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Building a Framework for Understanding Ourselves

about our lives that would otherwise be characterized by feelings of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and deterioration when we cant fulfill ourselves. Success, confidence, and satisfaction are all synonymous. They breed from one another to create and perpetuate a positive cycle of expansion and mental growth. And, by the same token, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and deterioration also feed on one another to create negative cycles of emotional pain, anxiety, and depression.

To fulfill our needs and achieve our goals, there has to be some level of correspondence or balance between the inner mental environment and the outer physical environment. What 1 mean by "correspondence" is some level of understanding of how the outer environment works. Our needs, intents, goals, and desires-all- exist first in the mental environment. Then one of three things can happen in some future moment in the physical environment; they are either 100 percent fulfilled, partially fulfilled, or not fulfilled at all, resulting in feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction equivalent to the degree of fulfillment.

To fulfill ourselves, we need to interact with the outside environmental forces. The extent to which we fulfill ourselves is a function of knowing the most appropriate set of steps to take in relationship to the outer conditions and to what extent we can act on what we know. Knowing the most appropriate set of steps to take in relationship to the prevailing conditions is a function of how much or little we have learned in relationship to what is available to be learned.

Example: Draw a large circle with a diameter of approximately 6 feet. This circle will represent everything that is available to be learned about the nature of the universe, not limited by what we know of it, but as it exists in every way as yet to be discovered. Now, draw a smaller circle within the larger one, with a diameter of approximately 2 feet. This smaller circle will represent all the accumulated knowledge of humankind since the dawn of our existence, in other words, what we have learned in relationship to what we have yet to discover about the interacting forces of our environment and ourselves. Now, place a dot within the smaller circle. This dot would probably be a fair representation of what each of us as individuals has accumulated in knowledge, insight, and understanding, in relationship to what has

Why We Need to Leam How to Adapt

already been discovered and learned by others (both in the past and present), in relationship to everything else that is still waiting to be discovered.

The empty space between the inside boundaries of the larger circle and the smaller circle is basically everything we dont know or havent learned about yet, either individually or collectively. There are many things in the environment available to be experienced. However, until we learn about them, we wont experience them, just as people couldnt experience atomic energy until it was discovered. Yet it existed in the environment, waiting to be experienced and learned about for hundreds of thousands of years before we actually discovered it. These were hidden components that had to be actively uncovered by someone. Otherwise, if the environment acts as a force on us in ways that we havent learned to understand yet, we will either dismiss the experience as not real or form some superstition or think of it as some unknown or random force, until we investigate and understand the phenomena. When we investigate, we learn to make enough distinctions to recognize all the interacting components acting as a force on one another to create the effect that we also believed was random, until we learned about the experience. For years, many people in the academic community believed that the markets were random; this is a perfect example of their general lack of understanding of human nature. People act as a force on prices in perfectly logical ways, when you understand the logic of their fears.

The small circle represents what has been discovered and experienced by somebody at sometime in human history. All the discoveries throughout human r expanded the small circle to include

more and more of the larger one. For example, the small circle would probably have been a tenth of its present size during the Middle Ages. Each discovery since then changed the environment that we could experience because it added something to the mental environment that didnt previously exist in it. In other words, as we learned, we changed the way we perceived the world around us, resulting in the evolution of the thinking of humankind overall.

There is no question that the accumulated knowledge of humankind has increased to levels that would be completely inconceivable to or boggle the mind of even the broadest, most progressive thinking person alive just 100 years ago. Everything that exists now that didnt exist then (cars, planes, phones, computers, etc.) is the result of what someone learned and shared with others, and consequently it changed the consistency and makeup of the environment

Building a Framework for Understanding Ourselves

we live in. And yet all of what we have now existed as possibilities since the beginning of humankind. The possibility for manned space flight existed from the first moment that a person looked up into a star-lit sky and wondered what it would be like to be on the moon. Of course, we didnt even attempt to do it until our knowledge evolved to a point wheTe mere wishing could be turned into a reality. But what if we could go back to 1889 and tell the typical 40-year-old person about the world their great, great, great-grandchildren will grow up in? There is no way he would believe how different things will be. He wouldnt believe it because he wouldnt have the mental framework to believe it, just like we would have a very difficult time believing what we will have evolved into 100 years from now.

The dot simply represents the world we experience as individuals in relationship to what would be possible to experience if we had inside of our mental environment all the accumulated knowledge of humankind. Everything you and I know as individuals in relationship to everything we havent learned yet would represent the current set of limitations that we operate from. That is, all our individual accumulated knowledge-every memory, belief, distinction, association, insight, or understanding-about the nature of the physical environment would all represent our personal limitations compared to what is available in the environment to experience, believe, and understand. That is, there will always be more information available in the environment than what our personal limitations will allow us to perceive or experience.

Just contemplate the immensity of what we dont know yet; consider that every person who exists acts as a force on the environment to change it in some way that can affect us as individuals in some gratifying or unsatisfying way. The way in which each individual acts as a cause to change the environment, which in turn, affects everyone else, will correspond to the makeup of his mental environment. So, until you or I understand every facet of everyone elses behavior and the ways in which they can express themselves to act as a force on the environment (meaning the rest of us), then every other person that exists would represent an unknown outside force to the extent that we havent learned about human nature or understand it.

We could start filling in the small circle with dots to represent the knowledge of each individual that exists on the planet, until the circle was almost filled. The blank space left in the small circle would represent knowledge that exists in some form that is not inside the mind of some person alive today. We could also organize the dots into clusters, where each dot would overlap a bit to represent the shared knowledge

Why We Need to Learn Hou to Adapt

and beliefs of different cultures, although they couldnt overlap too much because we all know something different because of our individual differences in experiences. The dots would also have to be different sizes to represent the increased or decreased levels of understanding and insight that we operate out of in relationship to one another. For example, the dot of a child would be much smaller than the dot of a typical adult.

The physical environment was here before we were born-and we certainly werent bom with the insight that we need to interact with it in such a way that we can assure ourselves of experiencing high levels of satisfaction. For example, if there was a 100 percent correspondence between our mental and physical environment, then everything there is to know about the nature of the physical environment we would have already learned, and this knowledge would be a component part of the mental environment. Implied within this perfect correspondence would be a complete understanding of all the forces that operate in the physical environment, coupled with a complete understanding of their cause-and-effect relationship. We would know exactly how the environment would act as a force on us to create experience and how the environment would respond as a counteracting force to the force we apply to it through our behavior. And, therefore, with this perfect understanding we "vou11 know the most appropriate set of steps to take to fulfill our needs, intents, goals, and desire, resulting in a complete state of satisfaction. I am defining behavior as the outward physical expression of mental energy acting as a force on the outside environment.

Obviously, none of us possesses this kind of perfect correspondence with the environment, and, as a result, it is probably safe to say that none of us lives our lives in a complete state of satisfaction. However, the more we understand and know about the interacting forces behind our own behavior and the interacting environmental forces outside of us, the easier it is to fulfill our needs and achieve our goals, resulting in greater levels of satisfaction that we will experience in our lives. Conversely, if we dont understand our own behavior, we certainly cant begin to understand or anticipate anyone elses, and the less we understand and know about the rest of

the environmental components that have a potential to act as a force on us, then it would stand to reason that the less potential we have to fulfill our needs and achieve our goals, resulting in feelings of disappointment, stress, anxiety, unhappiness, and fear.


As I have mentioned, we arent born with the knowledge that we need to operate effectively in the physical environment to fulfill ourselves. However, we are born with the need to know. This need to know operates as a driving force in our lives coming from the innermost depths of who we are. Our natural sense of curiosity compels us to explore and learn. For example, once we have learned the nature of something or accomplished some task, we quickly become bored and go on to something different. Boredom acts as an inner force compelling us to look for something new to discover and learn about.

Attractions also act as an inner force, compelling us to move through the environment to discover and create experience. Take the object of a childs curiosity (something he is attracted to) away from him and what will happen? He will usually start crying or even throw a fit His crying is an indication that his inner needs are not being fulfilled. Crying is a form of grieving ro compensate for the lack of balance between the inner and outer environments. When we have explored the object of our attraction to our satisfaction, it means the inside has been filled with what the outside has to offer in terms of experience. When that happens we simply lose interest, become bored, and start to scan the environment for something else that might attract our attention.

There is another characteristic of our nature that supports our need to leam. Whenever we leam a skill, the steps involved in the operation of that skill drop down to an unconscious level of opera-tion, so we are then free to leam something new. To leam a skill, we usually have to break the skill down into a series of small steps and concentrate on each individual step until we can put all the steps together into a series of effective movements. By concentrating on each small step, we narrow our focus of attention to the point where

we are oblivious to anything else going on in the environment. For example, think of a time in your life when you were tying to learn a new skill, say, in some sport, and while you were trying to put all the movements together, someone was attempting to get your attention on some completely unrelated matter. In such a situation we would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stay focused on one without destroying our concentration on the other. However, after we have successfully made the skill a learned resource, we could easily perform the movements while focusing our attention elsewhere.

Without this characteristic of our nature, where our skills drop to an unconsciousness level of operation, we would find it nearly impossible to move beyond the performance level of a typical infant. Just think what it would be like if we had to concentrate on all the movements necessarv just to pick something up the way a typical infant does. We didnt always have the eye/hand coordination that we take completely for granted. We had to learn it. We learned it because we were attracted to things in the environment we wanted to experience with our sense of touch. As we leam each skill, we can automatically access the series of movements to execute the skill so we dont have to concentrate on any of the individual steps, which then frees our attention to explore and continually expand what we can become aware of.

Learning is a function of our existence. It will occur quite naturally through our powerful sense of curiosity and what we find ourselves attracted to in the environment that we just need to know everything about. At the most fundamental level, learning will happen just because we are alive and have to interact with the environment to stay alive. So we will leam something. However, that doesnt necessarily mean that what we have learned is very useful with respect to how we might go about fulfilling ourselves in some satisfactory way. We have very little control in our early years over what we learn about the nature of the outside world and how it works. I will discuss this in more detail in a moment.

As we expand our personal dot (as in the example) to leam more and more of what the environment has to offer in the way of insight about itself, we increase our level of correspondence with it When we leam, we change the makeup and consistency of our inner environment. Each change we make on the inside simultaneously

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