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The Power of Thought

February 20, 2006

I wrote this yesterday after watching the film What the Bleep Do We Know

I can shape my own reality.  

Do you believe that statement?  Do you believe that I or you can
shape, create, regenerate, and redirect our own realities?  

I do.  I believe that I have the power to determine my life
experience.  Though I may not be able to pick and choose all of
the events and occurrences that I am subjected to in life, I can pick and choose how I absorb, react to, and reflect on them, decisions which ultimately shape how I experience life.  

We all have this power to shape our realities.  I believe firmly
that there is no such thing as “objective” reality; everything that
happens in this world is experienced by individuals subjects who feel
and react in particular ways to particular circumstances, meaning that
nobody views the same thing in the same way.  We can choose
how we want to view things; we can choose to view a cold winter day as
ugly for its lack of green or beautiful for its crispness and openness
to the sky above.

For example, I enjoy walking through cemeteries, even at night, because
I think of them as a resting place for history where my presence
becomes connected to past lives.  Others, such as the home buyers
who turned down the house across the street from my parents because it
backs a cemetery, feel very differently about cemeteries and so
cemeteries are very different places for them.  Cemeteries are not
comforting, imaginative places; they are creepy, potentially dangerous
places.

Even in science there are no absolutes.  There are countless ways
to view the human body depending on which field of science one is
studying.  Nutritionists see the human body as a processing
machine that requires certain inputs in order to function properly
while quantum physicists see the body as mostly empty space controlled
primarily by our thoughts.

I agree with both fields of science as well as with American Indian
spiritualists who see our bodies as being intimately connected with the
world around us.  What we choose to do and think has an immense
impact not only on our own health but also on the well being of the
bodies, living and otherwise, around us.  This power of thought
can be progressive or regressive depending on the ends for which it is
used and on who is using it.

Take, for example, Catarina, the subject of the book I am reading entitled VITA: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment
Catarina has spent the last decade of her life living in a makeshift
psychiatric center named VITA, established after Brazil began to
decentralize its health care system and replace state institutions with
community-based centers.  Catarina’s abandonment at the center,
where her family left her years ago to be with people “like her” rather
than alone at home all day, was justified by a number of crisscrossing
social norms.  First was the male-dominated culture, which labeled
women who stood up to their unfaithful husbands as troublemakers and
potential psychotics.  Another is the prevailing medical practice
of treating emotional instability with an established retinue of pills
rather than seeking to address the subjective or social causes of the
“illness.”  These dominating, socially accepted patterns of
thought suppressed and negated Catarina’s personal declarations and her
refusal to submit to an oppressive regime, declarations and refusals
that ultimately deepened her family’s belief that she was indeed
mentally ill; but Catarina was only mentally ill compared to “normal”
people, “normalcy” being a socially defined set of acceptable thoughts
and behaviors that excludes people who think and act outside of the
proverbial box.

At the same time as the socially engineered concept of normalcy was
used to suppress Catarina, Catarina, however, used the power of thought
to reclaim herself and use her agency to make her life at VITA
bearable.  The author writes,

By staying as close as I could, for as long as I
could, to Catarina’s struggles to articulate desire, pain, and
knowledge, I also came to see the specificity and pathos of
subjectivity and the possibilities it carries.  While her sense of
herself and of the world was perceived as lacking reality, Catarina
found in thinking and writing a way of living with what would otherwise
be unendurable.  Thus, subjectivity also contains creativity, the
possibility of a subject adopting a distinctive symbolic relation to
the world to understand lived experience (137).

In other words, Catarina used her personal agency to shape, create,
regenerate, and redirect her own reality; she refused to submit to the
belief that she was mentally ill and chose instead to view herself as
an independent person with thoughts, views, and ideas about the world
around her.  

Each of us can choose to view ourselves as meaningful, worthy, powerful
individuals with the potential to shape the world around us; or we can
choose to allow ourselves to be subjected to dominating patterns of
thought, which, more often than not, portray individuals as largely
helpless in the face of global networks of power and money.  What
we must realize and remember is that the power of thought is precisely
what gives those global networks the power and money they have: 
so many people have accepted their way of conceptualizing the world
that the world has become and remains what those in power want it to
be.  

Imagine, then, what could happen if we changed our ways of thinking…

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