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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Blogs about inhabiting this present moment

What an Apparent Poor Sense of Direction Revealed about the Mind

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 22nd 2011

Believing is Deceiving, While Releasing Believing is Freeing

Whether you believe you can, or you can't, you are right.
-Henry Ford

I confess that for a good part of my early 20's I believed I had a poor sense of direction. Further, this belief often helped create my getting turned around and sometimes getting lost. It was downright irritating, pathetic and mysterious all at once. Over time, it got old, very old and I had had enough. So one day I decided that, in fact, I had an excellent sense of direction, especially as I would use resources like maps, especially Thomas guides, which I purchased and used for just such support. Incredible it was. It became clear that my direction-challenged experiences were the result of not employing the appropriate tools necessary for the job at hand, particularly in knowing where I was, where I wanted to get to, and mapping the route from the former to the latter. It was eloquent, simple and worked like a top.

two paths at the top of a hillIn shifting from an apparent poor sense of direction to an excellent sense of direction was not only a decision away, along with finding and using fitting resources like maps, but further the shift from a belief I couldn't navigate my way out of a paper bag to the belief that I can get where I wanted to go and do a bang-up job in this navigation. And, as is commonly said, the rest is history. The above quote, "Whether you believe you can, or you can't, you are right" by Henry Ford carved into a rock was given me by a client who had heard me quote it. It still rests serenely by the fountain in my office. Many clients have commented on it over the ensuing years, all with a giggle or a laugh that somehow related to the issues they were currently facing. The shift being referred to in the quote is revealing in regard to the ego-mind, since it solely makes up or dreams up all the beliefs in the first place.

Given the ego-mind is purely a concept and concepts by definition are not real and do not exist in reality, then how can beliefs be worth putting stock in and betting your life over? This episode of thinking I had a poor sense of direction was most instructive. So long as I believed in having a poor sense of direction, the ego-mind was most obedient in fully supporting my belief and bringing the expected results into my life. In the field of psychology this is referred to as a self-fulfilling prophesy (i.e., given positive feedback between a belief and a behavior, a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true) or the Pygmalion effect, named after the ancient Greek myth of a sculptor who carved a beautiful lady he called Pygmalion, fell in love with his statute crying out to the gods, especially the head god Zeus, to have her come to life, and Zeus complied with bringing her to life. The George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion and modern movies, notably My Fair Lady, have the Pygmalion myth as their story line. A corollary to this effect is the "Confirmation Effect," a tendency for people to be drawn to information that confirms their hypotheses or preconceptions, whether they are true or not.

Given that beliefs are only thoughts that the ego-mind has invested in, whether by repetition or influence, or conceived in the face of survival-based trauma, just how much do you want to invest in them? You can invest in a belief one day, completely reject it the next day, and re-cleave unto it the following day. Sounds like a drama-laden poor relationship, doesn't it? Do you really want to work that hard? Is it worth it in the short run or the long haul? Where does it get you in life, and do you really want this? How can beliefs, any beliefs, be true if these are purely conceptualizations and not real? Consider the suggestion of investing essentially nothing in something that is not even true. This is intrinsically not the same as investing in what is real, such as this precious here-and-now moment.

While the shift and learning curve from experiencing a poor sense of direction to experiencing an excellent sense of direction began with exchanging one belief for another, it did not remain there. What became ever more evident was that what began as exchanging one negative belief for another positive or affirmative one, shifted to simply betting on myself, my initiative and resourcefulness in investing in myself and using the resources of maps and Thomas Guides to help navigate the byways of life. Since this movement did not rely upon any belief, there was no risk or danger of any outcome, whether disappointment and falling short somehow or elation and having achieved good directional navigation.

For the ego-mind, believing is deceiving. Without the ego-mind being invited to the party of present living, releasing believing is freeing. I simply got what I got using what I got. You gotcha what you gotcha, and you don't gotcha what you don't gotcha. Sounds idiotic, and it is true, true, true! What is the point to believe in "what is?" Sometimes I have a client look out the window and notice what they see. In daytime he or she reports daylight, blue or cloudy skies, green leaves, gray bark on branches and sometimes squirrels running and jumping around. After dark, he or she usually report only darkness. Then I ask them to believe in that, that is, believe in this sensory experience. Most people find the exercise rather pointless, if not absurd. The discussion goes like this: what is the point of believing in what I directly experience? I already see and experience what I do, so what do I have to believe it for? Well, that's actually the point-it is unnecessary to believe in what you directly experience. Writer Philip K. Dick said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." It's a useful litmus paper test for what is real and what is not. An even simpler one: what is present right here and right now.

So the upshot of this whole journey is purely this: you are welcome to believe in any concept or belief in the full awareness that it is only a fantasy your ego-mind has concocted for your survival as it sees it, and has little if anything to do with reality or "what is." Again, you are welcome to believe you can or can't do anything, and have a fair probability of that coming to be. And let's not confuse any of this with the reality of what does not go away when you stop believing in it, or in betting on yourself, or in drawing upon your initiative and resourcefulness in using all the tools you have. I owe this marvelous awareness to my ego-mind's idiocy in making up my belief in having a poor sense of direction. Thanks.


Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician in private practice in Pleasanton, CA in the East San Francisco Bay area. Licensed as a psychologist in California since 1987 and in the field since 1976, he specializes in Presence-centered therapy principally with adults and couples. Presence-centered therapy is a conscious attuning to the richness of this present moment (sometimes called mindfulness or wakefulness) along with witnessing, that is, observing what the mind is up to now by looking from outside of it. His practice is centered upon inhabiting this present moment, witnessing and "buying out" of the ego-mind's unworkable patterns, desensitizing root emotional charges, and gaining effective tools to thrive in the world. He specializes in providing therapy for adults facing anxiety, significant stress, work issues, relationship challenges and depression as well as couples with marital issues, communication issues, self-defeating behavior, divorce mediation, co-parenting and pre-marital counseling. Core to his approach is installing, building and developing strong internal resources, an enhanced capacity to hold, bear and tolerate strong emotions, and highly adaptive tools to better thrive in the world.He can be reached directly through his website (featuring over 215 articles, 27 YouTube videos and pages upon pages of highly practical annotated resource links) or by email at . Dr. Friedman is available for business consulting, business training and executive coaching (detail on his home page).

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