Every self-help book. Maybe I’ll finish this someday.

 

 

 

(Note from August, 2017:

I’ve been going back through stuff I wrote while in school,

and some of it is ridiculous, so I thought I’d share it.

This was written April 17, 2012.

You’re welcome.)

 

Troubleshooting the Mind

By D C Arnold

 

 

              First, if you skip these pages, you won’t get anything out of this book, and you may in fact inflict mental damage to yourself.

 

This book is written to be read in order the first time. Specifically because I will tell you to put down the book.

 

Firstly, humans have a communication issue these days. English is a very complex language, but people have literally begun building different definitions of things within their social sphere.

 

Ever talked to someone, and they got angry at something you said, and you didn’t know why?

 

Ever gotten angry at something someone said, when it was retroactively obvious that they had no intention of pissing you off?

 

Food for thought: Why would anyone want to piss you off while having a conversation with you? They could just as easily pinch your arm, and get a much quicker reaction.

 

Keep that thought in mind for a few pages. If you lose my train of thought, scroll back and read again. This book may seem repetitive, but repetition is literally the vehicle for change.

 

              Everyone who meets the Dalai Lama has a deep understanding of what a human being at utter peace looks like.

 

              He feels no fear, except to fear for other people.

              No jealousy.

              No shame, except for what other people do to themselves and others.

 

              What if I were to tell you that everyone is capable of this?

 

Bull^$%, you say!

What if I were to add that there are methods to enact this change voluntarily, within a matter of a few years?

 

Triple bull^%$^! I know, it seems stupid.

 

After all, if everyone was able to control their thoughts and fears, wouldn’t everyone already be doing it? Of course! No one wants to feel negative emotional stress, pain, depression, anxiety, nervousness, inadequacy. Or do they? Stow that thought, too.

 

Chapter 1

Getting in the mood

 

              There may be some model by which to troubleshoot our thoughts and feelings; I have one. Using one such model, I have conquered fears, regrets, guilt, shame, grief, jealousy, and a low self-image. Using this model, I quit a 12 year smoking habit and switched successfully to an organic diet that resulted in 35lb weight loss in six months (a speedy weight loss mechanism, considering that with my method, I never felt like I was depriving myself, and I rarely exercised except when my body got so healthy it required exercise).

 

              This first chapter asks you a series of questions, and addresses possible answers to those questions. It is meant to untangle a bit of the snag of beliefs we build up that result in neuroses.

 

              However, this method only works if you believe it will. I have much anecdotal evidence which I’ll share with you in the coming chapters, and I hope that it inspires you to truly read each word and attempt to apply similar thought experiments in your own life.

 

              Let me be perfectly clear, stern, serious, and honest with you:

 

If you have no will to change; if you don’t want to believe that change is a positive thing; or if you don’t want to believe that you are worth the effort, it will never work. Put this down right now and walk away.

If you don’t believe change is possible, though, I have some illustrations in this book to help you. In the end, in order to see even a mild result from this book, you have to consider yourself a human being capable of enjoying the finer benefits of organizing your thoughts.

Not only that, but you have to be able to isolate some things about yourself that you could change, if you could.

The smoking habit. The slight paranoia. The full-on OCD neurosis.

 

The littler problems are easier, for reasons I’ll explain later. They’re also a great way to get to know this ‘Brain as Software’ model.

 

But in order to address these issues, you must admit them, and you must be able to look at them objectively. Because we’ll be deconstructing them.

You must, in effect, be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when it comes to thinking about these things. If you can do this, you’ve got a world of positive change ahead of you.

 

Now, I want to do a thought experiment with you. Read the following list of value statements, and if you don’t agree with one of these statements, I want you to just consider why you disagree:

 

Humankind is at its best when it is at its happiest.

Happiness is worth pursuing.

Love is beneficial to humans.

Easy chances to make people happy are worth the little time it takes.

Smiling is good.

Confidence is a positive thing.

Being free of negative emotions is a good thing.

 

Man, that last one just screws with you, doesn’t it? Makes you want to erupt in frustration. When I used to hear that gibberish, I’d get just as annoyed and ‘you’re living in a fantasy world’ as the next guy.

             

              But guess what: it’s possible. For everyone.

 

              We live in an interesting world. All around us are multitudes of beautiful things, natural and synthetic, seemingly scattered about for our observation and enjoyment. Songbirds, suspension bridges, explosions on television, Mandelbrot fractals, gourmet food, adrenaline junky sports, the female form, the male form, Scrabble, football (your team, specifically), books, art of all shapes and colors, etc.

 

And yet, an awful lot of us miss out on a lot of these things.

 

So what separates the things we like from the things we’re neutral about from the things we hate?

 

Why would we naturally love one thing, and naturally hate another, and naturally not give a crap about the vast majority of things?

 

I bet you found something you liked in the above list. If you didn’t, I bet you can think of something you like.

 

If you can’t think of something you like, frankly, you’re not trying hard enough. Here’s a bombshell for you: if you can’t think of something you like, it’s because you don’t like anything right now. You may not even place any value on liking things.

 

But why would a human, capable of such a vast range of emotion and thought, disable themselves from experiencing the endless variety of awe-inspiring events and objects we can experience?

 

Fortunately, it’s very easy to find something you like.

 

And thus our next little experiment.

 

I want you to think of something in your past, usually during childhood. Something you HAVE liked. Think about the feelings and thoughts that allowed you to like it. Think about how you felt, why you liked it, and what it meant to you.

 

As an example: my father used to work in his space, his garage. As the only boy of three children, and with my sisters 8 and 9 years older than me, one of the best times I had was to go into the garage and watch/help my father with woodworking.

I remember the smell of the sawdust, how it smelled like earthy goodness.

I remember the slightly singed smell of burning wood when the blade needed to be oiled.

The clean cutting sounds of the huge circular saw.

The feeling of creating something from raw materials.

Mostly, I remember the magic of seeing a polished, varnished, finished bed and knowing I had a hand in making that beautiful piece of work.

 

Even remembering these things places me in a good mood. I don’t even know the slightest thing about woodworking beyond cobbling things together from boards and brackets at Home Depot, but the thought brings me comfort.

 

Are you remembering your own childhood goodness? The more you think about it, the more you’ll discover: there are feelings and experiences you like. And by recalling them in precise detail, you’ll literally experience that joy again.

The more detail, the more accurate.

 

Unfortunately, the same applies for negative memories, but we’ll touch on that later.

 

Are you feeling jealous of my experience right now? Or my ability to recall it? You might be, if you can’t recall anything like that on your own, and it sucks. I’ve been there: I’ve been jealous that everyone else seemed to be getting more out of life than me.

 

If you’re feeling jealousy while reading about my childhood desires, I want you to consider talking to yourself.

Yes, I know they say that talking to yourself is crazy, but first of all: it’s not, as I will soon show. Secondly, I want you to attempt to consider both your own viewpoint as well as an ‘external’ one.

 

How do you do this? It’s tough, if you haven’t.

 

But here’s where the ‘brain as software’ model comes in very handy.

Note: I have not scientifically proven that the brain is just a computer, nor do I know that that is a provable theory. I use this model as a tool to access and change various behaviors.

 

But I want to use a definition we can agree on for behavior before we start talking about jealousy, since we’ll be deconstructing behaviors.

If you lose track of this deconstruction (the first one is the hardest) then please, re-read.

 

behavior |biˈhāvyər| ( Brit. behaviour)

noun

  • the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, esp. toward others : good behavior | his insulting behavior toward me.
  • the way in which an animal or person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus : the feeding behavior of predators.

 

              Strangely, the second definition is more accurate, using the brain as software model.

 

              To explain further: when we assume that everything we do is run like software, and we take an outside-looking-in view of our own thoughts, things may feel a little bit insane, because we’re not used to thinking that way.

 

              Except, in fact, we are used to thinking that way, and I can almost guarantee that you’ve done it without even noticing.

 

              Every time a friend asks us for advice, what do we humans do? We do our best to put ourselves in their position and externally model what we would do if we were in their situation. If we’ve already experienced their situation and come out with a positive outcome, we do our best to lend that positive outcome to them.

 

              If they don’t explain the reasons for their advice, though, we often ignore it.

 

              (I promise we’ll get to jealousy soon, but I need you in the right frame of mind)

 

              Would you consider it strange that we never apply this incredibly useful behavior to our own lives?

 

              How often do we sit down and take five minutes to consider all the things impacting us in order to formulate the best possible plan of action we can come up with on our own?

 

              How often do we let a lack of external information to prevent you from taking positive action? Even when that information can be discovered by a three-word phrase in Google’s search box?

 

              How often do you allow arguments between friends, coworkers, or family to escalate to potentially relationship-breaking levels, when the argument would be utterly resolved by another Google search?

             

             

              And after asking all of these questions, why do we know so little about our behaviors? Why don’t we fix them?

 

              Well, we’re not used to fixing our OWN shit.

 

              So, jealousy. Jealousy is widely regarded as an emotion, and you can call it whatever you want. But it fits, to a T, the definition of a behavior. It is a way in which a person or animal conducts oneself in response to a stimulus.

 

              Read that again, please. Jealousy fits this definition, if we take an outside look at it:

 

Jealousy is one of many ways in which a person may conduct themself in response to a stimulus. I paraphrased this for clarity, but if you compare definitions, they say the same thing.

 

The reason I make such an exhaustive attempt at definition here is because you must be with me through a complex thought chain that can be hard to follow. When I first attempted to teach this, the process took an average of five hours of explanation with each individual. Three out of four comprehended.

 

That was my fault, by the way.

 

So it turns out that fixing yourself is possible. Which, if you look at it from a third person perspective, is totally obvious.

 

But fixing yourself, ah. There’s the rub. Let me introduce you to our first troubleshooting tool within this model.

 

Stripping:

An idea is a thing all on its own. Happiness, for instance. We can take happiness as a value, as its own thing. Thing is, people have the tendency to attach things to values.

 

The little Mac dictionary defines happiness thusly:

 

Happiness (predicate of happy): having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation)

 

So. A lot of people tie their confidence in or satisfaction with something to… other things. It makes them sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy.

 

A few examples:

Some people get their happiness wired to pain. This is a masochist.

Some people get their happiness wired to food – salt, fats, and sugars encourage this relationship.

Maybe it’s linked up and hardwired to the idea of a specific person. This is codependency in a relationship – it also breaks relationships if both people are not equally codependent.

Some get their happiness wired to themselves. A bit of narcissism is not necessarily unhealthy if you don’t let it get out of control.

 

You may be any of the above, or none at all.

 

Tying happiness to other things has some weird logical outcomes, particularly if you allow that link to spin out of control. And by that, I mean you think about the association of the two items more than is healthy.

 

For instance:

Happiness associated with oneself becomes narcissism, then steps up to megalomania. Sometimes this can also cause hypochondria, as nattering worry about one’s health when one thinks one is the best thing since four-ply toilet paper can easily spin out of control.

Happiness associated with pain causes masochism; the extreme of this is a happily suicidal feeling. This suggests a soldier training mechanism. It also explains the popularity of BDSM, and the existence of snuff films in extreme circumstances.

Happiness associated with food can, unchecked by your other reasonable capabilities, cause obesity and even death.

Happiness (taking the confidence definition) associated with a feeling of worthlessness causes further depression. Unchecked, this leads to suicide.

 

Man, doesn’t this sound kind of similar to what we call brainwashing?

 

Considering these linked illustrations, I have to mention that ‘everything in moderation’ should not only apply to consumption of various substances, but thought. We’ll touch more on that later.

 

So the first thing we’ve gotta do is find these links, show they’re irrational, and break them. I am borrowing liberally from the great folks who wrote Introduction to NLP[i] in order to develop these methods.

 

Stripping:

First, any emotion or idea we can experience, we need to treat as an individual unit. A piece of software.

So working on jealousy (being jealous), let’s look up the dictionary definition. I loooooove dictionaries.

             

1. feeling resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success, or advantages (often fol. by of): He was jealous of his rich brother.
2. feeling resentment because of another’s success, advantage, etc. (often fol. by of): He was jealous of his brother’s wealth.

 

Hrm. So jealousy isn’t jealousy, really. It’s only jealousy when it is attached to something else. We’ve already proven that subtle links can lead to weird effects, so follow along with me.

 

What is jealousy, without the situation?

 

What happens when we use stripping to remove the circumstance, thereby removing the link that is built in to jealousy?

 

Hrm. It appears that if we remove the condition (other people’s advantage, success, or rivalry, all of which are inconsequential in a world with 7 billion people in which one person’s success is barely connectible to another’s) jealousy is just resentment in conditional clothing.

 

So.

 

Is resentment ever good?

 

Sure, it’s okay to dislike someone if they used us on the way to succeeding. But that’s not jealousy, that’s righteous indignation, another tale.

 

Resentment:

–noun

the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.

 

Hrm.

 

There’s still one of those silly conditional statements here. Fortunately, this is the last breakdown for jealousy/resentment.

 

Here, we link displeasure or indignation with an outside influence that we regard as causing injury or insult.

 

Let me say that again: we are linking our displeasure with our perception.

 

Do you control your perception?

 

I like to think I do. I like to think I can focus on things.

 

But then I get distracted by something that grabs my attention. Hmmm….

 

Do I really control my perception, if I am easily distracted?

 

Is there a difference – other than the effect it has on us – between repeatedly experiencing jealousy and repeatedly experiencing happiness?

 

And if practice makes perfect, does controlling our perception – forcing focus – get easier the more you do it?

 

The problem with this is we tend to think of thoughts in terms of language and emotions in terms of qualia. Which brings us to another definition, which is deceptively not a reference to birds.

 

qua⋅le  [kwah-lee, -ley, kwey-lee]  Show IPA

–noun, plural -li⋅a  [-lee-uhShow IPA . Philosophy.

1. a quality, as bitterness, regarded as an independent object.
2. a sense-datum or feeling having a distinctive quality.

 

Hrm. What’s that? There’s a word for emotions as independent objects?

 

So if we look at the brain as software, we can accurately describe the things our brain generates as pieces of individual software that, when combined, make up our operating system.

 

You might be thinking, but our thoughts are language! They’re the same.

 

Let me remove that illusion:

Have you ever had trouble phrasing a question? Have you ever had a word on the tip of your tongue, or wanted to express a feeling, but didn’t have the words? Did you know that the German word ‘schadenfreude’ has no English equivalent that doesn’t span multiple words? Did the ancient Greeks have a word for snowboarding?

 

But we – unlike any other computer we know of – have the ability to program ourselves. If you doubt that, I want you to explore the links I made with happiness earlier and tell me there are no causes for those activities, it’s just the way they are. Anyone who has ever changed for the better or worse (and most people have done both) can tell you that no one’s just the way they are until they decide they’re just the way they are.

 

             

 

              I want you to take another look at the list of values presented at the start of this book, and I want you to present any objections you may have about each one:

 

Humankind is at its best when it is at its happiest.

Happiness is worth pursuing.

Love is beneficial to humans.

Easy chances to make people happy are worth the little time it takes.

Smiling is good.

Confidence is a positive thing.

Being free of negative emotions is a good thing.

 

We’re going to use this list a lot. I like it. I think it’s a good list of everything that makes being human fun.

 

So, I want to address some objections, and also list a few

(I got bored. So that’s the whole thing. I did not want to address objections, really.)

[i] Ref: Introduction to NLP

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