We are always creating.
According to Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist, and professor of psychology, philosophy, and neurology at the University of Southern California, imageless thought is impossible. In other words, it is impossible to do anything without having a picture of that action in your mind first. And at all times, all the data coming in through your five senses is being encoded into pictures and stored away in your memories—not only for the rest of your life but to be carried on by your descendants as well. But what happens when the pictures that are the foundation of our entire lives are wrong?
You may have heard me speak before about an article from Scientific American called “The Illusion of Free Will.” This article was discussing a research study where they discovered an electrical spike in the brain an instant before any conscious decision was made. The conclusion of the study was that this was the unconscious mind mandating what the conscious decision would be, with the implication being that our conscious intentions are largely a fiction we create for our own benefit. I don’t think it’s true that our unconscious mind controls us completely, but I think it certainly does control most of what we do on a daily basis—which brings us to the real problem. Those unconscious decisions are based on our memories, and according to the latest research, approximately 50 percent of our memories contain serious errors!
All this casts a lot of light on why we so often return over and over to the same old mistakes, the same old wrongs, the same old sins if you want to think of them that way. For a long time, I thought I was a terrible person because I couldn’t stop myself from following those sorts of habits—and through my work, I've found countless other people who felt the same. So how can we possibly break that cycle?
Here’s one thing I learned from my mentor which was a big help for me: the first time opens the door. The first time you participate in something you think is wrong or self-destructive is when you lose your peace, and every subsequent time is typically because you lost your peace. So naturally, you need to reclaim it. The best way I know is to use our tools to go back and shut that first door. Do that, and not only will you see a domino effect as those issues start to resolve one after another, but you’ll start to use your image-maker intentionally to create the life you want.
I said earlier that we can’t do anything without a mental picture. In fact, our imagination—which I like to call the image-maker, mostly to avoid the negative connotations of day-dreaming—is the most fundamental and powerful creative tool in human history. There has never been anything made by human hands without it, but the tricky part is that you are using it every day, whether you mean to or not. Therefore, it’s important to do it on purpose! Make a list of all the areas where you struggle in your daily life. Write them down, and then use your image-maker to find the source of it. Immerse yourself in those memories and examine your interpretation of it, looking for errors. Usually, I find the errors are not in the facts but in our interpretation of them. For example, my memories of my dad hitting me on a particular Saturday when I was a child are factually true. It really happened. But the interpretation I used to have of those events—that it meant I was worthless and wouldn’t amount to anything—are not.
I can virtually guarantee that you have wrong interpretations in your memories too and that those errors are stealing something from your daily life. Breaking a generational cycle—which is very often where these things come from—is a rare thing. I’d say maybe one in a thousand is able to do it, in my experience. But that one in a thousand isn’t special. They’re just the ones who had the right support, the right tools, and who were willing to go through the pain toward a better life. My wife did it, and you can too.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!