More About the Mind,
Assumptions, and Perspectives
“Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" separates people through misunderstanding, anger, and condemnation. That mentality stems from holding beliefs that people in a society, individually, regard as unquestionably “right,” “righteous,” “correct,” or “godly.” The assumptions create a reality for the individual that is filled with intolerance, disdain, and hate. That creates a society that goes to war.
To love our enemies, we must understand their realities. We cannot love them as long as we believe their realities to be wrong and evil and have no understanding of them. “That’s crazy,“ “That’s absurd,” “That’s insane” are “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” words. Only by gaining the perspective that they are creating a reality that they believe is right and understanding their reality can we overcome the hate and replace it with love.
This page contains more information about the mind, assumptions, and perspectives explained in Chapter 1 of Your Eternal Self.
- We Create Characters for Our Realities.
- The Need to Have Everyone Play the Game
- The Need Some Have to Control.
- Reliving Traumatic Events
- Nonsense and “Crazy” Beliefs
- We Have Basic Needs that Can Be Threatened
- Assumptions Result in Strategies to Reduce Fear
- We Also Have Deep-Seated Urges and Drives
We Create Characters for Our Realities.
When we take on a set of assumptions and perspectives, we create a universe for ourselves that fits the moment. We create the characters for this play. When I see Frank coming, my acting self instantly brings to mind the Frank character in my assumptions. I've written this character into the play from my past dealings with Frank and from my past dealings with other males or other people like this Frank person. When he comes toward me today, I'm not meeting the real Frank coming toward me—I couldn't possibly know what's really in his mind or what's gone on with him over the past few days or what he's learned over his lifetime. I don't know a thing about Frank's inner self. I bring to mind the Frank character I've created in my mind through past interactions with Frank and my whole life full of experiences and knowledge about people similar to Frank.
My acting self instantly brings to mind a character for me to assume: my own "character for being around Frank" that I take on when I see Frank. If I see Frank as an outgoing and boisterous jock, I may become an outgoing boisterous jock self; if I don't like Frank's character in my mind because he’s educated and I’m not, I may have a reserved, haughty, resentful "character for being around Frank."
Then I consider the place where we are and create the scenery for the play that's going on in my mind. I interpret the place and situation based on my assumptions and perspectives instantly, without thinking. I draw from the environment what I notice and create the scenery in my mind. Frank, I, and the place where we meet are all entirely established in my mind. I then think, feel, and act based on what I've created.
During my entire conversation with Frank, I may go in and out of various characters as quickly and easily as shifting between seeing the young woman or old woman in the picture. If I lighten up and enjoy talking, I may go into the "brotherly" character. If I get miffed, I may go into the "fatherly," judgmental character. If the sky becomes cloudy, I’ll create a “threatening rain” scene. I'll shift my mind just as we shifted between the old woman and young girl. We do that all day long with every situation and every person. We're never the same person in all circumstances, and the circumstances are always what we create based on the assumptions and perspectives we hold. We change instantly, without thinking about it, as soon as we see Frank coming toward us or we see clouds forming overhead.
Based on the drama in my mind, I say things to Frank. Frank reacts based on the drama in his mind that has a character for me and a character for Frank being around me. I adjust my reality based on what Frank says and bring up a new set of perspectives, instantly, without thinking. I shift my mind to make my internal drama fit what Frank in the physical realm said. I then say what my character for being around Frank is saying in the drama playing in my mind. And so Frank and I interact by voicing and acting what’s already going on in the drama in our minds where the real world is.
The next time I see Frank, I’ll shift to the Frank mode again, instantly. I will be "re-minded" of Frank, meaning my mind will take on the Frank perspectives again.
The Need to Have Everyone Play the Game
The assumptions and perspectives a person holds fit with the assumptions and perspectives others in their group hold. The assumptions for individuals will differ depending on their role, but they all are congruent with the assumptions and perspectives others hold if the group is to stay intact. In interactions, the acting selves of all members know what the rules are and everyone delivers what they are expected to deliver usually without thinking, instantly, from moment to moment.
In the 1960s, Eric Berne wrote a marvelous book titled Games People Play that described these assumptions and perspectives held by groups. As long as every person’s words and actions showed that they held assumptions congruent with the other members of the group, then the group had solidarity and the individual was invited to stay and play the game. If someone acted or spoke in ways that showed they didn’t hold compatible assumptions, they were not invited back to play the game.
For example, Alvin and Wilma have been married for 37 years. Today, Alvin and Wilma have a very stable, although dysfunctional, relationship they’ve developed by establishing assumptions and perspectives about each other over the years. Now the assumptions and perspectives are part of their acting self so neither thinks about the assumptions behind their thoughts, feelings, or actions with each other.
Alvin is living in a reality he creates as he interacts with Wilma, including a Wilma character he’s created. Wilma is creating her own reality based on her assumptions and perspectives and is living it with the Alvin character she’s created. The two hold assumptions and perspectives that are congruent, so they’ve stayed together over the years. That doesn’t mean they’re “happily married.” It just means they’ve created a system that works for them.
Their assumptions and perspectives are markedly dysfunctional. The unspoken assumptions Alvin holds are, “Wilma drinks heavily during the day, but she has it hard,” “Because she has it hard, I should ignore her drinking and take care of her,” “I’d be lost without Wilma, so I don’t want to antagonize her by criticizing her drinking,” “Husbands should take care of wives.” At the same time, Wilma is creating a reality with unspoken assumptions and perspectives that are congruent with Alvin’s: “I have it hard, so I’m justified in drinking,” “If Alvin doesn’t take care of me, that gives me the right to explode and threaten to leave,” “Alvin is a spineless wimp,” “Husbands should take care of their wives.”
That dysfunctional relationship enables Wilma’s drinking problem and makes life difficult for both Alvin and Wilma; Alvin is a slave to the conditions and Wilma never learns to outgrow her drinking problem.
What has really happened is that Alvin has created a Wilma character in his mind that is needy and vulnerable whom he can take care of. He may have married her because his childhood, unspoken assumption was that “Husbands should take care of vulnerable wives,” so he managed to find a woman who was needy and vulnerable. He didn’t think that, of course; he just was attracted to that type of woman. Beginning when they started dating, he created an Alvin character for himself that will take care of poor Wilma and couldn't survive without her because he feels he is an incomplete person alone. So he plays out his reality using those characters.
Wilma has created a character for Alvin that is spineless and easily manipulated and a character for herself who works hard and is justified in browbeating Alvin. Her father was weak and Mom was a tyrant, so unconsciously, she found herself a husband who would fit with her assumptions about life from the model she learned. Both Alvin’s and Wilma’s assumptions and perspectives have created these realities, and they interact in the physical realm based on them.
But their acting selves don't think through these assumptions. They're behind automatic reactions that are habitual and immediate, without thought. Only by carefully thinking about the assumptions could they realize what they are, and that may not be easy. The assumptions are deeply hidden and realizing them may threaten other assumptions, so their minds keep them safely hidden.
When Alvin confronts Wilma one day and says he’s had enough, that he’s leaving her if she doesn’t stop drinking heavily, then he has created a new reality based on new assumptions and is living it. The assumptions are “Wilma shouldn’t drink.” “I don’t have to take care of Wilma.” “I’m not concerned if Wilma leaves.” He changed his mind.
Wilma still has the same assumptions and perspectives, so she stays with the same assumptions, but adjusts her reality using a few other assumptions and perspectives that fit this new scene: “Alvin isn’t taking care of me, so I’m justified in exploding and threatening to leave,” “Alvin has no right to disrespect me,” “Alvin will cave when I threaten to leave.”
To this point, they’re still in the old system they created and they’re still expecting the other person’s reality to fit the assumptions and perspectives in the play that’s going on entirely in their minds. So Wilma throws a tantrum, as she has done before, expecting Alvin to cave in as he has done before. But this time, Alvin walks out the door and doesn’t return that night. He has foiled the game by defying the assumptions they both hold. Wilma shifts into new perspectives and creates a new reality from the scenery just created in this play. She either makes herself even angrier because Alvin isn’t playing the game according to the rules in her assumptions, or she begins to confront her assumptions and reconsider them, growing as a result.
The scenery is changing as they act, but the drama is being played out entirely in each person’s mind; even the characters they have for the other person and themselves are in their minds.
The Need Some Have to Control
When someone extends his mind to include the world, then the entire world must adhere to the same sets of assumptions and perspectives. This world may include any group to which the person belongs. The smallest group is the marriage. A person who sees the spouse as an integral part of his extended mind world, not an individual who is different and has her own realities based on her own assumptions and perspectives, will try to make her conform to his assumptions. That results in control.
When the person has a deep-seated fear, that control becomes even stronger, sometimes violent. These fears may be from any of dozens of assumptions: “People will think I’m not in control of my household if she does what others disapprove of,” (a fear of loss of esteem), or “I don’t feel I’m worth much and not lovable and she’s going to stop loving me or find someone else she can love more” (fear of loss of love and abandonment). The assumptions aren’t voiced and likely not even realized, but they make the controlling spouse even more intent on control.
Usually, the controlling spouse had the model of a parent who was similarly controlling toward the other parent. The areas of control are determined by the assumptions and perspectives the person holds. If the person assumes husbands don’t go out at night without their wives, then she will attempt to control her husband’s evening behavior. If the husband holds the assumption that wives should wear only dresses, never pants, then he will attempt to control that behavior. But in any event, it’s because the controlling person has characters for herself and her spouse and is creating a reality that she then enforces in the physical realm through actions. They may be manipulative (crying, threatening suicide, involving the children) or even violent (abuse, homicide).
The need to control also results in worry. The worrier is creating a reality in her mind—it doesn’t exist in the world. She rehearses that reality over and over trying to figure out how to control an anticipated threat. She has the feeling that if she lets go and just doesn’t anticipate the bad result, it will be inflicted on her because she isn’t controlling things. But our realities we live in are in the mind, so rehearsing the dire results is the same as having them actually happen. As a result, the person, out of a need to figure out some way of controlling an imagined catastrophe, keeps herself in the very reality she is fearful will come to pass in the physical realm. That’s called worry. And it keeps the body in a tense, heart-pounding, adrenalin-pumping state that eventually may create illness.
The control and actions are entirely in the reality the person is creating in her mind.
Reliving Traumatic Events
Some people relive a trauma when they are reminded of it. A word or sight brings to mind the trauma, and they reassemble the reality that was created when they actually lived the trauma. When they are "re-minded" of it, their mind becomes the same person that was in that situation, regardless of how many years later it is. They create the same universe that existed in their mind when the trauma occurred, with the images, sounds, emotions, and perspectives that were part of the trauma.
A person who, at age 6, saw someone drown had a traumatic experience. The event was the reality for that person at the time, and the memories formed assumptions: "People can die in the water," "Others can't save someone who is dying in the water," "Dying in the water is a terrible way to die." There were strong emotions of fear and hopelessness connected with the trauma for that 6-year old.
When this person, as a 45-year-old adult, sees her children going into a swimming pool, the woman's mind may shift to being the 6-year old girl and she becomes panicky and fearful. The perspectives haven't changed from the time she was 6 years old, so now she creates a reality of a 6 year old who just watched someone drown. It’s true that she’s in a different physical environment now; it has a swimming pool that her children are entering. And her body has changed dozens of times, with new molecules and atoms. But the physical environment isn’t the drama we live. We create and live the drama in our minds; the physical environment is just the scenery. We then live that drama we create in our minds, with all the emotions we felt when it originally occurred, regardless of the different scenery around us.
To those around the woman, her panicky reaction and refusal to let her children go into the water seem irrational. That’s because each of them is creating a different reality.
Memory takes on all of the senses, emotions, and perspectives of the moment when the memory was created. That's why someone can "re-live" an event and feel all the same feelings, smell the same smells, and hear the same sounds. The mind becomes that person who had the experience. That's not just a metaphor. The experience was in the mind; it’s now being recreated in the mind. They’re identical. The universe is the same universe because each of us creates a reality from moment to moment and that is where we live, not in the world of atoms around us. In the world of atoms, the adult woman and her children likely won’t drown. But that’s irrelevant. Her reality is of seeing someone drown five minutes ago!
We grow physically so we're always taking on new flesh and the old is always behind us. The body is temporary. But the mind is ageless, or better, all ages. Different perspectives come from the assumptions we learn at different ages. The primary role of psychotherapy is to help the person who now has adult perspectives on other things in life understand the assumptions that are creating a perspective that never grew up.
In a successful psychotherapy intervention, the woman who experienced the trauma of seeing someone drown would eventually have the perspective that this was all in the past; it happened and now it's finished. Her universe would change because her assumptions changed. Then, while she could remember some of the sensed details and emotions, she wouldn’t feel the way she did during the traumatic event any more. In other words, the shift in perspectives would be to an adult viewing something awful that happened to a child, but the adult wouldn’t take on the child mind every time she saw someone going into the water.
The reality of life is not in the physical realm of atoms. It's in the mind. We create our reality moment by moment as the physical realm changes, but the physical realm in no way controls our reality.
Nonsense and “Crazy” Beliefs
People call perspectives commonly held by others that are very different from theirs “nonsense,” “craziness,” “madness,” “insanity,” and any of a variety of other disparaging terms. However, to every person who holds those assumptions and perspectives, they are not nonsense; they make perfect sense. Using a term like "crazy" keeps us from understanding the reality of the other person. If they did something, it was because they created a reality from deeply held assumptions and perspectives that resulted in the activity, and to them, it made perfect sense. Dismissing it as an aberration keeps us from understanding that person.
Frankly, I would like to see "crazy," "insane," "absurd," and the other words used only to show disdain for another person's reality banned from the English language. I don’t suppose I’ll have much luck, though. People would say that’s crazy.
Those who governed Nazi Germany are regarded as monsters. Their actions are, in the annals of time, marked as among the most inhuman of all. However, to them, everything they did made perfect sense. They genuinely believed that the Aryans were the master race and that they were helping humankind evolve to have the purity it must have, with Germany at its apex. In Germany, under Hitler, the Nazi Party had over 8.5 million members. The Wehrmacht German armed forces numbered 17.9 million from 1939-1945. Among them were the individual men and women who woke up each morning, brushed their teeth, kissed their spouses and children, walked out of their houses, and carried out the atrocities inspired by Hitler.
All of these people had belief systems that supported Adolph Hitler, even if they also had reservations about it. The reality they created was quite different from the reality you or I would create today, but they did it based on assumptions and perspectives they regarded as right based on the commonsense assumptions their society had taught them.
The reality wasn’t in the air in Germany; it wasn’t in the water they drank; it wasn’t in the nature of the Jewish people. They were creating their own realities—each man, woman, and child individually—that resulted in the Germany of WWII and ultimately the deaths of 6 million Jews and 62 million soldiers and civilians. Hitler alone could not have created a reality for himself that he could have carried out with his limited body to have affected so many others, even if he had personally shot dead every person he came to over a decade. One individual at a time each created an individual reality and acted on it individually using his or her single body to create World War II in the physical world.
Nothing can excuse or minimize the atrocities, but if we dismiss others' reality as nonsense, crazy, insane, or absurd, we will never understand them as people, and we will never be able to ourselves, one person at a time, grow beyond the anger, hatred, and separation that result in atrocities. And we certainly will not be able to help them grow beyond where they are when we can't see them as real people different from us who hold beliefs that they regard as “right.”
People whose realities are different from ours live their lives based on their different assumptions. When we meet those who have realities different from ours, based on different religious beliefs, views of the roles of men and women, ascendancy of their race or country, or different society norms and mores, if we dismiss their differences as absurd, crazy, barbaric, or immature, we will never understand why their reality brings them to act as they do. We will never be able to cultivate a relationship with them in which we both grow to greater understanding. And we will continue to have hatred and war in our lives.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, "We must all rid ourselves of the little Hitler in each of us." If we disregard, denigrate, or persecute someone else because we regard their assumptions and perspectives as wrong and ours as right, then we are allowing a little Hitler in us to create a reality that will bring us to hatred, anger, and separation. We are creating that reality, however. It is not in the external world.
You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Yeshua ben Yosef (Matthew 5: 38-48)
Doing that is difficult. Yeshua understood that but enjoined us to persevere.
We Have Basic Needs that Can Be Threatened
We also have deep-seated needs that can be threatened. Abraham Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy is still the clearest explanation of the needs all people have. He described one group of needs as hygienic needs because if they aren’t satisfied, a person may suffer physical and psychological problems. These needs are
- Physiological needs (air, warmth, water, food)
- Safety needs (the feeling the world is predictable and safe)
- Self-esteem needs (feeling good about myself and feeling worth)
- Love and belongingness needs (feeling others love me and I belong)
All people must satisfy these needs to be comfortable on the physical plane. For the needs other than the physiological needs, the assumptions and perspectives we hold determine in large part how they are satisfied in someone’s life. When the needs are threatened, the person feels fear.
For example, an employee may feel his need for safety is threatened when the boss tells the employee to come in for a “serious talk.” That person may fear he’s going to be fired. That fear results from believing his life is not secure and not predictable. The assumptions are “My boss doesn’t like my work,” “I feel I’m not good enough to work here,” “When bosses want to talk seriously, it means you’re going to be fired.” As a result of the assumptions, the perspective is “The boss is going to fire me.” That creates a fear from the possibility the person’s security needs are threatened. The fear creates anxiety and worry.
However, the fear results entirely from the person’s assumptions and the resulting perspective. It isn’t in the environment. The employee might as easily have these assumptions: “The boss likes my work,” “The boss is going to promote me,” “The boss is going to confide in me about a problem because she respects my opinion.” Then the employee’s security needs wouldn’t be threatened, and his self-esteem needs would be satisfied, so he would feel elated. The world isn’t different with these different sets of assumptions; the boss and employee are the same in both cases. It’s just the assumptions that have changed, and the result is fear with one set of assumptions and joy with the other.
When someone’s assumptions and perspectives make them feel their basic needs are threatened, they will feel fear. That will result in worry, anxiety, guilt, anger, and all the other negative emotions. At the basis of those emotions, however, is the fear, and the fear is created solely from assumptions.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross explained that humans have only two natural fears: the fear of falling from heights and the fear of loud noises. All the rest of our fears, that create worry and anxiety for entire lifetimes, are learned from the culture and family. A large part of growing spiritually is learning to abandon those destructive assumptions that result in fear.
Assumptions Result in Strategies to Reduce Fear
All people have the same basic needs: physiological, safety, self-esteem, and love needs. Whether we feel fear that our needs are threatened or feel that they are being satisfied is determined by the assumptions and perspectives we hold, not anything in the matter and energy of the physical realm.
To satisfy the needs or eliminate a threat to the needs, each person uses strategies. The strategies the person chooses are based on assumptions that the strategy will get the desired results.
For example, a person may feel fear that his wife doesn’t love him, and so has his need for love and belongingness threatened. It’s because of his assumptions: “I’m not handsome enough to be lovable” or “Mom and Dad didn’t love me, so I must not be lovable.” Those assumptions aren’t thought; they’re deep seated and hidden. The person just reacts immediately to the threat with fear, anger, worry, hopeless, or any of the other range of negative emotions. His strategy to have the need satisfied may be to shower his wife with money and gifts. His unthought assumptions are “People love you when you give them money,” “My dad was distant, but he did buy me things, so that shows when people love each other,” and so on. The fear he wasn’t being loved came from a set of assumptions; his strategy for eliminating the threat or satisfying the need came from another set of assumptions.
Another person’s strategy may be to keep deprecating himself hoping his wife will reassure him he’s wonderful or handsome. Behind that strategy is another set of assumptions that this strategy will result in the behavior he wants, perhaps because it worked for him as a child or his father did it and it worked with his mother.
For another, the strategy may be to be threatening and abusive if she shows any unloving or separating behavior. That also likely results from seeing Mom or Dad act in that way to get people in the family to feign loving behavior out of fear.
These are all just strategies to satisfy the basic needs the person feels based on unique assumptions and perspectives. The strategies are based on assumptions. The person, in other words, is creating her reality based on her assumptions about life, people, and the universe, populating it with characters based on her assumptions, feeling fear or happiness based on the reality she has created, and choosing strategies based on her assumptions that will satisfy the need she has created that is threatened by threats she is creating. She is creating this entire reality in her mind that is outside of her body.
We Also Have Deep-Seated Urges and Drives
We also have deep-seated urges and drives that are apart from the assumptions and perspectives but are influenced by them. These are urges such as the desire to help, feelings of love and compassion for someone or some thing, the drive to understand, and the urge to grow spiritually. These deep-seated urges and drives are part of our nature. We can’t really develop these drives and urges. They emerge naturally.
However, the assumptions and perspectives we hold can inhibit their emergence. If we have assumptions that a group of people is inferior, hated by others in our group, and hostile toward us, those assumptions will keep us from feeling compassion for them and we may do cruel and violent things to them. If the destructive assumptions weren’t part of our minds, we would naturally feel love and compassion for them. That is simply humankind’s nature.
All hate, conflict, anger, cruelty, and violence result from assumptions and perspectives people have learned from their society and family. Children are naturally loving. They learn to hate. When the destructive assumptions are rejected, the loving and compassionate urges and drives will emerge. They’re part of human nature.