Reviewing my work on dispelling Upsets, it is remarkable how my stories of reality were the source of my stress. Mismatches between thought and I was observing was always the source of an Upset. I was inspired by a concept presented by Michael Graziano in his excellent book Consciousness and the Social Brain. Using his wording, thoughts are useful, but not accurate, descriptions of reality. What is the implication of this?
Our thoughts help us steer our way through reality, but they are never totally accurate. That means every thought is ultimately wrong. Letting that sink in, what thoughts do you trust and what thought are ignored? The key to the whole concept is the word useful.
I was once told a story by a friend about the backup camera on his car. He was looking at the screen when his car lurched. He could not understand it because he could not see anything on the screen. He got out and there was a car at an angle behind him. The owner of that car was standing there and said, “You hit my car.” My friend said, “I couldn’t have, the camera did not show a car.” When the owner pointed out the dent in the car and my friends bumper lodged in the dent, my friend had to accept reality. In retelling the story, he said that for him the camera view was more “real” than the lurch he felt as he bumped the other car. In this case, the camera’s description of reality had not been useful.
So too with thought. A thought is like the camera, an approximation of what is out there, a tool with which to steer by. And sometimes reality is the lurch and bump we feel and we hit something we did not approximate correctly. And every time, we feel that the bump cannot be right. This is the foundation of suffering.
To open the opportunity to reduce suffering I want to continue to train myself to live in the perspective that all thought is an inaccurate description of reality. Hearing this once makes sense, and moments later I can be immersed in a thought as if it accurately describes what is about the happen, or even what is happening now. What would the experience of life be like to grasp this on an ongoing basis. How would it feel to intuitively grasp this as every thought arises?
To do this I have to train myself as a thought comes up to go through a cycle of examining that thought. At first, I will step through it manually, and with repetitions speed up the process until this examination is instantaneous. When a thought comes up I want to step through these questions:
- Is this thought an accurate representation of reality?
- What reaction does the thought create?
- Reverse the thought to show that its opposite is true.
- Understand the opportunity in the situation regardless of the thought.
This structure combines work I have done previously. To ensure proper attribution, the reversal technique is one I learned from the methods of Byron Katie. If you want to practice reversals in depth I recommend her approach. The glass half full approach that I have married to the reversals I tested in an earlier experiment.
I pulled these four elements into a micro survey that I put on my iPhone. My training plan is straightforward. I will do at least 10 of these surveys a day until I have done 1000 of them. Like painted steps on a dance floor, I will follow these steps repeatedly until I can do them quickly and instinctively as thought arises.
Announcing last week that I was stepping back from quantification experiments, I now have the time to do a long term training approach and see how my subjective experience changes. It may take up to four months, it likely will take much longer. I’ll report what I find along the way and share tools and techniques as you may have an interest in them.