OK, you’re going to have to be familiar with Harry Potter to get this analogy, so I’ll go over it for those of you who don’t read YA Lit or watch a lot of movies.
In the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the evil wizard Voldemort seeks to break Harry’s spirit by invading his mind and flooding it with doubts and nastiness. Voldemort shows Harry all the ways that he and Harry are alike – and ultimately make Harry feel worthless, powerless, and broken.
It doesn’t take a powerful, evil wizard to make you experience that. In fact, we all feel that – and some of us feel it all the time. That’s called depression.
But you don’t have to be clinically depressed to relate. Ever have thoughts that you wish you didn’t? Little digs on people? Big fears and doubts about yourself? Temptations to take the easy way out?
Better question: how often do you not have those thoughts?
You can’t control what thoughts bubble into your internal dialogue. They’re often a reflection of your fears. But you can control how you respond. You can actually shut them down, reframe them, and act on the new thoughts.
If you do this enough, it becomes habit. It becomes second nature.
Ex-Navy SEAL, author, and podcaster Jocko Willink gave that positive process a great name:
You can’t control anybody else’s mind, regardless of what sales and marketing “gurus” tell you. But you can control your own.
Mind control works anywhere, under any circumstances. Even the worst.
Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, discovered this in a Nazi death camp. He realized that the one thing a prisoner could always control was his or her response. To anything.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Frankl wasn’t the only one. When I visited Auschwitz, the tour guide took us to a 4 x 8 foot room and told us a story.
Guards used to lock groups of prisoners in there until they went insane from starvation. They would attack each other, scream, and wail. They would die in despair and hysteria.
But one day, a Catholic priest was among the prisoners. The priest had volunteered to take somebody else’s place in the room.
When the guards abandoned the prisoners to destroy one another, they heard them singing hymns.
Days later, when they returned to clear out the bodies, there was no sign of violence. All of the bodies looked peaceful, even serene.
In the very worst of circumstances, that priest showed his fellow prisoners how to respond – even how to die – in the most elevated, noble way. With courage and love.
Why am I giving you this heavy analogy? Because I want you to understand that mind control works against anything.
Some of you have battled CPPS for years. Some of you have been held back from joy and achievement. CPPS is emasculating. It’s not a death sentence, but it is a prison that you have to break out of.
How to practice Mind Control
In the Order of the Phoenix, Harry overcomes Voldemort by overturning each and every horrible thought that Voldemort puts in Harry’s head.
To practice mind control, you have to do the same. “I can’t” and “it hurts too much” and “I’m too old” and “I’m too tired” and “nobody cares if I show up anyway” must be replaced with positive language.
Believer language. Doer language. Warrior language.
“I can’t” becomes “I am not able yet, but I will be.“
“It hurts too much” becomes “I will slow down and try it gradually.“
“I’m too old” becomes “my body will adapt even if it takes months.“
“I’m too tired” becomes “I am strong and I’ve been through this before.”
“Nobody cares if I show up anyway” becomes “I’ll make an impression when I go.“
You can’t believe something and live something if you don’t first assert it clearly and plainly. No man can serve two masters – and you cannot serve positivity and cynicism in the space of the same thought. The one that you give breath will be the spell that dictates your destiny.
This isn’t a day-long exercise. It’s a lifelong exercise. Like many behavioral changes, it’s rooted in your image of yourself. Do you want to be somebody who never quits? Who frightens competitors simply by being unflappable?
What does a master of mind control look like?
I’m not there yet, but I can tell you I am dramatically better than when I started – which was when I was 22.
It was senior year of college, and I finally figured out why a lot of people didn’t want to be around me. I was negative, weak, cynical, and a drag to be around.
So I sought out new role models. Manly men and tough women (OK, mostly men, though I’m a big fan of Corrie Ten Boom).
Anyway, one answer to that question is below:
At fifteen my heart was set on learning;Confucius
at thirty I stood firm;
at forty I had no more doubts;
at fifty I knew the will of heaven;
at sixty my ear was obedient;
at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without overstepping the boundaries of what was right.
Confucius mastered mind control. He made the world a better place. And his report on his life is a short and sweet example of a man who trained his mind to think good thoughts.
You will, too. Rework enough of your thoughts and it will become automatic. And in the meantime, your outlook and demeanor will brighten, and it won’t go unnoticed – by you or by others.
In your journal, make a list like the following. Negative thoughts can be about you, your circumstances, anything. You can’t change these things if you don’t recognize them, so think hard! But just start with a few.
I’m not half as smart as I think I am
This suit makes me look like a slimy used car salesman
My old boss was a complete idiot who made my life absurdly difficult
I may have to work harder than I like to get things, but that’s what smart people do – they get results, even if it takes a while
This suit is what I’ve got to work with, and tonight I’ll write up an idea on how I’d like to look in a suit, and get after it.
I pity my old boss, because to live life in fear like that would be miserable. If I run into that again, I’ll ask questions to get the boss thinking, make more proposals for solutions, and if I can’t change them, I’ll go somewhere my ideas are valued.
If you’re a man of faith – any faith – you likely believe that forgiveness and redemption are a part of becoming the most you can be. So ask for forgiveness for those dark thoughts.
And if you’ve actually said them to others any time recently, ask them for forgiveness, too.
From a spiritual POV, this action reconciles you with God, who is love. From a psychological POV, this action teaches creates awareness that these negative thoughts are a bad habit – and so makes you more aware of them in advance.