Not long after I started my first real job out of college, I picked up a copy of Dianetics. The book is 676 pages long, and I don’t remember it in great detail, but I do know I was put off by a lot of the political discussions that occur in the book–particularly with the issue of abortion. The basic idea, however, seemed to have a bit of merit on the surface.
Generally, the book says that all of the physical and emotional pain experienced in your life burdens your mind with negative recordings called engrams, and the only way to clean all that crap out is to do a sort of regression to uncover these experiences one by one, all the way until you remember yourself in the womb. And once you uncover these engrams and erase them, you are “clear.” A person with a clear mind can think freely, like a rebooted computer runs lightning fast because it isn’t burdened with remnants of programs that never closed properly, or that are memory hogs.
Let me just say this: I think L. Ron Hubbard is full of shit. Either that or he was playing a joke on humanity by creating this nonsense and especially the religion that emerged from it.
But the idea of your mind being burdened by the weight of its own experiences intrigues me. I do think we all experience this to a degree, across all areas of our lives, and our ability to occasionally reboot or simply maintain our minds and sanity has a lot to do with how content well-adjusted we are.
Now all this may seem obvious, especially if you’ve ever been treated with psychotherapy. I only have a passing knowledge of psychiatry and psychology and don’t really know their terminology. But I’m more interested in the physical aspect anyway. In the last blog I discussed how blank your mind must be when you’re born, and how memories are constantly being added to your mind. And since your mind is who you are, then it stands to reason that every day–really from moment to moment–you are slightly different.
Imagine how malleable you must be as a child. Every stimulus you encounter from the outside world becomes a part of you. Every little thing matters. What you eat. How much exercise you get. How much your parents challenge you to learn. Do they spend time with you? Talk to you? Sit you in front of the TV to watch that purple dinosaur? Yell at you all the time? Hit you? Maybe your mom is so protective of you that you never experience life the way it really is, complete with failures and sadness, and you become a mama’s boy. Or maybe she’s never complimentary, never makes you feel special, yells at you all the time, and you grow up fearing women.
When you meet someone new, you don’t just meet a body. You meet the sum total of experiences that person has had in their life until that very moment. They are carrying baggage, and you are carrying baggage. They’re also carrying all of their good experiences. We’re all carrying them. And as soon as you begin interacting with that person, you begin to shape each other. You create your own good memories for a while, and then you pick up a bit of baggage and add it to whatever you were already carrying.
What is a relationship, anyway? It’s nothing physical. It’s an exchange of ideas, of hopes and dreams and memories of shared experience. It exists in my mind and your mind, mainly. But it also exists in the minds of our friends and family, who may share opinions about that relationship. If your mom hates your boyfriend, it could change the nature of your relationship with him, right? What if you are Bratt Pitt and Jennifer Aniston? Does your relationship not also exist in the minds of millions of people who read magazines about you, who fund the work of paparazzi who chase you around all the time, and couldn’t that pressure ultimately have an effect on your relationship?
A relationship is not a physical thing, but it’s still just as malleable as your mind is. When you meet someone whose sum total of genes and experiences just happens to fit yours, you experience a kind of euphoria that is difficult to explain. Part of this feeling results from brain chemicals designed to help you fall in love, biological responses designed to foster reproduction. But there is also the non-tangible side, the need humans feel to be understood, and finding someone like this is a kind of magic.
Our brains are powerful. Right now the human brain is the most organized structure we know in the universe, and it comprehends concepts in a way that is beautiful and staggering. But this power comes with a price…we live every day with the knowledge of our own eventual death, and we struggle with the possibility that there is no grand plan or purpose for anything.
Every day we get filled up with more information. Good things happen and we smile, bad things happen and we frown. Television and Internet news bombards us with dread and death, stories about humans doing horrible things to each other, all because their minds became too filled up with bad stimuli. Almost all of those mug shot faces once belonged to an innocent, blank slate baby who somehow ended up with a head full of garbage.
I’m a firm believer that people have a responsibility to take control of their lives. I’m no bleeding heart who wants to heal the world with love. But I think part of that control includes taking the occasional step back. We can all stand to reboot the computer every once in a while, whether it’s a vacation, a good night’s sleep, the decision to forgive someone you care about.
What good does it do to constantly worry? To obsess about the negative?
Why not just relax? Rest occasionally? Turn off the TV?
Take some time to reboot. Your CPU will thank you.