“I want to buy that! It looks so cute.”
Yes, but is it practical?
“That looks like a fun job. I want to try it.”
But it might take away time spent with your boyfriend. And are you sure you’re qualified? Isn’t the drive too long?
“I really like this cake!”
Hmm, but what about all that sugar?
Recognize this conversation? That’s a sample dialogue between your mind and your core self. Your protector mind is there to protect you from any sort of risk or pain, and, in healthy doses, is vital to survival and to our use of common sense. It keeps us from doing stupid things that hurt us or others, and it keeps us from taking impulsive and unwise risks.
Your core self is more concerned with living a full and happy life—with growth and joy and stretching your experiences. In a healthy dose, this is also important for obvious reasons. The protector mind helps us survive, and the core self helps us thrive.
Yet a growing trend I see in our society, especially among young people, is too much emphasis on the protector mind and almost none on the core self. It’s as if we view the protector mind as all-knowing and see the core self as a silly little child who doesn’t really know what’s best for it.
Most of us recognize the power or the core self and long to follow it. I would really love to switch jobs. I would love to write a novel. I would love to ask him out. It would make me so happy to move out of state. I really want to commit to this project. Gosh, it would be fun to have a piece of cake with my friends.
Yet, many of us ultimately listen to the protector mind and put off doing the things we know are more fulfilling for us. I do all the time, even while knowing better. That’s how scared we are of risk.
And, from a survival standpoint, that’s fine. For many of us, some level of tradition or sameness or routine is comforting and stabilizing, and that’s not a bad thing. Some of us crave more routine than others, and that’s not unhealthy, either. What’s unhealthy is when the core self and protector mind come into conflict. I would argue that unless there’s a survival situation going on (zombie apocalypse, for instance), the protector mind is a very poor leader. It wants to guarantee safety and stability instead of embracing that those two things are very much in flux at any given point in our lives. Even in a survival situation, instincts kick in that hopefully guide us to our best survival tactics. I’m not sure the protector mind even has time to quick in, and when it does, it seems more fluid and action-based. But that’s a topic we could discuss for another day.
The bottom line is that I think the protector mind has a role in keeping us safe and helping us make wise and well-considered choices. However, for most of us, letting the protector mind take charge is in itself an unwise choice. Most of us are at a point where we can trust our core self to know what’s best for us. This takes a lot of practice, and I’d love to explore that more in future posts as it’s something I’m learning to do myself.
For now, though, how do we get started? First, I encourage you to recognize when your thoughts come from the protector mind and when they come from your core self. The protector mind may inform your core self, but the core self should take the lead. To clarify, the core self is that part of you that is most connected to itself and others, to joy and grief, to healing and growth, and to passion and creativity (and for some, spirituality). Labeling where the thought originates from helps you better make a call on which to follow.
Second, practice slowly taking the core self’s lead. Start with small, low-stakes items. For example, eat the piece of cake. See how you feel afterward. Learn from that. Or buy yourself that book. Or job search for ten minutes, or share your art with a friend. Something small and reasonably safe. Keep experimenting until you can begin to distinguish the voices. Also note that following your core self without feeling guilty about it is another task in itself, so just because you ate the cake and felt bad, doesn’t mean it’s your core self that’s feeling bad about it. Again, try to distinguish between the two even after you have taken whatever step you decided on.
Challenge!: This week, start to distinguish between your protector mind and core self. Maybe write down some of the ways you can tell them apart. Then try three times this week trusting your core self’s decision and seeing what happens from there. Best wishes, my friends! 🙂