The basic premise here is that everyone has a ‘mental experience’ in common as a result of our brains’ wiring, a sort of universal background information that’s constantly circulating through your brain. For example, if you find a penny lying in the grass, your subconscious brain will automatically remember how much you’ll need to eat for the next day. Similarly, if you are walking along a street, your subconscious mind will think about a series of destinations to go to, and it’ll work out the best time to go each one.
All this background information comes from the brain itself, and it’s only when we start thinking about this ‘background information’ that it can begin to influence our behaviour. This can’t necessarily happen to other people, however, because it’s difficult to measure the frequency of the information in our brains. We’re not going to be able to tell how often your conscious mind thinks of a specific car (or a street), for example, unless you actually get back to it later in your day. It’s the same with mental states, such as ‘being happy’. You can’t just think about a ‘happy state’ when you’re doing a task; the thoughts will start coming out and you’ll be unable to stop thinking about them for at least the next 15 seconds. This is why when I tell people that they’ll be feeling happy the next time they’re doing anything, they generally feel pretty happy.
The same is true of dreams; unless you actually do them, the dream will simply get ‘out of your head’. Once you think about a dream, however, it becomes increasingly harder to stop having the dream for any length of time; it tends to become a constant, constant, constant reminder of yourself thinking about it (and about the thoughts that you’re thinking of it about). This makes it hard to change it if for some reason it stops having an effect.
Mental states are what our brain is best at: they’re where our attention and cognitive functions are ‘fastest’. It’s these two functions that are all the more important when a person is trying to get out of a rut (or a bad slump). When a person is trying to make a big change they need to do it as fast as possible so that the next bit doesn’t feel like the last.
At the same time this is something that we don’t understand well. Most people simply don’t understand that if you’ve been spending a lot of time being unhappy and frustrated, those brain