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    « If you want something... | Main | Letting go of fear... »
    Saturday
    Feb182012

    Our ideas are our maps of the world...

    Your ideas aren't true. They aren't real. They may be true ideas, real ideas -- they're just not true or real the way apples are true or real. Thoughts and ideas are descriptions, not things. They're maps, not terrain. They're just pointers. They're not the things they point to. In and of themselves they're empty.

    Thoughts and ideas, being descriptions of things, can never be real or complete the way the things they represent are real or complete. A thought can only be a perspective on a real thing. A house cannot be seen from every angle. It can only be partially seen, not wholly seen. A house is whole in itself, it cannot be whole in any one experience of it.

    Descriptions are not the things they describe. Maps are not terrain. Menus are not meals. Explanations don't explain anything, not really. Thoughts, like maps are useful, however. Thoughts help us break down and make sense of the world and they help us find our way around in it.

    Just don't expect thoughts to be wholly true. Thoughts can never be wholly true. They can only be partially true. Of necessity, a lot has to be left out. Maps can only reveal part of the terrain. A map that would completely describe the terrain would, of necessity, be the terrain.

    That being said, some maps are better than others. The value of a map is that it orients you, helps you find your way. The same could be said of thoughts. Some are helpful. They help you find your way. Others are unhelpful. They get in the way.

    There are lots of thoughts and ideas bouncing around in the world, and in your mind. Most of these thoughts are not even "yours," in that they didn't originate with you Not all of these thoughts and ideas matter. Some are important in your life and some are not. The important ones are the ones you have strong feelings about. We call these ideas your beliefs. Those are the ones you use to navigate.

    We can divide your ideas/beliefs into categories. Here are a few:

    distinctions, or what delineates differences for you,

    strategies, or operational beliefs about cause/effect relationships

    associations, or things you think go together,

    ideas of reference, or ideas that put other ideas in context.

    The first thing to grasp is that none of your ideas are true or valid in and of themselves. They're just thoughts until you believe them. And until you believe them (have feelings about them) they don't have much power in your life.

    Some thoughts help, some thoughts hurt, and some thoughts are irrelevant. But when you develop strong feelings about an idea, it means that whether its good or bad, helpful or destructive, it is going to impact your life.

    Side note: One of the most destructive beliefs is the idea that dwelling on negative emotions is appropriate or useful. It isn't. Dwelling on negative emotion for any length of time, for any reason, is always harmful.

    It's a good idea not to believe things that harm you or limit you. And by "believing things" I mean untested, unproven conjecture or opinion. You know that fire can burn. You infer that more money would make you happier. Not the same kind of certainty.

    We want all of our beliefs to be useful, meaning, that they support our happiness and well-being. We don't want to use false or bad maps. Examine your common beliefs, the ones that float around in your mind all day long. Ask yourself if they're really true. Or are they just vague opinions?

    The fact that you believe something doesn't make it true. Worthwhile beliefs help you. Useless beliefs hinder you.

    Here's how to put this all to work: When you have a belief that makes you feel bad (sad, frightened, angry), the bad feeling is letting you know that the belief is maladaptive -- not useful, harmful.

    If you can lose that belief and get the bad feeling to go away, you're going to be better off.

    Think of the bad feeling as a sort of smoke alarm that warns you that the idea you're focused on is going to burn you if you keep focusing on it.

    Now, to get rid of a bad belief and a bad feeling, start by understanding that resisting it or fighting it or challenging it is counterproductive. Resistance is what keeps bad beliefs and feelings around. You have to see through the false belief, and fiind a way to release it, de-signify it, let it go. You have to "lose interest" in it. Knowing that it's destructive can help you to let it go.

    I like to say that a bad belief or the bad feeling that goes with it is like a hot potato. The sooner you drop it, the better. The idea is to lose interest in holding on to it. Analyzing it, dwelling on it, figuring it out, or resenting it only keep it going.

    Example: You feel bad when you think about someone. The bad feeling is there telling you that the way you're thinking about that person isn't helpful or good, and continuing to look at it that way will harm you. So examine the belief more closely. Maybe you're thinking: "They're upset with me and they shouldn't be. It isn't fair." There are three ideas here. Resisting them and arguing with them and bemoaning them only keep them going. Stop resisting each idea and watch the bad feelings and beliefs dissolve.

    They are upset with me ->OK, they're upset with me. That's their right. Let them be upset.
    They shouldn't be -> How should I know what should and shouldn't be? Let them decide.
    It's not fair ->It doesn't have to be fair. Since when is life fair?

    Allow what is to be and welcome and let go of fighting the unpleasant ideas. Watch them dissolve.

    Thanks for reading. Play with the ideas here. They work.

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