The three principles that make up Psychology of Mind provide a remarkably simple and concise understanding of how the mind works. There are the three principles:
1. Thought forms our psychological experience. It structures how each of us views the world.

2. Consciousness makes out thoughts appear real.

3. Mind is the source of consciousness and thought. For practical purposes, our mind is what we think with.

THE FUNCTION OF THOUGHT

Life is as it appears because of how we think it to be. Thought is our greatest gift. It is the very creator of our psychological experience; we cannot experience life without it. Modern perceptual psychology has discovered that seeing, hearing, smelling and all other sensory experience occur in the brain, not in the eyes, ears and nose.

The brain decodes incoming sensory signals to fit its cognitive hypotheses, or hunches, imposing order on a chaos of information by organising it according to past expectations and experiences.

As we go through life we are always expecting, perceiving and interpreting our experience through our thoughts. Our senses selectively "let in" that which corresponds to our interests and prejudices. Take, for example, the experience of a man driving a car down the road. He sees the road and the other cars; he especially notices older cars because he is a collector. His wife, a gardener, sees people's yards and notices all the plants. Meanwhile, his father in the back seat is preoccupied with financial problems and notices only the signs of an eroding economy, such as closed businesses. Each of them perceives reality selectively.

We are always thinking. William James, the father of American psychology, called this the stream of consciousness, because thinking is never-ending though it has many forms and an infinite variety of contents. Even though thought creates every ounce of our experience, most of us are unaware that we are thinking and that we are free to control the content of our thoughts.

Consequently, we tend to blame "outside reality" for negative experiences, and this makes us feel powerless and unhappy. When we realise that we are in control, we can change our thoughts and create a more satisfying reality. This is known as free will.

THOUGHT SYSTEMS

As each of us goes through life, we store all our experiences in what becomes a personalised thought system, the software of our bio-computer, the brain. The brain processes data into concepts, beliefs and opinions that make up our present frame of reference. although each thought system is unique, all operate according to a uniform set of principles, just as mathematical laws apply regardless of the variables in the equation.


The thought system is known as the ego or personality in most psychological theories. This becomes the filter through which we interpret life. The thought system behaves like any ecological system, striving to maintain a balance, supporting the status quo. In other words, we look for and see whatever validates our pre-existing view of reality. We innocently forget that we are creating the thoughts and become personally identified within the content of our thinking - our beliefs, values, and ideas.

What are we thinking at any given moment, consciously or not, creates our experience of reality. Our interpretation of what our senses are telling us creates an emotional response. Our emotions, then, are not caused by outside events or people; rather, they are a direct result of our perception. For example, people who like skiing are delighted when it snows; others are depressed because they hate any sign of winter. The snow itself doesn't cause these reactions.

We express emotion through physiological changes, tone of voice, and body language. These behaviours catalyse reactions from other people, and in our own bodies. Of course, other people's reactions are generated through their interpretation of our behaviour. We interpret their responses through our own thought system. Thus, the thought system is self-fulfilling
and self validating.

If I believe that Mondays are depressing, when I wake up on Monday I have already pre-programmed the day. I go to my closet and think I have nothing to wear. "If only I could lose a few pounds, these clothes would fit me". Traffic seems to crawl as I drive to work, I begin to feel rushed and, as I start thinking about all I have to do that day, the momentum builds. Angry now, I honk my horn at a driver who forgets to signal. When I can finally step on the accelerator, I get a speeding ticket. Now the day is ruined for sure.

Everyone at work seems to be in a bad mood, especially my boss. I have to do more than I deserve or can handle. I procrastinate and make mistakes. "I knew I should have stayed in bed this morning!" Thus, my self-fulfilling prophecy about Mondays is validating again.

When we are unaware that our thoughts create reality we become victims of our belief system and can only respond through our habits. This is the concept of sincere delusion. Our moods are dictated by the day of the week, other people's moods and behaviour, the weather, the stock market, or anything else that we deem important.

A deluded person doesn't realise that he or she, not the weather, is in charge.

I used to judge alcoholics to be different, weaker and morally inferior until I understood the concept of sincere delusion. Once I realised that theirs was a totally different reality from mine, it was easy to feel compassion for them. I now know that everyone suffers from sincere delusion; it is only the degree that varies from person to person depending on their levels of insecurity.

Let's consider Ed, for example. A chemically dependent person, Ed believed that he was justified in drinking three martinis at lunch because of the responsibility and stress associated with his job as a production manager for his company. In addition, he believed that his wife complained about his long hours at work because she just didn't understand what he went through each day, so he often stopped by the local bar to avoid her. Ed may have been misguided, but he was sincere in his beliefs.

We are like fish in water when it comes to our thought system - it's so close that it's hard to see it. Forgetting that we are thinking our thoughts is the easiest thing on earth. But remembering that we are the thinkers allows us to realise true response-ability. Instead of reacting from our conditioned thought system, we begin to respond with our wisdom and common sense.

As William James once said "Genius....means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way".

Have you ever had a "serious" problem that had you so worried, confused and full of negative emotions that you couldn't figure it out? After getting away from your problem - perhaps through a good night's sleep or a visit with a close friend - suddenly you had an insight. The solution seemed obvious. This is an example of wisdom at work.

Paradoxically, when we momentarily forget our problems, or release our grip on negative thinking, our view shifts to a higher, more objective perspective. Consider this analogy: if you focus on the smashed bug on the windshield of your car, you will definitely miss the scenery and likely have an accident. Wisdom is like looking through the windshield, not at it.

When people are attached to their thinking, they seldom have insights. Instead, they get bogged down in their problems, unable to tap their wisdom. Insights occur when the mind is quiet, not busy.

Wisdom is a state of mind. We can't try to be wise - we already are, naturally. When we are in this state, we see life objectively and learn more quickly, without the interference of insecurity. We readily love and share intimacy with others. We communicate easily because we listen to others and to our hearts instead of depending upon a set of beliefs.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". As the Serenity Prayer implies, serenity is a prerequisite to the state of mind known as wisdom.

Many recovered people sense intuitively the connection between serenity and wisdom. Understanding how the mind functions - particularly how thought works - makes that link very clear.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy ultimately found that the home she sought had never left her. It was in her heart all along. We, too, will ultimately find what we seek, not by thinking and planning and analysing, but by listening softly to the wisdom within.

The next element, that of separate realities, will help us to better understand the thought principle. All three principles are interwoven. Each gives a fuller picture of the whole.


SEPARATE REALITIES

When I was sixteen years old I lived for three months with a family in Central America. Coming from a rural American community in the Midwest, I was in culture shock for the first two weeks. My Guatemalan family's view of reality was totally different from mine in terms of what they liked to eat, the way they expressed emotions, their politics, family values, dating customs, sense of humour, work habits and more. At first I was shocked and judged their differences as bad, or even sick. I felt homesick for people who saw "reality" as I did. But as time went on I began to appreciate and even envy their way of looking at life. They seemed to enjoy life more, expressed their love more openly, and were more relaxed. When I returned to Minnesota, I tried to get my family to act more like my Guatemalan family!

This experience showed me for the first time that reality has many faces. My frame of reference reflected my upbringing and conditioning rather than any absolute truth. This shift in perspective widened my appreciation and compassion for people of all walks of life and cultures and freed me from my fear of things that didn't jibe with my personal frame of reference (or thought system).

No two people live in the same reality. There are, of course, certain broad cultural and familial similarities, but extreme variation exists even within these groups. For each of us, our personalised thought system creates a unique reference through which we view and experience our own reality.

Your TV set offers evidence of separate realities. Thanks to the networks, cable and satellite you can see many regional and international interpretations of the same sporting event, racial incident, farm, or environmental issue. If you listened to coverage of an international event in different countries - say in two non-allied Middle Eastern nations - you would hear very different versions of the "facts". The newscasters are all sincere in believing that they are objective and balanced, but they seem to be talking about entirely different events.

When we acknowledge separate realities we can look beyond our own frame of reference and drop our negative biases and judgements. We recognise our own conditioned beliefs and take our thoughts and the thoughts of others less seriously. We attach less self-esteem to whether or not others see eye to eye with us. When we see our frame of reference for what it is, we can appreciate it without identifying with it. This allows us to enjoy people who see life differently without being threatened. Viva la difference!

Within each person there are many different realities. What determines how I experience reality from moment to moment is my mood or state of mind. For example, I may experience my job as delightful, challenging, stressful, or boring, depending on my mood. The job is the same but my perception of it changes.

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The Recovery Network, www.trntv.co.uk "helping to support those affected by addiction"