Personal Mind Control Experiments
I've always liked to play around with my own mind, experimenting
with different ways to think to see what the practical effects
are. One of the earliest mind control experiments I did was at
about the age of nine or ten. I don't remember the exact circumstances,
but I do recall that I was feeling very bad about something that
had happened. At some point, it occurred to me that other bad
things had happened to me before, but that they didn't bother
me nearly so much, since they were in the past. In fact, some
of these other incidents seemed more funny than painful after
some time had gone by.
That thought led to the realization that I could imagine seeing
my present situation as though a year had gone by. I tried this,
thinking about what had just happened as though I was recalling
it from this future time. The pain I was feeling immediately
diminished now that this incident was merely a "memory"
of something that had happened long ago (a year is a long time
to a child), rather than something that was happening now or
had just happened. I had invented a simple technique that I then
used more than once during my childhood.
Some of you will recognize this as what later came to be called
neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. In the more advanced techniques
of NLP, you change the color of these past images to black and
white in your mind, or mentally put the scene in a frame and
hang it on a wall. These are ways to re-code the memory, to take
the emotional content away.
How to Turn Off the Mind
As a teenager I sometimes had insomnia. It was clear that
it was my mind keeping me awake. A thousand thoughts were running
through it. So what could I do to fall asleep?
One evening I was watching television, and I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I realized that often the TV kept me awake. Why
did it also put me to sleep at times like this? The answer was
obvious: I had been watching a boring program.
The next idea was logical. If television could put me to sleep
or keep me awake depending on the content, why wouldn't it be
the same with thoughts? I could try it easily enough, but, unfortunately,
I discovered that it's not easy to think boring thoughts. Every
time I tried to do so my thoughts morphed into something that
was more interesting. And, of course, we are easily fascinated
by our own thoughts, especially when young. In any case, the
first part of this experiment failed.
I watched the mental process going on as I rolled around sleeplessly
and realized that the stream of consciousness which kept me awake,
even though it contained many different thoughts and images,
really was something like a "stream," with an identifiable
"current" of sorts. In other words, it flowed from
one thought to another with some logical associations as the
"stream bed" that it followed. The question came to
me, what if there was no consistent "flow?"
That's when I tried my "random thought sleep experiment."
I allowed no image or idea to take on a life of its own, or a
logical course in my mind. If I started to think about tomorrow's
plans, I would immediately think of something unrelated. If an
image of a tree was in my mind, pens or cups would have to start
growing from it, rather than leaves. The idea was to avoid any
logical thoughts or images in the mental action. Purely random
and meaningless images and thoughts were the aim.
This technique was difficult at first, but when I used it,
I fell asleep in ten minutes instead of the usual hour or two.
I was effectively "turning off" my mind by giving it
nothing to work with. Interestingly, I soon was able to fall
asleep more easily even without going through this routine. Maybe
I had trained my unconscious mind to accept that when I went
to bed it was time for sleep.
Other Mind Control Experiments
I have always been a believer in self-experimentation. It
is a good way to research those things which cannot be addressed
as directly by science, or things that just haven't yet been
studied very much. For example, you can certainly tell if something
you do makes you feel more confident or happier, but to do the
same science tries to work from outside personal experience and
must trust people to report accurately what they feel. Since
this approach may not provide the most objective measures, such
research is often not done. But what kind of experiments can
you try on yourself? Here are two to consider.
* Talk about yourself in the third person (use your name rather
than "I") to see if what you say is a more objective
assessment of who you are. For your control data first write
a description of yourself and answer ten questions about yourself
(you can make these about almost any aspect of your character
or personality). When you are speaking or writing about yourself
in the third person, do you have new insights? Do you answer
the ten questions differently?
* Watch your pupils in a mirror, and you'll see that they
get larger as you think about something exciting and pleasurable.
How do we use this to learn something new? Make a list of scenarios,
and rate how desirable each one is. Then imagine them while watching
your pupil size as a proxy for your immediate subconscious feelings,
to see if it coincides with your conscious ratings. In other
words, are you really as excited by what you think you are, or
are there some surprises here?
Some other personal experiments that are fascinating to me
have to do with the altering of our conscious identity through
the use of metaphors. I sometimes write about this subject on
my website about metaphors