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by Frederick Mann
© Copyright 1993 Build Freedom Holdings ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Among the innumerable mortifications
which waylay human arrogance
on every side may well be
reckoned our ignorance
of the most common objects
and effects, a defect of which we
become more sensible by every
attempt to supply it.
Vulgar and inactive minds
confound familiarity with knowledge
and conceive themselves informed
of the whole nature of things
when they are shown their form
or told their use; but the speculatist,
who is not content with superficial views,
harasses himself with fruitless curiosity,
and still, as he inquires more,
perceives only that he knows less.
- Samuel Johnson, 1758

Let me suggest to you the possibility that power, particularly personal power, is one of the least understood aspects of human ability. Two-thousand-five-hundred years ago Lao Tzu, a famous Chinese philosopher, said that the biggest problem in the world was that individuals experienced themselves as powerless. Today this is still our biggest problem. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, which has been translated many times. One such translation is by R.L. Wing: The Tao of Power. Wing said:

"Lao Tzu believed that when people do not have a sense of power they become resentful and uncooperative. Individuals who do not feel personal power feel fear. They fear the unknown because they do not identify with the world outside of themselves; thus their psychic integration is severely damaged and they are a danger to their society. Tyrants do not feel power, they feel frustration and impotency. They wield force, but it is a form of aggression, not authority. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that individuals who dominate others are, in fact, enslaved by insecurity and are slowly and mysteriously hurt by their own actions. Lao Tzu attributed most of the world's ills to the fact that people do not feel powerful and independent."

Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous German philosopher and psychologist, wrote that "will to power" is the essence of human nature. In a book compiled from his notes after his death, The Will To Power, is written:

"My idea is that every specific body strives to be master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: Thus they conspire together for power."

Power is a multi-faceted concept. You experience a sense of power when you feel in control of your life. Power is the ability to achieve goals. It is also the ability to influence others. Considerable power comes from the ability to communicate. Power includes enthusiasm and optimism. Your energy level is related to your power. If you can cause things - be the master of your destiny - you have power. Power is related to self-esteem and confidence. The freer you are, the more you tend to experience your power.

Above all, personal power is the ability to achieve what you want. More than anything else, it is personal power that brings you success and happiness.

Let us make a distinction between "coercive power" and "synergic power." By "coercive power" I mean power that involves violence or the threat of violence. This is the power of the armed robber. It is also the power of government. It is the political power that stems from the barrel of a gun, as Mao said. It is power used over people or against them; power at their expense; power which robs them of power.

The concept "synergic power" is expressed in the book Synergic Power: Beyond Domination and Permissiveness by James H. and Marguerite Craig. Synergic power is power used with people; power exercised in such a way that it is cumulative - everyone gains power through the power of everyone else - mutually enhancing power.

The biggest barrier to success in almost any endeavor is powerlessness, negativity, helplessness, and inertia. They belong together. The problem is not only our own powerlessness, but also the powerlessness of those around us. Let's try to learn a few more things about power:

Mahatma Gandhi had no army. He never accepted any political office. He never used violence. He never threatened violence. He was a small, frail, little man. Yet he defeated the armed might of the British Empire. He drove the British out of India without firing a single shot. How did he do it? PERSONAL POWER. Personal power moves mountains. Personal power solves problems.

In particular, Gandhi was an expert at using the power-message - the message that brings about the result you want.

By "power-message" I mean something that is put in the environment of a person in order to achieve a desired result. For example, I would like an orange. I ask my mother, "May I have an orange, please?" My mother gives me an orange. I have achieved the desired result: obtaining an orange. The question "May I have an orange, please?" is a power-message.

The application of power-messages follow certain steps:
(a) Identify or define a desired result.
(b) Develop or select a power-message that may achieve the desired result.
(c) Identify or select person(s) likely to assist you in achieving the desired result.
(d) Do not expect the person(s) to be different or behave differently from the way they are and behave.
(e) Put the power-message in the environment of the person(s) you want to influence to bring about the desired result.
(f) Observe what happens. Learn from it what works.
(g) If the desired result has been achieved, that ends the procedure.

If the desired result has not been achieved, any or all of the following steps can be taken:
(a) Ask, "What can I learn from what I did and what happened?"
(b) Choose a different desired result.
(c) Select different or more person(s) to whom to present the power-message.
(d) Repeat the power-message or put out many copies of it.
(e) Change and improve the power-message.
(f) Develop an entirely different power-message.
(g) Ask, "What do I need to improve about myself so I can choose attainable desired results, design effective power-messages, and select the appropriate person(s) to whom to present my power-messages?)

A power-message can be a smile, a word of encouragement, a warning shout, a love letter, a dollar bill, a hug, a kiss, an advertisement, a speech, a question, a present, a report like this one, an explanation, a book, an apology, a phone call.

It is when our power-messages fail to produce desired results, that we need to very consciously and deliberately observe, think, and choose what to do next. If we react automatically, unthinkingly, emotionally we may compound undesirable results into even worse results. For example, if we react with anger or make-wrong, the result we produce may get worse and worse - such as a shouting match.

We need to learn when it is unrealistic to expect certain results with certain people. We need to learn when, in order to achieve a desired result with one person, we have to send our power-message to a hundred or even a thousand persons. Here are some characteristics of power-messages that work:
(a) Generally, they have the potential of making the recipient feel good.
(b) They satisfy or promise to satisfy a need of the recipient.
(c) They appeal to the recipient's emotions such as greed or fear.
(d) Generally, they do not make the recipient wrong, nor are they threatening.
(e) The recipient perceives a benefit from acting in accordance with the power-message.
(f) Exceptionally, emotions such as anger may work.
(g) Exceptionally, orders or threats may work and even be appropriate.

The worst thing you can do when you fail to achieve a desired result, is to blame the recipient(s) of your intended "power-messages." Any message that fails to achieve a desired result is suspect. When you blame the recipient(s), you surrender your power - your success depends on how others are and how they behave. When you say, "I will change myself and my power-messages," then you operate with power.

A power-message is whatever achieves the desired result. However, a power-message that achieves a short-term result may compromise or destroy long-term results - "Today I will do what you say, but just wait till it's my turn to call the shots... "

Power-messages develop efficacy through trial and error, experimentation, observing the consequences they produce, constant improvement. We want to avoid getting stuck with habitual, unconscious messages we repeat over and over without achieving desirable results.

We develop more effective power-messages through our power of choice.

Uncomfortable and difficult to confront as it may sound, we largely choose our lives and circumstances. We choose our jobs or the work we do. We choose our relationships. We choose our friends. We choose the quality of our relationships and friendships. We choose the homes we live in. We choose whether we are rich or poor.

Unquestionably, some events do occur that we didn't choose and had no power over. But these are relatively rare. By and large, the results we now enjoy, or suffer from, are the consequences of our choices. Habitually, we make thousands of little choices every day. Many of these choices are unexamined, for example, what we eat. Do we know why we eat everything that we do? Do we just habitually eat what appears on the plate? Do we consciously choose all the things we say to the partners we are in relationship with?

The condition of the world - all the problems: war, crime, drugs, pollution, poverty, starvation, inflation, depression, unemployment, homelessness, etc. - all the achievements: wealth, peace, rapid transport, comfortable and safe housing, efficient communication, happiness, improving health, etc. - are the results of individual human choices.

At any time, any individual, through the power of individual choice, can set in motion a process whereby vast changes occur and spread. Hitler did it. So did Gandhi.

The power of human choice was demonstrated by John F. Kennedy when he expressed the human choice: "A man on the moon within ten years." When making such a choice, expressing such a desired result, it is not necessary to know how that result will be achieved. It is not even necessary to know that the result can be achieved.

Mahatma Gandhi chose to get the British masters out of India. Gandhi used power-messages. His theme was a form of civil disobedience. The disobedience of Gandhi and his followers was more powerful than the guns of the British and the might of their empire. Fundamentally, it was Gandhi's choices that defeated the British Empire.

Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." He was absolutely wrong. Stewart Emery stated it correctly, "Weakness corrupts and absolute weakness corrupts absolutely."

To feel that we are worthwhile individuals, to know that we exist, we have to express our power - feel that we are in control. This imperative to express our power and experience control is central to human behavior. Every human does something to express his or her power in the world. This power can be expressed creatively or destructively.

Humans first attempt to express their power creatively. If such attempts fail repeatedly, they experience themselves as powerless. They may feel helpless and hopeless, and become depressed. What they experience is that they cannot make a positive difference in their own lives or in the world. A cognitive breakdown occurs between their actions and the results they produce. Mentally and intellectually they cease to understand the connections between their behavior and the consequences of their behavior. Then they express their power destructively.

This is what happened to Richard Nixon at the time of Watergate.

It is standard practice for leaders of nations - when all their attempts to express their power positively within their own country seem to fail - to engage in destructive foreign wars. The Gulf War in 1990 followed this pattern.

Today in America we have a political and economic system in which most individuals experience themselves as powerless. At the highest level, our politicians and bureaucrats experience themselves as powerless, trapped in an out-of-control, runaway train of bureaucratic growth and ballooning deficit spending. All their attempts to balance the national budget have failed. They have given up. But they must express their power. So they do it destructively. Thus we have a runaway bureaucracy that strangles the economy with its regulations. On a personal level there was the congressional check-kiting scandal.

At the lowest level, individuals are losing their jobs in record numbers. National helplessness and hopelessness increase day by day. Most Americans feel powerless about doing anything to save America. The country is going down the drain. For many, voting has become pointless. What difference does it make whether you vote for Bush or Clinton? Apathy is the order of the day.

Individual power can also be expressed vicariously - through others. When the Phoenix Suns or Cardinals win a game, the fans feel powerful and elated. When the Suns or Cards lose, they feel powerless and depressed.

So, along comes Ross Perot. He will change the country. He is a powerful businessman, a knight in shining armor. He quickly gathers a huge following. His supporters experience their power vicariously through him. They feel powerful and enthusiastic. Perot is going to save America!

Then Perot pulls out. We see pictures on TV of his followers crying, their hopes dashed. America is doomed. Only Perot could have saved us. Many of his followers are now disillusioned and depressed. They feel betrayed. Their vicarious power has disappeared. Once again they experience themselves as powerless.

Hitler was the prime example of the dangers of the vicarious expression of power. Hitler was not corrupted by his power, but by his weakness - and by the weakness and obedience of his followers. Had the German people, generally experienced a sense of personal power, Hitler would never have achieved political power in the first place.

Nixon was not corrupted by his power, but by his weakness. The only power a tyrant has is the power granted by followers. Weak followers surrender their power. The weakness of the followers is a major factor in the corruption of the leader.

In The Phoenix Gazette of September 26, 1992 John Mark wrote an article under the headline: "Using force: Just how far are we willing to go?"

He first examines the issue of abortion. He concludes by saying the issue is, "whether they think the government should once again prohibit abortion by force."

Then he turns to the family leave bill. He says, "The issue is whether government should force companies to adopt such a policy, without regard for the individual circumstances in each company."

Next he discusses the $50 million aid package to America West Airlines, some of the money coming from government. He indicates that some of that money was taken by force from an employee of a competitor of America West. He asks, "But should government be forcing people - through mandatory taxes, fees, licences... - to pay for things that might actually be against their personal economic interest?"

He indicates that the common thread running through all these issues is that of force, and, "Force is the weapon of government. Do it our way or go to jail, pay a fine, or both."

Mark indicates that on a few matters government force is justified - like in dealing with murderers. But, he continues:

"The vast majority of government activity, however, is not so clear-cut. It requires some soul-searching.

Try this simple rule when considering a coercive law, program or regulation: Would you be willing to enforce it personally? [emphasis added] That's not an idle question. Every time our government punishes someone, it does so in our name, the name of the people.

So, how many of us would be willing to march over to the home of that Southwest Airlines employee and forcibly collect from him to bolster America West? How many of us would be willing to confiscate money from a businessman or woman who, for one reason or another, doesn't think it's feasible to offer a family leave program at this time?

I can hear it now: That kind of thinking leads to anarchy, Mr. Mark. Maybe so. But anarchy has been given a bum rap over the years. It doesn't mean "no rules." It means "no rulers."

My dictionary defines anarchism as "the theory that all forms of government interfere unjustly with individual liberty and should be replaced by the voluntary association of cooperative groups."

Our representative form of government is supposed to more closely resemble anarchy than monarchy ("one ruler") or other forms of authoritarianism, including the "tyranny of the majority." That's the way it was designed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, two documents whose sole purpose is to sharply limit the power of government. That's the way it was designed by those famous "anarchists," the Founding Fathers."

Call it anarchy, or call it self-government, or call it autarchy, it is the political system that maximizes personal power. Consider the possibility that government = failure, chaos, and disorder; while autarchy (self-government) = success, harmoney, and peace!

More than two-hundred years ago, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights created a political and economic system in which individuals were free to express their power - to a greater extent than anywhere else on Earth. Government was extremely limited. It was because individuals were so free to express their power that America became the greatest and richest nation in the world.

Since then government has gradually increased its size and power at the expense of the freedom and power of the individual. We have now reached a stage where government power overwhelms individual power. The political and economic system prevents more and more people from expressing their power positively and creatively. But they must express their power. So they express it destructively. This is reflected in rising rates of suicide and crime, and other statistics of decline.

If Lao Tzu were alive today, he would say that America's problems are caused by individual powerlessness. The solution to America's problems is the increase of individual human power. One of the purposes of Build Freedom is to provide individuals all over the world with the tools to greatly increase their personal power. This is the solution to practically all the world's personal and social problems.

Part of the power of Build Freedom comes from the strategy of not trying to change the system, but simply creating our own voluntary alternatives. Practically any individual can at any time step from the relative powerlessness of being in a tyrannical political system into the personal power of self-government or autarchy that is Build Freedom. But some may have to overcome their personal sense of helplessness first.

Helplessness is the opposite of power. Many people are stuck in helplessness and hopelessness. Helplessness can be a pernicious trap. If you are helpless you also tend to be helpless about your helplessness.

The book Helplessness by Martin E. P. Seligman, contains a comprehensive theory of helplessness, including cause and cure - all supported by ample experimental evidence.

A basic experiment illustrates the nature of the origin of helplessness: A "naive" dog (one that hasn't been specially treated or conditioned) is placed in a "shuttle-box" (a box with two compartments, separated by a barrier a dog can jump). Electric current is applied to the compartment with the dog, shocking it. The dog soon jumps across the barrier into the other compartment, escaping the shock. A second dog, secured in a hammock, is "conditioned" with electric shock . This dog can shut off the current by pressing its nose against a panel. It quickly learns to do this. When this dog is placed in the shuttle-box and current applied, it also soon jumps across the barrier, escaping the shock. A third dog is also conditioned in the hammock. But this dog has no way to escape the shock. When it is placed in the shuttle-box and the current applied, it lies down and whines, enduring the shock.

(Note that in the above paragraph, dog one is shocked in a shuttle-box, dogs two and three first in a hammock then in the shuttle-box. It may be necessary to read the previous paragraph several times so you understand the mechanics of the experiment.)

According to Seligman's theory, the third dog acquired "learned helplessness." In the hammock it learned that no action it could take would change the outcome of being shocked. It learned that the outcome was independent of its actions - and it generalized this "conclusion." The dog was affected in three important aspects: motivationally, cognitively, and emotionally. In the shuttle-box the third dog was not sufficiently motivated to persist in finding a way to escape the shock. The cognitive link between action and consequence (outcome) had been severed in the dog's brain as a result of the conditioning in the hammock. And the dog had become more prone to anxiety.

Many (if not most) humans have to some extent been conditioned like the third dog. We were all helpless babies... and human babies remain relatively helpless for a much longer time than the babies of most other mammals... Many of us experience a variety of situations where we are helpless to influence certain outcomes - exemplified by phrases like "nothing is as certain as death and taxes."

Learned helplessness tends to be a generalized phenomenon. When a dog or human "learns" that there is no connection between action and outcome in a particular domain, this is often generalized to other areas of life...

Helplessness, then, can be recognized by:

  1. Lack of motivation, listlessness.
  2. Cognitive breakdown between actions and outcomes - inability to link actions to the consequences they bring about - also manifests as blaming others or external factors for your situation, condition, and outcomes.
  3. Negative emotions: boredom, anxiety, frustration, anger, hopelessness, depression (sometimes suicidal).

Apply this procedure to cure helplessness:

  1. Recognize your helplessness, lack of motivation, listlessness.
  2. Recognize that as a baby and subsequently you've had many experiences where you were unable to control consequences or outcomes.
  3. Recognize your negative emotions: boredom, anxiety, frustration, anger, hopelessness, depression. Acknowledge them to yourself, for example, by saying, "I recognize that I feel helpless, hopeless, and depressed."
  4. Consciously and deliberately choose to experience any or all of these emotions. Make a cognitive link between that choice and what you experience, for example, by saying to yourself, "I consciously decide to feel helpless, hopeless, and depressed. Therefore I feel helpless, hopeless, and depressed."
  5. Perform a simple action such as washing the dishes or combing your hair. Observe the consequences or outcome. Form a cognitive link between your action and its outcome. (Examples below.)
  6. Divide a sheet of paper into three columns. In the second column list both positive and negative outcomes you've experienced during the past 24 hours, including emotions. In the first column write down your corresponding actions or inactions that preceded those outcomes. In the third column write down the causal or cognitive links between actions/inactions and outcomes. Consider only your own actions and inactions. (How to express the causal or cognitive link is explained below.)
  7. Don't blame others or external factors for anything.
  8. Pat yourself on the back for all the positive consequences you did produce.

One evening I was watching Jodie Foster being interviewed on TV. Suddenly she says, "I developed an awareness of the causality of my actions by the time I was ten years old." Most of us never develop that awareness fully. Most of us grew up with a reduced awareness of the causality of our actions. It's so much easier to blame others, to run to "authorities" to "save" us... or just to do nothing.

The awareness of the causality of my actions is the essence of my personal power. "Awareness of the causality of my actions" is another way of expressing "the cognitive links between my actions and the consequences or results I produce."

How often do you hear of a small plane that crashed in bad weather or smog soon after takeoff or while attempting to land under similar circumstances? The pilots were not aware of the causality of their actions. Could the major problems that beset the world (war, drugs, crime, gang violence, pollution, inflation, unemployment, homelessness, degenerative diseases, etc.) actually be indicative of the extent to which humans generally are unaware of the causality of their actions?

In general, a causative or cognitive link between action and outcome is expressed in the form of a heuristic (rule of thumb), hypothesis, or prediction along these lines: "If I do 'A' under conditions 'B,' then the outcome is 'C' - 'D' percent of the time." Examples: "If I wash my hands with soap and water, after reading the newspaper, the outcome is clean hands 99% of the time." "If I wash my hands with soap and water, after fixing my car, the outcome is clean hands 5% of the time." "If I wash my hands with "supercleaner," soap, and water, after fixing my car, the outcome is clean hands 95% of the time." These hypotheses or predictions are continuously tested and refined. This is the basic way we learn how the world works.

The person with a sense of personal power tends to feel optimistic most of the time. When helpless we also tend to feel pessimistic. Just like helplessness is something we learn, we can learn optimism. Helplessness is an "unskill" and optimism is a skill.

Martin E.P. Seligman has also written a superb book Learned Optimism. He says:
"The optimists and the pessimists: I have been studying them for the past twenty-five years. The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad lack, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.

These two habits about thinking about causes have consequences. Literally hundreds of studies show that pessimists give up more easily and get depressed more often. These experiments also show that optimists do much better in school and college, at work and on the playing field. They regularly exceed the predictions of aptitude tests. When optimists run for office, they are more apt to be elected than pessimists are. Their health is unusually good. They age well, much freer than most of us from the usual physical ills of middle age. Evidence suggests they may even live longer."

Learned Optimism includes a self-test to determine how optimistic or pessimistic you habitually are. Before doing the test I thought I was very optimistic. Yet the test revealed that I was only moderately optimistic, and in some areas, quite pessimistic unconsciously.

Seligman uses the concept "explanatory style" to distinguish between optimist and pessimist. Explanatory style describes how we interpret events or situations and describe them to ourselves. Suppose someone's financial situation is that he owes $20,000. The optimist might say, "I owe $20,000. No big deal." The pessimist might say, "I don't know what I'm going to do. My finances are a mess. I'll never get out of debt."

It is important to make a distinction between the fact and the interpretation or explanation. The fact is: "I owe $20,000." The optimist's interpretation is: "No big deal." The pessimist often doesn't state the fact at all. The pessimist seldom distinguishes between fact and interpretation. In a discussion with the pessimist it might take many minutes before he can simply state the fact: "I owe $20,000, period." The pessimist tends to think that his interpretation or explanation is fact. His interpretation or explanation tends to render him helpless and pessimistic.

The table on page 6, based on my understanding of Seligman's Learned Optimism, illustrates the differences in explanatory style

Permanence:      "It will last for a long time"  "It is temporary."
Pervasiveness:   "It will spread generally."     "It is very localized."
Personalization: "I caused it."                  "I didn't cause it."

Permanence:      "It is temporary."        "It will last for a long time."
Pervasiveness:   "It is very localized."   "It will spread generally."
Personalization: "I didn't cause it."      "I caused it."

The optimist may sometimes have to temper his explanation with a dose of reality, particularly the "I didn't cause it." Irresponsibility can be a danger for the optimist.

Seligman's book contains simple, powerful exercises anyone can apply to become more optimistic. I highly recommend it.

Recently in the National Enquirer, Dr. Robert H. Schuller wrote his "10 tips to beat the recession":
"Well, you can be an optimist. Or you can be a pessimist. Optimism produces health, healing, energy and power. Pessimism produces just the opposite. But how can we be optimistic in 1992 when things look so dark and gloomy? By remembering and practicing the following:

  1. Optimism is a choice - not an inheritance. Tell yourself: I have the freedom to look at any negative situation and take either a negative or a positive attitude...
  2. I am a human being. That means I can learn. I can establish a plan. I can set goals. And if I set a goal, I will achieve at least part of it - if not all of it.
  3. Change is inevitable. If I'm unemployed right now, I can still be grateful and optimistic - because things will not be the same a year from now. Tough times never last, but tough people do.
  4. I will look at what I have left - not at what I have lost. I will regroup the assets I have to create a smaller, but more solid emotional and financial base.
  5. The husband of one of my employees, for example, lost his job. Without his income, they can no longer afford the mortgage payments on their home. They've decided to rent it out and move into less spacious quarters - lifting an emotional and financial burden.
  6. I will keep my optimism growing by tapping into positive memories. We all have positive memories stored within us that we've forgotten. Recall them - especially your past successes and times you overcame pressing problems. Tap into them. Learn from them. They will bring power into your life.
  7. Calm down. Relax. Think. My advice to thousands of people over the years has been: Never make an irreversible decision at a low point in your life...
  8. In the Air Force, young men training to become pilots are taught: "If something terrible happens, what do you do? Nothing! Just think!" Quick decisions are impulsive and reactionary. They will only accelerate the problem.
  9. Practice reacting positively. Believe that every scar can be turned into a star! Positive thoughts produce positive results. Negative thoughts always produce negative results.
  10. Believe that anything is possible! You can improve your future if you set clear goals. Devote more time to achieving those goals. Work harder than you've worked before.
  11. Start small. Think tall. Look over the wall! Don't try to achieve your goals overnight. Take small steps at first but never lose sight of the end result you want. You can shape your future - until eventually, the outcome will be terrific.
  12. Make an irreversible, irrevocable and irretrievable commitment to keep a "PMA" toward setbacks, problems, failures, and losses. What's a "PMA?" As multimillionaire W. Clement Stone says, it's a "Positive Mental Attitude!"

I often sit with Gene Autry when his baseball team the California Angels plays in Anaheim, Calif. I was sitting right next to him when the Angels lost the game that put them in the cellar. He turned, looked at me and said, "Well, we're still in the major league!" With that positive attitude, he won't stop at anything to rebuild his team.

Expect difficulties, problems and low times. But, like Gene Autry, tilt your mental attitude toward the positive! ... Remember, you too, can have that winning optimistic attitude. It's your choice!"

We humans are free and powerful by nature. Practically all "unfreedom" and powerlessness we suffer from, we have learned. Some of us may find the idea of being naturally free and powerful, frightening. There may be an overpowering psychological "wimp" in our mind that blinds us to our freedom and power. If so, the next step is to overcome that wimp.

Deep within the psyche of practically every human there resides a pernicious wimp. Your wimp is like gravity. It is invisible. It is powerful. It pervades your life. It pulls you down. It affects your every thought, your every action... It usurps your power.

The wimp within you makes it possible for people to manipulate you. The reason politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, and IRS (Internal Revenue Stealers) agents get away so easily with their unconstitutional activities is that practically all their victims are afflicted with virulent wimps that inhabit the core of their psyches. In general it is easy to dupe wimps and separate them from their consciousness and their money.

Once you begin to understand your own personal wimp and recognize when it exerts its influence over you, you can begin to overcome it. You do it little by little. An understanding of the evolution of human consciousness will help you identify the nature of your personal wimp. Consider the bicameral model of the mind.

The Bicameral Model of the Mind

1. Pre-conscious;
Bicameral stage 1:
Automatic visions and voices tell you what to do.
You automatically obey the "voices of authority."
You think and speak like a slave.
Obedience is paramount.
2. Proto-conscious;
Bicameral stage 2:
Automatic feelings and thoughts tell you what to do.
You behave like:
(a) A true believer (sometimes a fanatic fighter for a "great cause"); or
(b) A helpless wimp (languishing in apathy, sometimes complaining); or
(c) A self-righteous preacher (making self "right" and others "wrong"); or
(d) A macho rebel (compulsively fighting "the system," "the IRS," "the government").
Being "right" is paramount.
3. Conscious;
Conscious stage:
You have largely mastered your feelings and emotions.
You have the ability to critically examine every concept, every thought, every action.
You strive to increase your competence in every aspect of your life.
You carefully observe the results you produce, using that as feedback to improve your concepts, thoughts, communications, and actions.
You live free and creatively - you are a Freeperson.
Producing results is paramount.

According to Dr. Julian Jaynes (The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind), up to about 3,000 years ago humans were not conscious as we know consciousness today. Their minds worked like this: Situations triggered mental voices and/or visions that were automatically generated in the right brain, from where they were communicated via the anterior commissure to the left brain, where the visions were "seen" and the voices "heard." The mental voices and visions "told" people what to do. Today, some people still manifest this form of mentation - sometimes called schizophrenia. I call this stage in the evolution of consciousness, bicameral stage one - the pre-conscious human. In this stage obedience is paramount.

Many people are aware of an automatic, apparently uncontrollable "stream of thoughts" going on in their heads. Sometimes a situation will trigger an automatic thought like "she doesn't love me," followed by automatic feelings and emotions - apparently not under control. When I watch and listen to a TV talk show like "Good Morning America" or "Morton Downey, Jr.," it seems to me that most of the participants, including the host and the specially invited speakers, merely regurgitate their automatic thoughts - their emphasis being on trying to prove self "right" and others "wrong." I call this bicameral stage two - the proto-conscious human. In this stage being "right" is paramount.

A rapidly growing number of people have started questioning and critically examining concepts, beliefs, and behaviors, held sacred by their elders and most of their contemporaries. These people want to produce better results in their lives: their health, their relationships, their careers. In any area where they think their results are below expectations they seek to improve their knowledge, their skills, their competence. They also realize that some of their difficulties stem from destructive thoughts and behavior patterns acquired or developed during childhood. Their emphasis is on producing results. I call this the conscious stage.

By conscious I mean critically aware, particularly critically self-aware. The proto-conscious person in bicameral stage two operates "on automatic" most of the time - like driving a car without thinking, or regurgitating automatic thoughts, or reacting emotionally like a puppet, or compulsively making self "right" and others "wrong" without critical awareness of the results being produced.

The critically conscious are conscious of their consciousness. They critically monitor what they think, say, and do in order to produce the results they want. They develop the thinking skill of self-observation.

Many people are in transition from bicameral stage 2 to the conscious stage. Some are still in transition from bicameral stage 1 to bicameral stage 2. Some show signs of all three stages.

Where does your wimp fit into all this? If you believe in total obedience to something outside yourself (an external "authority"), your wimp may have total control over your life. If you're a bicameral stage two proto-conscious human, your wimp will probably make you a true believer, a somewhat helpless apathetic, or a compulsive rebel. These three types compare to three of the life-orientations identified by Dr. Eric Byrne in Transactional Analysis: "I'm not OK - you're OK" (true believer); "I'm not OK - you're not OK" (helpless apathetic); and "I'm OK - you're not OK" (compulsive rebel). As you evolve into the conscious stage you move towards "I'm OK - you're OK."

The way you recognize your wimp is to identify any area of your life where the results you produce don't meet your expectations. If you are inclined to lose your cool in certain situations, or in the presence of certain kinds of people, you have another pointer to your wimp. If you consistently blame things or people outside yourself for your lack of success or your lot in life, you have another indication that your wimp is at work. If you're involved in any activity where it is claimed that "X is the only truth, philosophy, politics, etc.," your wimp is of the true believer kind. Similarly, your wimp may be the helpless apathetic or compulsive rebel type. If there are things you want to do but somehow you don't think you can do them, or you just never get around to doing them, that is another pointer to your wimp. If you're stuck in some destructive habit - you want to drop it but don't seem able to - that is your wimp at work. If you often get victimized - for example, provoke violence or coercion against yourself - that is a definite wimp pointer.

If you believe you can't escape the clutches of the Internal Revenue Stealers (IRS), then your wimp has got you - there are probably at least ten million people in the USA who are largely free from the IRS and the government. You can join them whenever you want to.

The steps for overcoming your wimp:

  1. Recognize that there is a wimp within you.
  2. Identify the areas in your life where the wimp seems to get the upper hand - areas where your results are below expectation.
  3. Ask, "What knowledge, skills, or methods (competence) do I need to improve in that area?"
  4. Replace the incompetence with competence. For many this is a life-long process. We simply stick to it year after year.
  5. Read and apply Mind Traps: Change Your Mind Change Your Life by Tom Rusk. Rusk identifies self-doubt as the root of all evil:
    "The effects of self-doubt go far deeper than an inability to accept one's talents and attributes. Self-doubt is a mental abscess which can penetrate to the very essence of your being. Like a slow-growing but highly adaptable fungus, self-doubt is a creeping rot which eats away at your sense of worth. It can be so insidious you may be unaware of its damaging effect on your life. And self-doubt is extremely durable; it is resistant to all but the most sophisticated and determined efforts at eradicating it.
  6. Introduced by painful experiences in childhood, self-doubt weaves itself into the fabric of your identity. There, disguised as the truth, utilizing the self-defeating attitudes (Mind Traps) it generates, self-doubt asserts its poisonous influence over every aspect of life, from work to relationships. Self-doubts and Mind Traps are hardy enough to withstand overwhelming conflicting evidence. They are even resistant to good common sense - no matter how much some people may love and respect you, you may still doubt yourself. And you may find yourself sabotaging your own welfare."
  7. Read and apply Learned Optimism by Martin E.P. Seligman (Chapter One). The wimp is a pessimist. Optimism is a methodology or technology that can be learned. Doing so will eventually defeat the wimp.
  8. Consider again the central theme of this report:
    "To feel that we are worthwhile individuals, to know that we exist, we have to express our power - feel that we are in control. This imperative to express our power and experience control is central to human behavior. Every human does something to express his or her power in the world. This power can be expressed creatively or destructively.

    Humans first attempt to express their power creatively. If such attempts fail repeatedly, they experience themselves as powerless. They may feel helpless and hopeless, and become depressed. What they experience is that they cannot make a positive difference in their own lives or in the world. A cognitive breakdown occurs between their actions and the results they produce. Mentally and intellectually they cease to understand the connections between their behavior and the consequences of their behavior. Then they express their power destructively.

    This phenomenon is at the root of practically all individual and societal problems.

    Understanding this phenomenon and its implications leads to the solution of practically all individual and societal problems."

Your wimp can be described as that part of you that expresses power destructively - those parts of your personality where the cognitive connections between actions and consequences have broken down.

An important distinction here: We think, we "emote," and we act. Of the three the easiest to change - in some cases - is action.

The wimp is afraid. It is a coward. Unfounded fear is a breakdown of the cognitive connection between action and consequence. We fear taking a certain action because we have a weird idea (cognitive connection) of what the consequences might be. The ultimate way to beat the wimp is to do the things we are most afraid of - those things where the fear is unfounded - like public speaking, door-to-door selling, asking a stranger for directions, etc.

Observe the consequences of these actions and formulate new cognitive connections. Discover your freedom and power.

The famous mystic Gurdjieff claimed that what we generally regard as the awake state is in fact a kind of "sleepwalking." I call this bicameral stage two, in which people operate "on automatic" without really observing themselves. Gurdjieff and his disciple Ouspensky were well known as teachers of self-observation. Self-observation is a thinking skill that enables you to become critically aware of what you think, say, and do - and the consequences you create.

Many people most of the time are not critically aware of their thoughts, communications, and actions. For many, critical self-observation is a difficult skill to learn. Many use reason to rationalize their actions after the fact - to make themselves "right." Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and their followers have written several books on the lifetime work of becoming critically self-aware.

This section is largely based on the book The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz. Its theme can be summarized as:

How to orient your life so the path of least resistance automatically leads you towards producing the results you desire in life.

The fundamental principles (with my own insights added) can be summarized:

Interestingly, after reading The Path of Least Resistance, I realized that nearly seven years ago, when in very poor health (including severe heart disease), I did make the fundamental choice to be healthy. I completely reoriented my life in respect of health and changed my diet and lifestyle drastically. Today I'm superhealthy and moderately fit. I have no heart problems. I have not spent any time being ill in bed. When I get a cold I usually recover completely within 10-15 minutes. From flu I usually recover in about 3-4 hours. A few months ago I ran up Camelback mountain in Phoenix in a time in minutes which is less than half my age in years. I doubt if there are a hundred people in Phoenix who can do that.

At the time when I made the fundamental choice to be healthy, I also had to make certain primary choices concerning diet and lifestyle. At the time it seemed completely impossible to me that I could live up to these choices, so much so, that I often experienced despair. Nevertheless, I was able to remain true to my choices - and produced results way beyond what I had thought possible. The choices I had made changed underlying structures so the path of least resistance automatically led me to do what was necessary to achieve superhealth and fitness.

This demonstrates one of Fritz's dictums: what you choose does not depend on what you think is possible.

The Pivotal Power Formula
Fritz describes a "pivotal technique" you can apply when circumstances are not to your liking. I have renamed it "the pivotal power formula":

  1. Describe current reality.
  2. Describe the results you want.
  3. Formally choose the results you want ("I choose ....").
  4. Move on; change the focus of your attention; shift gears; do something else. The structural tension generated by steps 1-3 will automatically lead you along the path of least resistance to processes that will enable you to generate the results you have chosen.

The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz is by far the most valuable book in my collection of over 5,000. I know of no book I can recommend more highly.

The Action Shift Power Formula
I have developed a formula you can apply at the action level. It will help you become more aware of when you sink into the reactive-responsive orientation. It may increase your power and creativity phenomenally.

  1. Write down an intended action.
  2. If practical, wait before taking the action.
  3. Ask, "Would this action be reactive-responsive or creative?"
  4. Ask, "What would be a more creative action?"
  5. Sleep on it.
  6. Formulate a more creative action (or list of actions) when you wake up.
  7. Ask, "Will the action(s) produce the results I want?"

Often you will be amazed by the difference between the quality of the action from step 1 and the quality of the action(s) generated during your sleep. The power of the path of least resistance at work!

If you think about it, "being yourself" is an essential aspect of personal power. Being yourself means becoming the best you can possibly be. It means expressing your personal power creatively and constructively. It means doing what you need to do in life and doing it your way. Listen to Rush Limbaugh:

"My big break in life and in business came in 1984 in Sacramento. This was the first time... that I was allowed to be myself. So simple, yet so crucial, and I have learned much from this realization... Folks, you will never be your best doing it someone else's way... I am convinced that you have absolutely no idea how good you can be - at whatever you want to do. You don't know because you are trapped in situations where you either can't or are afraid to be yourself." (The Way Things Ought to Be by Rush Limbaugh.)

The result Limbaugh focuses on is very precise: "My success is determined by how many listeners I have." This is result-consciousness - the key to personal power!

"Being yourself" is a synonym for "self-actualization" - the psychology of Abraham Maslow. Most of us underestimate what we could become.

People from all over the world are starting to work with me. Before the formuation of Build Freedom my attempts to get others to work with me were mostly dismal failures. Since I started telling people about Build Freedom - personally and by mail - I've been spectacularly successful in getting people to work with me. So the secret of getting others to work with you is to tell them about Build Freedom!

Actually, I think there are three main secrets behind my success in getting others to work with me:

  1. Developing and utilizing power messages;
  2. Shifting from making self right and others wrong to focusing on the results I want - through self-observation;
  3. Developing result-consciousness.

To achieve and increase personal power it's vital to learn how to influence people. I particularly recommend three books in this respect:

  1. Secrets of Power Persuasion by Roger Dawson;
  2. Mastery of People by Auren Uris;
  3. Miracle People Power by James K. Van Fleet.

"People-skills" are a vital ingredient of personal power. Although I think that personally I'm still a beginner when it comes to people-skills, just putting some attention on improving my people-skills has undoubtedly improved my competence in working with people.

Leverage basically means multiplying your effort. To increase your personal power you must achieve leverage. If you're a manual ditch digger you can increase your power to dig ditches by using a mechanical ditch digger. Using such a machine gives you leverage. By manipulating controls with your fingers you shift tone of earth.

If you become the owner of a ditch-digging company, emplying hundreds of ditch diggers, you increase your leverage and personal power.

If you invent and develop a product and get somebody to manufacture and sell it, paying you royalties, you increase your leverage and personal power. You can greatly increase your power by constantly looking for more leverage.

The power of multi-level marketing (MLM) comes from the leverage built into it. Christianity spread through multi-level marketing.

You can live your life out of the question: "How can I increase my personal power?" After every interaction with another you can ask: "How powerful was I in that situation?" "How could I have been more powerful?" "What can I learn from that interaction that will make me more powerful?"

Power comes from asking appropriate questions. When successful you can ask: "What thinking skills did I use?" When unsuccessful: "What thinking skills do I need to learn to succeed?" "What thinking skills do I need to develop to become more competent?"

A very important question: "What do I think, say, or do that reduces my power?" For example, some people sabotage their personal power by talking too much. Through self-observation and other thinking skills you replace your failure programs with success programs.

In some way or another, most Build Freedom reports deal with developing and increasing thinking skills, competence, and personal power.

Charles Hampden-Turner, in his superb book Radical Man, outlines his Model of Psycho-Social Development:

Man exists freely
a) through the quality of his PERCEPTION
b) the strength of his IDENTITY

i) Each will attempt to
from this process into
mental matrices of
developing COMPLEXITY

c) and the synthesis of
these into his anticipated
and experienced COMPETENCE
h) and through a dialectic
d) He INVESTS this with
intensity and authenticity
in his human environment
g) He seeks to make a
upon the other(s)

e) by periodically
cognitive structures
and RISKING himself

f) in trying to BRIDGE THE DISTANCE to other(s)


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