“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” —George Santayana
The World of “is” & the World of “ought to be”
Timothy Wilken, MD
Did you watch the opening ceremony for 2002 Winter Olympics? It was beautiful. We sure put on a good show for the rest of the world. We honor and cherish the first humans to inhabit North America — the Native Americans. We respect and protect the native animals of America — the Buffalo, Coyote, and Eagle. And, did you see the beautiful paper puppets? Wasn’t the one of the giant American Bison cool with all the little buffalos running inside of it?
Of course, our show for the rest of the world wasn’t really the truth. It was only a picture of the world as it ”ought to be”. An “ideal” picture of early America. This is the way our Amercian history “ought to have been”.
In the “real” world — in the world of “is”, those arriving from Europe would kill or imprison most of the Native Americans, use the Chinese and African immigrants as slave labor, and kill all but 800 of the millions of mighty Buffalo that ran on the American plains. This was the number of living Buffalo at the end of the 19th century. Our American history “could have been different”. But it wasn’t.
I am suggesting that the opening ceremony “could” also have been different. It could have presented the settlement of the American west with a little more respect for the truth. It could have still been beautiful, perhaps even more beautiful. I think it would have been much more valuable to show the rest of the world that we know that real adversity is a part of our history. That we know we made mistakes in the past, and have committed to learn from those mistakes. That we now have respect for Native Americans, Chinese Americans and African Americans. That we wish we had not made so many native animal species extinct, and that today we cherish all live on planet Earth.
This would have shown the world that we did remember the past.
Human intelligence science has revealed that our enormous intelligence is the result of possessing dual minds. These dual minds create pictures of a dual world in which we live. Most of us don’t know we have dual minds and almost all of us don’t know we live in a dual world. We live in two worlds all of the time.
Let us begin by examining the world created by the space-mind. It creates a picture of reality. Space-mind is in charge of survival. So it needs to know what the world is really like. Boy if you are in your space-mind, you better live in the real world. Right? Ever play dodge ball? When I was a kid, dodge ball was a big game. I don’t know whether they even play it any more. You go into the gym and line up against the wall and somebody throws a volleyball at you at high speed. Right? You dodge it Right? You better know where the ball really is or you are going to get hit. Ever play snow ball fights? Same thing right? You better know where those snowballs really are or you’re going to get hit. The space-mind has to know where things are in space. Where they really are. When I’m teaching this lesson to a group of students I’ll suddenly toss a pencil to someone sitting in the first row, and it’s amazing, they almost always catch it. One hand will fly up and catch the unexpected object. Their space-mind reflex puts their hand up. The space-mind has to know what’s real and what’s really going on or you don’t survive. If there is a tiger in this room I had better know it’s here. So the space mind makes a picture of reality from its sense images and feelings. That’s picture of reality is what I call the world of “is”.
The world of “is” is the way things really are. And, at its very best this picture of reality approaches the “real” world. Now we don’t have a perfect picture of the universe the way it really is. But our space-mind is pretty good. It keeps me from running into the walls and safe in high speed motor traffic. My student in the front row demonstrated his ability to catch the pencil perfectly when it came flying through the air unexpectedly.
Now we humans also have a time-mind which is into becoming, it’s interested in cause and effect, it is always predicting the future based on its understanding of the past. So the time-mind forms an opinion of reality from words and thoughts. This opinion of reality is what I call the world of “ought to be”.
Every human has two worlds created by their two minds. Everyone of us has a world of “is” and a world of “ought to be”. I’ve got mother “is” and mother “ought to be”. Teacher “is” and teacher “ought to be”. Son “is” and son “ought to be”. Dad “is” and dad “ought to be”. Husband “is” and husband“ought to be”.
By the way, our husband “is”and wife “is” are always comes up short. Aren’t they? They are never the way they ought to be. Also, our son “is” and daughter “is” are also coming up short. They are also never the way they ought to be.
Why are they coming up short? Why are they never the way they ought to be?
Our time-mind uses all of its cause and effect knowledge to predict the way things “ought to be”. And we are always carrying our opinions of how it “out to be” with us at all times. Seven o’clock in the evening, and I run out of milk. So I get in my car and go down to Seven-Eleven only to discover they’re closed. “Damn it! That’s not the way it ought to be!” My space-mind shows me a picture of a closed store — the world the way it is. My time-mind tells me in words,“That’s not the way it ought to be.”And, so my space-mind prepares my body to fight.
All of us are rejected to some extent because we are never the way our parents think we ought to be. Because you see an ought to be at its very best is an ideal. The world of “ought to be” at its very best is an ideal. Well in the ideal world, the Seven-Eleven Store would be open, right? I’d go in and get my milk. Right? My son, in the world of ought to be, would get straight A’s. Right? That’s an ideal. Ideally my son would get straight A’s. Ideally my husband would remember my birthday. Ideally the people on the road would be more courteous. Ideally the government would lower our taxes, right? In the world of “ought to be” the government would operate economically, and give the taxpayers a large refund. But in the world of “is” we just keep paying more taxes.
Now knowledge of the dual-world can be of great help to you. Whenever you find yourself angry at the world of “is”, it probably is because you are mistaking your world of “ought to be” for the real world. Imagine, I am reading my newspaper when I come across a story I don’t like. I exclaim: “I can’t believe this! This can’t be happening.” In other words, in my world of “ought to be”, this doesn’t happen.
There are none so blind as those that will not see.
Not believing reality can be very dangerous. The Jewish people during WWII were very much victimized by the world of “ought to be”. The American government played into that tragedy in a very large way. There was a group of Jewish people who suffered even more than those who were gassed in the concentration camp gas chambers. These were extraordinarily brave individuals who risked their lives to smuggle out pictures of the death camps. These photographs eventually reached the American government providing proof of Hitler’s atrocities. The American government said they were fake. Why? In the American government’s world of “ought to be”, atrocities like those shown in the photos just didn’t happen. In their world of ought to be those kinds of things simply don’t happen. The photographs had to have been faked. Sadly, the whole world learned four years later that the photographs were not faked.
If I’m angry about the world of “is”, it’s often because I am convinced that my ideal world of “ought to be” is the real world.
This is the most powerful lesson that I teach in stress medicine. It’s the single one tool that can help you make a major change in your life. I can teach you how to desensitize yourself to hostility. I can teach you how to do all kinds of relaxation, biofeedback. But if you understand about the world of “is” and the world of “ought to be”, and you understand that the world of “is” is the real world, and that the world of “ought to be” is only an ideal world, you can unstress yourself greatly.
When my daughter was only four years old I taught her about the dual-world. I remember when something wouldn’t work out for her, she would say, “Well, that’s not the way it ought to be, but that’s the way it is.” If adults could learn to say those words they could help themselves a lot. “That’s not the way it ought to be, but that’s the way it is.”
But because we don’t understand the dual-world, we “should” all over each other? You see the world “should” comes from our world of “ought to be”. This ought to be “should” is an ideal. When I say,“You shouldn’t have said that.” I mean in my world of “ought to be”, you wouldn’t have said that. Ideally, you wouldn’t have said that.
The real “should” is from the world of “is”. If I drop this pencil it should hit the floor. I drop the pencil and it does hit the floor.
The ideal “should” is from the world of “ought to be”. I should weigh twenty pounds less, but nothing happens. What’s wrong here. Why didn’t I magically lose twenty pounds. This must be a different kind of should. This is an ought to be “should”, not an is “should”. Ignorance of our dual-world can make life very confusing.
To take advantage of our new knowledge of the dual-world, we must learn to “could” on each other. Let us learn how to “could” on each other rather than “should” on each other. This becomes very important. Why? Because see when I “could” on you it’s an invitation. But when I “should” on you it’s a push and your space-mind fights all pushes. Remember the space-mind fights all pushes.
To demonstrate this point in the classroom, I approach one of my students and ask the other students to turn to each other and do what I’m doing. Then I take the hand and wrist of my student, and move the arm around without the student’s control. I push the student around a little. Not causing any real pain.Then I ask, “How does that feel? How does your space-mind like it? Here, feel it. Don’t think it. What does space-mind say? Now you know I’m doing an experiment. But what does space mind-feel?”
Of course the space-mind doesn’t talk but if it did it would say, “Leave me alone. Get off me. Don’t touch me. Don’t push me.”
When we “should” on each other we are pushing,“You should have done a lot better on that test.”
“Damn it. I’m all right. I’m ok. You can’t tell me I should have done better.”
My space mind defends against all pushes. And a “should” is a push. Anytime you “should” on somebody you invoke their space-mind and they shut down. They rebel. They push back and they won’t do anything you tell them.
If you want to win friends and influence others, you need to learn how to “could” on people — a “could” is a pull — a “could” is an invitation.
“You could study a little more and maybe your grades would come up.” The student says, “Yes, I could study a little more and maybe my grades would come up.” That’s not a push. That’s an invitation. That’s a pull. That’s a possibility.
“You could make a note in your schedule about my birthday because it’s real important to me.” And I reply,“You know I could do that. Maybe I will do that. This is a better alternative to: “You shouldn’t have forgotten my birthday. You never have time for me.” To that I may reply, “Damn it. I’ll forget your birthday every year from now on.”
Our space-mind does not like to be pushed around. And so, what do we do? We humans push each other all day long.
We also push ourselves don’t we? Ever hear your little time-mind “shoulding” on yourself? “I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have said this.” “I should have done this. I should have told my boss off. I should have told him what I really thought of him. With knowledge of the dual-world, it is much more effective to could on yourself. I could have communicated my point of view more effectively to my boss.
In summary then, all humans have two minds — the space-mind and the time-mind. These two minds create two worlds — the world of “is” and the world of “ought to be” — a picture of the real world and an opinion of the ideal world.
It is our ability to create these two worlds that makes us human.