The common view of therapy is that people with problems seek therapy to get help solving their problems. Three Principles practitioners are unique in that the goal of our work is not solving particular problems or helping clients get over them, but rather, finding happiness and peace of mind regardless of external circumstances. We assist clients to find their innate resilience and power to address any life situation. The Principles elicit understanding of states of mind/levels of consciousness in our lives, and explain why and how our life looks different to us as we become aware of that. When clients learn to trust quiet moments of wisdom, they see how to navigate the ups and downs of life.
Therapists working from the assumption that external events create our anxiety and suffering take it upon themselves to help clients solve problems, change their lives, or figure out new ways to adjust to circumstances. In the process, without meaning to, clients can become dependent on their therapists to deal with their lives, and therapists can become exhausted as problems pile up. They feel they have to help clients get stronger. Three Principles therapy helps clients see that they are already strong, and helps them discover how to tap into their own wisdom and common sense. Both therapist and client are off the hook, and therapy is hopeful and uplifting as clients start to have insights.
As we understand more how our thoughts create our moods, and how our moods are a barometer to the quality of our thinking, we are less and less frightened by our low moods. Although it appears as though they are “caused” by people or events around us, they are actually just the shadow of our thinking. Moods lose their importance when we see that they are just as illusory as our ever-changing thoughts. As our thoughts change, our moods change. Being afraid of our moods and thinking about them more trying to figure ourselves out is what holds them in place.
There’s an expression in the Mental Health field: “Flight Into Health.” It describes a sense that dramatic improvement in a person’s level of mental well-being can’t last. People are often confounded when others have an insight that results in a shift in consciousness — for example, realizing that they are spending a great deal of time analyzing their negative thoughts, thus becoming mired in them. If they set themselves free from that habit as a result of that insight, their level of well-being shifts. It is a true shift into a higher level of understanding that is life-changing.
Because we have become accustomed to mental illness being difficult and complicated to diagnose and treat, the idea that all diagnoses arise from a common problem, the innocent misuse of our power to think, seems ridiculously simple. But the Principles reduce the complexity of all the thinking that has been done about our psychology and ourselves to the simplicity of creation: we are born through the energy of creation and we use that energy to create thoughts that consciousness brings to life as our perceived reality. Once we see this, we cannot be frightened by our own thoughts.
The “information age” has pulled society into the intellect and the pace of life has lessened our respect for quiet, for reflection. As a result, we are divided by beliefs into rigid groups, or separated from family members, friends and colleagues by the ideas we like. Humanity feels fractured. We can reconnect with the understanding that the gift of thought we all have — to create our own ideas from the energy of life and then see them as real, allows us to experience our thinking, but recognizing the gift and knowing we all think of different things and everyone’s reality is unique, is what makes us interesting to each other, not locked in conflict. The common ground is that we think, not what we think.
Most of current psychology focuses on the details of people’s thinking — paying attention to negative thought content, encouraging positive thought content; suggesting journaling “important” thoughts, etc. Working with the details of our thoughts is after the fact; once we’ve thought something, we experience that thought as real, and the more we think about it, the more “real” or significant it seems. Understanding the principles focuses people on their power TO think. When we see that we are always thinking and the way we experience our thoughts moment-to-moment depends on our state of mind, not the details of our thoughts, every moment is a chance for fresh thoughts and a new perspective.
It’s easy to confuse “FEELING” with what people commonly understand as their “feelings” — what we would call emotions. When Three Principles practitioners talk about listening for the FEELING, we are talking about what Sydney Banks called “the silence of our minds.” The FEELING that comes when our minds get quiet and we are open to wisdom is peace of mind, contentment, ease, a sense of connection to the energy of life. It is not an emotion; it is quietude. Paying attention to our ever-changing emotions to search for the FEELING there is pointless. The FEELING of peace is before thought. Feelings are shadows of our thoughts.
We tend to see ideas we have often as “things,” — baked into a reality. We do that with our life stories, our training, our political or religious convictions, our personalities. In our minds, they are “the way it is” or “the way I am.” Understanding the inside-out nature of Thought, of the fact that each time we bring a thought to mind it is transitory — either a memory drawn from our intellect, or a new idea altogether. Thoughts appear real in the present only while they are on our minds. Thoughts are not “things” with a reality of their own; they are images in the kaleidoscope of our lives. They appear, and disappear, as our attention shifts. We will not “see” them again unless we think them again.
Principles are discoveries of eternal truths that allow us to understand life more deeply. Principles are at work behind life whether we know them or not. In the case of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, the Principles explain where beliefs come from: Mind, the formless energy of all things, empowering thoughts, which Consciousness brings to our awareness as “reality” (experience of life). They explain why our own thinking looks so real and important to us — and why we can change our minds. Beliefs are the many ways thinking has manifested and taken root in people’s thinking as meaningful as ideas are shared. They are real as long as we think they are real, and over time, they can change, or come and go.
When violent events occur, the quick response often is, “Society has a mental health issue.” In truth, people experiencing mental well-being do not harm other people. But most people who are experiencing mental health difficulties do not kill or harm other people. There is a psychological path to violence: as some people experience extended periods of extremely dark, negative, insecure thinking and see themselves as alienated from others and hopeless about who they are or where they fit, they fill their heads with extreme nasty, vengeful thoughts. At some point, they commit violence, looking to get relief from the pain of that thinking, with no understanding that they are the thinkers who have created it. What is needed is a deeper recognition of how thinking works and how we can quiet our thinking and find our innate well-being.
While there is no excuse for doing harm to others, an understanding of why it makes sense to the people who do it would improve treatment and rehabilitation for them. We all live on a sine curve from low feelings of insecurity to higher feelings of security and peace of mind. For most people, the feelings come and go, just changing moods. But some people get deeply frightened by low mood, negative thoughts. In an effort to understand or fight them, they hold on to them and think about them more and more. Extended, worsening periods of negative thinking send them into a downward spiral, looking for who or what to blame. At that point, lashing out with horrendous behavior seems like the only way to rid themselves of the misery they have no idea was created by their own thoughts, not by anything or anyone else.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a huge volume of symptoms of mental illnesses organized into many hundreds of Diagnoses. We see it more as a collection of observations of the creative ways people in low states of mind come up with to help themselves feel better or quiet their thinking. The Three Principles explain that there is only one underlying mental illness — innocent misunderstanding of the power to think. And there is only one cure — understanding our spiritual power to think and experience our thinking as real. When people see that, they recognize their freedom to change, to heed their wisdom when it comes to mind, and to allow less constructive thoughts to pass.
We think about the past as “real” and important, the personal story of our life that has power over us. Or as memories that haunt us, or delight us. Or as the history we learn about in school. Really, the past is just thoughts, stored in our memory. Just images we can bring to mind. The past is the sentence you just read. The past is everything behind us that isn’t happening right now. It is as easy to forget as to remember. It is not a “thing” that we have to deal with or figure out. It has no power except the power we give it when we bring it to mind in the present. The power to think and our own free will gives us the capacity to bring thoughts to mind, but the thoughts themselves have no power.
The field of Psychology, with the intention to end suffering, has fostered suffering inadvertently by focusing on people’s past. Because people suffering mentally in the present tend to be focused on thinking, thinking, thinking to try to find relief, they are caught in their intellect and using their memories to try to understand themselves. When we are processing thoughts from our intellect, all we have to work with is the past because the intellect is all stored thoughts. So without an understanding of how the mind works, how quieting circular thinking allows for insight and clarity in the present, psychology has made the assumption that relief only comes from dealing with the thoughts people are thinking.
Anything that pulls us out of the present moment, when we are creating our life, is memory. Memories can be powerful, beautiful, touching, or horrifying, upsetting, sad. No matter what, the past tricks us and keeps us from living life in the now, moment-to-moment. We can recall past joy and think the present can never measure up to it; we can remember past upset and think it is ruining our lives. Understanding the past is not about sorting out the content of our thinking, but recognizing that the past, good or bad, is over. We can’t change it; we can’t fix it; we can’t make it happen again. We can learn from the past, deeply appreciate it, or leave it behind. But true contentment is found in the now.
Realizing the Principles allow each of us to create our own experience of life moment-to-moment has a further implication. Each of us, looking at the same situation, creates our own entirely separate, unique experience of it. Our own reality looks absolutely real, so it’s easy for us to forget that others are not thinking what we do, but their reality looks just as real to them. This leads to schisms and misunderstandings unless we look deeper to realize we still have common ground; we are all the creators of our own lives, and we can find understanding and compassion and look for agreement from a deep, non-judgmental feeling.
When we speak of psychological innocence, we are not excusing bad deeds. We are explaining that the world looks very different to us in different states of mind/levels of consciousness. So in a deeply insecure, negative state of mind, things make sense to people that would be unthinkable to them in a secure, peaceful state of mind. Each of us is always acting from the state of mind and quality of thinking that we are generating at the time. That’s why awareness of the importance of noticing ours and others’ states of mind is so critical to understanding.
The theories and techniques in traditional therapy tend to focus on details of people’s problems, and how to find resolutions for various aspects of problems. Because people focus on the details, problems expand as they think about them, remembering more details. Sydney Banks wrote (in Second Chance) “The details are simply proof to the ego that the problem exists. They perpetuate the situation you are trying to get rid of.” Details are memories, stored in the intellect. The answers to all our questions arise from wisdom, fresh thoughts arising from a quiet mind in a good feeling state. Our approach is to work from wisdom to draw clients into the moment in a good feeling, and await their insights.
Ego, as we use the term, refers to beliefs and ideas we have about ourselves and life. They define who we think we are and how we describe our individual preferences and opinions. We would not have identities without Ego, but without understanding Ego and the misuse of that thinking, it can become a curse and a burden, creating self-judgment, shame, anxiety, disappointment, disillusionment, etc. If we know that our thinking changes, and our thinking about ourselves is within our control and can change, we see that our ideas about the world around us are also variable, and not “right” or “wrong,” but dependent on our state of mind and what thoughts we take seriously.