Human Consciousness and Decision-Making
Speech to Hull University Forum on Human Consciousness – 1
with special thanks to Jennifer Wilby, Ph.D.

© Martyn Carruthers 1997 Online Coaching

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Speech to University Forum – Hull University, 1997 – Part 1


Take a look at your life. Whatever knowledge you have accumulated, however successful you are, whatever genetic mental, physical or material benefits you have inherited, your life primarily reflects your decisions! (Part 2 of this talk is … here)

Some of your decisions are complex. For important decisions, such as a long-term commitment, you may dissociate from this moment and review your past decisions and their consequences. You may first decide “what is most important” as a basis for subsequent decisions. You may decide to disregard your present mood. You may decide to plan beyond short-term results. You may decide to put yourself into another person’s point of view, to incorporate information from that perspective. You may decide to creatively envision a number of different possible futures.

Complex Decisions

Young children cannot make complex decisions (for example about partnership, childrearing or community development). Such complex decisions are an adult behavior, requiring cognitive skills that young children lack. Young children cannot abstract their core values to find integrity. Young children cannot consciously generalize their experiences over time to develop useful beliefs. Young children cannot dissociate to examine the causes and potential long-term consequences of their actions.

Simple Decisions

Adults can make simple decisions. Simple decision strategies are useful for unimportant or hasty decisions. (E.g.: “Which cheese should I buy?“) You may use a decision process that a child might choose an ice cream flavor. Maybe stay with your last choice? Maybe flip a coin? Maybe eliminate options with “Eeny meeny miney mo” Maybe decide based on how you feel this moment? Maybe choose the easiest option? Maybe ask someone to choose for you?

Difficulties arise when simple decision strategies are used for important decision that have long-term consequences. For example, what is likely to happen if you select a life partner or an occupation by a simple method? Some adults cannot make complex decisions.

Motivation Strategies

Once you have made a decision, whether complex or simple, action requires motivation. Perhaps you assess the significance of a task by the meaning it will add to your life. Perhaps you motivate yourself by imagining some unpleasant consequences of not acting, or maybe by imagining the future pleasure of completing the task. Maybe you may wait for someone else to motivate you, or you may motivate yourself with deadlines. And, although you have many possibilities, you may not be motivated to act on some lesser quality decisions. There have probably been times when your lack of motivation for some action was wonderful, and many times when you were motivated to create beautiful results.

After acting, you can assess the consequences of your decision, to help you make better decisions in the future. You can assess the quality of your decisions by the quality of life resulting from the decision. How do you measure the quality of life? My measuring stick for my decision to speak at this conference will be whether, I meet people who are interested in practical ways of accelerating the evolution of human potential. Together we may assess the possibilities of contributing to a network of information, techniques and projects. This is my no-longer-hidden agenda.

Decision Strategies

Making a decision may seem easy – know what we want, create some options, evaluate the consequences of the options and select an option likely to produce optimum consequences. And yet we live in a world dominated by short term decisions that benefit few people (e.g.: politicians looking no further than the next election).

We live in a world where your image may be more important than your reality, where your assets may be more important than the quality of your life. (As my bank manager said “Many people borrow money they can hardly afford to repay, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like!“).

We live in a world where many people continue to make the same old decisions and repeatedly suffer the same old consequences. I believe that we always make the best decisions available to us. So why do we often decide to suffer? We may make decisions with a hidden agenda – we may hope for hidden advantages. Sometimes we hide our hidden agendas from ourselves!

Our decisions reflect our desires. Goals stated with negative grammar (e.g., “I don’t want to suffer“), may motivate us to avoid a problem by focusing on the problem! Yet our unconscious minds seem to have difficulty representing negative goals. Don’t think of what you don’t want! This may be difficult – a solution is to think of what you want instead.

Our decisions reflect our congruence. If we have a conflict, (E.g., “Part of me wants this, but part of me doesn’t“), we may either avoid making a decision, or we may act incongruently and later find ways to sabotage ourselves. Why do we not make decisions and act with 100% congruence? Because finding a 100% congruent goal is difficult. Finding a 100% congruent goal takes time.

We may feel bad about having a conflict, and let the unpleasant feeling motivate us to avoid the self-discovery required to resolve the conflict. Few people are aware of how their lack of congruence influences their decisions.

Our decisions reflect our specificity. If our goals are abstract (E.g., “I want to succeed“), without a plan for achievement, we have little hope of success! If our goals are wishy-washy (E.g.: “I want to learn a second language“), without specifying exactly how much of what language, we may lose energy. And if we make goals without deadlines, (E.g. “I want a wonderful relationship – sometime“), we can endlessly procrastinate taking action. Few people seem aware of how the format of their desires influence their decisions.

Our decisions reflect our beliefs. If we believe “There are infinite choices available for every decision“, we are less likely to have tunnel vision about a single option. If we believe “I do not deserve success“, we may decide to fail! If we believe “All wealthy people are corrupt“, then we may decide not to be wealthy – or we may decide to become corrupt so as to become wealthy! If we believe we can fulfil our human lives, we may decide to focus on the long-term social consequences of our actions. Few people seem aware of how their beliefs influence their decisions.

Our decisions reflect our relationships with ourselves (E.g.: “Do I like myself? Am I proud of my actions? Can I be happy in the future“?) and our decisions reflect our relationships with other people, past and present (E.g.: “Is it OK if I am more successful than my father“, “Will success damage my relationship with my life partner“, “Will failure motivate my family to give me the attention that I want from them“). Few people seem aware of how their relationships influence their decisions.

Our decisions reflect our sense of life. (E.g.: “ Am I angry about how I allow myself to be treated?” “Am I afraid of expressing my anger?” “Am I sad that I do not maintain my boundaries?” “Will success allow me to express my emotions?“) Few people seem aware how emotions influence their decisions.

It seems that our decisions reflect what we really want in our lives, and what we really want may be incongruent with our stated, conscious goals. If we look at the results of our decisions, even those actions that are seemingly poor, we may find that those decisions accurately reflect our desires, our beliefs, our relationships and our Sense of Life. Are you living the life you decided to live?

Sense of Life

Janelle Doan (a Canadian project-manager), Annegret Hallanzy (a German family therapist) and I created a methodology to help people make decisions congruent with their sense of life. Our sources included accelerated learning, expert modeling, neurolinguistic programming, systemic family therapy and traditional Polynesian healing. The first step is finding the motivation to change. The next step is experiencing one’s sense of life or integrity. The next is evaluating how one can express this integrity in relationships, and then resolving the consequences of stress and trauma.

A final step is choosing appropriate role models for living. Together, this methodology supports a person in making congruent decisions towards achieving self-selected important goals, while sequentially resolving a person’s internal conflict, relationship and emotional problems. And, during this resolution, many mental health issues and physical symptoms may vanish.

Motivation to become involved in a “soft” science (I come from a background of health physics) originated as a desire to find effective techniques for teaching physics to the staff of a nuclear power station. I explored relaxation techniques, musical backgrounds and visual imagery with some success, and while I gained a strange reputation as a teacher, my methods were effective in raising average marks to previously unheard-of levels. The most effective methods for accelerating learning seemed to be helping students change their limiting beliefs, such as “I cannot learn physics“.

Accelerated Learning

Most people look up to visualize. But when a child looks up to remember a visual eidetic image, a teacher may say “The answer isn’t on the ceiling – stop daydreaming and look at your book“. Looking down is pretty good for talking to oneself, but talking to oneself is a poor way to remember diagrams and charts. Also, few teachers know HOW some students learn well while others, equally intelligent, don’t.

Most good spellers of English spell by visualizing a word, and then evaluating a feeling. If the feeling is “rightness” the person “reads” the letters of the image. If the feeling indicates “wrongness”, the person may make another visualization. Less effective spellers often write the word on paper, look at it and check their feeling. A poor speller tries to spell it out auditorally – which is slow (and ineffective for English spelling). A terrible speller may switch between critical self-talk and unpleasant feelings.

Changing a person’s subjective experience of time can be useful in education. Typically, we have a mental “speed”, often limited by sub-vocalizations (E.g.: How fast can you mentally count all the integers from one to one hundred? It is much more efficient to do this visually without sub-vocalizing – for example “seeing” the numbers from one to one hundred sequentially, without mentally verbalizing them. And it is even more efficient to imagine the entire number set from one to one hundred simultaneously in a matrix!).

People can change subjective time flow. We teach people to stop sub-vocalizing, while simultaneously increasing the subjective time ratio from 1:1 to around 300:1, allows fast cognition, without conscious “brakes”. This is a useful strategy for organizing knowledge that one has already learned – for example prior to an examination.

Accelerated Healing

Hypnotic techniques for accelerating learning can be applied to healing. Yet accelerating the healing of a disease often shortened the disease duration but increased the severity of the symptoms! And removing symptoms by direct hypnotic suggestion often caused different symptoms to arise! Something was missing in this mechanistic approach. People do not let go of their suffering so easily. Why not?

A concept of sub-identities, ego-states or parts is used in many therapies. This notion is that certain skills may be state-dependent – i.e. the skills can only be used in a specific emotional state. (E.g.: “I can only be creative when I am angry!“) There are techniques for changing the meaning or boundaries of parts, (including many therapeutic techniques that now seem very unhealthy). Later I came to see parts as dissociated “sub-personalities”. Each part had it’s own values, beliefs and behaviors, and a part was often childlike. (E.g.: “When I see a physics formula, part of me wants to scream“).

In 1989, I was invited to teach in Hawaii, and met a native healer, Papa Auwae (a kahuna la’au lapa’au). Papa Auwae used a healing methodology that transcended my Western skills. His work included helping clients learn from their diseases, as if each symptom was a teacher. (Papa Auwae: “It is more important that a person learn from a disease than that they heal it! “) He also focused the importance of helping a client heal their relationships! I returned to Hawaii many times to study with Papa Auwae and other native Hawaiian healers.

Another Hawaiian concept is that we keep ele’ele eke or black bags in our bodies. In a black bag are the emotions from an experience and a younger version of us – as if some part of ourselves is still experiencing a traumatic experience. The location of this black bag in the body may be associated with disease. Opening a black bag can open the possibility of accepting and integrating a hitherto rejected younger version of oneself. Hmm, more parts! However, instead of being “fragmented ego states”, a Hawaiian healer may treat such parts as “lost children”.

We simultaneously interviewed people who had spontaneous remissions from the physical symptoms of serious disease, and, if they were willing, hypnotically investigating their healing process. Many times, in many ways, we heard people say “The disease became my friend” or “The pain became my teacher“. It is as if a part could create a disease. If this part was fully accepted, the disease might vanish! Such people often commented on how they had redefined their “toxic” relationships.

Exploring the advantages of a disease in a person’s life seemed to indicate that disease symptoms manage some deep issue in the person’s life. Although the information was confusing, the deep issues seemed to be in four groups – inner conflict, relationship issues, overwhelming emotions from past trauma and copying poorly chosen role models.

Another source of information was neurolinguistic programming (NLP), from which are derived many techniques that are useful for duplicating expertise. I found some NLP to be profound, particularly work on identity metaphors – how to recognize and change the metaphors by which we make life decisions. I became a NLP trainer and combined this work with accelerated learning and Hawaiian healing. This opened many doors – one was dreaming together – the ability to join a person in their metaphoric experience of identity – interactive metaphors.

In 1992 I met Janelle Doan and I researched human values and human bonding, which became a basis for the relationship phase of this changework, and we explored some of the practical implications of Hawaiian spirituality. We learned how to access unusual states, the descriptions of which could be associated with religious experiences.

In 1993 I met a family therapist and NLP trainer, Annegret Hallanzy, who was investigating similar issues. As we worked together in Bavaria and Poland, we also explored the Hawaiian healing rituals. Our results went beyond our expectations – many of the esoteric techniques used by Hawaiian healers could be translated into a philosophy that generated a specific, effective and non-esoteric tool set.

This synthesis represented a very big picture. As so many people claimed to experience soul – in 1994 I began calling this Soul Centered Changework, and later Soulwork Systemic Coaching.

This is part 1 of the keynote speech, for Part 2 – Click here