My understanding of the mind and its role in human life may strike you as strange, but I promise that it is entirely consistent with everything I have seen in the current scientific literature on these matters. So please focus first on understanding fully what I am saying before trying to decide whether you agree with me or not.
My own mind is in the final stages of a very long recovery from a psychological disease that struck before I was old enough to speak, and ruined the first half-century of my life. This disease is what we call “the fear of life.”
Over time, I learned to get by resorting to four basic strategies: pretense, deception, denial, and escape. I lived the first fifty-five years of my life pretending to be whatever I thought would satisfy, confuse, or disarm the demons of fear, and I craved some rest from the endless need to be on guard against my own life. And I lived in constant anxiety that my pretense would be exposed.
I’ve had a strange life, but I won’t bother you with the details of it here. The details are easy enough to find on our website or with an internet search. I have spoken about my life here because I want you to see that I myself have endured enough psychological misery to be able to hear anything you may have to say about your own.
Over time, Carla and I have developed a great interest in the human mind, and we have spent many hours considering what we have seen directly for ourselves in light of what we have learned in our research, and in our conversations about the mind with folks like you.
If you truly want to understand what we are trying to accomplish with our work, you need to understand our views on the brain, the mind, and most of all, the personality.
Mind is the medium in which we have the experience of absolutely everything: physical matters, mental matters, personal matters, aversions and attractions and the like. You can see this for yourself.
Just watch your breath for a moment or two now.
Notice the physical sensation of the breath passing across your nostrils, and the feel of your ribcage as it expands and relaxes as you breathe in and breathe out.
Now, hold your breath for a moment, and notice a growing impulse to exhale and take another breath.
Can you see that all these purely physical events are experienced only in your mind? Can you can see that although the sensations you feel can be either physical or mental, your experience of them occurs only in your mind?
Likewise, all your attitudes and opinions about yourself and your life, along with every sensation, thought, desire, aversion, and every instant of physical pain and pleasure are beheld only as events in the mind.
Mind is also the only location in which you have the experience of the sense of yourself as a person.
Mind alone is where you experience all joy and misery, satisfaction and dissatisfaction, happiness and unhappiness, and breath itself.
Mind is the means whereby consciousness becomes conscious to itself. Even the yearning to be free of the mind occurs only in the mind.
Can you see that even the idea of mind itself can be found only in the mind?
Your mind exists in a symbiotic relationship with your brain. The brain is a non-conscious bodily organ bound in an intimate relationship with all bodily processes, and it is the source of the raw sensations that become the mind.
The mind is not the brain, but it could not exist without the brain.
Now let’s sum up what we have considered so far:
- Our minds exist in a symbiotic relationship with our brains.
- Our personal experience of the mind is as an open space populated by thoughts, opinions, attractions, aversions, desires, fears, and the raw perception of physical experience. The mind is sometimes teeming with mental activity, and other times seems nearly empty.
- The brain is the physical source of the sensations that cause the mind, but the purely mental events that arise in the mind can also cause measurable physical effects in the brain. This may seem strange to you at first glance, but there is a considerable body of scientific research that supports it. If you are interested in following up on this strange fact, Google the phrase “Do thoughts affect the brain?”
- Mind is not me, and it has no effect whatsoever on me. And neither does the brain.
Carla and I do not hate our minds, nor do we seek to erase them, silence them, or fix them. Our minds, you see, are no longer broken. And actually, mind is not and has never been the problem. It’s the fear of life that ruins the mind, and that is easily cured with just one look at your actual self. That look resets the mind and starts a process of regeneration of the psychological mechanisms that comprise the mind.
And this brings us to the third and psychologically most important aspect of the mind, which is personality. According to the Unabridged Merriam-Webster dictionary, personality is “the complex of characteristics that distinguishes a particular individual or individualizes or characterizes him in his relationships with others.”
That definition is accurate enough in a nutshell, but the full understanding of the personality is much more personally significant and meaningful to you, the actual person. Personality is the collection of psychological mechanisms that, taken together, are you in the world.