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Some people do not know they are in a mental prison. Their day to day perceptions have become normal. Some folks may not have the tools to break out. Or even be willing to. The more that we can stay in a predictable environment the more comfortable we humans tend to be.

An Example

Couch lock. There are times I can’t get my body off the couch. It feels like I’m ensnared by my own laziness. This can happen after a long day, when my mental defenses are down, and, you guessed it, the television is on. Yes, abuse of the flat screen is a mental prison.

My brain thinks it would be a great idea to do something. The only thing I’m motivated to do is graze the fridge. Eating to escape is a mental prison.

The list goes on…

Pattern Recognition

I’m not very good predicting the future. Nor am I particularly good at interpreting the past. Life is confusing.

A ball peen hammer to the head, I understand.

And I comprehend repetition. When repeated events occur with similar outcomes, I start to get it. It doesn’t make me any better at prediction, but solace comes from pretending I can.

Thin-slicing is a term describing the ability to find patterns in events based only on “thin slices,” or narrow windows of information. It is very common in our thought process. This is an ability worth improving.

It’s obvious that I am not good at being able to tell the difference between good and bad news. Almost any sort comes with elements of both. Part of living in a mental prison: the cause of a challenge may not be the path to the solution. People can be so chained to past pain that their place of incarceration is comfortable. Regret, loss and self-deprecation are cadences that become truth.

In Ancient Greece, on the road to the oracle at Delphi, a sign could be found “Know Thyself”, or “Know Your Limitations”.

Socrates said ‘The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”.

Mental Prisons are super prevalent. Most of us have had to deal with it from time to time.

The Jailer’s Key

If the keys to freedom are in our possession, why remain incarcerated? Some folks get used to their pattern of thinking. There may be functional problems relating to others. These challenges may keep them from participating in healthy relationships. A person can become entrenched in their belief system and daily routine. They may not even consider a different way to live. I have seen it time and again.

Mental prisons can be like a Merry-Go-Round. One thought fuels another thought which fuels another. This all leads to lack of confidence and inaction.

I understand a mental prison can be like post-traumatic stress disorder. That discussion is way out of my pay grade; I’m not going down that rabbit hole.

Some situations that you lived through may have been very frightening. Some things are hard to forget and not easy to move beyond. So, yeah, reliving stuff like that can shackle your mind. And there’s nothing you can do for it, other than try some meds and hope they work.

Searching for meaning requires change and growth. Life doesn’t give us meaning, we have to find it. Every single moment of our lives has meaning.

No single variable in our circumstance is predictive of a specific out come.

Accuracy and direction are the two most important aspects of self-truth.

The human brain embraces that which it perceives as truth. Because we are social beings, trust is the adhesive which holds us together. We mistrust those who adhere to lies and manufacture inaccuracies.

What is truth? This is what it boils down to.

Many times it’s easier for me to understand the behavior of others when I barely understand my own.

I am looking to free myself from my fears and find what I love.

Society’s Expectations

Many of the things we do in society is like participating in a team sports mentality.

Cheating on taxes, running red lights, jaywalking, these are normal things we do, right? We often make mistakes and our best response is that other people do similar things. If that’s you, you might be be in a mental prison.

It is in our nature to prefer fairness. In life, most of us aren’t on the top of the game. So we seek out fairness. This is an impossible standard because what is fair for you often isn’t right for me. And that’s most situations.

The biggest illusion in life is that it is going to be fair. Is a set of rules going to create equality?

This example is an over simplification – Dennis is athletic and I’m rich. The government is trying to make us equal. How do the authorities do that? They have to make sure I share my wealth in exchange for my friend’s athleticism. It’s a weak argument, but you get the point. I apologize to Dennis for bringing him in to this; sorry, Bro.

Is this a way to play fair, be on the same team?

I do not think it is productive arguing about fairness, especially in the realm of creativity. Art can be a great regulator. Those most able are those who forge forward.

Wrong priorities can create a mental prison. The goal is to develop correct priorities.

Work Life

My father often said he wished that my grandfather had owned a business. That business could have become a family inheritance, passed on as a legacy.

Owning any business involves risk. My father had the option to create a business. That can be a hard decision. Especially with a mortgage, two kids and all the added responsibilities.

Then there is decision on what sort of business. I’m not my dad, there is no way I would pass judgement on his decisions. But the option was there if he had wanted to choose it.

That was a different time and place. Finish high school, go to college, get married, buy a house and have 2.5 kids, go on vacations, retire…you know the ending. The American Dream, right?

In today’s America, the path isn’t so clear. Do you believe the American Dream still functions under the same parameters? If so, you may be stuck in a mental prison.

I have been in the same career for a very long time. There have been rewards and pitfalls, like anything else.

I have always wanted more. One basic human desire is the longing for more; enough is not enough. Year in and year out I have stayed in the same thought patterns.

I have had music as an avocation for most of my working life. There is enormous love and passion there.

There has always been underlying frustration in its pursuit. Even when I was working full time on the road, there were frustrations.

What I now know, which I hadn’t considered in the past, is that I have been in a mental prison.

What Am I telling Myself?

If I want to help others, I have to take care of myself first. If I don’t, I won’t be much use to anyone else.

Stories are our interpretation of facts. Stories are powerful. If I tell myself I’m stupid, doesn’t stupid behavior follow? What happens when I tell myself the opposite? Every story we tell ourselves is incomplete in one way or another.

If you can not look at both sides of a situation or an argument, you may be in a mental prison. The questions asked should include needed details. Ask also what details are not needed; what do you pay attention to and what do you not.

We live in our own reality. It’s pretty predictable we combine groundless certainty on all kinds situations. This can lead us to incredible error in our assumptions. That’s how we ended up with the society we live in.

We function in the belief that our perspective is the correct perspective. We call in to question those who do not think our way. This is a potential path to narcissism.

I do not think most of us have learned how to compare. What is it like to live someone else’s life? Why is this one person worse than someone else? Do we know all the facts?

We begin our circumstance as two different persons. One is who we are, the other is who we want to be. My eventual goal is that the two meet. I also want to be able look at challenges from unorthodox perspectives. It is obvious that my previous thought process has not helped me achieve what is important in my life. This has been a trap.

I am guilty of putting invisible restrictions on myself. Those restrictions come with their own biases. The idea is to see around the biases I have created. I need to reconsider the rules. There are self-manufactured boundaries and perceived constraints that need to go away.

Escaping Prison

There are daily habits I adhere to. I’m not always consistent, but these are practices which move my goals forward.

I’m grateful.

I am grateful for this day given to me. As much as I want to leave my job behind, I am thankful for the opportunity to earn a living. There are my family, friends, spiritual connections, health and pursuit of my talents. I’m grateful for these things.

There is a need for me to keep moving. If I’m not moving forward, I start to vibrate. Actually vibrate, displaying anxiety. My mind churns, frustration boils over and apprehension ensues.

Physical and creative activity are the two solutions to my anxiety. I need both to maintain balance. Weather permitting, I ride my bicycle 100 miles a week. Weather not permitting, I walk 20 to 30 miles a week. Hitting the gym a few days also provides respite.

Creating takes the Lion’s share of my time. That process includes collating information which facilitates my imagination. There is also time spent honing my skill set. Everyday leads to discovery of some sort of weakness that needs strengthening. I can always improve, whether playing music, producing, recording or writing.

I strive to be authentic. We all carry pain of some sort. Everyday involves trying to somehow tease it out. It took a long time, but I am daily learning not to live someone else’s definition of who I am.

The prison break.

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