A Scaffold for the Mind

Copyright 2019 Brian Davis - CC-BY-NC-SA

Work in progress: First Draft

Over the last year I've thought a lot about how I think, exploring the connections between thoughts and feelings, mental and physical health. I believe that my concious mind is one of the ways I can control my emotions, and through controlling my emotions control myself.

This is an attempt at documenting some of the ideas I've discovered in my explorations.

Patterns of Thought

Thought patterns are habits of the mind. Response to familiar stimulous becomes ingrained, habitual. Like habits of activity these can be altered, nudged into new tracks. I've found that being mindful of which thought patterns are becoming habitual, and attempting to feed some and starve others is a very powerful tool for self control, and improving quality of life. However, observing these patterns in the moment is very difficult.

Resiliency

My specific goal of the moment is to improve my own emotional resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances. I sometimes visualize the person I wish to be: calm, strong, reassuring, confident, wise, empathetic, etc. To try to become this person fully I am examining my physical and mental habits and reshaping them in this image. To borrow a line from a Jedi Master, "Your focus determines your reality." I think there's a fair bit of wisdom in that. Too bad the midichlorians distracted from that part of Anakin's struggle. There could have been some good philosophy there!

Patterns

So far I've identified six thought patterns that contribute to resiliency.

  1. Invincible self-worth
  2. Optimism about the future
  3. Assume the best of people
  4. Realistic expectations
  5. Detachment from ego
  6. Pride in suffering

Invincible Self-Worth

TODO: Flesh out

If I accept that Jesus' atonement for my sin "once and for all" was sufficient, I must view my own worth (and the worth of other people) in a very unnatural light. It means the things we do are not what define us. I am not defined by my failures (or successes) but by His sacrifice.

If the reality of His love is eternal and enduring and proven once for all on the cross, then my circumstances, present suffering included, cannot change the fact of my being loved by God.

  1. Agree with God (my creator)

    • I am a failure, rebel, sinner
      • Rom 3:23
      • Jer 17:9
      • Is 64:6
    • He loves me still, despite, even though Rom 5:8 John 3:16 Rom 8:38-39
    • He has good plans for me Rom 8:28 Jer 29:11
  2. When the devil attacks my worth

    • Accept the truth: I am a sinner
    • Add the missing counterpoint: I am redeemed
    • Reject the lie: counter with truth

Optimism about the future

TODO: Flesh out

How can I let go of past failures and look to the future with hope and realistic expectations? I mean, I'm going to screw up again and will everything turn out ok? I suspect there are a couple components to right thinking here.

  1. Everyone screws up. Sometimes a lot. But every day is an opportunity to do something good.
  2. Looking back to past times when bad things have happened, and I've come through it.

Letting go of the past is not giving up.

Oddly I've found a kind of optimism in grim contemplation of the worst possible things I can imagine. I don't recommend this as something to dwell on. But I occasionally ask myself, when I feel like I'm starting to get stressed and worry, "What's the worst thing that can happen." I have a vivid imagination and it's pretty good at conjuring up worst case scenarios. So I observe that and say, "Ok, what would I do in that situation? How would my ideal self respond?" And then I imagine that. Now I've confronted my worst fears and made a plan for my behavior. If I ever say, "I don't know what I'd do if..." then that is a dark corner I want some to shine some light in. I'm not leaving any places for bogey men to hide in my mind. Besides it usually puts the anxiety of the moment into perspective.

Assume the best of people

TODO: Flesh out

Realistic expectations

TODO: Flesh out

Detachment from ego

TODO: Flesh out

Pride in suffering

TODO: Flesh out Rom 5:3 Fighters have to kind of like getting hit.

Conclusion

TODO: Do I have one? :-)