Exploring Aspects of YOUR Potential
An Overview (Plus: Test Questions for Rating Your Own Abilities)
Theory by: J. Marlando
Note: A person who is not in at least normal, good mental health should not read this material.
It is my intent to take you, the reader, on a journey that explores a new view of whom and what we are…potentially. Indeed, it can be said that beyond all else we are…our potential.
When we want to know exactly what potential is, most certainly psychologists would have a different answer than biologists.
I disagree with biologists because they are so enamored with genetics and so, that little deceptive ladder called DNA that they even deny our humanism. And what I mean by this is that most biologists are akin to wearing the blinders of Richard Dawkins who told us that we are merely “survival machine” and “robots.”
This view of biology is actually kind of humorous (at least to this writer) since so many biologists agree with Dawkins while believing that they just happen to be smarter and wiser “gene machines” than the rest of us. Is this the height of ego or what? However, if you stop and think about this long enough, you will clearly see the paradox in the mechanical view in any case because no one can measure human potential—not even the biologists who offer that our potential is also a genetic manipulation.
Before reading on, the reader should know that I am a firm believer in free will but based on the limitations of concepts and other indoctrinations. For example, if I am raised to believe that God lives in a tree house someplace in Maine, I will probably think that I am freely choosing to believe this about God as a grownup. The truth is, however, that I will merely be responding to my childhood indoctrinations. Potentially any of us could have been raised Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu or even Ku Klux Klan, communist or atheist and been just as indoctrinated.
In view of the above, the suicide bomber no doubt believes that he is freely choosing his fate…but he isn’t choosing any more than a chimp is choosing to jump through hoops for his behaviorist. When I was a child, I truly believed that if I didn’t go to mass, I’d go to hell and we all have these kinds of ignorant beliefs stuffed into our mindscapes as we are growing up. Indeed, many of those who deny free will use these kinds of examples to support their views…but that we people are mostly enslaved by concepts is also true.
Granted, this acknowledgement creates all kinds of barriers for the advocate of free will since to choose freely one cannot be encumbered with presumptions. This gets even more complex when we explore labels: As I have mentioned many times in previous works, the child who has been told that he or she is lazy, stupid, clumsy or bad can have his or her potential greatly limited by an ignorant parent or some other authority figure. (This is not the article to go deeply into the topic of our brains but I do want to offer this: our brains are NOT thinking machines, they are transmitters of our thoughts, ideas and concepts not too far removed from the computer supportsing the software that it does not comprehend. In short, it does what it is told to do. Because this is true of our brains, our brains can confuse fiction with non-fiction, fantasy with reality, reality with actuality, lies with truth and act on them with the same intensity. Our brains are little more than chemical factories!
It is because of all this we all have “the potential” to be devils or angels; we each have the potentials to build bridges or blow them up, to love or hate, to succeed or fail and so to be kind or cruel. On this same token we all have within us the ability to be mechanics or doctors, cops or robbers, brick-layers or bankers, philosophers or fools, prostitutes or priests…indeed we not only have it within us to better our private lives but to create the world more loving, secure and happy.
The goal of this article is to give you greater insight into yourself and others through a new view or realization of the power of unlimited potential in each of us and finally in all of us collectively. The topics I have chosen to ground my hypothesis in are good versus evil, success versus failure and love versus hate.
The Down Side
I believe we are most virtually all born blank slates when it comes to the exterior world. Indeed, it is not farfetched to say that when we arrive in this world we are only…potential.
I offer that how we utilize our individual potential has a great deal to do with how we are attended to beginning with our crib life. Perhaps you seen the C.D. of the motion picture “Boy’s Town” the 1938 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. A major message of the film is that “there are no bad boys.”
I believe that unless a baby is born with an actual brain injury of some kind there are no “bad” human beings born. And I certainly disagree with Freud who suggested that we are born hating. Hate has to have a target which is the opposite of love since real love is all encompassing. The infant believes that he or she is one with the experience of his or her “new” life—an extension of the darkness and light of the room, the blanket that covers him or her and all other experiences in the baby’s world. Hate demands a judgment value so Freud is obviously way off base in his notions about this feeling in the newborn. (As a quick aside, it is my thought that the child’s deep attachment to his or her baby blanket is that it helps him or her in the transition of separating the self from others and other things. Indeed, the security of the blanket is that it is conceived as being an extension of the child’s being and it takes some children a long time to grasp themselves as being unique and separate from all else which the human condition demands. This might be called the blossoming of the ego-self that soon enough begins living in an “I and thou” and “me and it” world).
In any case, what begins the trek of developing a personality, however, is how we are cared for after birth. If we have parents who are attentive and give us lots of security; feed us when we’re hungry and give us comfort when we’re in discomfort, we will begin our lives on a positive note so to speak. If we have parents who neglect us, leave us alone in our crib, are not very conscientious when we eat and leave us bawling in our world, we will begin our lives on a negative note. I am fully convinced that what we experience in crib life simply stays with us…for all of our lives.
My point is that something happens to us that forms our personalities—that stimulates our brains to release the positive or negative, angry or loving…good or evil chemicals that basically makeup our natures. As I have said many times if the child is called slow, clumsy, untalented and/ or bad, that child’s brain will sooner or later begin to accept the label and create the personality to match. This is true also for the child who is told that he or she is smart, creative, neat and…good.
A great many kids and adults who commit crimes and are in jails and prison today—those called evil-doers—had childhoods feeling the aloneness that Andrew Wyeth captures in his famous painting Christina’s World. If it were possible to trace the evil-doers life at least back to the crib we would invariably discover the existentiality in their personalities—however, even if we could do that, we simply could never trace back to the precise time when those individuals took on the character of wrong doing.
As a writer I have, in the past, been hired to write about “evil-doers” including obvious psychopaths.
We are all aware that psychopaths and sociopaths have inactive consciences—they are cold and calculating like the cruel and unfeeling Ed Gein who inspired Hitchcock’s’ “Psycho” movie, Ted Bundy and others. But do not think that these horribly cruel human beings were somehow born destined by fate or genetics to become psychopathic or, as it were, sociopathic. (And, as another a quick aside, it is not only the “hardened” criminal who has become sociopathic—sociopaths can be found in business, in medicine, in cops as well as robbers and in every other walk of life. It is a condition where the aspect of one’s empathy and compassion has been buried and the absolute “me syndrome” has evolved).
In regard to all this most people say that they could never do evil. And if you are one of them, read “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo, the creator of the Stanford Prison Experience when ordinary “good” kids turned cruel and calloused in positions of absolute authority.
Here’s a young woman by the name of Lynndio who probably would have said before she was given power over her prisoners that she would never treat another human being cruelly. But remember the old saying: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Hate and cruelty are in each of our potentials just as love and kindness are. And collectively peace and war are also in our potentials.
The Up Side
Most of us are horrified at brutality of any kind. If we accidentally run over a squirrel in the road we gasp with regret and sorrow. If we accidentally hurt or kill another person we suffer intense guilt and remorse—we not only feel sorry for the victim of the accident but for their family and friends; we have empathy for others and this is why we do not steal or intentionally do anything that hurt or harm other living things.
These “feelings” of being “good,” however, will often unfold in hypocrisies. The good church goer, for example, might support the church but step over the impoverished on the street; there are those that claim to be loving individuals but turn hateful against anyone who disagrees with them or is different than they are. And, many people demonstrate the ultimate hypocrisy by loving only those who love them and/or…do (nice) things for them.
If you wonder if you are really the loving person that you deem yourself to be, here’s a basic qualification list for anyone who loves.
Rate your level of humaneness
(1) Being lowest and (5) being highest:
Tolerant 1 2 3 4 5
Understanding 1 2 3 4 5
Kind 1 2 3 4 5
Forgiving 1 2 3 4 5
Generous 1 2 3 4 5
Patient 1 2 3 4 5
Considerate 1 2 3 4 5
[Other self-rating follows throughout this text]
Our goodness also arrives from our earliest experiences and our experiences affect how our brains develop. Indeed, we have billions of neurons in our brains that are connected with each other and communicate through extensions known as dendrites and longer extensions called axons. (It is too bad that all those who are enamored with artificial intelligence can’t take stroll through the human brain before predicting the machine will soon be matching it. For only one thing, the machine will NEVER know how it feels to be a machine).
Anyway, the point here is that child abuse—physical and emotional—changes the very structure of the child’s brain just as love and affection have their effect on “brainworks.” In the regard the child who is encouraged by the significant others in his or her life will generally do (a lot) better than the child who isn’t…the child who is told how good he is things will generally excel at school, mechanics and general mental/physical tasks better than the child who is never given a pat on the back for trying. And, the child raised in a non-loving environment during his or her earliest stages of life, will generally find it difficult not only to love but to be loved.
There are of course exceptions to everything said here but the fact remains that our experiences create biological changes in us. For example, the brain of a child who has endured sexual abuse will probably not be structured the same as the brain of a child who hasn’t. Indeed as William James told us, “…it will be safe to lay down the general law that no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied by a physical change.”
In the far reaches of what is being said here is that our freedom to choose good over evil (if we have been raised in such a way that we feel abandoned, useless, and worthless and/or “bad”) is to deconstruct the indoctrinations we have been enslaved to by especially our experiences in life and/or by the significant others in our lives. This begins by practicing “goodness” if you mean it or not. The more you “act” in goodness the more positive chemicals your brain will start delivering to your system.
The simple wanting to be good along with thinking good thoughts becomes a major path toward recovering your capacity to feel love and remorse. Most professionals, however, agree that it is extremely rare for a (true) sociopath to recover these human attributes that we more normal human beings take for granted…like caring about other human beings!
I have used the extreme example of inhumaneness (the sociopath) to make the observation that we all have the potential of goodness in us. In other words I am saying that the terrible dark side of our kind becomes a choice once we have discovered or realized that we are responding, so to speak, to the concepts in our heads as opposed to the actual world we live in. I will attempt to clarify what I am struggling to say here by saying, racism and sexism are choices, not conditions!
War itself is a sociopathic act in the guises of ideology which is nothing more than a collective concept having nothing to do with the actual workings of the world; only the workings of man’s mind. Indeed, all forms of mobocracy are sociopathic in nature. Remember Waco:
Every time any of us change our minds we change our worlds. We can love or hate at will but the moment that we discover that we are victims or victors of the concepts given us we can begin the process of separating good and evil or, in other words, kindness and cruelty and choose one over the other.
Rate your level of goodness
(1) being lowest and (5) being highest
I love others unconditionally 1 2 3 4 5
I love myself unconditionally 1 2 3 4 5
Succeeding and failing
We are all confronted by a demanding world. Civilization itself is an unnatural environment in which we all must adjust or, if you will, suffer the consequences. Unless we were born rich we must earn money and compete with others in the workplace. Some people rise above others in all social, business and political structures. One person plants in the ground, another builds houses and another constructs spaceships; one person earns a meager living and struggles through life, while another builds fortunes and , as said, lives the good life. In civilization education counts a great deal but some uneducated entrepreneurs have earned fortunes while some PhDs have failed in the worldly challenges of what we abstractly term, “making it.”
In light of the above a first question arrives: Why are some people born with particular aptitudes while others are not? One person seems to naturally have great mechanical abilities, another is artistic while another seems born with a knack for big business; one seems only suited for manual labor and another for science and so forth. This conjures another question: Why are there all these differences. Well, we turn to the biologists once again: They would basically say that some people are born better equipped than others because of their genetic dictates. If a person is more apt at building bridges than other people are, that person has inherited that specific talent in his or her genes. This doesn’t mean that genetics denies that we are not capable of learning some trade or professional only because of our genes we will be born more apt at doing one thing than another. Because of this one is destined to become Elton John and another to being Joe the Plumber.
I believe that our genes certainly count when it comes to what we call our natural abilities or talents—music certainly seems to “run” in people’s families as do tendencies toward the mechanical and so on. However, no one in the known history of my family was ever writers except for an Aunt of mine who wrote a couple of song lyrics. I am, however, a compulsive writer—for better or worse I have been writing for a half century—with few exceptions—7 days a week and 5 hours per day.
The problem I have with the biologists who so devotedly credit genetics with all our humanism is that most disregard potential, categorizing it as a sort of mysterious brain function or simply disregard it as even many neuroscientists do. One reason this is, is basically philosophical: If potential exists it must be omniscient and contain all possibilities; a kind of quantum mechanical phenomenon of…consciousness as opposed to brain function.
Potential can easily be connected to Carl Jung’s “collective unconscious” theory with the added observation that it can be tapped into by human decision. This takes us directly back to the notion of our earliest socialization—If we are fortunate and have parents who encourage us and tell us that we can actually be whatever we want to be, we are far more apt to succeed in our world than to fail. If we have parents who tell us how slow or inept we are, our chances of failure are then increased.
All that is being said here is a supporting of Henry Ford’s old axiom: If you think you can or if you think you can’t…you are right.
The following is a story I have used before to demonstrate the point:
Two small boys of the same age are neighbors and both have fathers who love working in the garage on their cars and motorcycles. One day, one of fathers is out working in his garage and his young son enters. The small boy picks up a screw driver and begins pretending that he is helping his father. His father is delighted and tells his son what a “wonderful little mechanic” he is. The child is pleased and self-esteem blossom in him.
Next door this same scenario occurs except this father snaps at his son telling him to never touch his tools because all he will do is lose them or mess something up. He then calls out to his wife to get the boy out of the garage while he’s working. This child is hurt and feels belittled.
There is exceptions yes, but by and large, the boy who has been praised will grow up to be mechanical while the boy who has been belittled won’t. The reason being that one will open to his potential for mechanics while the other will close to the same potential. The boys’ brains will simply comply with what it is told.
In regard to all this, there are countless people in the world—adult human beings—who are succeeding or failing because of what they were told about themselves by the significant others in their lives. Not too long ago I met a sharp young lady who was doing extremely menial work and only earning pennies above minimum wage. As an employee of mine at the time I discovered that she was raised by a father who constantly “put her down,” telling her how worthless she was. And so, unconsciously, she was spending a lifetime proving her father…right.
One does not have to hold a degree in psychology or be a brain surgeon to comprehend this dilemma. Here was a person who actually refused to tap into her potential because she had simply believed her (insensitive) father who indoctrinated her with feelings of being unlovable and worthless.
Rate your level of self-esteem:
(1) being lowest and (5) being highest
I am a self-motivated person 1 2 3 4 5
I desire approval from others 1 2 3 4 5
I judge myself by others 1 2 3 4 5
I judge others by myself 1 2 3 4 5
I envy particular others 1 2 3 4 5
I am for myself 1 2 3 4 5
I gossip 1 2 3 4 5
I am for others 1 2 3 4 5
I approve of myself 1 2 3 4 5
I like myself 1 2 3 4 5
Tapping into Our Own Potential
Granted anyone who accepts the notion that potential is a brain function (or brain containment) will probably have left this article by the wayside a long time ago. I wish here however to give an argument to why potential cannot be an epiphenomenon of the physical brain. The physical brain is limited to experience and genetic dictates. If we were subject to those functions alone we would be condemned to what we do or at least be much more limited than we are—The coal miner or hard-laborer if you will would not be able to write poetry or become a physician or statesman as he would be destined by genes or fate to the limitations of his so-called objective experiences. In this regard, Albert Einstein was considered “slow” in school and William Faulkner who never graduated from High School became a literary genius while Omar Bradly, one of America’s most famous military generals was working as a railroad broiler maker when he decided to test for West Point. Alfred Nobel (think Peace Prize) only had 18 months of formal education. My point is that we humans are ever as attracted by whim and intuition as we are by some calling from a genetic dictate to what abilities we have. Indeed, it seems so apparent that what we decide we can do we can do. I, for an example, could never become a doctor—not because I couldn’t muster the talent for doctoring but because it is nothing I would ever want to be or do. However, I strongly believe that by (sincerely) changing my mind, by brain would then open up to my potential for grasping medicine.
In this accord, whenever we say something like “I could never do that” what we are actually meaning is that I would really never want to do that. And so, an apparent paradox exists when someone says something like—I’d love to paint like that but I just never had the talent. People tend to believe that talent precedes the desire when it is just the opposite. The truth, however, we make many of our career choices unconsciously—maybe we’ve been given accolades for doing something when we were children and became Mommy’s beautiful little ballet dancer or Daddy’s little rock star—in other words, many people will become what has given them memorable emotional or psychological payloads in their childhoods. Even applause for being “a hard worker” or “very smart” or “very talented” can be a great influence on the rest of a child’s life. This is a reminder that children who are neglected and not encouraged by parents often do “not amount” to anything—there has simply never been anyone there to tell them that they were already a “something” of value.
Obviously the above comment could lead us into a whole new topic but for this narrative the point is that whatever we decide we can do or can’t do, that decision opens or shuts the door to our potential.
The question then becomes this: if potential is omniscient how can it be in our brain. My answer to that question is that it can’t. And yes, I am well aware there are ranks of those who disagree but there can be no potential without omniscience because potential can have no limitations—potential is potential—and since the brain is dependent on and therefore limited by experience it simply cannot be omniscient. Thus, potential must belong to consciousness itself and yes, to the collective in the Jungian sense.
When thinking about this, recall that a great many scientists these days, including neuroscientists are telling us that consciousness is everywhere in our bodies (and outside our bodies). Some are even offering that it is through consciousness that we are connected to the whole. In fact, the world renowned physicist Paul Davis tells us that we can look at our minds “as localized islands of consciousness in a sea of mind.”
The complexity that unfolds with these thoughts is far too overwhelming to try and even explore much less understand but for purposes here all is needed to be comprehended is that we have within us the potential to achieve greatest or mediocrity and yes to be good or evil. Our brains serve as a gateway to our potentials but can also keep that “gate” closed when it has been instructed by ourselves or others that we are limited in our abilities. This, I suspect is the Achilles’ heel of our humanism.
Rate your ability to tap into your potential
(1) being lowest and (5) being highest
I have an open mind 1 2 3 4 5
I fear failure 1 2 3 4 5
I fear success 1 2 3 4 5
I fear rejection 1 2 3 4 5
I am capable 1 2 3 4 5
I am ambitious 1 2 3 4 5
I am determined 1 2 3 4 5
Love and Hate
As with every other human ability we are all born with the potential to be loving or to be hateful—love and hate are properties of good and evil in that love is constructive and hate is destructive and so like every other power we have, loving and hating are choices. What most people do not realize is that that choice to love or their choice to hate is magical in the sense that hating creates negative conditions while loving creates positive conditions. For example, by simply deciding to love your job, your job will become lovable. All any of us need to know about this is that what we call realism is a projection of mind: When we deem the rose bush a thorn bush, the bush becomes exactly that.
Hate if it is social or personal has no forgiveness or tolerance. It is sociopathic by its very nature. For example Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book, “The Biology of Transcendence” makes this statement: “Culture applauds the man of principle who stands firm in righteous indignation and makes noble gestures for justice, for such actions keep culture’s cycles spinning. Men of principle are often leaders who convince us to imprison, electrocute, crucify, or make war. Only forgiveness in this moment can break the demand for justice and the cycle of sorrow that follows, century after century. The heart has no principle except love. Love and forgiveness are equivalent and both are a state of mind.”
When we activate our potential to hate we close down the pathways to our loving natures and as a result our capacity for happiness goes away. The biology of hating “sours the soul” so to speak and that “souring” affects the hater both physically and psychologically; even the immune system of the person who hates can be dramatically altered by the hating itself. Hate and its revengeful, non-forgiving state-of-being increases the stress factor in our lives and it is well known that stress can open the doors to a great number of very serious illnesses and diseases our immune systems would otherwise be able to avoid.
We have within us, however, the potential to forgive and forgiveness is the only antidote for hating. But until the hater forgives, he or she remains in psychological chains, enslaved by the unaffected target of the hate that may well be immune to caring or even unaware and unknowing of the hate altogether. I literally knew a lady who had an intense hate for people she hadn’t seen or heard from for over forty years. Yet, her hate would give her outrage and unfounded stress whenever those old, bitter memories struck her. Indeed, she had so much hate in her that her life was miserable at least a lot of the time as she was, beyond all else, a living example of the boomerang-effect of hate itself. In a term, her soul had turned sour.
Here again, however, is a clear signal of our free will. We can decide to love the world today but in the doing it is essential to forgive those who have trespassed against us...or those we have deemed as “trespassers.” In short, we have the potential to re-create the world we live in, in every instant of our lives. And yes, the potential to transcend the concepts, indoctrinations, superstitions, dogmas and experiences that have perhaps kept us in chains…well, since the crib.
Rate your ability to tap into your potential for freedom
(1) being lowest (least or best) and (5) being highest (most or worst)
My forgiveness level is 1 2 3 4 5
My capacity to hate is 1 2 3 4 5
My capacity to love is 1 2 3 4 5
My average joy level is 1 2 3 4 5
I rate my childhood 1 2 3 4 5
My regret level is 1 2 3 4 5
My guilt level is 1 2 3 4 5
My average inner anger level is 1 2 3 4 5
I rate my parents 1 2 3 4 5
I rate life in general 1 2 3 4 5
I offer that it is not really possible to live life to its fullest until we grasp that how we rate the world is how we’ve made the world through our experiences and the resulting concepts that have evolved from those experiences. The first realization needed for celebrating our lives and therefore making the best out of them, is to know that we have unlimited potential in a world that we act upon as opposed to being subject to a world that acts upon us. This begins by simply detaching ourselves from the negatives in our life through forgiveness. Nothing frees us more from our regrets, disappointments, pain and angers than forgiveness; not only the forgiveness of others but…of ourselves as well. It is vital to understand, however, that we can only forgive others to the degree that we can forgive ourselves.
If you’ve done the “ratings” throughout this text, they have been constructed to assist the reader in understanding how he or she truly feels about self and others so that those negatives can be replaced by positives. We each have the potential to manifest positive change in our lives.
And by manifesting positive change in our own lives we have the potential to make the entire world a better, happier and more loving place. Those who agree with this include William James, Aldous Huxley. Abraham Maslow, Joshua Loth Liebman and Alan Watts so I am in good company when I simply say that we each have the potential to better our worlds.
[The topics of this article have only been touched upon since each of the subjects could probably fill volumes if explored further…and, in many instances, have! Thus, the purpose of this particular piece is to remind us all that we are not victims except by choice and once we can grasp only this much, we can break from the ideas and concepts that have enslaved us. It is only when we can honestly rate ourselves as being free from the concepts that rule us—from concepts in general—can we open the windows and doors to our unlimited potentials for living wonderful lives even amidst the noise and chaos of a world not yet opening to its own omniscience.]