In my last blog I explored the two rooms of the mind, the courtroom and the science room or laboratory. In the first room we find a judge, critic or evaluator who uses the blunt tools of goodness, badness, rightness, wrongness, guilt and innocence. In the courtroom mind we stand apart from the object of our attention and blame it. We slide in a negative filter and find all the flaws and imperfections.
When the object we are scrutinizing is our own self, such judgments often lead to negative emotions. If I decide my bald head is bad or less attractive than the full head of long, dark hair I had when I was 18, then all it takes is a single glimpse in the mirror to instantly convict and execute me. I can drift along that way an entire day or lifetime as I dwell on what is bad or wrong with my appearance, or my past or job or family or house or town or bank account. Bad, bad, bad. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Shame, shame, shame.
In my work with my clients, I walk with them into their courtroom mind and ask their jury to deliberate on this: how does it help them to live most of their existence in a courtroom? When that question is asked, it usually brings the court proceedings to a halt as it considers my question. How does it help us to be continually judgmental of ourselves and others? Does it work? And by “work” I mean, does it ultimately provide us with happiness, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction and contentment?
The courtroom mind is stuck on justice and fairness and is overworked because there is so much wrong (it thinks) in its neighborhood of awareness that includes, self and everything that is not the self. We want to be right as badly as we want to breathe oxygen. But too often we deny our own hope for victory and become a victim of our own cruel condemnation.
In the end that means we quietly suffer as our inner judge finds us continually guilty. We want to win the game. We merely want our own approval but our pathological inner critic is relentless in its lack of mercy. It ferrets out our every fault and says we lose. We lose.
And as we interact with others, we fear their judge as much as we fear our own. If there is one factor above all others that dooms our relationships, it is our desire to blame one another and our need to reject each other’s judgments. This blame and defend cycle destroys the good and makes us warriors in our own homes.
In my last blog, one of the commenters helpfully demonstrated this process by writing from her judgmental mind as she found fault with me and what I wrote. And she was right. From her perspective, she spoke the truth. I could become defensive and fight back with my truth but that would not be helpful to her or me or our readers.
In that blog, I was seeking to point out that reality is neutral. It isn’t good or bad. It just is. It is our mind that gives it a good or bad value. I used the example of food. I could have used sex or money or clothes or anything that a person desires. It is my observation that people suffer mental pain because they want something they do not have or they have something they do not want.
Either we can change what is “wrong” in our world or we cannot. If we find some condition unacceptable, we must change it if we are to have peace of mind. Being unwilling to accept what we cannot change or being unable to change what we cannot accept will lead to mental suffering.
If I am starving or my family is starving, I will likely do everything in my power to obtain food. That is an extreme example but it is a daily reality for millions of people in a world where less than 100 human beings possess as much wealth as the poorest 3 billion. It is a crime that we all live with and each of us is complicit as we pretend we are not responsible.
I am materially blessed and have been all my life. I have been fortunate. And yet I have many faults and several people working fulltime for a year might not log all my inadequacies, especially the ones only I know about. Regardless, each of us has an opportunity as humans to achieve a kind of spiritual enlightenment, no matter how flawed we are or how rich or poor. We ultimately decide if we suffer or not. We can give this power to other people or to external conditions. That is our choice. We are free. We can let other people or things determine our joy today. We can do that. But why?
At this moment, the only thing separating us from true joy and peace is our own mind. This is a radical idea. But until we realize we are not our mind, we (our mind) will struggle in vain to fully appreciate this understanding. The deepest peace a person can experience is but a breath away as soon “I” get out of the way. It can literally happen right now. I wish you this.
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 25 years. He believes in magic and is a Sacramento Kings fan.