If happiness is important for you, then you have to know this.
“Happiness lies in the mind, not in manipulating the world to accommodate our wishes […] Things are never seen as they really are. The mind paints the outside world to satisfy our mental programming.” (Swami Satyananda)
How does the mind do this? We have been gifted with a very sophisticated mechanism that filters most of the information we receive from the environment at any given moment: the reticular activating system. It is located at the top of the spinal cord and controls the information that really reaches our conscious awareness. Imagine if you were aware of every piece of information that your senses perceive? You would process thousands of thoughts, every sound, color, smell, taste, texture, event, skin temperature, and so on. You’d go crazy, overwhelmed. You could not concentrate on doing one thing well.
Well, the reticular activating system is the natural filter our minds have, which keeps information that does not reinforce our mental programming from reaching our consciousness. Anything that is not “relevant” to us, that does not go along with our values, beliefs, prejudices, goals and fears (to name some), will bypass our awareness and be processed and stored subconsciously. This means you won’t notice it.
In other words, if you believe people are aggressive your reticular activating system will not filter acts of aggression in the environment and you will notice them. Like when you decide to buy a particular car or shirt, they suddenly seem to be everywhere! At the same time, your reticula will filter all acts of kindness that challenge your belief, simplifying your life and allowing you to go on with your life as it is.
This has huge implications. Are these filters that keep us from objectively seeing the world empowering us or are they limiting us? Are they even ours or were they programmed in our minds by others?
Sociologist Morris Massey showed that we learn most of our patterns and programs when we are young. We adopt beliefs and values from our parents before age 7, then from the people we choose to model between 7 and 14, then from friends, teachers and others between 14 and 21 and, finally, from our bosses and co-workers from 21 till 35. A big part of these programs we adopt only because of our desire to belong, or because it benefited us at that time. The problem is that we took them without checking for better options, and we then forget to assess if they still serve us or not. Usually they become obsolete and start creating more problems than anything else, but we don’t challenge them, as if they were who we are.
Your opinion and your values are less “yours” than you think they are.
We can bring so much happiness and relief to our lives by being aware of our thoughts and emotions, by understanding what they are: mere programming, and to replace that programming with a more positive and productive one. One that helps you achieve your goals, not to limit yourself.
Look at the world differently. You can reprogram yourself and, if you do it correctly, you will immediately see changes in your perception of the world around you, more possibilities. If you can’t do it or don’t know how to, ask for help! That is one of the things I do with my clients. You are solely responsible for your happiness and your destiny. The decision to suffer or to be happy is only yours.