Mind Training: How Does It Happen?
Infants are bombarded with information, which their minds must come to organize and understand. This initial mind training happens automatically – using the colors and sounds in the world, the faces in our lives, the voices and later the tones of voices and what they mean. We have no control over this early, mind training. When it happens in an enriching environment and according to the well established, natural order, early development proceeds in a way that positively and appropriately supports later growth and adjustment.
More direct forms of mind training also begin early. Parents intentionally present certain experiences and information, and establish requirements and opportunities. Early on, age mates influence what is learned. We attend school, receive coaching, and undertake artistic tutoring to intentionally receive training.
Incidental mind training continues to occur throughout our lives. Things just pop up we hadn't sought out and we learn from them. Incidental mind training is often the source of fears and phobias as well as those wonderful 'ah ha' experiences that help us understand our world and spur some on to greatness.
People who have the most successful and satisfying lives engage in intentional mind training. They set goals and establish interests and learn what is necessary to support those things. One might set his sights on becoming a musician, a brick layer, a teacher, a hair stylist, a doctor, a writer, and on down the familiar list of occupations. One might set his sights on learning about fishing, hunting, sewing, dancing, cycling, crafting, parenting, and so on. These are all intentional mind training endeavors.
There is a unique form of mind training that is related more specifically to modifying or improving the mind's functions. Personal happiness, for example, falls into this category. Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and social workers devote their professional lives to offering the kinds of mind training activities that assist folks to become happier, more competent, and more effective people. Working to specifically influence the mind's basic functions is often what is thought of first when we hear the term mind training.
This level of mind training often focuses on undoing or modifying negative mind training that happened in the other ways – automatic, directly from others, and incidental. When the infant learns that his world can't be depended on to keep him warm or cool enough, that it allows him to remain hungry, that it allows him to stay wet and messy, that it inflicts physical pain and approaches him with angry voices, the stage has been set early on for him to develop into a maladjusted individual. His early mind training was harmful to his long term well being. When fears or even a single powerful fear, is acquired, that mind training is again harmful. When a person sets out to be the toughest, 'baddest' guy in the neighborhood, his intentional mind training has set him on a devastating social path (especially if he must function in the larger social stetting beyond his neighborhood). If a youngster grows up protected from problems and having to learn how to solve them on his own, that mind training directly contributes to later unhappiness, anxiety, failure, maladjustment, and even depression and despair.
Few of us have been able to avoid some negative or harmful mind training along the way. The astute among us takes steps to acquire the kinds of mind training that will help alleviate the 'bad stuff' and replace it with essential information, appropriate behaviors, and indomitable self-esteem.