The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Inner Mastermind

"The mastermind is the only known means of overcoming a lack of ability."--Napoleon Hill.

A critical concept, whether we look at an individual, a couple, or a crowd. Whether the goals are internal or external, whether they are artistic, commercial or spiritual.

This is so critical that I want to concentrate my thoughts here for a while. The primary definition of a "Mastermind" is: two or more people working together in a spirit of perfect harmony to support shared or separate goals.

Let's relate it simply to the first basic levels:  An individual.

The Eriksonian "Parts Party" is designed to create alignment between the different aspects of our personality. Basically, imagine a garden party, attended by different aspects of your inner world. Then what you do is "introduce" different, conflicting aspects. Ambition? Meet Fear. Intimacy? Meet Freedom. Then the conflicting parts are allowed to "discuss" their needs and goals, so that they can stop pulling in opposite directions.

A perfect example. Years ago, my darling daughter Nicki was supposed to perform in a singing recital hosted by Sue Henshaw, vocal coach extraordinaire. The Saturday morning rolled around, and when it was time for her to do her final rehearsal, she froze. Just froze. I mean terror. Couldn't practice. Didn't want to go to the recital, and yet simultaneously she wanted desperately. Nicki has wanted to act and sing since childhood, so there was definitely a war going on inside her.

The first thing that I did was put her on the treadmill and see if getting her blood pumping while singing and chanting affirmations would help her. Ordinarily, a powerful technique, but it didn't help at all. I tried talking to her, role-playing, some other things...nothing worked.

Finally, frustrated and running out of time, I asked if I could try something a little different. I had her lay down on the living room couch, and coaxed her into a relaxed state with visualizations of peaceful gardens. Then I had her imagine she was walking into the aforementioned garden party. And there, she encountered different aspects of her personality. I had her visualize her Ambition, her Love of Music, but also her Fear and Anxiety.

And here was where Daddy had to bow out. I knew that some aspects of the psyche simply don't communicate with outsiders, no matter how trusted and beloved. So the next step was to do a couple of things.

1) Set up a signal system. I believe it was "lift your right forefinger if the answer is yes. Lift your left forefinger if the answer is "no."

2) I just asked if these different parts would speak to each other and try to work things out. Right finger raised.

3) I asked if she would raise her right finger when she was finished, and ready to return to awareness.

So then Daddy had to sit back and wait. I watched her closed eyes. There was rapid REM-style eye movement going on, which I interpreted as communication and integration between the different parts of her personality.

Then after about five minutes (we were watching the clock--less than an hour left until the concert!) she raised that right finger, and I brought her back to normal consciousness. She opened her eyes, shook her head...then jumped up and said: "let's practice!"

She belted out her song (A sassy number called "Your Feet's Too Big", I believe) with total confidence. Tananarive, our piano player, had seen the whole thing and was totally flabberghasted, acting as if she'd accidentally married a witch doctor. We went to the recital, and Nicki performed with perfect confidence, voice clear, flirting with the was great.

All because she had achieved some sort of detente with her internal community. Her "internal mastermind". I have no idea what those "parts" said to each other. In all honesty, I don't believe I asked. Didn't need to.

The point is that ANY problem related to behavior can plausibly be traced to competing beliefs, goals, or values. Imagine a dog sled with the dogs pulling in opposite directions. You'll freeze on the tundra. It is critical that some part of you take control, lead the way, compromise, bribe, blackmail, seduce or wrestle the conflicting parts of your personality into cooperation, so that you all your emotions, mental attributes and energies are flowing in the same direction.

So a question for today:
1) In your mental arena, what are your greatest conflicts? (For instance: ambition versus shyness)
2) In your physical arena, what is your greatest conflict? (For instance, belief that physical fitness is superficial)
3) In your relationship arena, what is your greatest conflict? (For instance, desire for intimacy versus fear of betrayal
4) In your financial arena, what is your greatest conflict? (For instance, Adult versus Child selves.)

Just writing out the answers begins the process of internal dialog.
Have a great party!



Terry H said...

You know what I'd pay good money for? A book based on these blogs!

Steven Barnes said...

I am working through the Mastermind concept right now, and it will be my next course. Stay tuned.

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