Header Image

Look Inside Happy Mind Happy Life

ISBN 978-1-937201-07-4
Published by:
Don Schenk, Inc. DBA ideapage
7413 Hamilton Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45231-4305
The legal stuff...
Copyright © 2013 Don Schenk
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may
be reproduced or transmitted in any form without
the written permission of the author, except as may
be permitted by the doctrine of fair use or other
applicable law.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Chapter  1. Splot

    Lunch time. The weather is nice. The sidewalk is crowded. You become aware a stranger has singled you out from the crowd. When he gets near, he gives you a warm, welcoming smile, and puts out his hand to shake yours as he says, “Hello.”
    You hesitate. You don’t think you know him, and are wondering why he has chosen to speak to you. During your moment of hesitation he slaps a wet, 3-inch wide paintbrush into your hand, business-end first. Splot! Thick, sticky, blue poster-paint. Lots of it. He quickly disappears into the crowd as you stand there with the gooey brush stuck to your palm, your fingers wrapped around sloppy bristles. “Now what?” you wonder out loud.
    I’ll come back to this story in a moment. For now... relax. Whatever has been bugging you, getting in your way, decreasing your happiness, and pulling down your self-esteem is in all probability not your fault. You didn’t do it. You didn’t cause it. Someone slapped it onto you like blue paint.
    People gave you a group of negative mental mechanisms without telling you they did so, and as you shall soon see, the process is almost invisible. Those who implanted their own negative, emotional tools into your mind also had no idea they were doing so, because they were unaware they had been relying on these same negative tools themselves. Someone previously gave these counteractive beliefs to them, and they were simply passing these unhappiness mechanisms to you.
    You are not alone. This happened to all of us. The negative mechanisms came from what we were taught to think, and what we were “given” to believe. They came to us through rules, schools, parents, teachers, people who had authority, people who only appeared to have authority, friends, childhood playmates, parents of friends, newspapers, television, radio, books, and almost any external source you can imagine.
    Of course, the sources of your negative tools didn’t give you a set of positive mechanisms, or happiness tools, to reverse the process, because they didn’t have these positive tools themselves. They couldn’t hand to you what they didn’t know. They couldn’t show you how to feel great about yourself, how to feel happy, and how to raise your own self-image.
    For now, let’s just deal with the wet paintbrush stuck to your hand. Your acquisition of the gloppy mess certainly was not of your choosing, for it was given to you by a stranger - someone who, by now, is long gone. So what can you do?

It’s multiple choice time. Pick one...
□ 1. Allow the brush to remain stuck to your hand so the paint dries, and you keep the brush attached to your hand the rest of your life.
□ 2. Toss away the brush, but let the paint dry on your fingers and palm. Allow the dry paint to remain there forever.
□ 3. Get rid of the brush, wipe your hand with tissues, and then go find a place to wash your hands.

   Can you guess what most of us do with the negative tools we are given? We pick option #1 and remain using them forever, but this process is hidden from us. We are not aware we own some “wrong” tools.
    That will all change for you shortly, because I’ll give you the positive tools to counteract your negative tools. You can remove the negative mechanisms pulling down your happiness and self-image.
    I recently came across a photo of myself taken a couple months after college graduation. I look like the saddest person on Earth, and the photograph reminded me of how I used to feel. I recall having unhappy, negative feelings about myself starting around middle-school age, and continuing well into adulthood. I certainly didn’t want anyone to know how I really felt. If you knew, then you wouldn’t like me, or you would look down at me, or heaven knows what you might think. So I managed to look good on the outside, look successful, be successful, all the while dying on the inside. Then I received my first inkling that maybe, just maybe all this could change for the better.
    One afternoon, about ten years after college, I received a phone call from a friend, someone I’ve known since childhood. He had heard a promotion on a radio station about something called a positive thinking rally that was to be held in town, and he called to see if I would like to attend.
    “What on Earth is a positive thinking rally?” I asked. He didn’t know, but it sounded interesting. So a couple days later he picked me up early, and off we went. We had no idea of what we were in for.
    It turned out to be one of those all-day programs, more like a stage show where motivational speakers come to the stage one after another to pump-up the audience, and sell motivational courses on audio cassette tapes. Audio CDs had been on the market for a few years at that time, but these motivational speakers had not yet caught up with the technology.
    At first I found the programs fascinating. The speakers encouraged the audience, and suddenly I felt “wonderful” about myself and my life. I even purchased one set of audio tapes - a sampler of all the speakers.
    Of course, after the end of the program, the motivational speakers headed to the airport to be on their way to the next show. They pumped me up, then left town. I didn’t yet understand that both motivation and increased self-image need to come from within. Nor did I have any clue, at the time, as to how to make that happen.
Over the next seven or eight years I purchased every positive thinking, pump-me-up, motivational course I could find. I listened to each one multiple times. They would make me feel good for a short time while I was listening, but only hours later I would be back to the normal feelings of my “inadequate” status quo. Everywhere I went, there I was. I couldn’t escape myself.
    One evening while I was stuck in a negative mood, I was complaining about something that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go, when another friend happened to make a casual comment to me, one which gave me a sudden “OMG” ah-ha moment. I found myself asking, “Why didn’t I think of that before?” His words gave me an idea - actually an epiphany - one which lead me to a simple solution that worked! Over the next few weeks I began to have a total happiness turnaround, and improve self-image.
    This occurred some two dozen years ago, and over the course of the following years I kept written documentation as to what my following this simple solution has done for me. I’ve taught it to many of my friends, who have had the same experience, when they simply followed through with the exercise that makes it work. I’ll tell you the story, and explain how you can have this same solution work for you. I can promise, you will even want to tell your friends this solution, it’s that powerful.

___________ ### ___________


Chapter 2. Dangerous Hidden Priming

   A moment ago a strange man handed you the business end of a wet, sloppy paintbrush. By now you have thrown away the blue brush, and washed your hands. Oh no, another stranger has singled you out from the crowd, and she hands you what looks like a brand new, clean paintbrush - bristles first. This stranger also quickly disappears into the crowd. You think there is no paint on it, so you toss the new brush into a near-by trash can, and go about your business. However, what you don’t see is the invisible paint this apparently-clean brush held, and you are now covered with invisible goo, but you don’t know it’s on you. I’ll explain.
    One morning I was writing an article about the news media, and how they mostly report negative news while almost always ignoring the positive. To find examples I looked at a several dozen headlines on the opening pages of a few news websites, and sure enough the headlines reported various murder and mayhem. All had been written with a negative spin, as if to say “Here’s a problem, and we are going to make it appear worse than it is. Therefore you had better worry about it even though you can’t do anything to solve it.”
    After reading a group of these negative headlines, I found myself with an odd feeling, one of having my emotional spirits brought down. I wondered, “Could the simple act of looking at a group of negative words invisibly affect people’s feelings?”
    Then I learned about 2 studies with surprising results done by a Dr. John Bargh and his associates when he was a professor at NYU. So off I went to find Bargh’s original article published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.” My inquiring mind wanted to know, and what I found was a real shocker!
    Dr. John Bargh and his assistants (Mark Chen, and Lara Burrows) proved that even the simple act of reading a few short sentences has an immediate effect on a person’s attitude and behavior, and does so without the person realizing this is happening. It’s all sub-conscious. It’s like the invisible paint you just received.
Bargh recruited volunteers take a simple, written test in which the volunteers were to re-arrange groups of 5-word, scrambled-word sentences. The idea was for each volunteer to make a 4-word sentence out of the 5 words by eliminating one word, and arranging the remaining four words into a sensible sentence.
For example a 5-word scrambled sentence would be something like:
approve now mind expand your
    A volunteer unscrambling that word group would find “Expand you mind now,” and ignore the word “approve.” However, in ignoring the word “approve” the volunteer actually read the word, and heard it in her mind.
    For the first experiment, Dr. Bargh created 3 different groups of these 5-word scrambled sentences. There were 15 sentences in each group.
    The first group of 5-word scrambles included words associated with rude, pushy behavior: “aggressively, disturb, interrupt, infringe, obnoxious, aggravating, annoyingly, and bluntly.”
    The second group of scrambles included words associated with politeness, and gentleness... “respect, considerate, patiently, yield, polite, sensitivity graciously, courteous, and unobtrusively.”
    A third group of scrambles contained neutral, unemotional words, and became a control. We are not concerned with those.
Only one volunteer at a time took the test, and after the test, each volunteer was instructed to go to another office to give their test paper to the person running the experiment. When each volunteer, with test papers in hand, arrived at the experimenter’s office, the volunteer would find the doorway blocked by a man standing in the way, talking to the experimenter.
    What the volunteers didn’t know was the person blocking the doorway was also one of Dr. Bargh’s assistants. This was all carefully planned.
The volunteers thought they were being timed on how long it took them to write the sentences, but what was really being timed was how long each volunteer would wait when trying to turn in their test papers before interrupting the person blocking the doorway.
    Those who solved the scrambled-word test containing the rudely aggressive words, barged right in. They interrupted the assistant blocking the doorway, and quickly pushed their way through to give their test to the experimenter.
Those who solved the scrambled-word test containing “polite” words would wait, and wait, and wait without interrupting the door blocker. They would wait so long the experimenters had to limit the waiting time to ten minutes when it became apparent some people would wait more than a half-hour, and still not push their way in.
    Not one of the volunteers primed with polite words barged in, while most of the volunteers primed with aggressive words pushed their way past the “door blocker.” And the fact that people behave differently depending upon the “priming” received, is invisible to the person being primed. It’s totally sub-conscious. You do it. I do it. Your family and friends do it.
    Bargh, Chen, and Burrows proved that the simple act of reading a few sentences containing either aggressive words or polite words would later affect a person’s behavior without that person having even the slightest suspicion they were being invisibly controlled! But It Gets Goofier.
    In another experiment, Bargh, Chen, and Burrows again used 5-word scrambled sentences. Those who volunteered for the experiment were told they were taking part in a language proficiency test. Again volunteers were tested one at a time, and were told they were being tested on how quickly they could solve the 5-word scrambles - a total of 30 sentences were given to each volunteer.
    In this test the scrambled sentences each contained one word people would associate with folks who are elderly. Some of the words were: “worried, dependent, old, lonely, gray, sentimental, bingo, forgetful, retired, and wrinkled.”
Unbeknown to the volunteers, the researchers were actually timing how long it took each volunteer to walk from the elevator to the testing room before the test, and how long it took the volunteers to walk back to the elevator after the priming test.
A researcher, with a hidden stopwatch, stood in the hallway to observe the time it took each volunteer to walk the distance from a line on the floor near the elevator to the entrance to the testing room. Then after the test the researcher timed the volunteer’s walk back to the line by the elevator. The volunteers would think nothing strange about seeing a student with a pile of books standing in a hallway at the university. Thus the “timing researcher” went unnoticed.
    After being subconsciously primed by word-groups with “elderly” words, the volunteers all walked more slowly returning to the elevator than they did before solving the word-groups.
    Just for fun, I put a group of positive priming, scrambled-word sentences in a chapter near the end of this book. There are 10 word-scrambles with 5 words in each. Simply read through them, and put the words in order, while eliminating 1 word from each. Go through these again whenever you want a quick emotional boost.
    What we read, and what we hear, has a direct effect on how we feel - a direct relationship to our happiness. It’s all subconscious! We are not aware negative priming is happening, and it has been given to us from infancy onward.
What would happen if this life-long load of negative priming caused us to accept a strong, false belief about ourselves? What if this belief is locked-in, but we don’t know we have it? Let me briefly mention one more psychological experiment, the results of which demonstrate how detrimental our subconscious thoughts can be to our lives, and therefore to our happiness.
    Dr. Joshua Aronson and Dr. Claude Steele created this experiment. They selected a group of questions from a standardized test, the Graduate Record Examination, and used these question to create their own test. Normally the GRE is given to students who wish to enter graduate school. Instead, Steele and Aronson gave the selected question test to a group of undergraduate student volunteers - all college sophomores. The only catch was everyone who took the test had to be of African-American descent.
    The students were each given a series of pre-test questions, but there was a secret none of the students knew. During the pre-test questions, half of the students were asked to indicate their race, and the other half were not asked about race.
All of these students should have had similar scores. But when the scientists scored the exams, the students who were asked to indicate their race averaged half as many correct answers as did those who were not asked their race. Their test scores dropped drastically!
    For the students to simply “think” about their race for even a moment before beginning the test was enough to prime them. Any of the negative nonsense associated with a stereotype about African-Americans having lack of academic ability, subconsciously caused these college students to cut the number of correct answers by half! Negative priming.
Whoa, what we put into our subconscious each day does affect our happiness and our success at any given moment. It doesn’t matter whether these thoughts are primed by the words we read, by a question about race, or by our own self-doubts. Even a conversation with someone can affect our mood the rest of the day.

___________ ### ___________


Chapter 3. They Invisibly Affect How You Feel

   Ken is an upbeat fellow, generally happy, an optimist who loves people, and always greets his friends with a warm smile and a friendly hug. It’s so unlike him to be feeling down, that he completely caught me off guard in a phone call the day before yesterday. He had been quite ill for a month, and was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
    In spite of having a serious blood disorder, he almost always looks at the bright side of life. So when the doctors prescribed chemotherapy for his blood issue, to prevent it destroying his liver, he kept his focus on how he would feel once treatments were completed. He tells me the treatment makes him nauseous, and he’s not worth a hoot for a couple days after taking this medicine. Even with this nuisance interrupting his life during the previous five months, he has maintained his positive spirit. Until now.
    On this particular phone call he wanted to complain about how bad he was feeling. The chemotherapy lowered his resistance to infection, which made him quite susceptible to the stomach virus that was going around. Once he caught the virus, it took him 2 weeks to shake the thing instead of the normal 2 days. Immediately following that, he came down with the flu - 102 degree fever and all. This put him under the weather for an additional 2 weeks. He still was not back to normal when he called me.
    While talking with him I realized what he needed, and what he wanted, was a combination of sympathy and encouragement. He needed to put forward his feelings to get them out in the open, and I was his sounding board. Although I know better than to let someone’s “problem talk” lower my spirits, after listening to him talk, I felt deflated, even though letting him talk helped him feel better.
    What happened? At the time, even though I know about priming, I wasn’t thinking about the negative priming I was receiving simply by listening to him. In fact, you received a bit of negative priming simply by reading that story.
    Normally, if we can notice negative priming as it’s happing, we can cause ourselves to be less affected by it. For example if Dr. Bargh and associates had told their test subjects what the aggressive words in the 5-word scrambled sentences were going to do, their test results would have been different. If prior to the experiment they had revealed to test subjects what feelings the polite words in the other 5-word scrambled sentences would cause, the experiment would not have worked. The test results would have been inaccurate, because the test subjects could have resisted the priming once they knew about it.
    The insidiousness of negative priming happens because we don’t recognize when it’s being done to us, so we are not able to mentally stand aside and observe what is trying to happen. When we do recognize it, we can somewhat diminish the strength of negative priming simply by being aware of it. Even in a conversation, we can take control over a priming incident.
    For example, Dave, another friend, called me earlier this afternoon, and the first words out of his mouth (while talking a hundred miles per hour) were, “I just heard the flu this year is the worst it has been in years, the emergency rooms are all booked up, people are really getting sick, and...”
    His comment was a red flag for me. It was apparent he was trying to dump his own negative priming into my mind.”Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said. “Stop. Did you have a flu shot?”
    “Yes,” he said, “but the flu is even worse this year, and maybe my shot won’t help, and...” He had been listening to a newscaster, one who presented the news as negative to boost the station’s ratings, and this set off his negative thoughts.
    Once again I stopped him and said, “Look, you are worrying about something that hasn’t happened. You had a flu shot. You won’t get the flu. Now, stop talking and worrying about it.”
“But,” he said, and started to continue until I told him I didn’t want to hear any more flu talk, because I refuse to worry about something over which I have no control. I said, “I had a flu shot. So did you. Let it go.” And he then changed the subject. Phewwww.
    Think about the people in your life. How do they talk? What type of words do they use? What do they talk about? You probably never even gave that a thought before now. I want you to make mental notes about what other people around you say.
    Are they happy? Do they talk about being happy, or do they have gripes and complain? Listen to them. Are you aware how they sound? Do you get sucked into their problem talk? Are their words upbeat, positive, encouraging? Are their words critical, negative, discouraging? Do they gather to commiserate - be together in misery and complain? Do they want you to commiserate with them?
    If you realize the people with whom you associate usually talk negatively, they are priming you downward - giving you the blues. If they talk mostly about positives, they are priming you upward - giving you more of a happy feeling.
    Your peer group is made up of all the people with whom you communicate, and from whom you take guidance. They influence your thinking and your actions. Family, friends, and associates at work are all among your peer group as is your tennis partner, the ladies with whom you play golf, your drinking or poker playing buddies, your bowling team, and even your walking partner.
    It’s really common to think the same way our friends do, because we like to be with people who are just like ourselves, and who think the way we do. We even match their moods, because life is a mirror, and we mirror back their feelings - good or bad.
In extreme cases, as with people recently released from jail, gang members, or habitual offenders, they need to keep away from their old peer groups or they easily go back to their old ways. Likewise those recovering from addiction need to find a new peer group away from others still addicted. If they don’t, then they will go right back to where they were, back to the same behaviors. Guaranteed.
    “But I’m not one of those people,” you say. Okay, but are you being pulled down by others? Are you as happy as you wish? Is your self-esteem as strong as you want it to be? Take a look at your peer group. Whether you like it or not, those with whom you have contact are affecting you either towards happiness or away from happiness. Do you need to gravitate more toward people who are happy? Do you need to be around more people who are successful?
    I’m not saying drop your friends. I am saying choose your friends carefully, and gradually make more friendships with people who are happier and more success-oriented. Bring your body, and your mind will follow. Associate with happy, successful people, and your attitudes will grow towards happiness and success.
    Your friends add to your thoughts. Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. If your dominant thoughts are negative, as in thoughts of anger or resentments, that’s where your focus will go.If your dominant thoughts are joy and helping others, that’s where your focus will go. If your thinking is constantly centered around your problems, that’s what will grow in your life. If your thinking is on what is right and good about your life, that is what will grow.
    Garbage in gives us garbage out. It all affects our thinking which shapes how we feel. Ask yourself this, “What did I read, watch or listen to today that was good for my feelings or my knowledge?” Start to notice what you are putting into your head. It’s the only head you’ll get... let yours be happy.


Return To This Website's Homepage