Monday, June 13, 2005

Running the Mind in "Interpreted Mode"

Running the Mind in "Interpreted Mode"

You wake up everyday with eagerness, ready to savour the beauty of the day. And then you turn the pages of the morning papers, and you are suddenly reminded of all the ugliness that is out there.

Sometimes in your moments of self-pity, you recall all the ugliness that you've read--befalling other people--and you feel slightly better, even fortunate. You thank God for all the small blessings that you already possess.

I know of people who suffer from depression. To outsiders, the circumstances of their lives do not look that bad but from their own point of view, they feel that they are in the deepest of ruts. They don't see light at the end of their dark emotional tunnel. They feel alone, unloved and miserable. In some bad cases, thoughts of suicide might even surface.

The cycle of depression can be a very vicious one: A depressed person spends the whole day worrying and reinforcing his self-defeating beliefs. This leads to further arousal of intense negative emotions, which could affect the person's sleep and end up causing him to feel exhausted. Exhaustion weakens the mind and the body, which further diminishes his ability to break away from his depressive mode of thinking. It ends up like an infinite loop in a computer program, and the mind "hangs".

To break out from this state of depression, one has to somehow disrupt this pattern of depressive thoughts. It is difficult for the suffering person to do it himself; some kind of external help is needed--someone to initiate the "Control-Alternate-Delete". In bad cases, professional help is even necessary. But if you realize that you are already going along this extremely slippery path of depressive thinking, you'd better break the pattern now!

I've often stressed the importance of learning how to control our own thoughts. If we let them run riot on their own, depressive infinite loops can occur. The other important skill that one must master is the ability to always see the positive side of things. To use a computer analogy again, one must run one's mind in "interpreted mode". You see, It is up to us to interpret how good or bad an event is. In "interpreted mode", the mind never hangs because control is always returned to the interpreter.

How does one run in interpreted mode? Using the right mental vocabulary helps. Instead of feeling "angry", why can't you feel "peeved" (to take a cue from Anthony Robbins). See the big difference between "angry" and "peeved"? "Anger" is red hot with emotion; "peeved" is a mild and even funny way of describing your dissatisfaction--but it sure makes a hell lot of difference to your mental state of mind. You have a choice on how you want to interpret events. So exercise that choice.

I've written a lot about equanimity and mindfulness--these are all techniques on how to run one's mind in interpreted mode. Try it out. Don't wait until you have to use that nasty three-finger salute!

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