I’m not really much of a spiritual person, so it does cause some resistance straight away when many self help solutions for anxiety and depression seem to point toward ‘spiritual healing’.
Rightly or wrongly, being an engineer by background has always forced to me to seek solutions to any problem, from engineering principles. I’ve therefore spent some time considering the notion that the thinking mind is much like any other complex machine, and hoping this might give me an edge in my own therapy with the fundamental principle being that you can’t fix anything until you know how it works…or at least know how it behaves when operated in a certain way.
Let’s consider it like a piece of hardware with a rather clever operating system. Maybe we can diagnose some problems by seeing how it learns. Most of our day to day actions and routines are performed largely automatically, actions that have been committed to our subconscious minds from repetitive learning and testing within our conscious thinking mind. Imagine trying to make a cup of tea if you’d never seen a kettle, water or tea bags before…The seemingly ridiculously simple task is near impossible unless you have that previously learned and rigorously tested programme buried in the operating system of your subconscious mind.
Driving a car involves a convoluted and complicated set of actions with many inputs, feedback loops and subroutines, but yet we are capable of undertaking it with the absolute minimum of conscious thinking. When I used to drive a lot for work, I could often reach my destination and have no memory of significant parts of the journey. Scary….
The ability of the brain to shortcut the need to continuously analyse and learn by remotely accessing our unconscious for a handy set of learned instructions is essential to our survival. It’s faster, more efficient and less taxing on the old grey matter. Imagine the complexity of describing in physiological terms the precise actions of walking one step, the interaction between muscle, nerve, visual and balance systems. How would you actually undertake that without any previous knowledge?.. Basically it would be the same as being a baby taking its first tentative steps, and without this ability to do these things without thinking, we wouldn’t have had much chance of ever progressing to running.
But this kind of amazing automatic thinking behaviour has pitfalls. In its effort to make ‘doing stuff’ much quicker and more efficiently, we can end up storing all sorts of learned behaviours and more relevant to our mental health, thoughts and beliefs, some of which are painful and damaging to our existence.
As children we may have experienced a trauma that your ‘thinking brain’ wrote a ‘belief programme’ about and stored it away, deep in your unconscious memory banks. At this early stage in our development we aren’t equipped with the skills to make sense of the fact, or determine the reasons why for instance, Dad would get angry for no apparent reason or that Mum struggled to leave the house.
If left unchallenged or untested, these thought programmes just remain in use everyday, being accessed and used without a thought to their accuracy or truth. They also lead to further associations being made, a sort of mind self programming behaviour. The mind starts to invent its own programs and convinces you that you’d written them in the first place. If you believed X, then it’s now logical and correct that you should believe Y. So before we know it, as adults we have an entire belief system, based on something that may or may not have happened right back in our childhood and more scarily, beliefs based on something we’ve never experienced but our minds have convinced us that we have because it looks similar to something that happened to you years ago.
If like me, you were stung badly on several different occasions by wasps, as a child, your mind might reasonably write a program that wasps are bad and are all out to sting you, but then your mind starts to take validation from the fact that you wave your arms like a helicopter every time one flies within 10 yards of you. In its efforts to protect you, it writes an additional chunk of code that all flying insects are evil, especially anything that carries any sort of stinging appendage. I managed to reprogram some of that but I still hate wasps with a passion.
Some people are afraid of flying, some of heights, some of speaking in public. Most of these fears haven’t come from direct experience, just the code that was written and bolted on to some original fear that your mind thought was dangerous to your existence.
We all have them, faulty programmes dictating our future lives, with anxiety and depression being the result of the relentless struggle to deal with the bad feelings they create.
The solution to this is to maybe go back and start analysing those faulty instructions. I don’t think you particularly need to know what caused it in the first place. The more pressing concern is addressing the thoughts that are making you feel bad. This to me is a surefire indicator that something isn’t working properly and where to start looking first. So armed with my best diagnostic tools I’ve decided that I’m testing the thoughts that don’t work so well.
One such tool is ‘reversing the thought’. If you for instance harbour the belief that you are worthless, reverse the statement to ‘I am worthy’. This seemingly trivial action plays a trick on your mind. It disrupts the stored program and your brain will throw a fatal exception error in its efforts to run the code for the standard belief you are used to thinking.
Start to train your subconscious with a new set of programming instructions based on a new more accurate belief. Give it supporting evidence based on the new instruction. Make the code robust, check for errors until you can get it to run all by itself without intervention. This may not be a quick process and may involve many days, weeks or months of continuous testing depending on just how critical that particular routine was, but adopting this principle is sure to start getting your conscious thinking brain working much more smoothly and causing you a lot less pain.
I’ve tried it and it works but sometimes the old code restores itself…
I suspect maybe the brain has a backup hard disk system…
Work in progress…