Learning to Control Our Minds
Sometimes our mind can be like a real prison. The thoughts themselves becoming unforgiving enemies until they let stress and anxiety devour our projects, hopes and strengths. Learning to control our minds is part of the art of survival, quality of life and freedom.
Something we are very accustomed to hearing is that the mind is not a vessel to fill, but rather a lamp to ignite. Or perhaps a parachute that only works when we open it. In the end, we come to believe that the mind has a switch we should press to make it start “working” optimally.
“The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”
-Carl Gustav Jung-
We need to understand some ideas. The mind is not a single entity. There are no switches, and there are no people who are born with a “stronger mind” and therefore better able to adapt to any difficulty. What do exist are mental processes. It is like a complex forest of cognitive and affective dimensions that undergo ups and downs, times of crisis, stages of growth and moments of challenge.
We could imagine the mind as a boat that moves through a sea that alternates between the calm and the storm. If we are mere stowaways hiding in the hold, the ship will drift. However, a good commander is not limited to only taking the helm. Whoever has control of the ship is aware of multiple navigation techniques to deal with this choppy sea, that storm.
Now, we invite you to delve into this ever so useful topic.
Understanding mental processes, first step to learning to control our minds
We have all held multiple self-help or change management books in our hands. These invite us to take control of our mind or to be more positive. Now, it is necessary to understand that it is not correct to try to dominate something without knowing how it works. It’s like encouraging a person with depression to be more optimistic. These approaches are not always useful because the mind is complex, delicate and even stubborn.
The “Handbook for Emotional Regulation” by the Massachusetts Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience offers a very useful and intuitive cognitive and neuroscientific approach to understanding these processes. First, they craft a very symbolic metaphor for those moments in life in which the mind acts as our worst enemy: it is like a poisoned thorn that emerges from our emotional subsoil, invading everything and blocking the light.
There are moments in which we begin to apply resolution strategies for our problems with little effect. Mental exhaustion, obsessive/negative thoughts and a lack of emotional self-regulation begin to surface. As we can see, there are multiple processes giving shape to a “whole” where, little by little, we can be held captive. That poisonous shrub occupies every corner and pushes us down. It is no use telling us to be positive, because in those vital moments we are precisely confronted with positivity.
How to take the reins and control our minds
We have all been educated and even convinced that we are free entities made to grow, achieve our dreams and be the true protagonists of our happiness. However, little by little, we realize that the world throws many curve balls, and that we also have certain personal limitations that prevent us from growing and leading a fuller life.
“The secret to happiness is to have simple tastes and a complex mind. But the problem is that most people have a simple mind and complex tastes.”
– Fernando Savater –
Let’s break an enigma, the best and most complex of all: the one that hides in our minds and prevents us from advancing. Many experts in emotional and cognitive psychology warn us that we all have a “pattern” of unhappiness. That is, we apply some kind of psychological process that acts as the root of the problem. Sometimes it is indecision, sometimes it is a limiting attitude, the education received, the lack of assertiveness …
It is necessary to decipher that inner mystery. For this, we can follow the following strategies.
The three “C” rule
We already know that no one can take control of their mental “ship” without first knowing how it works and what factors prevent their progress. In order to achieve this, we will use the very simple “three C” strategy.
- Comprehend. First, be aware that you will need time and a lot of personal dedication. So look for moments to understand what happens in your mind. To do this, there’s nothing easier than taking a sheet of paper and putting “what I feel” in one column and “what has caused that emotion / where does that emotion originate from” in another.
- Confront. Now you know what has caused your discomfort or restlessness. You already know what makes your present lack a real quality of life. It’s time to confront. We will add two more columns to the previous exercise. The first will be “how I want to feel” and the next will be “what strategies I should put into practice to feel this way.
- Care. The third strategy is maintenance, which is the most basic and simple thing we must invest in each day. It is based only on taking care of ourselves, favoring our balance and well-being at all costs.
To develop this last key, remember that it is not healthy to do or start things that go against our values and principles. Always remember that every commander has an internal compass that tells which route is best, which sea is not suitable to cross, or which winds are most favorable to take the sails. Practice listening to yourself. Understand everything that happens in your mind and learn from each process and each difficulty you overcome.
Every investment in yourself always translates into a greater capacity to be happy.