Who is the real boss in your mind?
Almost since the day you were born, you have been the victim of unconscious programming from internal and external processes. It is funny how those with the strongest minds and most forceful personalities will insist that hypnosis doesn’t work on them, that they are not influenced by others and that they are masters of their own world. Sadly, this is simply not true. It is a fiction.
We come into the world like a boxed computer; there’s an operating system in place but the software is yet to come. Language, culture, religion, attitudes and experiences all follow. The external programming that takes place is easy to see - parents, peers, family, teachers, religious representatives, media, art, dramas...the list, quite literally, is endless.
Voices from within
The internal programming is slightly more subtle and yet even more powerful. This is where we collaborate with our own growth...or downfall. Every experience is compared and contrasted with past experiences and measured against hopes, dreams and expectations. All these concepts are interdependent which means the sense of self and its level of contentment is governed by a boatload of phenomena that are mainly unconscious. Put simply, the unconscious chatter that goes on in our minds is also affecting our sense of who we are, the world we live in and our place within it.
Awakening: the first step
Realising that we have an internal world of barely audible mental chatter, thoughts, reflections, memories, feelings and emotions that are governing how we engage with people, situations and our environment is the first step to liberating ourselves from our programming.
But that is a scary thought. That means accepting that our religion isn’t the absolute truth, that our customs and beliefs have been inherited. What? How dare he say this! I am a [insert faith denomination here] because I genuinely believe it to be true and I choose it every day. Sorry. That is simply not true. I am not dismissing religion and culture and I mean no offence to those who value tradition. These are positive software packages that have been installed into our operating systems, but software packages nevertheless.
If you don’t accept the programming is happening, if you don’t acknowledge that many aspects of your attitude and approach to life have been determined by birth because of the influences you have been exposed to, then there will be large parts of your psychological landscape that you have no hope of unravelling. Your mind will read like a classified government document with large swathes of text and images blacked out.
I’ve been programmed: now what?
Just like the software on your phone, mental programming can be updated or overwritten. Even the entire operating system can be changed. The operating system is a different kettle of fish and not the focus of this article however, for clarity, you can think of it as the physical status of the person - how their brains are hardwired, physical health etc. If you suffer a stroke, you may have to start again from scratch with an entirely different operating system than you had before.
Let’s look at the programming process and how we can take control of it. There are a number of ways that we can consciously program our minds. Some or all of these will be familiar to you but you may not have thought of them as programming techniques. These are:
Prayer as a mental programming technique
Let’s look at the Christian’s “Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father” as an example. This is just an example and I am not singling out Christians from any other religion. The prayer reads like this:
“Our father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
When a Christian recites this prayer, they believe they are speaking directly to the almighty, one God, that God will hear this prayer from them personally and that God can choose to respond to it. Regardless of whether what they believe is true or not, while they believe it to be true (faith can move mountains), there is a mechanism that will bring about internal peace and contentment - and better outcomes for the person in their everyday life. When we break the prayer down, we see that it contains several principles that are vital to growth and mental health:
When a person makes a conscious choice to be mindful of these things in their day-to-day life, the results can be transformative. In my mind, it is no coincidence that practitioners of the faith feel as though they are experiencing a genuine relationship with the living Christ and/or with God. These principles allow us to engage with reality more effectively. The result, a much more charismatic person. Note the root of the word, “charisma” - Krishna and Christ both share that root. We see the word in Russian as well - “Xarasho” (pronounced Ch-ah-rosh-oh where “ch” sounds similar to the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”).
This is not intended to be a religious post however, for those that feel I am chipping away at their faith, let me reframe it in a different way. My assertion that prayer is a form of mental programming does not have to mean there is no God but it does require a different way of thinking about God. Some believe that we are all part of the one living God, sharing a universal consciousness. By the same token, by tuning into our “bigger mind”, we have the power to completely reset our software.
Arguably, most people identify with their software, their ego identity, which means they spend their lives experiencing an identity crisis as one version of self after another is corrupted, becomes obsolete or ineffective, or completely collapses (mental illness, neurosis, breakdown).
The problem with prayer
If you have ever met a devoutly religious person who has encountered a crisis in their faith, there lies the problem. They have to keep the faith. Faith really does move mountains. If the faith is not there, the conviction is not there in the prayers. They become ineffective. Negative thinking sets in. This affects how the person interacts with their world and that behaviour affects their outcomes. It is a vicious circle. Prayer works well until we lose our most precious loved ones or some other dreadful event takes place.
That said, even when people lose faith or experience doubt, prayer still has some effect. Evidence has suggested that when we say something with our physical or internal voice, the subconscious believes it - even if our conscious self doesn’t.
What about hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a collaborative game played by two or more people. The person to be hypnotised agrees to allow the hypnotist access to their minds. The hypnotist acts a facilitator really to help the subject reframe their thinking but it is a collaboration. The hypnotist cannot make the other person do anything that person would not want to do. Does that mean the person has to give permission to be hypnotised?
We do not have to give permission to be hypnotised. We do not even need to believe that hypnosis is possible. If a hypnotist wanted to get you to run around the street naked, this is not likely to happen. You would see them coming from a mile away and you would resist the attempts to be programmed. The gate would be closed.
Hypnosis is happening all around us
One only has to look at how drastically fashion trends can change or other ways that people allow themselves to be influenced by advertising, celebrity culture or slick copywriting to see how much our mindsets are subtly being worked on by external forces.
When we agree to be hypnotised and we cooperate with the hypnotist’s instructions, it is possible for us to enter a very deep trance-like state, where ideas can be placed using affirmations, storytelling and visualisation techniques. The effect can be intense and powerful.
What’s the problem with hypnosis?
Imagine the least tech-savvy person in the office. They spend all day on a computer, opening window after window without ever shutting one down, never clearing their temporary internet files or their emails.
Every few months, they hit a critical point when their computers can’t function due to a shortage of working memory (for example). So they give a call to the IT person. The IT person logs on to their machine remotely and identifies the problem or fixes it. The problem is solved but it is temporary.
The hypnotist gives you fish but doesn’t show you how to fish
The IT person may give a lecture on best practice but if it doesn’t sink in or is not understood, they are given another call three months later.
So it is with hypnosis. When we agree to be hypnotised, we allow the hypnotist to help us fix a particular problem - smoking, chocolate addiction, aversion to exercise - but we are not necessarily any wiser in terms of how our own mind works.
What is auto-hypnosis or self-talk?
Once you understand the mechanisms at work, you can hypnotise yourself. Even by saying positive things to yourself on the way to a date (“I look great. They will love me.”), the mindset can be affected. This is why it is so important to be mindful of the words that come out of our mouths and the thoughts that we allow ourselves to dwell on.
Those who study a little more can learn how to take themselves into a deeper trance or they use music to achieve the same objective. Then they will repeat carefully crafted affirmations or listen to a well-written visualisation script, to reset their thinking.
What’s not to love here? Nothing it all. It is all good. However, just like hypnosis, what we are doing is going in and fixing specific issues that we have identified. We are not gaining a greater understanding of our mind. There are many blind spots.
Meditation as a route to mental programming
Let me first of all start by spelling out what I mean by meditation and differentiating it from mindfulness. This is a subtle, yet important point.
If we choose to focus all our attention on this moment, every physical sensation, every aspect of our perception etc., then that is mindfulness and yes, it is meditation as well. Meditation, in the strictest sense, is not something that is done. It is how other things are done!
Mindfulness will only go so far in helping us grow because if I am being mindful while I eat my favourite food or mindful while I practise tai chi, the focus is on the activity of eating or the feeling of movement through the tai chi forms. That is great but won’t necessarily deliver increased self-knowledge, wisdom or the meaning of life.
If I decide to practise mindfulness while I am lying down or sitting still in a quiet place, as my awareness “realises” that there is nothing to see in the outside world, it has to focus its attention inwards - to the mind, to the internal world. This is what I mean by meditation.
Author: Jane Bolto
With a background in Marketing, Jane Bolto currently works as a Content Specialist at Nybizdb.com. Always willing to share her passion for new marketing strategies.
Finding balance in life is incredibly important. One of the secrets to finding happiness is capturing that balance, so that everything in life is steady and even. You should never be too stressed, too worried, too angry, too hurt. These things need to be addressed before you can find happiness. Here’s how a meditation retreat helped me to find that balance, and to understand how it makes a real difference to life.
The first thing that I learned was that physical balance is an important foundation. When you sit in your meditation pose, you should always find a comfortable balance. You should sit neither hunched forward, nor leaning back. You should not tilt to one side or the other. When you take your seat, gently rock your body around until you find that exact middle point. You will feel the tension flowing out of your body as you find your centre. If you cannot get your physical balance right, it is very difficult to let go of physical concerns and detach your mind. If you can’t do that, then mental balance is nearly impossible.
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