Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
— Carl Jung
If you were free of addiction, the pain it causes and the time it consumes, what would you do with yourself? How would you dedicate your energies? You might answer that then you would be free to act in accord with your interests and principles. Well, then what are your interests and principles?
Researching your values and motives is tricky. After all, who are you asking to do the research? An observation by comedian, Emo Phillips, illustrates the problem: "I used to think that my brain was the most important organ — until I realized who was telling me that."
The motivation to use the incentive is state-dependent. Sometimes you are attracted to it and at other times you are repelled by it. In contrast, your Core Motivation is independent of your current state. Incentive Motivation may influence your actions even when you are unaware of it. In contrast, your Core Motivation is only influential when you are aware of it. To be effective during a conflict your core values and motivation must be salient enough to motivate non-automatic behavior.
Now, defecting from your plan may seem so foolish that it is hard to imagine doing so. The Soul Illusion results from the tacit premise that you will always appraise alternative courses of action as you do now. Consequently, you expect that acting in accord with your current interests and principles will be a trivial challenge. In fact, your appraisals are state-dependent, and the next time you are in a high-risk situation you are likely to appraise your alternatives the way you did the last time you were in such a situation.
The choices you make during these high-risk situations will have irreversible consequences. You, me, and those who love you are rooting for you to do the right thing at those critical moments. But how do you know what the right thing is, in an ever-changing environment? The next several pages will help you discover, define, and declare your Core Motivation.
An important by product of the personal research demanded by the Contemplation Stage is to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of motivational conflict so you can remind yourself of your Core Values and Hierarchy of Motives and thereby increase the salience of your Core Motivation during these moments of conflict
To begin your personal research, consider the conflict you will experience during a high-risk situation. At that critical moment there will be a battle between different sources of motivation. On one side are thoughts and images that promote using the incentive. Pulling you in a different direction is your intention to follow your path of greatest advantage.
Personal Research Considerations
- Dedicate a "session" to each exercise or thought experiment. Begin the session with a relaxation exercise [see Taming the Beast for meditation protocols] to awaken yourself from current attachments and emotional states. Once you have gained access to your best cognitive resources, encourage yourself to explore the subjective experience described in the exercise or thought experiment.
- Use the scientific method. Writing is important! Keep a journal and a curious, open mind.
Note what happens when you follow the protocols.
- Don't scare the puppy! Personal research gives you an opportunity to learn lessons that can be learned no other way. However, in order to take advantage of this experience, you will have to resist the temptation to beat the puppy. Be aware of the tendency to react emotionally when you review your sins of commission. Rather than helping you develop the heroic strengths that will enable you to cope with crises in the future, harsh self-criticism will weaken you and distract your attention from the content of the exercise. To train the puppy without ruining it, you must be kind to it so it does not fear or rebel against you. So here are some general training principles to bear in mind:
- The puppy is not defective or bad; [s]he is innocent. Its reactions are determined by the laws of cause-and-effect — including the PIG, counter-regulatory motivation, the Karma of practice, etc.
- You owe the puppy unconditional positive regard, and you must strive to protect it from shaming self-criticism. You can appraise the behavior, the strategy, the results, but not the puppy. It is not only counter-productive, but sloppy thinking to label the puppy as bad, defective, a loser, etc. The puppy is part of a deterministic universe and has no choice but to obey the laws of cause and effect.
- Immersing yourself in the experiential exercises designed to help you answer these questions may evoke an epiphany. Your may feel like you finally understand what you want and what you must sacrifice to get it. At times like this it is especially important to be mindful of the Soul Illusion: The feeling of certainty that the insights and motivation to change that you experience during the exercises will be available to you during a high-risk situation is an illusion. Epiphanies are just as state-dependent as any other subjective experience. Your Core Values and Hierarchy of Motives will be helpful to the extent they are salient to you during high-risk situations.
To begin your personal research, consider the fact that you will die one day. It would be a pity to miss out on what you really wanted and regret your sins of omission. So live life to the full and do what you want to do while you have the chance. The first and most important part of exercising your will is to decide what you want.