Did you know people on the other side of the world are patterning our minds.

Can we live without being influenced by our surrounding and be an island to ourselves where no outside influence can affect us? I don’t think so. If we believe that we cannot  BUT be influenced by our environment, our culture, our neighbours, our leaders, our religion, our family, our friends  by the media than doesn’t it make sense that we conduct ourselves in such a way that its beneficial to both our society and ourselves? ( or if you like ourselves and our society?).

In my previous posts I mentioned how by interaction with others we are patterning our mind to react or behave in a particular way. But our quality of interaction and the kind of relationship we have with each other is dependent on the kind of cultures and societies we live in. This means our cultures and social structures can activate and pattern our minds, too. In our fast paced , competitive society we are going to be interacting and stimulating different patterns in each of us than if we were in slower , more contented societies.

Does it not than follow that we have to think about ourselves radically differently than “island among ourselves.” It would be more accurate to think about ourselves as “mutually influencing beings” ? So on individual level, our irritation with each other will raise our stress and increase our vulnerability to range of health problems and to social discord, while our kindness to each other will lower our stress and impact positively on our well-being and increase our social safeness. At a societal level mental illness and criminality are born from complicated genetic, social mentality and cultural/ social interactions. At international level , the ways in which our societies operate, seek goods and services, secure trade agreements and enable international companies to extract huge profits from stock markets will greatly affect the lives and pattern the minds of people far away. Clearly we are all connected , even to those we have not met and are far away on the other side of the world.

So we have a choice of either encouraging selfish tribal behaviour in ourselves and try to be an ” island among ourselves” or we can choose a compassionate approach that’s more thoughtful of others.  Ideally, of course , we want to  blend our interest and interest of others. We will have to reflect and think carefully about our values and try to be the ‘best we can be’ but at the same time, not ruthlessly exploitative.



The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert.


Origins of impulsive desires, sexual conquest, aggression, enforcement of ownership and control.

In the previous posts I mentioned that we will look in-depth how our minds were designed and why they can be full of difficult feeling such as anxiety , anger, despair and unhelpful or destructive desires, as well as of course , love and kindness.

The in-depth will give us better understanding of our mind. Lets start from just after the beginning of time when the first microbe appeared on earth more than billions of years ago. Initially these microbes were nothing more than genetic codes, they replicated and died generation after generations. Slowly over time new, more complex life forms appeared with gene mutation and successive replication. The job of these simple life form was to replicate and build more complex systems. Today, this sort of process where genes interest is to replicate and build new systems may seem like gene has a selfish interest in passing its information to the next generation ( selfish gene theory ). But this sort of view can only be appreciated billions of years later; at the time these simple genes were just replicators and builders of new systems. Over time new biological systems evolved that they could move; and specialization inside their bodies appeared which allowed them to be attracted and motivated by certain things. From this comes the systems that the evolutionist says supports the four Fs’; feeding, fighting, fleeing and ..fu….reproduction. These than leads to motives for acquiring and defending/ protecting. Notice that the new biological systems are just emerging overtime by playing out a set of laws and processes; there seems to be nothing that is designing these organisms.

As time goes on many life forms become more complex and develop senses for detecting light and sound; limbs to move; cardiovascular and respirator system. Many life form started to eat other life form to survive. We also start to see repeating patterns of behaviour, which are first signs of evolved minds.

Reptiles emerged around 500 millions years ago, and are basically concerned with eating, gaining and defending their territories and mating – the four Fs again. They will threaten any who displays a posture of challenge; leg stiffening and staring for example.  No one has taught them that, they are guided by their reptilian brains that contain blueprint for action and strategies, which are embedded in their genetic codes. This behaviour is not that different from that of men fighting or when they are driven by the urge for dominance, possessions and territories. Carl Jung would come to name these powerful, innate patterns for feeling, thinking and behaviour (e.g.. to seek status, control a territory, find a mate) as ‘ archetypes ‘. Their origins are rooted back many millions of years.

Kent Bailey of Virginia Commonwealth University pointed out that it’s not that difficult to adopt a reptilian view of the world, focused on impulsive desires, sexual conquests, aggression and enforcement of ownership and control. A reptile’s mind is only interested in power, control, food, sex and personal gain. The reptilian mind has no interest in family life, love, play , building trusting alliances or having empathy.

The reptiles‘ strategies and archetypes will not be removed from the genetic code as long as they are successful in passing on genes. There is nothing inherently good or bad about this; it’s simply how evolution is. Later life forms will adapt these struggles, mould them and add to them, but they cannot go back to the drawing board and start again.

Change through evolution can only adapt what has gone before. So in one form or another, concern with power, sex, territories and control continues to live in and through us humans. It was the reptiles’ struggle for life and evolved solutions that have influenced gene flow. They, and the strategies that they followed, are not ‘evil’ but are part of the evolution of life and of the mind to come. Harsh, savage and tragic they may be to our minds but they also comprise the foundations of our evolutionary journey.

About 120 million years ago mammals emerged in the flow of life. With the mammals come new struggles that goes with warm-bloodedness; living in family groups that offer care and protection. Mammals also form status hierarchies rather than strict territorial ones. In some mammal species only one female is able to breed and she suppresses, chases off or even kills competitors. So sexual competition in mammals are driven by the desire to both engage oneself and prevent others from engaging in sex; this tension will texture their lives.

In the next post we will pick it up from here and look at how the archetype works in sexual competition, loyalties and betrayals; just to mention few. We will see many of our desires that flow through us today were not only designed long before us but long before all humans.


The Compassionate Mind.  by  Paul Gilbert

Looking For Nourishing Mind Food

In the last post I talked about how we had little say in the design of our brain and  how we had little control over our minds.  I will elaborate on these themes in the future posts but todays I would like to give you overview on what we can do, so that we are not always at the mercy of our automatic responses. I feel the overview is necessary  at this time because people intuitively know that some of what I said in the last post rings true at some level; and I also sense some urgency of readers wanting to know the possible solution to this predicament in which we find ourselves.

Let start where we left off in the last post; we have a brain that is unique to ourselves, it is the result of the genes we inherited from our parents and the experiences we had in our early life. We will react to a given situation in a very unique way, it will be according to how we have been hard-wired to react by our genes, our experiences and whether we have learned to ‘control’ our impulses. The key to our predicament is how we view ourselves and others in the world.

I want to remind ourselves that all the people in this world had no say in the brain and the mind they find themselves with, we are all in the same boat. Sure some had better childhood experiences than others, some may have ‘ better’ genes for some useful skill; but it all happened by chance. With this realization it is hard for me to blame and condemn myself or others because at some level we have no control over it. I hope no one is going to conclude from this that we are free to behave as we wish without taking any responsibility for our behaviour. Over millions of  years, nature ‘ realized ‘ that we have to control some very raw and aggressive impulses for us to be able to live in a constructive and mutually beneficial way. These aggressive impulses served a very important role in our evolution( which I will elaborate in the future post)and they may still serve us today in some situations but over all things have changed , we have to refine our raw impulses and use them only on a rare occasions where they maybe still quite appropriate. You may wonder about what the nature, through evolutionary process, has equipped us with to deal with these difficult situations ? Well, it is our ability for thinking ahead, being able to stand back from and reflect on what is going on in our minds, and in what we are feeling and doing. It is these special gifts that have evolved over millions of years that allow us to behave differently  from other animals; like crocodile for example. Crocodile  behave in a very predictable way according to it primitive reptilian brain. We too have this reptilian brain, but evolutionary process have added on new parts which allows us to behave and enact our desires in novel ways.

Once we stop blaming others and ourselves we will be freer to genuinely move towards developing the insight , knowledge and understanding we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. None of us is responsible for having brains that is capable of feeling great fear, rage or all kinds of sexual desires. But, learning and practicing compassion will help us feel more content and at peace with ourselves and more concerned for others. I should point out that compassionate behaviour is not just about acting in kind, warm and friendly ways. It’s also about protecting ourselves and others from our own destructive desires and actions;it’s about being assertive , tolerating discomfort and developing courage. We can reason similarly for much wider issues, such as issues about our planet. There are many destructive processes going on that are killing our planet , drilling for oil for example. It is not the posture of  blaming psychology  that would be helpful but instead our genuine desire to nurture and repair  that requires  our attention. Without it, it’s so easy to get stuck in denial or simply get angry and say ‘why should I.’

Paul Gilbert writes …”We can learn to cultivate certain aspect of our minds such as our compassionate mind, which will help us with other aspects of our mind and promote our well-being. We can also become more aware of how our societies may stimulating the selfish ‘me first’ part of ourselves with unrealistic fantasies and desires and setting us up to want more  and more and, at the same time, to feel more disappointed and personal failures.”

You can see from the general theme that we have to learn some important skills if we are to feed our brain and mind with the nourishing food that would be healthy not just for our own mind but also for others who share our world with the same predicaments. More in the future posts.


The compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert.

We Are Not To Blame For What Goes On In Our Mind.

You may have noticed that what goes on in your mind you may not have much control over. In many ways much of whats goes on in our mind is not our fault or even our intention. It is amazing that nearly 3000 years ago Buddha had this insight about the mind and come to the same fundamental conclusion; that because we have no control over whats in our minds then it implies that it’s not our fault or our intention to have those thought in our mind.

It is now well accepted that two major factors that influences us are our genes and our early environment; and we have no control over neither of them. We are hard-wired, so to speak, by our genes and our early childhood experiences but had no say in the process. We were not consulted, no one asked our permission. But it is the interaction of the genes and the early childhood experiences that gives us our sense of “being oneself “; this experience of oneself may vary from feeling amazing to feeling severely traumatized, and we had no say in the matter.

Even though we had no say in the design of  ourselves and we have little control over our mind we can still take responsibility in a new way so that we can live in and work with such a mind. It is like taking responsibility for our physical body; we had no choice over what body we were given but we still have the responsibility of looking after it to keep it healthy. We have to eat right, exercise etc. The same is true for our mind, we are learning that our brain and mind need certain kind of input to function well.

We will explore what kind of input is required for our brain and mind to function well. But until than it is important to realize that we are not to blame  about whats going on in our minds. We can be kind and compassionate to ourselves.


The Compassionate Mind. by  Paul Gilbert

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