Comment: The metaphor of this email, that of the mind being a pot of stew, is very useful for recognizing the origin of most of our thoughts and feelings, as well as the options of how many people become pressure cookers. It blends well with the previous metaphor of Sailors On A Ship.
MacQuarrie Email Program #06 — The Pot
My father (who eventually committed suicide) is supposed to have said: “Never go to a psychiatrist who is less intelligent than you are.” I think it is probably true that he did say this, because I strongly have come to believe: “Never go to a therapist who is less emotionally intelligent than you are!” I say that because, early in my own therapy, I recognized that I could easily out-think most therapists.
I also learned that, frequently and inappropriately, many therapists are prone to tell clients what they should be doing. Even if that were effective (which it is not), I can simply read what I should be doing in a book.
I needed someone who would challenge me to act differently!, not just think differently. Fortunately, I found this. I found therapists who would assist me in becoming an authentic person, with a sense of aliveness, personal integrity, and the ability to contribute to others. And I’ve made my mis-takes, many of them. And I learned from them — generally more from my mis-takes than from my successes. (Notice how I spell the word mis-take: a take that missed — that is all it is, nothing more, and certainly not a place for personal judgment.)
Most importantly, l learned some simple metaphors that have allowed me to act differently, as well as think differently (as noted, the action is more important than the thinking). Examples include the metaphor of Sailors On A Ship discussed in the last email — in a future email, I will show you how to use this metaphor for effective action. (Sorry if I seem to be shifting back and forth between past and future emails — I am attempting to build an integrated model for you.)
In this email, the metaphor I want to emphasis is called The Pot.
Imagine a pot of stew, sitting on a stove being heated; only the ingredients in this pot are your VBMEs (values, beliefs, memories, and expectations). The heat is the Current Stressors of your life (financial worries, relationship stresses, home and work situations, plus the many issues that bother you when you watch TV. et cetera). It is a pot of energy, waiting! It is here that your sailors become active — determined by your VBMEs, and activated by your Current Stressors.
The contents of the pot percolate from the heat; stuff moves under the surface (the other-than-conscious mind) and on occasion something comes to the surface (the conscious mind). When it does, you call it an emotion, a feeling, a thought, a belief — some name that allows you to recognize it. If the “something” surfaces with enough energy, it pops out of the pot, and you call it a behavior. Note that behaviors reduce the energy in the pot!
Then somebody does something (the Spoon) that stirs the pot. What comes to the surface are more emotions, and what comes out of the pot are more behaviors, all partly determined by what the Spoon has done. But more importantly, your emotions and behaviors are determined by what is already in the pot.
Consider: if this was an actual pot, and the spoon brought a carrot to the surface, would you say that the spoon caused the carrot? Weird, eh. But that is what you are saying when you say: “She made me angry!” or “He made me do it.” Yes, others can stir, but they do not cause your emotions or your actions — they are your choices, even though they originate with the other-then-conscious mind.
What happens when the pot is full, or stirred?
Actions empty the pot, but stuff gets added every day. And when the pot gets full, i.e., when the energy gets high, three things happen:
- the high energy limits the ability for information to get to the human brain — you start to lose choice.
- if the energy is really high, you act from the lizard brain — survival mode.
- you lose the ability to distinguish what is in the pot from what the spoon is doing — you lose the ability to distinguish past pain from present issues. You begin to feel unsafe.
A full pot, not thinking clearly, not safe (for yourself and possibly others). So you say to yourself (or some else says to you): Put a lid on it! Question: What happens to a pot of stew, on high heat, when you put a lid on it?
It becomes a pressure cooker! From my perspective, there are four kinds of pressure cookers:
- panic attacks: a loose lid
- explosions: a tight lid
- implosion: a sealed lid (de-pressure-is-high!)
- a time bomb: no escape valve
It is as a time bomb that the many violent massacres of our society occur — someone is so caught that they eventually take a shot-gun or semi-automatic and blow people away!
This is not a psychiatric model; this is a sociological model, and for me, is a much more accurate description of what happens in our society under today’s cultural conditions.
Task: Relate what I have written here to your own life. Especially note when you blame others because they have brought a carrot to the surface — and recall, the carrot was already there, waiting.
From all this, I developed the process I call Blowing Out®, the topic of the next two emails.