Don’t Mess with the System

Once upon a time I read in some self-help book that starting an affirmation with the word ‘Don’t’ would actually result in the opposite of the desired effect. Apparently the mind does not recognise the instruction ‘Don’t’ and hears it as ‘Do’.

That’s all I recall about that book, no idea if the rest of it helped my self at all, but that bit stayed with me. I liked the illogical logic of it. It explained a lot to me about myself, why whenever I hear or see ‘Don’t’ I feel compelled to ‘Do’.

I read somewhere… may have been the same book… or not… that the colour red is seen by the mind as ‘Go’ and the colour green is seen as ‘Stay a while, take it easy, have a rest’… or something like that. That stayed with me too, and was filed in the same place as the Don’t/Do thing.

Ever since I’ve been aware of my mind I have felt the urge to get to know it, how it works and doesn’t work, and how to work with it rather than against it.

At first it was a struggle to get to know it, it was as hard as I am to get to know when you first meet me. It was cagey. It was not sure what my intentions were in getting to know it. Did I mean to do it harm, to use it and abuse it, or was I truly interested in it. Was I willing to accept it as it was, and as it would become as it evolved, or did I just want to get access to it to change it and make it into what I wanted it to be to suit my selfish desires and feed my needs.

And of course at first I did want to change it because it seemed wrong to me. It knew that it was not, but it also knew that I needed time to find that out. It knew me far better than I knew it.

I believed that I needed to fix it. It wasn’t that it was broken, it just needed fixing… or so I concluded based on erroneous assumptions which were based on comparing myself with others who always seemed perfect or at least they seemed to know what they were doing and I didn’t. Others agreed with me. So obviously I needed fixing and the best way to do that was to fix my mind.

I started out my getting to know my mind journey in a back to front style. I read loads of books about what the mind was, what it should be, and how you could mess with its system until you achieved a desired result. That desired result depended on the book being read. Self Help books wanted to make the mind a positive place with no negativity allowed. Spiritual books wanted to empty the mind until the emptiness echoed inside it. New Age books wanted to heal the mind from all dis-ease. Psychology books wanted to categorise it until it looked like it had been passed through an egg slicer.

I struggled a lot in my endeavour, mainly because I filled my head with the voices of all these mind experts until they were all shouting at each other. The only thing they all agreed upon was the fact that I was an idiot. Eventually their attitude that they were perfect and I was deeply flawed pissed me off so much that I began to look at them more closely.

I had up until that point accepted that they were experts and thus knew what they were talking about, I concluded that they knew what they were talking about because they were talking from experience, they had done their research step by step, testing out theories to find the one which worked, and once they found the way to go they shared their story and knowledge. I assumed that they practiced what they preached on a daily basis. That they were the embodiment of their teaching.

One day I was at a New Age workshop being given by two of the prominent figures of the movement. One was a self-help guru and the other was a spiritual healer. Both had credentials which they never stopped mentioning, perhaps they feared that the general public were doubtful and so to convince the doubters they affirmed and reaffirmed how important and genuine they were, and how they had famous people who used their services and teachings. If famous people supported them, then non-famous people should stop doubting and believe.

The workshop was okay. A bit overlong and dull. Dull because there was a sense of us, the rather stupid general public who had paid to be in such esteemed company, and them, the elite who were a bit too elitist in their view of themselves and lectured us a wee bit too much… which is dull to those being lectured.

During a break in proceedings, I decided to approach the podium and have a chat with the self-help guru. They ignored me as they had to deal with a drama of growing proportions. I stood quietly nearby and watched as they reprimanded their assistant rather rudely. Apparently not enough water had been supplied to quench the thirst of the masses, and the self-help guru was furious and extremely stressed out by this. It was a disaster. It wasn’t, but the guru saw it as being one and thus behaved as if it was. Had the guru practiced some of the stuff they preached they would have clearly been able to see that the masses were perfectly capable of quenching their own thirst by going out of the room in which the workshop was being held to the local shops to get drinks and snacks. But they were too caught up in their dramatics to see beyond them to a simple solution to a problem which really wasn’t a problem.

I was shocked by the behaviour I witnessed that day. Sort of. I had already begun to question the expertise of the experts, gradually accumulating data which came together in that moment. It was the shock of confirming a suspicion. The perfect people were flawed. Worse still, they were afraid of being flawed and their fear drove them to pretend that they were perfect and had fixed all their flaws… and they then set out to fix the flaws in others using their system.

I’m not saying the advice of experts in various fields of the mind is not good, it’s just a good idea to check to see if the expert is actually doing what they are telling you to do… and then wonder why they are not following their own advice. Maybe they’ve found that it doesn’t work for them…

From that moment on my relationship with my mind shifted from me trying to change and fix it, to me realising that perhaps I should start from scratch and get to know it in a front to back way. Let my mind reveal itself to me. It had its own system and before I could mess with it, I needed to get to know it inside out… and once I did perhaps I’d realise that it didn’t need messing with.

What was once a struggle has now become one of my greatest pleasures in life… exploring the labyrinth of my mind and getting to know it better. It is also one of my most cherished relationships. These days we work together… and mess with many systems. That’s our system!