As a writer and photographer I travel between my life in Toronto, my life in Antigua, and anywhere else my wanderings may take me ... writing my books and enjoying local arts and adventures along the way.

Travelling for Personal Growth Part III

This post is the third in a series of four posts that is accompanied by an article entitled “How to Change Absolutely Anything about Your Life in Ten Steps” that I published on eHow.com.

The Last Post

My previous post ended with the recognition that although I believed that the end conclusion of my reasoning processes was completely arbitrary based on the facts, in reality my reasoning proved to be far more predictable. What was even more stunning than the predictability behind what I initially thought was my inherent randomness was how that revelation quickly made the behavior of other’s begin to seem quite preordained as well. I as a born risk-taker for example would generally weigh an opportunity and conclude that the most logical approach was to take the risk involved in trying to realize the opportunity. I have a good friend of mine whom I respect as an intelligent and well-reasoned man but who is far more risk-averse. He would unfailingly weigh the exact same opportunity and conclude that the most logical approach was to avoid any risk whatsoever. That example sticks out glaringly for me to this day. It pointed out that although we think our logical minds are in control of weighing facts and independently choosing a course of action, to some degree that process of logic is a facade. The end result of our reasoning is less determined by a logical assessment of the circumstances around us than by the responses to those circumstances that we are by nature preconditioned to have.

The Debate About Free Will

While in a very philosophical mood one day, another friend and I got into a debate on the same issue of whether when it comes to decision making we follow our predispositions or whether we independently go in the direction our logic dictates. I argued that our decisions are largely preordained by our dispositions.

Under the illusion of being governed by nothing other than our own conscious free will, we instead follow our predispositions uncontrollably. He disagreed strongly and countered by saying “We have the ability to change whatever we want to in our lives. When you recognize that you have no control over the things you are strongly predisposed to do then you can change anything”. Incredulous, I gave a crazy example about a raging alcoholic. Were they in control just because they acknowledged that from the first they smelled liquor they had to run after it with no control over anything except remembering not to hold their breath too long when guzzling so they didn’t pass out? His words were an obvious contradiction to me.

Then my friend said something truly profound. “You can’t control the things you are not in control of, but from the areas where you are in control you can fix or seek help in fixing those where you are not. In that way we are in control of everything”. The light began to turn on for me right then.

Compulsion

We feel out of control when we are compelled to act in ways that strongly contradict with what we ourselves believe to be good for us.

Most people who gamble would agree that losing their firstborn’s college money was not in their interest. Most people who drink would agree that blacking out behind the wheel after a serious night of drinking and crashing the car into the side of their house was not in their interest either. Whether or not one believes that our logic simply allows us to feel comfortable about doing what our individual predispositions instruct us to do in the first place, compulsions differ from ordinary behavior in that they inspire action that leaves any semblance of logic behind.

Taking Leave of All Good Sense

All of us have areas in which we can’t have even the semblance of a logical discussion such as areas in which we are very sensitive to the way we perceive ourselves or to the way others perceive us.

We can’t consider all opinions and weigh them dispassionately because it’s just too difficult to let the discussion head to areas we refuse to accept. But to counter the lack of control that comes with a compulsion we can begin the discussion of a solution in areas where we have no sensitivity and where our reasoning is strong. From that position of strength we can extend solid reason into areas where our reasoning is much more shaky. Few of us can tell when our thoughts are slipping into the region of broken logic and compulsions having consequences difficult for us to accept but it’s easy to recognize when we clearly feel good about some outcome. The wisdom in what my friend told me is that in a number of ways, we can use the good to fix the bad. We can use the more balanced logic from the areas in which we gave good feelings to help us sort out the areas where our logic is broken and where our compulsions reign free.  And we can leverage the positive aspects of our relationships to enlist their support of others.

Accept the Help of Others

In a world of over six billion, none of us are truly alone, despite the way one might feel at times. As human beings we are social animals who have the capacity to rely on each other’s differing strengths to help us meet diverse challenges. Control alone is less important than understanding where support is readily available from others. Control is really a balance between being protected within the sphere of our own control and recognizing where others can reach out and protect us with their support at other times when we cannot. Despite my belief in my own ability to reason through the most difficult questions it was fitting that this most profound conclusion came not from me but from this person who I recognized has over many years of my life has been such a reliable source of support. His support formed the beginning of my answer to the question of how we can be in such a state of self-control that we can change anything we want about ourselves … and that answer is to ask another question … whether we should seek to be.

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