The Institute – Taking Control Of Your Being

Friday, May 30th, 2008 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Have you ever been at a restaurant, and someone sharing the table with you says something like “Unforuntately, I don’t like oysters“? They sound as though they’d like to like oysters, but they think that their tastes are fixed, unalterable, a part of their personality which is set in stone. They continue to think this despite the fact they grew to like the taste of cigarettes, despite the fact they grew to like the taste of Guinness, despite the fact their favourite food has changed every year since they were six.

Worse yet, you sometimes hear people say things like “I’m not that clever” or “I can’t sing” or “I’m rubbish at maths” as if these are also things that are set in stone, a fixed part of someone’s personality. Unalterable, unchangeable, fixed at the very core of their being.

What makes people think this?

We all know that a person’s skills are developed by environmental effects on that person. Sure, their genes give them tendencies, tend them towards enjoying one thing over another, but the people who draw the best are those who have spent more time drawing. Those who can play the guitar are those who have played the guitar most. Everyone knows that, if you want a skill, all you have to do is go and practice it for a while and you’ll learn it. Maybe you’ll need to practice for a long and arduous while, maybe it’ll be difficult and time consuming, but if you want to develop your musical ability or learn to sing or run faster, you know exactly how to go about doing it.

Yet some things, for some reason, people exclude from this general law. They think it’s impossible to learn to be more intelligent, that is to further develop the skill of intelligence. You hear people say things like “You’re born with your intelligence” despite every evidence to the contrary. People assume that they can’t learn to visualize or to think abstractly or to be more aware despite the fact that everyone who actually does visualize well, or think abstractly, or feel more aware learned to do that at some point. Nobody was actually born intelligent. Nobody was actually born able to understand, or to picture an apple, or to focus their attention on their emotional state.

At the Transcendence Institute, we believe that the truth is that pretty much any skill or taste or emotional tendency or opinion you care to name is malleable, changeable. That your brain has a high level of what scientist’s call neuroplasticity. It can learn new things. It can even relearn old things learned in childhood like how to walk, talk, feel or see all over again whenever those things are damaged by stroke or accident or insufficient initial development.

Learning how to learn brain skills

The problem, of course, is that most people don’t have the first clue about how to change their minds. Sure, people can see that if you want to learn to play the guitar there’s guitar lessons. They can see that if you want to learn maths you can go study it, but where do you go to learn to be happier? Who do you get to teach you how to like to eat vegetables? Or to be less shy? More self controlled? More confident? More aware? More Transcended?

Modern science understands the kinds of things that influence your character, your thinking, your beliefs. Whole industries are based upon that understanding: Advertising and spin and political manipulation are all around you and the essential lessons aren’t even difficult to understand.

Association

Your brain is an associative memory. The neocortex may well be very little other than an associative memory if you believe Jeff Hawkins. If you constantly associate something with good, positive feeling’s you’ll grow to love that thing. If you regularly associate it with horrible negative emotions you’ll grow to hate it. The things you like or dislike are determined by the associations in your past, and you can very easily alter those associations just through thinking. Through meditation.

Practice

Furthermore, as you practice any skill, you get better at it. You don’t even need a teacher or a guru. Just by playing with a guitar you can learn to make good noises. Just by throwing a ball at a hoop a few thousand times you will learn to hit the target. Just by consciously altering your brain’s association patterns you’ll learn to better change your brain’s association patterns. Practice at the associative skills will lead to you being better at those associative skills.

Emotional states

Happy or confident people are more open, more willing to learn, more willing to trust, more willing to seek out new experiences, to build new associations and practice more while people who are sad or frightened are more introspective, less likely to do all those things.

Associating things, the world in general, with a happy state will mean that things, the world in general, prompt you into a happier state. Which will in turn push you into seeking out those things more, and to all the benefits of association and openness.

Your emotions are not prompted in you by external events, they are prompted by associations programmed into you during your past. You can learn to love being beaten, choked by nicotine smoke, burned in the sun. Or you can learn to fear those things, or pretty much any other thing. You can learn to manipulate your emotions, by using association and practice. And those manipulated emotions will help you to learn to practice those skills with more clarity and precision.

Suggestion and belief

Language is a very powerful force in human affairs. Just hearing the right words can send a man willingly to certain death in a war, or inspire him to dedicate his life to the construction of great things he will never see completed. The human brain is suggestible, mere words and suggestion and hypnosis can help a patient undergo surgery without anaesthetic. Placebo can increase the recovery rate from disease. Learning to make autosuggestions, to suggest things to yourself, is a powerful tool for changing yourself. Learning to see suggestions from others more clearly can help you to avoid negative influences and become more self possessed.

You can take control

By understanding these influences on you, you can learn to avoid being influenced by those who would manipulate you, and better yet you can use those effects to take control of your being. To be as smart, funny, oyster-loving, musical, empathetic and aware as you want to be. As anyone else out there is.

You won’t understand these things simply by reading about them. You may concede their relevence, you may believe you grasp the basics, but actually grok these effects, to make them a part of your being, to make them as automatic as reading or speaking, you will have to practice with them. Learn how to program your mind as well as a musician understands how to play his instrument.

Your personality is not fixed. You can change it. The Transcendence Institute is here to help you to learn how to change it, and so you can help us refine our ideas, to teach others based on your experience. So that even if you don’t literally transcend, you can get closer to being who you want to be. Learn to play your own brain as well as you can learn to play a guitar.

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