this blog. That, in turn, advocated that we human beings need to do a lot of work on escaping our enslavement to Headmind. But that can be difficult to do because Headmind is crafty in feeding the idea that what it thinks is ‘reality’. And then feeding the further idea that escape from that is impossible…

To remind you, Headmind hates:

Silence

Living in the present moment

Being ignored

Raw emotion

The desert (nothing to worry about or do there! – which is why Christ so frequently visited it).

But, as the article demonstrates, when you force Headmind to give up what it habitually likes to do: watch TV, read newspapers, crawl the internet, worry, fantasize, make up stories about the past, chatter about the future, then eventually it just shuts the fuck up.

And then you end up in a very nice place indeed, a place of ‘mindless salvation’; a place of overwhelming peace, happiness and fascination with the world we live in; just as if you were seeing it (again) for the very first time.

Connecting to the genius in you

Connect

In my last article I wrote about Enneagram weaknesses: how we develop a false personality by getting fixated on the way we appear to other people.

Today I want to write about Enneagram strengths. Specifically, how each of the Nine types, when the person is at a highly developed stage and is free of the ego, can be an expression of your Personal Genius.

In previous articles on Personal Genius I have described how your Genius is an expression of the divine in you. Your Genius drives you on to become the best you can be and fulfil your personal mission. It cares nothing for the approval of others; it is only concerned with making the world a better place.

My experience is that most of us are naturally drawn towards becoming one of the NIne types. Some of us make the mistake of getting hung up on approval from others, so we end  up with weaknesses rather than strengths. Some of us mistakenly identify with a lower type (usually out of  cowardice) and lose our divine mission altogether. But some of us go for one of the types, in a healthy way, because that type resonates most with our personal mission, how we see our selves impacting on the world.

Here is how each of the Enneagram types, in their original, untainted, glory seeks to express Personal Genius:

The One is a Reformer. Wants to help people  become better, purer and more honest. Ones are often Teachers, Writers, Preachers. Many great religious leaders are Ones. Example: Leo Tolstoy.

The Two is a Nurturer. Wants to help people be more loving and forgiving. The  developed  Two  tries to set an example through self-sacrificing compassion for others. Example: Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Three is a Manager. Seeks to make things more efficient for the common good. At their  best they make great managers, leaders and (respected) politicians. Example: Barack Obama.

The Four is an Artist. They can be artists with words, images, fabrics, sounds – or  even artists of life. They want to bring out the playful, creative, and original in people. They may be designers, writers and artists; or they may come across as intensely fascinating and original people in their own right. Example: Van Gogh.

The Five is concerned with Knowledge. They are  clear-thinking, objective, often brilliant – experts in at least one field. They make great teachers, scientists and philosophers. On a smaller scale they make good advisors: consultants, therapists and coaches. Example: Albert Einstein.

The Six is a Helper. They want to  make the world a friendlier place. They  sacrifice themselves for the good of the community. They prefer to work behind the scenes, keeping the family together, building up the team at work, or helping in community schemes and  organisations. Example: Princess Diana.

The Seven wants to help people become more intensely alive. They are extroverts who are fun to be with, and who bring out the best in people.  They like to entertain and make great comedians, musicians and stage performers. Or they may just  be the life and soul of the party. Example: Mick Jagger.

The Eight wants to  protect others. This  drives them on to be leaders in some way. They may  fight  for the rights of an oppressed minority, or they may want to rescue people who are in trouble.  They are natural fighters who will champion any cause they have taken to heart. Example: Martin Luther King.

The Nine is a Harmonizer. They  try to see the world through other peoples eyes and understand  how each person sees things differently. Then they  seek to bring people together and promote mutual understanding and forgiveness.

Many Enneagram teachers (including me) believe that becoming a developed Nine who is able to become any of the other 8 types, in an impersonal way, is our ultimate goal. Unlike all the other types, the Nine is not drawn to any particular vocation. Example: William Shakespeare.

 

What you can learn from Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff George Ivanovich Gurdjieff died on the 29th October 1949 in the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. Although I have little respect for Gurus (as, neither, did the man himself) and would have found Gurdjieff repellent had I actually met him, he changed my life.

I would not be alive now had I not accidentally discovered Gurdjieff’s teachings. When I was going through a bad, depressed, suicidal patch in my 20s, I came across one of Maurice Nicol’s Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky in a bookstore on the Charing Cross Road. In there, I read that all negative states were delusions. A light-bulb went off in my head. Could I actually be creating my own misery rather than being a victim of life itself?

I read on further. Not only were negative ideas fantasies but they were based on wrong work of the intellect. That the correct way out was to restore right work of the mind, the heart, the body, and the sexual instinct. That the way out from despair was to repair the intelligences in those centres and to do work on oneself in order to become a complete, fully-functioning, human being using each of those centres. That only the ego, and its relentless self-pity, could possibly get in the  way.

30 years later I am struck by just how much I had borrowed from Gurdjieff when I developed the ideas that led to Reverse Therapy. Here are a few examples:

1. That personal growth relies on hard work and humility.

2. Headmind, or the Intellect – is not necessarily the most important organ you possess. Your personal genius and your passion is equally important.

3. Headmind chatter – gossip, internal self-talk, journalism, academic writing, television – is the enemy of self-development.

4. It’s important for your health to separately pursue satisfaction for all your vital centres – emotional, physical, sexual and intellectual, on an equal basis.

5. If you rely too much on one centre you can will experience disatisfaction according to the centre you are fixated on: intellect (anxiety), emotion (sentimentality), sex (lust), or body (greed).

6. Most human beings are slaves of conditioning – out-of-date customs, insincerity, empty rituals, received ideas – which keep them asleep.

7. The task that God (Gurdjieff refers to him as ‘His Endlessness’) sets us is to wake up and serve his purpose: to wake up other people and live a more intensive life.

8. That the word Sin (in ancient Greek) means merely ‘missing the point’. No human being is born evil in the Christian sense. Our only ‘sin’ is to fall asleep again.

9. All living creatures are ‘idiots’ which (in Greek) means they try to go their own way regardless of others. Even God, in this sense, is an idiot. Realising that you, too, are an idiot, provides humor as well as compassion for others.

10. The purpose of life is self-development to the point at which you can appreciate God’s purpose. Which is love. But love is not a matter or words or fine feelings. It relates to empathy – your deep appreciation of the idiot who exists beside you. And who needs your appreciation (and humor) as much as you do hers.

The Personality Surgeon

I am a big fan of Colin Wilson (pictured right), who’s written numerous books on the theme of The Outsider – people living on the edge of society, misfits who have to find a way to channel their passion into something creative. Otherwise, their passion will turn inwards and destroy them. So unhealthy outsiders become alcoholics, criminals, black magicians, madmen. Healthy outsiders become visionaries, spiritual leaders, artists or humble therapists. The difference is that the latter have connected to a purpose – something beyond self and society that keeps them connected and keeps them sane. I can vouch from personal experience that this is entirely true.

This weekend I read Wilson’s novel ‘The Personality Surgeon‘ again. I first read it in 1988 while I was wondering whether I wanted to become a psychotherapist or not. Most of my friends thought I was crazy as the pay was crap and you only ever got to meet dodgy people (they meant the other psychotherapists). But reading that book clinched it for me. And now, when I read it again, I am astounded by the fact that so many of the ideas that went into Reverse Therapy years later are in that book. It’s just that I had ‘forgotten’ about them.

The Personality Surgeon is an ordinary GP called Charles Peruzzi working in South London who stumbles upon the reason why people become ill with Depression, Anxiety and unnecessary diseases. Their  personality has taken them over and squeezed the life out of them. Personality is the fixed identity we have taken over from the way other people see us and which we store in our head. When we identify with it too rigidly the effort required to stay in the strait jacket drains us of vitality. That is especially true if the personality we have adopted is timid, self-denying, conventional, or a people-pleaser.

In the book Peruzzi discovers that a shock or a crisis can be enough to
catapult his patients out of the personality strait-jacket. A surge of
vitality comes up out of the body to meet the crisis, overwhelm the
fixed ideas of Headmind and (once the crisis has passed) point them to a
new way of life.

I had also forgotten all the cases Wilson cites and, since he credits
some medical doctors with help on the book, it is likely they were
taken from real life.

  • One man develops urticaria (a painful skin rash) after he retires and no longer has any purpose in life. He is cured when his daughter drives her car into the river and he goes into shock. Later on he starts up a new business.
  • An airline stewardess tries to commit suicide as she can no longer live with the disfiguring facial scars she sustained in an airline accident. She ‘sees’ herself as a freak. But once she recovers she loses her poor self-image just by behaving differently with men: assertive rather than meek.
  • A US Astronaut becomes severely depressed after the Moon landing project ends. But his real problem was that he chose the wrong career to follow next. Instead of following his real love: ecology, he becomes a politician. And once he loses that personality, his depression goes.

Colin Wilson writes about all the things we pay attention to in Reverse Therapy. How symptoms of illness come up when we are living a life based on repressed emotions and lies. How rigid ideas keep us trapped. How we get healthy again by taking risks. How we became ill by relating to people dishonestly and can get well again by becoming more authentic. Most, importantly, health depends on vitality, and vitality depends on exercising your love of life.

But if you are ever feeling depressed then read The Personality Surgeon. That alone will be enough to revitalise you. It’s an inspiring work.

Dr. Miller says we are pessimistic because life seems like a very bad, very screwed-up film. If you ask “What the hell is wrong with the projector?” and go up to the control room, you find it’s empty. You are the projectionist, and you should have been up there all the time.”       
Colin Wilson

 

The Rasputin Guide to Healing

Years ago, before I discovered Reverse Therapy, I wrote a spoof on psychotherapy called The Rasputin Guide to Therapy. The joke was that Rasputin – the so-called ‘Mad Monk’ of legend – might have had something more useful to say about getting people well than po-faced psychologists. In particular I was critical of the tendency of most forms of therapy to focus on Headmind, with complicated theories about why people get broken – not how they can be helped to get well. Specifically, how they can be guided towards connecting to Bodymind and accessing emotions. And then doing something about them.

Although I never published it there were some good things in it. In one chapter ‘Rasputin’ talks about the way people get trapped in convention and can become ill if they lose track of their passion. In another he discusses how so-called ‘intelligent’ people can actually become stupid if they get trapped in the intellect. In still another he advocates teaching people how to dance when they get stuck. In general Rasputin advocates that we will be healthier when we take time out to appreciate the simple things of life: friendship, love, nature, travel. In real life Rasputin once walked 2000 miles from Siberia to Jerusalem, along the way feeling inspired by the sea, the mountains, the lakes and the changing seasons on the way.

Here are a few of ‘Rasputin’s’ tips for a healthy life.

• Never give away your power to another person. This applies to partners, employers, children, parents, teachers and – most especially – gurus who claim to have better answers than you do to life’s problems. As human beings they will be struggling with their own problems and will not know more than you do about your own best way forward in life.

• Trust in yourself. Learn to recognise what is true for you and be guided by your own emotions about things.

• Learn to dance, sing or play music. At the very least you will get an endorphin rush.

• Whatever you do for a living, or if you care for others, then do it with a passion. If doing things is an obligation rather than a pleasure then be sure to balance these chores with other activities for which you do have a passion.

• Never look back. If things go wrong, or if you are sad and disillusioned, then move on and find a better way of life.

• Take risks – often. You will never find out what you are capable of unless you experiment. And the more you move outside the comfort zone Headmind has circumscribed for you the more confident you will become.

• Seek the humour in things. If you are not very good at doing that then spend plenty of time with people who are.

• Make time for people you love.

• Be honest. Don’t compromise on the truth just to keep someone else in their comfort zone. Practice gently opening your heart to others.

• Cultivate enlightened selfishness. If you don’t take a break or go easy on yourself from time to time you won’t be able to care for others. Even Christ and the Buddha needed time off from their mission.

Finally, here are some of Rasputin’s mistakes to avoid:

• Don’t drink too much
• Don’t give away all you have
• Don’t trust strangers who invite you to their house at midnight (they might want to shoot you)
• Don’t get mixed up with the Royal family