in Business, Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy, Psychology, Science

I’m Not Fill-In-The-Blank! – Exploring The Five Levels Of Mind

“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”

– René Descartes

In my work with creatives there’s this phrase I keep hearing that goes: “I’m not (fill in the blank)…”

Far too often I find it being used as a blanket excuse to avoid doing things. Frankly, I’m tired of it.

I also know that there are countless people out there who’ve either been taught or have simply come to their own conclusion that their opportunities and/or personalities are somehow fixed.

Here are the five levels I think that we need to look at:

  1. Fact. What’s actually happening?
  2. Body. What are the bodily reactions?
  3. Emotion. What are you feeling?
  4. Mind. What is the story you’re telling about it?
  5. Observe. Just that, observe.

Iris EyeWatch it!

A while back I worked with a woman who often got taken advantage of because she was too nice. When we talked about it she said something that struck me as interesting but also erroneous.

What she said was: “Well, I guess I’ll have to be a bitch then.”

She’d confused her actions with herself as a person.

She thought that since she was a nice person she had to be nice to everyone and accept their behavior because that’s what nice people do. They don’t say “no” and they don’t set boundaries.

I explained to her that being able to say no and setting boundaries didn’t make her a “bitch”. It was merely a tool she could use to not get taken advantage of and also make room for the things she actually wanted to do.

Let’s take a look at this through the 5 levels:

  1. Fact: She is acting a certain way.
  2. Body: Her body is uncomfortable and tense.
  3. Emotion: She doesn’t feel “like herself”, the behavior feels foreign.
  4. Mind: She’s telling herself that this is wrong and she’s acting like a bitch.
  5. Observe: We simply look at all the pieces without placing any value on them.

Jesse - Breaking BadNumber of times Jesse Pinkman said “bitch” on Breaking Bad? 54.

Another example of this is when we let our emotions and habitual thinking guide our actions.

A client was having some issues with being understood by a colleague. She wanted to make him understand what the workload he was putting on her would do to her other projects. He in turn was having none of it and told her to just get it done.

  1. Fact: Two people are talking.
  2. Body: Her body is tensing up.
  3. Emotion: She feels misunderstood, and the situation feels hopeless.
  4. Mind: “He’s stupid and isn’t listening, it’s pointless to even talk about it.”
  5. Observe: Look at all the pieces without placing any value on them.

Addams FamilyThey’re just misunderstood!

To me looking at it this way feels kind of like meditation.

When I meditate I’m at that fifth level. I’m the observer of fact, my body, my emotions, and my mind.

The fact is that I’m sitting there meditating and a thought pops up in my head. My body reacts with the twitch of an eyebrow or my neck tenses up. I feel agitated that I couldn’t continue the flow. Yet, I’m the one observing all of this.

At first this was a bit freaky. I mean, I thought I knew who I was. This lead me to ask “If I’m not my thoughts and my feelings, who am I?”

I don’t have a clear answer for that, I don’t know if I ever will. Perhaps that’s not even the right question, but it’s an interesting one.

Who Am I?It’s a sign!

When we understand what’s happening on all these levels we’re somewhat disconnencted from it. We’re not as prone to act viscerally. We might be better able to look at it in a different light and come up with something constructive.

Now is the time to either focus on our breathing (something should do more of!), not letting the fear of coming across like “bitch” dictate our actions, and getting the job done rather than thinking up ways to force our colleague to understand and adopt our position.

In the latter case she put it like this: “I know he’s not going to change, and I know should look for another job. I’m just not ready.”

When we probed a little further it was all rooted in the very natural fear of not knowing if she’d find something else. She’d decided that she wasn’t ready because that’s the story she told herself about the feelings she was having.

Some time later she’d acted against those emotions and enrolled in a course that’d lead her to a new career as an HR specialist.

Pick something you’re experiencing right now or an event that you’ve thought about recently. Go through the process.

  1. Fact. What’s actually happening?
  2. Body. What are the bodily reactions?
  3. Emotion. What are you feeling?
  4. Mind. What is the story you’re telling about it?
  5. Observe. Just that, observe.

Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!

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