ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Method of Retasking the Mind

Jack Bragen
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 07:00:00 PM

Most people, I have observed, are generally unaware of what it is they are trying to do.

Some examples: What comes to mind when you hear someone say, "I'm not angry!" or, "I'm not jealous!"? What comes to mind when you hear someone say, "I don't do it for the money"? And, what comes to mind when you hear someone say, "I can take it or leave it"?

The human mind is constructed in a such a way that we may have a blind spot that may prevent us from understanding our own motives. This is so for a non-afflicted person's mind as much as it is for someone with a psychiatric diagnosis.  

The mind, at any given point, functions under a cache of commands/assumptions, which are our agendas. If the mind is on a painful, destructive, or useless task, it can grind on this indefinitely until something happens, externally or internally, to get us off that track.  

A television can play a horrible, awful, distasteful show, and it can play something better. The human brain is another vehicle that carries content. A person isn't necessarily stuck with one set of thoughts. We can divert to something else. If we are experiencing unhappiness, it could be due to bad content.  

Of course, it is not always so simple as that. Content is largely created by someone's environment--by surroundings, and the content being inputted from other people near us. When someone speaks and we hear it, this affects us whether we like it or not. How it affects us depends on what is being said, how it is being said, and on how our brain processes it. We don't always have full control over how our brain processes something.  

Environment often shapes the content of the mind, and the processing of the mind. When the environment is not demanding, we have more choices and we can give the mind assignments that we choose to give it. 

If our environment is not too demanding, it becomes more plausible to do almost any type of meditation or mindfulness. What I am calling "retasking," is where you change the postulates, the content, and the processing done by the mind. 

The first thing in "retasking" should be to discover your current postulates/commands. If it is a hot day, your postulate could be: "I'm hot; I need to cool down." If your stomach is empty, it might be: "I'm hungry." If someone is yelling at you about something, your postulate might be, "What a jerk!" If you are trying to figure out your postulates, one of them will be that of finding the postulates. 

Or, we might be preoccupied with postulates not connected to happenings in the moment. For example: "I need to get a better job." Another could be "This car is a piece of crap." Another could be "My ___ [girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse] is cheating on me--I know it!"  

The postulate cache in the mind can probably hold about a dozen accurate or erroneous beliefs at a given time. If you can get them to stop, one by one, it can bring peacefulness.  

You can learn to swap content. Another way of saying this is "distracting yourself." When we think of distraction of oneself, it may bring skepticism. It may seem like it doesn't resolve anything. However, the act of distracting should not be underestimated.  

Also, there is the act of ignoring. You might think ignoring something doesn't accomplish anything. However, you'd be wrong.  

People in certain jobs have learned to ignore the desire to urinate--for example, bus drivers and truck drivers. It is unhealthy to put this off for too long. However, if you have to go another half hour because it doesn't work to stop in a bad part of town, or, if your break time at your job is in fifteen minutes, being able to ignore this for fifteen minutes can be handy.  

Ignoring being hungry can come in handy if you are trying to lose weight. Ignoring being somewhat cold or hot is useful if you'd like to save money on your heating or cooling bill. Ignoring low-level physical pain is useful if you are a professional athlete, or perhaps a laborer.  

(A note about "ignoring pain": The reader must not construe this as an invitation to do harm to yourself or to fail to seek medical attention when sick or injured.)  

When you ignore a stimulus, it tells the mind that it is of low priority. When you distract yourself, it fills up mental space that might otherwise be used to mentally complain.  

You might be skeptical and believe that none of this solves your emotional pain. Yet, you should give this a chance. Retasking works because most emotional suffering that most Americans feel is caused by the content of the mind. If you change the content of your mind, it often solves a lot of unhappiness. 

There are a lot of ways to use the idea of retasking the mind. The basic idea is that you swap the content of your thoughts--you focus on things that do not cause you to be upset, and, additionally, you focus on things that help you and that make you feel better.  

The above concept doesn't address a neurologically caused mental illness. However, it can help with quality of life. This technique doesn't change any problems in life that must be addressed. It is merely a way to create a better mood. 

A shortcoming of modern psychotherapy, as administered to mentally ill adults, is that the therapists are trained to make their subject go into their pain more deeply, in the mistaken belief that this is somehow going to solve it. What they are doing is to train their "clients" to magnify their pain. This is a reason, among many, that I am resistant to therapy. A page in my chart says that I am "resistant to therapy." 

Changing the content of thoughts is something with which you can experiment. We are not in a demanding situation twenty-four hours of the day. When we have some time, we could practice at it. If you go into a more demanding situation, and begin it with thinking that is more positive, it can sometimes create a better outcome. 

The mind is happy when the mind thinks it is happy. The origin of most happiness versus unhappiness is often based on the content--the set of thoughts that currently occupy the mind. 

When someone says something negative to you, you might make a mental note that you will not absorb this into your mind. You don't have to say anything to the person who said it, since the person might be offended. If you know the person well enough to tell them, you could do so, hopefully in a tactful way. 

Spending time revising thoughts is not a waste of time. You can do this with paper and pen as an aid, not on a computer. What we think and how we think can have a major effect on mood, and I suggest looking into this.