Monday, October 23, 2006

Filling the Grand Canyon

It is the mind that makes one wise or ignorant, bound or emancipated. – Sri Ramakrishna

Mental habits are like ditches in the mind. They have to be dug laboriously. But they can also be filled in and new channels can be dug. Take resentment for example. It does not burst full-blown into the mind; it grows. At first you simply expect people to behave towards you in a particular way. If they behave in their own way instead, you get surprised, then irritated. You are digging a little channel in consciousness.

In the early stages, this channel may be only an inch or so deep. Thought may flow down it, but it may also flow somewhere else. Also, the walls are still soft and crumbly; they may cave in and fill the channel a little – for example, when someone you dislike says something kind. There is an element of choice. But every time we respond to a situation with resentment, the channel gets a little deeper. Finally there is a huge Grand Canal in the mind. Then anything at all is enough to provoke a conditioned resentful response. Consciousness pours down the sluice of least resistance.

We can dig new mental channels – kind ways of thinking instead of resentful ones, patience instead of anger. Every time you try to return good will for ill will, love for hatred, you have dug your new, beneficial channel a little deeper. Transforming character, conduct, and consciousness is not a moral problem. It’s an engineering problem.
--Eknath Easwaran

I have dug a virtual Grand Canyon of self-doubt in my own mind over the years. Indeed, the chasm is so deep and wide that I wonder if I can ever fill it in. If I can, I wonder how long it will take and what I must do to accomplish it.

I am doing two things today to begin the project. I won't say what they are now, because I have previously announced things I was going to do and not followed through. It's as though saying here that I'm going to do them dooms them with the proverbial kiss of death. But I hope to write about them in time. I hope to write about many things in time, when I have more to say and better ways to say them. And I hope that some of you will still come here to read it.


Tom said...

I tend to think that getting over self-doubt requires the aid of an other's opinion -- someone straightforward, trustworthy and, possibly, professional who can offer you an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.

But a dollop of self doubt is invaluable. Most people never doubt themselves because they never step out of their own shoes to act as A Witness. [Think of our president! How valuable it would be if he doubted himself, sometime!] Clearly, you have conquered 'witness mode'; give yourself some credit.

Good luck with the project you have assigned yourself to deal with your perceived problem. And don't let the random craziness of the spooky old world get you down.

-- Tom

Jess said...

AH come on! tell us what it is. Just kidding, do what you must and good luck with whatever it is you are doing. Sorry it's been a while since I posted. I am now a more productive member of society and have been busy with election things to talk. Have a day or so off from things to charge my batteries so I am catching up. PS, I find that for me, self doubt keeps you honest.

Nagarjuna said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree that I could benefit from expert help, and I'm getting some, at long last.

Good to see you back. Yes, there's plenty about the upcoming election to occupy one's attention and time.

I agree with both you and Tom that self-doubt can be a good thing. But only when there's not so much of it that it becomes crippling. I've allowed mine to almost completely cripple me for my entire adolescent and adult life. I'm now trying to determine how much of my self-doubt is realistic and how much is exaggerated, and how I can can best make the most of my strengths and the least of my weaknesses.

Tom said...

Well, in my straightforward opinion, you have tons of strengths and no weaknesses.

Objectively, look at the world. Most people are narcissistic and crazy as loons; you mustn't let them get to you. The reptile portion of our brains still has us in a slaughterhouse meaningless fight to the death. You must not give the reptiles too much sway as determinants of what is meaningful.

Gagdad Bob said...

You will be in my thoughts and prayers, for what it's worth. You don't deserve the propaganda from these internal saboteurs, but you must become wise to their ways.

Nagarjuna said...

I appreciate your kind words. But I DO have weaknesses. Serious ones. I have severe learning disabilities that make me unable to do things that most people can do. Yet, most people don't realize this because of the way I speak and write. They assume that because I can do those things reasonably well, I should be able to do everything else equally well and that if I don't, it's not because I can't but because I won't.

What I'm trying to do now is get a better handle on what I can and can't do and find ways to use what I can do to make the best life I can for myself and my wife while not letting what I can't do continue to cripple me the way it has for most of my life.

I'm now involved in a program that may make it possible for me to undergo extensive neuropsychological testing and related counseling at minimal or no cost to myself. This could end up being very helpful.

For what it's worth, your thoughts and prayers are worth a great deal. I know that my "internal saboteurs" are not merely cognitive but also psychological. That is, in addition to what I absolutely cannot do because of my cognitive deficits, I have falsely convinced myself that I cannot do even more than that and have subjected myself to a great deal of needless and stultifying fear, frustration, self-pity, and depression as a result.

I wish I could afford psychotherapy that could help me with this. Perhaps I could afford some kind of short-term cognitive psychotherapy that could be of some benefit. But I don't see how I could possibly afford the kind of long-term psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapy in which you specialize and which you would no doubt consider to be most needed. I guess one does what one can.