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Moving Towards and Moving Away From Take

Moving Towards and Moving Away From

Take a moment and imagine a brand-new hill has miraculously appeared in the middle of a field. Then imagine that it starts to rain. Notice how at first the water runs evenly down all sides of the hill. However, over time small ruts soon form that channel the water. And every time it rains these ruts grow wider and deeper so that whenever it rains the water naturally gravitates towards these channels further enlarging them.

Now imagine that your brain is this hill and these ruts and channels are the synaptic connections that grow every time you use your brain; every time you think, sense or feel. Over time these streams, these connections become responsible for your habitual thoughts and behaviours.

To use another metaphor, they become your internal programs, the software that filters and sorts your perceptions and behaviours. Now akin to computer programs which are all based on binary codes: on/off, yes/no, 0/1, many of our internal programs follow this binary process. For instance, there are two primary motivational strategies (within NLP circles these are called meta-programs): Towards and Away.

Now please keep in mind that you should not attach any kind of moral judgement to them. One is not superior or better than the other. It is like a switch (to use yet another metaphor) that is set one way or the other.

Some people are more motivated to move towards pleasure, while others are more motivated to move away from pain.

And although I have moved towards pleasure many times, my own personal default position is to move away from pain. I have been able to observe this in myself over and over. I don’t file my income tax returns to get my refund cheque, but to prevent the taxman from coming after me.

When I was given a term paper as a student, I didn’t move towards it, but procrastinated and procrastinated until the fear of failure became so overwhelming that I finally sat down to work on it.

A few years ago I really wanted to understand a topic and so I tricked myself by volunteering to give some talks on this topic, knowing that I would be motivated to move away from the emotional pain that would arise if I let myself down and did a poor job.

I know someone else who is generally motivated to move towards things. When it comes to planning a vacation, they don’t want to ‘get away from it all,’ but rather, to go on an adventure. They don’t come back refreshed, but exhausted.

Now we have all used both of these strategies, but one has become much more habitual. So go back in your mind and think about certain events in your life and determine which one of these is your default setting.

And if you want to step beyond your normal machine-like behaviour you might even try to play with this switch. Experiment and experience both positions.

Allan Clews

Looking at a Problem from All Three Sides

Mr. Gurdjieff said that ordinary man “has no WILL” and that he “cannot DO anything”. That things just happen, ‘free will’ is an illusion and we are more like machines ruled by habits and patterns of thinking.

This was very contentious when Mr Gurdjieff first began teaching in the early part of the last century. Though neuroscience has recently begun to confirming it.

However, he also gave us hope because he said it is possible for us to develop WILL and learn to DO. This is where Inner, and in particular, Decision Exercises, come in.

Stepping Between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Abraham Lincoln used a triangulated exercise when he started out as a lawyer. He would draw a line down a piece of paper and summarize his case on one side and his opponent’s on the other; turning it into a ‘yes/no’ exercise.

And to do a ‘yes/no’ exercise correctly, you have to be able to ‘dissociate’ and step back from both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ on an inward level, in order to be able to hold both possibilities in front of you. An act which could serve as the definition of the ‘reconciling…


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