Captain vs. Steersman

Imagine the engine is working quite well and our ship is on course. Out of a sudden we hear the boy shouting from the look-out: „Iceberg ahead!“. The captain gives the order: „Turn around!“ - the steersman however replies: „Sorry, captain, there cannot be an iceberg since there never has been one. We stay on course.“

What else could happen besides a crash and the sinking of our ship, it is as simple as that. And the steersman sinks with us. Getting angry with him would not make any sense since he is as dead as we are.

Principled until the end

Unimaginable? Nothing less than that. Things like that happen every day – only on a different level. Try to imagine an analogy: our mind plays the role of the captain, our emotions and needs the one of the steersman. Now our mind may say: „I have heard about smoking being not very supportive to my health, I better quit. So, steersman, cease fire!“. But the steersman replies: „I don‘t care!“ and lights another cigarette. Unfortunately although you would love to fire the idiot, he is the only one capable to keep our ship on track. Kind of inner conflict...

Our steersman plays the role of an autopilot. Once programmed he does what he has to do and never accepts any deviation. That is pretty smart, since it allows our captain to take a nap without having to fear any negative consequences. The engine goes on working well - like our breath when we sleep. We do not die when letting our awareness take a rest. Our steersman works thoroughly, carefully and reliably. How wonderful for us! Although ... sometimes we like to try an alternative direction and that is when the trouble begins. He tries to get the ship back to the former direction and he does it by using our senses. We sense some kind of pain or feel there is something wrong or whatever...

Let me use some everyday routine as explanation. Almost 100% of the right-handed people start brushing their teeth on the left side. For them is pretty natural and it works fine – so why should they change the pattern. Do it just for fun, dear readers. You will see it feels very strange to start at the right hand side. Another example: fold your hands. Which thumb lies above the other? Then try it the other way. Your anatomy will certainly allow this, but does it not feel strange anyway, without any special reason?

The power  of habits

So deviation from the original course makes our steersman take action by sending us signals that we can notice through our bodies. Trying to change old habits and patterns will definitely cause trouble, since they afflict our original programming, which our steersman is responsible of. He wants that everything stays the way it has always been. For many reasons this is very good for us. But the same phenomenon can get us into trouble as well, and we have to find out how to cope in order to be able to change ourselves.

Some try it by extensive use of their own will. They believe a strong will should make the steersman change his mind. Ok, you who believe this: try not to get angry, when nobody appears on your date – try not to be frustrated when the children bring in half of the available mudd from the neighbourhood right after you cleaned the house – try not to be disaapointed when again a colleague was promoted instead of you.
Does it work?

I think this has to do with the phenomenon of learning. How it works I shall explain in the next part. However you should be aware: this is nothing but hypothetical and metaphorical – yet if may help ...

During the first couple of years of our lives we learn our life‘s lessons. We learn the basics, we need for our further development in life, like the muscle coordination that helps us walk and work; the sense of balance that keeps us from constantly stumbing and falling, we learn how to communicate and we learn to give troubles names and to cope with them (like this uncomfortable sensation in our belly, that we have used to call hunger and can make disappear by eating). Is it so far fetched to assume that we learn about our emotions at the same stage?

Think about how our main communication skill, the use of our language, works. Perhaps learning emotions works in a similar way. Learning the words and the language our parents use happens almost accidently, we imitate and play with sounds and words and step by step we learn the proper use of our tools, lungs, larynx, tongue and lips and everything. It seems a kind of a game and not at all stressfull. But why for God‘s sake is the same lesson only a couple of years later so difficult and never leads to the same result? No matter how hard we try to learn a foreign language, others will always recognize us by the little mistakes we make and the sound of our voices and know we originally come from another country where they use to use a different language (unless we are very very skilled in terms of learning languages, but then we would only be the exception from the rule).

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