Now that I have your attention let’s first talk about the how the mind can turn clean into dirty. The way I am using clean and dirty are as concepts and processes applied to the experience of pain. Pain comes in many forms and is generally something we do not want to experience. Another word for not wanting something is called aversion. Meriam Webster defines aversion as a strong feeling of not liking something. Feelings, emotions, memories, thoughts, and physical sensations can be events we develop an aversion to having and experiencing. The natural response to unwanted events in our private world and in the public world is to move away from the aversive event.
Your private world is anything you experience under your skin. They are events such as feelings, thoughts, memories, emotions, and physical sensations that only you know you experience and therefore they are called private – within inside you. Sometimes, private events become public events such as crying, twitching, shaking and even flushing. With private event, I can see you and you can see you doing and experiencing each of the aforementioned things. However, with private events, I do not know for certain what is happening inside of you. Chances are, I can guess and be fairly close. Guessing is a form of making up stories. The story I make or you make up about another person who is crying or shaking might be right on target and you might be considered an emotionally intelligent and empathic person. However, it’s a prudent to hold stories lightly because you don’t know for sure. Even the stories you tell to yourself should be held lightly. Why? They might change. Remember when you believed the dark was scary or the tooth fairy put money under your pillow. Did you believe that was the truth? Hold your stories lightly with a gentle embrace.
Following is an illustration of what holding lightly might look like. I see Jane crying and Jane sees Jane crying. The story I make up, “Jane is hurt.” The story Jane makes up, “I am a happy beyond words.” I also see John crying. I make up a story about his behavior, “John must be sensitive.” John has his own story about his crying, “I am a sissy.” This is an over simplification of how you make sense of private and public events with stories of what you and others experience. We have a tendency to explain and compare our inner (private) world with other peoples’ outer (public) world. Again, hold your stories lightly with a gentle embrace and compassion.
Let’s get back to pain and aversion. To understand a dirty mind it is easiest to begin with a description of how you experienced pain from an early age when you still had a clean mind. When you were a baby and you experienced the discomfort of being hungry, tired, wet, cold, or lonely you cried or squawked until you got what you needed to be comfortable. You cried to get your needs met. You did not have stories about being good or bad and right or wrong when it came to expressing your discomfort. When you were a little older around the age of three you learned to ask to have a glass of milk or a cookie when you were hungry or thirsty. You could say, “Up Mommy, Bye Bye Daddy.” You pointed and said “cookie” and at about this time you were developing an imagination in an effort to understand the world. You could make up stories. You were able to imagine and believe the dark had scary things in it and that your parents could read your mind. Hence, you began to develop stories about being good or bad. As you acquired language your novice abilities with combining words meant you could know the experience of being told to go to your room and your imaginative skills could make up a story that meant you were bad when you were told to go to your room. Furthermore, that did not feel good. The experience became aversive. Your thoughts and emotions (your private events and experiences) became aversive.
Here is another way to understand aversive. You touch a hot stove. It is painful and you pull away. You see a spider you feel scared you run and hide. Is that normal? Yes! Yes! It is normal to want to get away from or escape when frightened or hurt and something is causing you emotional or physical pain. Even the threat of something you perceive as undesirable is cause to run the other way. You are hardwired to escape. It is automatic to jump back when in fear. Fear is a basic emotion all humans experience. The three survival behaviors are fight, flight or freeze. I want to be sure you understand this is not only normal it is needed for you to survive and for the human race to survive. It is not good or bad and it is not right or wrong. What I am describing falls into the category of clean pain. It is when you have a clean mind in relationship with normal pain.
Dirty pain comes along a little later when your language skills become more complex along with more sophisticated cognitive abilities. We begin to put two and two together literally and figuratively. At first we accept our pain when it shows up even when it feel bad (aversive). Just like when we step on a nail we feel pain and we accept it as being normal. Something happen along the way to adulthood that permits us humans to form relationships based on our excellent problem solving skills.
I have a little favor to ask. Watch for your stories you make up about your own uncomfortable and undesirable (aversive) feelings, emotions, thoughts, memories, or sensations. I would love to hear what shows up! Seriously. I want to hear about your stories. It will take courage for you to share and I know you can do it. Just leave your story below in the comment section below.
Part 2: Evolution of a Dirty Mind
- Warning: Stress Is Not the Enemy
- Can We Really Trust Our Own Mind?
- My 5 Secrets to Managing the Storm
(C) Copyright 2015 Brenda Bomgardner