I recently made a new Facebook friend named Kristian --who you are about to meet. Kristian friended me, I asked him why and we began talking about The Three Principles. Messaging back and forth.

Lead by his thoughtful questions,  Kristian and I reflected together about "the voices in our heads," obsessive thoughts, why we all get scared and how we stay safe.

I asked him if I could share our chat here on the blog. He said yes.  At first I thought I would edit this to be shorter, but I've decided not to.  So...

Here is the unedited dialogue between this wise fellow and myself exploring the nature of thought in the context of The Three Principles. 

Kristian Thalin
A question, do you think there are "evil" forces that can control peoples action or is all that just thought? 

For example, sometimes people do these really bad things and say stuff like "that was a voice in my head that told me to do it" ... Therefore I thought that is very scary for me at times. "What if I suddenly ..." and then the worst possible thing that I can come up with like kill someone etc.. 

Have you ever met one with these kind of unwanted almost obsessive thoughts? If so, what makes you think they become obsessive when you don't even want them in the first place... This is where I get confused with our "free" will. 
Thank you Elese,
All my love,
Elese Coit
Hi Kristian,
How wonderful to meet you. What a thoughtful place to reflect. Here is what I have found most helpful to know about thought. See how this lands for you and let me know.

1. Everyone has every kind of thought. 
The most beautiful to the most terrible. The Principles do not say you will not have "evil" or "obsessive" types of thoughts. They say: you will feel the content of your thinking, whatever it is. 
Notice in your own life and see if this is true.

2. Everyone has had and continues to have (daily!!) thoughts that they ignore. 
We ignore "I could eat that whole cake!" even though we have the thought. So, we do know how to let thoughts come without making them a big deal (even awful ones) and simply allow them to pass. I find that is nice to remember about ourselves.
If you can find one example in your experience, you have established that thought cannot take you over. That is what I call free will.

3. When thoughts come alive in our 5-senses, we feel them very intensely and in full 3-D. 
This feels compelling, true and real. And it is. However, most people feel compelled to do something about them to stop the feeling. That means they will act on the outside of themselves in order to get rid of a feeling they don't like: strike out, get revenge, eat the cake... etc. Most people will do this and will truly feel they had no choice to do anything else. Now this is going to sound a bit tricky, but see if you can see that makes sense to people -- but only if feelings are coming from outside of us! (Which they are not).

So here is the REAL KEY: Once you know that your feelings are coming from thinking, and reflect the content of thinking alone, you do not need to act on the outside world in an attempt to rid yourself of a feeling. The more you understand where the feeling is coming from, the less you need to do "out there" to resolve it. (In fact, the less you need to do to resolve it at all. That includes improving on yourself.)

4. Remember, all feelings WILL and in fact MUST change. It is the nature of feelings. There is nothing you can do to stop yourself getting a new idea (and the feeling that will go with it) at any point. 

If you want to test out number 4 for yourself, try to take one feeling, any feeling maybe anger or rage and see what you would have to do to keep that feeling going -without a break in the feeling at all.

Most people cannot last one minute with a single feeling. Within seconds they are thinking "I'm hungry" or "how long have I been doing this?" and the feeling they are trying to sustain will simply subside. 

This shows you just how much natural feelings are moving along with the thoughts behind them.

So how does this help you to trust that is what is happening and know that it is the Principles that keep you safe, not the content of your thinking?
Elese Coit

P.S. and YES, just last week I was totally enraged and wanted to hit someone. I told a friend of mine in the Domestic Violence prevention unit, I could totally see how wives beat husbands and husbands beat wives. I could easily have been one in that red hot moment. 

Luckily, I told her, "The Principles kept ME safe because I know what is happening to me -- what they did not do was keep me "safe" from having the thought in the first place!"
Does that make sense?
Kristian Thalin

Elese, all I can say right now is WOW! I acually found myself smiling with a deep sense of relief as I was reading your answer - thank you so much! 

What you say just make perfect sense Elese, becouse if we think that our emotions really comes from something or someone then there is no wounder that one might think that we are controlled by something, when we in fact are feeling our own thinking! Thank you for helping me see that 
Im starting to realize more and more that there can't simply be any "evil", it's rather a absense of god! In the same way that cold is the absense of heat and darkness is the absense of lightness like Einstein was on about. The way you came across with it made it very clear to me! 

For me it feels like that the more we start see our true identity, the less scary our thinking gets simply becouse we just think we need to feel fearfull of it. I mean just look at a little baby, it does not get scared of spiders or snakes or even the most brutal horror movie becouse they don't even know what it is! It's all conditioning! 

Or am I all lost when I say that we are learned to fear most things that we are scared of Elese?
Elese Coit

Glad to be in this reflection with you 

As to your last question, here is what I think we learned: we all learned to "attribute." We had a feeling, looked for the reason for it, and then just pointed to something outside ourselves and said, "this made me feel ..." 

We learned to attribute this way because no one knew any different. I certainly didn't before I came across the Principles and began to reflect on what they mean in practice...

So what we attribute to is random. Which makes sense because no one is afraid of the same things right? It's kind of amazing if you think about it, that we have never noticed this is the reason!!

Anyway, my favorite way of talking about this is "No one can make you feel ...X"* Nothing can make you feel it, but you can attribute feeling to something and believe yourself. That's not something wrong with us, it's just a misunderstanding...

does that help as you reflect on your question?

*(With thanks to Mara Gleason who put that on the white board when teaching at Supercoach)
Kristian Thalin

First of all I want you to know that your amazing kindness and wisdom means so much to me 

The way you explained how we "attribute" makes perfect sense to me! I can really see how this missunderstanding makes one think that there is something wrong with us, when in fact there is nothing wrong at all! 

Elese, what do you do when you get caught up with negative feelings from your thoughts? 

Sometime I find myself feeling sad but I could not identify what kind of thought that caused it and I tend to get into this strange gap between stress and wellbeing. 

Once again thank you Elese!
Elese Coit

Hi Kristian,
Hm, a question on this one ... tell me, why would you want to "identify" the thought that caused the feeling? 

Kristian Thalin

Hi Elese,
It's funny how we give meaning to meaningless things. The moment I read your response a statement made by Einstein came up in my head: 
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

Identifying the thought that caused the feeling would be like identifying the tiny object on the road that caused a flat tire on a bike. Focusing on that object will not do me much good...

I guess we're so used to focus on our mistakes so our habitual thinking kicks in. 

Anyway, thank you Elese for questioning my thought and helping me look at it from a new angle!

Elese Coit

Wonderful. No one could say it better. Even Einstein. 

Hey Kristian, I'd love to share some of our conversation on my next blog. Would you be happy with that. I can remove your name and such -- I just think everyone has these questions and it's a comfort to people to know that everyone else does. We often feel we are the only ones, and everyone else "gets it" -- never the case!

What do you think?

I could send you a draft before publishing if that would be helpful.
Kristian Thalin

Dear Elese,
Thank you so much and it would be a honour for me to be part of your blog! You can use my name if you want. Im grateful and excited about the possibility to help others find food for thought in our journey in this amazing gift of life! 

Once again thank you so much Elese for all the loving kindness and wisdom you've given me and so many others with all awesome things that you do!
All my love!
With immense gratitude to Kristian for allowing me to share this dialogue. *bows*  We may be individual thinkers living in our individual worlds, but in this sense we Are all in this together!
I said to the almond tree, Friend, speak to me of God,
 and the almond tree blossomed. - Nikos Kazantzakis

How like trees we are. Except for one thing... they are not upset.

But let me backup for a moment. 

One morning I was watching a palm tree. 

This one, actually.

It's rather beautiful how they sway with abandon (I swear they are going to snap in half!) and how tall some grow on huge spindly legs -- some three times higher than the homes below them.   

I was watching a palm standing perfectly silently. Everything was still in the air. So I thought.  Then a few of the feathered fronds began twitching wildly. There must have been one small stream of air gusting through that part of the branch. 

The palms are so high that they catch all kinds of air currents that I never feel or see.  These invisible winds can strip the palms of all their fronds and send them hurling to the ground, crashing through the windshields of the cars below.  Or just tickle them gently. Palms are truly at the mercy of the shifting winds.  Nothing can change the effect the wind on them: they sway and flutter all day and all night.  It is easy to see that this whole picture works very harmoniously, even on the stormiest of days. In fact, it seems built to work this way.  

Tossed by the Wind

As I watched the palm fronds doing their accordion dance, it occurred to me this is the way human thinking works too.  We experience our thoughts much the same way the palms experience the winds.   Thoughts move through us long before we detect they are there and we too, sway and flutter.  (In terms of our feelings that is).   

One thing I know to be true about humans is that thoughts are the source of our feelings.  Stormy thoughts stir up inevitably dark and tempestuous feelings and activate our senses. We can't stop that process any more than the palm can not sway in the wind.  

When the human has passing thoughts moving through they ondulate in harmony with that thinking, just like the tree bends with the passing wind; the difference is the tree is not upset about the fact that this is happening.  

The Tree is Neutral
When our thoughts are blowing around and our feelings are getting tossed up and down, however, we get anxious and afraid.  We don't feel neutral about this. We get concerned about our own movement.  I work with many people who are concerned about the way they are feeling.  They ask me, "Why do I feel so bad?"  Consider the possibility for a moment that there are not infinite answers to this question. There is, as far as I know, only one answer to this question: thought is blowing through.   

Sydney Banks who first described the 3 Principles wrote in The Missing Link, "Thought on it's own is a completely neutral gift."  

The simple explanation for all of it is, you are experiencing what you think.   

If only, like the tree, we could be neutral about this process!  After all, it's just the way we are made. Trees don't prefer calm days to windy days.  Trees are not concerned about storms. 

People are not like this are they?  We humans would like it all to stop moving. We want it smoothed out.  We don't want to sway in the wind. We don't like it.  All these troublesome feelings getting stirred around ... we want to control the wind. We want to locate the person who sent the wind and make them stop. We hire people hoping they will tell us how to stop the wind.   

We are not always happy when we realize we can't stop the wind blowing.   

It's No Big Deal
One of the laws of life is that, as humans, we think.  Another is that we feel what we think.   What if we could really see that this is just no big deal? 

It is so very important to know that the human is not defective as he/she experiences the ups and downs of emotional life. 

I was telling a friend that the great benefit of learning the Three Principles is not that my life has smoothed out to a lovely even hum, but that I've stopped worrying about tracking where I am in every moment and trying to control what I think. I accept that I am in movement.  

I used to be incredibly concerned about my moods.  I thought they meant something about me.   Now I see how they come and go and I am much less attentive to them. I'm not trying to create a prevalent "good mood" I am simply getting clearer about how the process works. And that clarity has left me much kinder and more understanding towards myself.  Being less concerned about shifting feelings also tends to leave me in a clearer state of mind generally, so I notice I occasionally have made better decisions about what truly needs to be said out loud, or whether I should be driving.   

When I am not trying to change my own mood or judging it, I get more open to seeing it for what it is. 

We are actually as perfectly built as the tree.  You already are the tree that bends.  If you were not unhappy about that, you'd be as contented as the palm tree, or let's say -- you'd be as "non-concerned" as a palm tree -- and you'd stop trying so hard to control the content and flow of your thinking. 

In that moment you'd find your complete freedom, because you would literally no longer be like Don Quixote "tilting at windmills."

_Understanding is so misunderstood!

When I first decided to write on the importance of "understanding" I wondered if you'd would think I was talking about some kind of passive attitude toward life, or advocating some form of forgiveness called "understanding how it wasn't their fault."  But I'm talking about neither.  

I'm reaching as deep as I can into the meaning of what it is to understand. Because actually, if your life is chaotic, understanding how that happens truly helps. 

_The Myths of Understanding 

We think understanding means analyzing. What do when you try to understand your partner, for example?  You dissect. You pick apart. You scrutinize. You observe with the intent of figuring out why it is they are so messed up.

We also confuse understanding with ruminating and obsessing. When we try to understand ourselves, we start to dig up the past in order to find the root of our behaviors. We replay what's happened to us, how people have wronged us. Have you noticed these activities do not lead to the kind of understanding that fosters lasting change or loving connection?

Humanity has lots of history. We've had lots of past and lost of time to look back on the past and we still have very little understanding. We've also been using our logic for a while now, but haven't got much better at locating the sources of our internal human misery. We have only to look around to see that is true. 

_The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 and we still don't really understand how to create peace amongst nations. We just don't. We have some theories. We have some notions.  But we have yet to truly understand why charters, structures, treaties and organizations are so ineffective. If we had this understanding within each person, we'd have world peace by now.   

It is not so surprising there's no peace amongst nations, when you realize that we barely understand how to love people in our own households. Relationships are minefields of unsigned bargains, silent expectations and keenly tuned transgression antennae.  I know. That's been me.  

Our outer world mirrors our deep misunderstanding of ourselves as human beings.  How could that happen? 

I remember being very shocked the day my life completely broke down and realized I actually knew nothing, I had no clue whatsoever, how to create a truly loving relationship. The facts where obvious to me: I had a string of broken relationships behind me.  Clearly I did not understand.

Then I asked myself, having spent time in therapy, and lots of time analyzing myself and others, what exactly was I failing to understand? Was I failing to understand others, or was I failing to understand myself?

_Add Understanding and Let Rise

If I could write the recipe for a happier life, I'd put in a big dose of the one most important ingredient there is; the one thing that is actually the most helpful thing you can ever have: understanding the human.

I want to suggest that if, in your life you are not operating to your fullest capacities, it can be very helpful to know where good ideas live.  
  • If your career, relationships, or projects tend to get derailed easily, it's helpful to understand where human resiliency is found. 
  • If the misbehavior of those around you gets under your skin and disturbs your peace of mind don't you agree it would be helpful to understand why it is you come unglued?
This is the kind of understanding I'm talking about: understanding the inside mechanisms and what they have to do with how you feel in your life. 

_The Case For Misunderstanding Is Everywhere

The other day I was reading an article that was making the strong argument that workplaces ARE, by nature, inherently stressful. The article was saying that offices have challenging things happening and stressed people in them (which is true) but then it asserted that although people have some internal control over stress, "the workplace itself is at the root of most employee stress."

Your own common sense will show you, if you seek to understand the roots of stress, that there is no stress living in "offices." There are chairs and desks and people.  Other people exhibit stress, for sure, but it's not a virus. You can't catch it when they stress-sneeze on you.  

In fact, you've had plenty of days when despite a hornet's nest of worried co-workers buzzing all around you, you maintained your equilibrium and were fine.  

If you are going to deal with stress, tension and the often disturbed behaviors of others on a permanent basis aren't you curious to understand how you managed  that day of resiliency -- when what we read indicates you shouldn't be able to? If outside things are causing inside reactions why are there exceptions? Understanding that seems to me like the answer to everything. The universal panacea. 
Or would you rather keep trying to take the stress out of the office ...? Because, like world peace, we haven't really got a handle on that one yet either!

_I sometimes wonder how many team meetings, improved processes, morale building, stress-reducing initiatives have taken place over the course of the years in just the companies I worked in. Over the life of those companies alone I reckon probably thousands! Now what about around the world?   Oh my goodness. That's lots of training for very little understanding.

I only know of a handful of initiatives that have had true and lasting impact. And they all had one thing in common: They offered a greater understanding of how our own internal human systems work. 

The Proof In The Pudding

This week I had the good fortune of spending some time with Don Donovan, one of the people working in the Three Principles Global Community and a former executive at a large military systems manufacturing corporation.  Don brought Pransky and Associates into his division of the company to offer exactly this understanding to the people who worked there -- with tremendous results.  In fact, every critical success factor the company measured to track the health of the business, elevated in direct correlation with the dissemination of this understanding. 

As the understanding of the how human beings actually function became more common, not only did it change the workplace and business results, it also changed the families and communities in which employees lived. 

As we were talking he said, "You know, George Pransky and I used to sometimes say that it's as if human potential were freeze-dried and this understanding works like pouring water onto it."

What do you say to that kind of understanding?

I talked about this in the radio show on January 27th, to listen, click here

_There are some basic dynamics about how the human mind works that create the true basis for change. 

I like to share those dynamics with people when coaching individuals or consulting in business, (and I'll share them with you below) because  active principles help anyone continue to grow, long after a coaching relationship is concluded.

Without this basis for working, the nature of personal change remains a mystery. And I don't want my client to remain a mystery to themselves. I want to work on solid ground, so we are not guessing and fumbling and wishing and hoping.

As my clients come to understand these fundamentals about the workings of their own internal mechanics, they began to see for themselves why they are stuck and consequently, exactly what is required -- for them.  Together we establish a self-sustaining, and self-generated basis for positive change, new ideas and insights.

This is such a practical base-camp to start from that transformational shifts occur in my clients that are irreversible and arise in areas where people had no expectation that change was even possible.

This has also been 100% true in my own life.

_Why Inside / Out Helps
Here's why getting a good grasp of your inner workings is so helpful. 

When you understand, you relax.  You get it. Things makes sense and you know why they are happening. You understand your experiences and as a result your life. You don't get worried that you will forget that, because you see the root of all problems and you know how "the system" works. You begin correcting at the source, instead of at the after-spill.  As your mind relaxes and clears, the more ideas come, the less reactive you are, the less conflicts flare unexpectedly, and the more you feel alive. Clients tell me they feel more "themselves."

It really is astounding how much it helps us to understand that the human mind has some simple functioning rules.  And to know what they are and how they work in simple terms.

Not knowing how your mind works is akin to getting behind the wheel of a car having no idea what happens when you press the accelerator.   If you don't know, you press the pedal, the car speeds forward and there you are behind the wheel, feeling completely helpless to stop it. Even though you have the power to.

Like understanding what happens with car floor pedals, Principles-based work gives you a greater understanding of what happens when you get behind the wheel of life.  

Yet it may not be obvious what this means. I know I didn't see it. I thought I knew a great deal about humans and their motives and behavior.  It turns out I had only scratched the surface. The root of all behavior and all that we feel lies in our thinking -- in the domain of the mind.  We  think we understand our human minds.  We don't. If we truly understood the nature of the mind, we would have many, many more happy humans.

Simple Principles For A Change
It turns out that there are very simple working principles that explain how our own mind-states fluctuate, accelerate and slow down.  Just like for our clueless driver, the functions to learn are not complex, but the information is precious. 

_Misunderstanding our internal signals leads to every problem we have in life.

It has us frantically over-steering, reacting in the wrong ways and then trying to fix the problems we ourselves created by trying to control everything around us. This is very much like going to the doctor for a treatment and walking out of the office with a prescription for your neighbor. 

_Of course, our human machine looks more complex than car pedals, but how we function internally has working rules that actually are very easy to get. To learn them is to grasp THE single greatest determining factor in your quality of life.

For companies looking to increase employee performance, resiliency and wellness, this understanding constitutes the ultimate competitive advantage.  It is easy to see that employees with clear thinking processes, less emotional clutter and stress would be the definitive asset.

The work I do is often referred to as Principles-based, an "inside/out approach," "transformational coaching" or "The Three Principles work,"  Whatever the term used, the key distinction lies in that a Principles-based view always consists of looking at the inner functioning of human beings as thinking and feeling entities, for whom the overriding explanation for all our ups and downs in performance, contentment, and well-being -- lies on the inside of each of us and never in the circumstances outside of us.

The idea of looking within to understand human life is nothing new, of course.

What IS Inside /Out Work?
As a Principles-based coach, I will talk with a person about their inner world, the nature of thought and other aspects of mind and thinking functions so that we can lay a common ground about how the pedals work. We want to start off here.  Yet Principles work is not positive thinking, behavioral psychology or positive psychology.  It's also not about any kind of new brain science.  It focuses on humans as thinking/feeling beings as a whole; and the implications of that knowledge in very practical terms. I'm interested in what's practical.  And I've never found anything more practical that the rules that govern how things work.

I would describe this inside/out approach as having a basis in the following simple truths about all humans:
  • we all think
  • we feel whatever we think
  • there's no "off switch" - we are alive and part of Life as a whole
This turns out to be the most practical thing you can ever learn if you are willing to examine more closely how these work in you and your life.

In fact, I'd say that anyone who's not yet completely content and peaceful about life, would benefit from spending time understanding how exactly these play out for them, very specifically, day to day. I don't want you to think of them theoretically or conceptually. Concepts are are very little use for real change. If I say to you "I saw a dog today," I'm giving you no more than a conceptual category, but you have no idea what I really saw, do you?  There's not much you can do with that.  Except know I didn't see a tree or a boat.

Principles are not theories or concepts.  Principles are of immense use. Their relevance is immediate.  I've seen people grasp these simple truths and have their stress and anxiety dissolve on the spot. 

Have You Read the Manual?
Without a good understanding of our own inner driving mechanisms, we all tend to:
  •  misunderstand our feelings
  •  attribute our feelings to all kinds of things outside ourselves
  •  run around trying to change the way we feel in all kinds of ways that actually don't change how we feel
  • forget that a new idea could arrive at any time
This is what I mean by using the pedals without understanding what they do. I see people everyday who are metaphorically speaking, driving with the gas and brakes on at the same time. Someone who blames a long line at Starbucks for their bad mood is showing me they do not understand that it is actually their own thoughts are coming alive in them through their own five senses.

I see people who are depressed, they are worried and can't sleep, they are eating their way through life -- they are waiting on the bank balance to go up, the child to come home or the scales to change in order to feel better. Maybe they want a coach to help.  The best thing a coach could ever do is to show them how in every human, thoughts and feelings change independently of circumstances.

It sets them free.

Truly, we do not understand how the human mechanism works. Rising divorce levels are a testament to it. Persistent stress levels are a testament to it. Continued war is a testament to it.

These things would change and will change when we begin to grasp the operating principles of the human mind. 

To work on a Principles-basis is to finally be given the manual to the human operating system that is you.

_What Changes? Only Everything.
There is compelling and well-documented evidence of just how successful a Principles-based approach is in working with others.

Research being published is demonstrating how self-perpetuating change and ripples out from a single individual to all those around them.

Books are being written about the effects of trainings on human performance -- in sports and in the boardroom. Video documentation is available on work with young offenders and there are two videos on my home page about "no hope" diagnosis for addiction, mental illness and persistent or traumatic stress and how they were overturned.

In our own CSC work in organizations we see teams cooperate more fully and work environments become more harmonious and creative after Principles-based trainings.

There isn't an athlete on the planet who doesn't know the important role that the mind plays in performance levels.

In every field of endeavor, a greater understanding of how you operate internally will help you. Tremendously.

Everyone automatically becomes a better driver when they understand the pedals.

To learn more about Organizational State of Mind Trainings or personal coaching using the Principles-based approach, contact me.

Please view the CSC media site or on Three Principles Movies for even more case studies, research and training links.